When to go to yoga Vs. When not to go to yoga

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Photo on left curtousy of Miguel Echiveria, Photo right taken by C Suzuki @Froguesthouse, Lima

It comes up relatively frequently for me, as a hunch, intuition or sometimes a humanistic rash judgement, without knowing someone’s full situation first (one reason I wanted to write this, to encourage people to open a dialog more before session starts); thinking someone might had been better off to stay at home.  Or, upon hearing the reason for someone’s absence, feeling maybe it could have helped if they had joined in.  I had a friend/student call me last night with regards to if they ought to join the class or not; they had been sick in bed all day, felt pretty rubbish but were very excited to come to practice; my answer was to stay in bed..  Generally I won’t turn some one away, and intend to not interrupt their process as you never know the kind of day or week that has been had.  Unless it’s a medical condition or, compromising their health or recovery, everyone is welcome; discernment taken by each individual about their own abilities, in each moment with conscious and with clear intentions, not just when a part of the self has become compromised.

Classes tend to be a mixed bag of bodies and souls, bringing your body to class with all it’s nuances is anticipated; but if the nuance/sickness/pregnancy is new and you don’t know how to handle it, then ask your regular teacher and if they can support you in your regular class.  Communicate what you need, then if they aren’t confident to have your best interests at heart, it’s a really good idea to get some help in an/some individual sessions or specialist classes so you are more empowered in your practice.

When it’s a good idea to go to class (even if sometimes you feel a bit lazy, or cold or simply not sure):

  • Exactly that – if it’s cold outside, you’ve got too much on your mind, or if you’re in two minds about going to class, simply move your ass and go!  However,  if it’s your intuition saying no, a firm, deep no, then this is different, and needs to be listened to and respected.  If it’s because you have too much on your mind or feel too ‘busy’ then go, particularly going to yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi or other similar discipline can help your busy mind to function better.  In these modalities of movement where you to meditate on the moment, you allow your subconscious mind to work out all of those things which are bugging your brain.  The more you try to solve a problem which alludes you, the further the answer will be.
  • If you’ve been ill but you’re getting over it.  Clearly, if you’re still bed bound, don’t go and read below.  When you’re mainly healed, it’s important you move your body, and get the lymphatic system flowing and draining properly, moving your muscles allows this to happen much more  effectively.  Laying still will not help you to rid yourself of toxins, and to feel fresher the next day; however if it’s a major illness you’re recovering from take it slowly; if you’ve been out of it for more than a few days, start really easy and make sure your doctor is happy with you rejoining class.  Incorporate plenty of rest, nourishment and water or herbal teas after class, more than likely you’ll feel much better the next day.
  • If you don’t get out much, or trying to manage a condition which perhaps has special needs.  Locate someone who feels good for you, even if you can only gauge it from a trusted friends recommendation, a picture, or a phone call.  If you have issues which mean you might need help or have special needs during a class, talk to the teacher and see if they can facilitate for this and to enable you to make yourself comfortable.  Being a part of a small group of people, in a mindful space, is a really good for body and soul.  If a small group feels too much, book a 1:1 (sometimes can be at your home even), ensure you get a feeling for your guide/teacher first.
  • If your muscles are tight from stress, too much cardio or high impact, mega DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) perhaps.  Get stretching!  Find yoga or Pilates to recentre and realign your body and mind, and help relieve muscle tightness and stiffness.  Muscles need lengthening, not just strengthening, and any good yoga or Pilates class with help you to do both!

When not to go to class:

  • If you’re sick and in bed.  If you’re that sick you need to stay in bed.  If it’s a cold or flu then also consider your class mates and teacher not getting sick too from you (this goes for being in public spaces, in Japan, the sick people are the ones wearing the face masks, might try this one myself if need to be out when have flu!).
  • If you’re in your first trimester of pregnancy or think you might be pregnant, or if you’re undergoing IVF.  At this time class (although other teacher’s opinions will differ), you’re very sensitive, it’s when your body needs all of it’s energy to make a new home for your new baby!  If you are yearning to move, find someone who knows about these times of life and have a 1:1, or if they run classes ask them if you can join.  If you are advanced and consistent with your practice before your pregnancy, then this might then be different for you.  But when there’s another life at stake, I’d always say take the easier and safer option, for the first trimester at least.  If you are advanced and can’t afford a 1:1 – perhaps gentle home practice is better than a vinyasa high energy class, maybe pregnancy classes or at least get some basic advice about how to adapt BEFORE you get into any postures or move.
  • If you’ve recently had surgery or are being looked after by a doctor (heart, bone, blood, nerve, brain, respiratory, hormonal, digestive lymphatic issues, everything!) and not been signed off yet.  I’ve sadly turned people away from classes for this kind of thing, it feels rubbish to do..  Unless you’re signed off, then you’re still fragile and your body needs to be kept resting, if you must move about, ask your doctor what you can do now, and always, always tell your instructor or teacher about things when you return to class or sessions.
  • If your gut, heart or intuition simply tells you not to.  Because you’re going out drinking, isn’t an excuse.  But if you feel it deep to your core not to go, never override these instincts; it’s usually the first instinct which is best as it is unadulterated by the mind.  We’ve been taught for too long to ignore these instincts, it’s important to allow this sense of self to blossom within, it can save much time, effort and pain if we can listen to ourselves better!

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