I had many interesting conversations in the past week; two of them stood out. The first was with a student who I bumped into on Sunday while I went for a run. We passed in the park and got talking about a sharp pain in the wrist she was experiencing. She wanted to ask me about doing plank and chaturanga with the wrist issue. What stood out to me about that conversation was the fact that she told me she had asked her previous yoga teacher about this issue before and was told it was her fault because she was ‘doing the poses wrong’ and not given guidance on how to prevent the pain from occurring.
The second memorable conversation was with another prospective student who came to meet me because he had back pain and had been instructed by his doctor to undertake yoga. What struck me about that conversation was that the doctor had told the man ‘pain is your friend, not your enemy’.
These independent conversations are linked. The doctor was correct—pain is your friend. If you ever experience pain while you practice yoga—especially sharp pain near your joints (like the wrist pain the first student described)—this is a sign from your body that something is not quite right.
If you are practicing yoga and you experience pain, you need to back off and tell your yoga teacher immediately. If your yoga teacher does not give you any corrections or help you find ways to practice without pain then you probably need to find another teacher.
Right there in the park my student and I were able to work together for a few minutes to find a way for her to practice the yoga poses that were causing discomfort without pain simply by modifying them. Then, in the next class, we worked together to improve her technique so she could continue to practice in a pain free range of motion.
Remember, you don’t practice yoga to suffer. Please let me know if you ever experience pain so we can work to relieve this. You only have one body and you need to take care of it!