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Lesson 145 - Q&A – Overdoing it with asanas

From: Yogani
Date: Thu Mar 18, 2004 10:54am

New Visitors: It is recommended you read from the beginning of the archive, as previous lessons are prerequisite to this one. The first lesson is, "Why This Discussion?"

Q: After dabbling for years, I have begun practicing yoga and meditation in earnest (for about a year now). During a recent yoga class, we practiced about 85 minutes of asana, and then took a short break before resuming with pranayama. During the break, I found myself overwhelmed with emotion, shaking, unable to speak or make eye contact. When we resumed with pranayama, tears began streaming down my face. It has been several days, and I am still (uncustomarily) emotional. It is painful to the point of wanting to discontinue yoga, but I know that I must continue, that I am on the brink of a breakthrough. It feels as if my chest has been ripped open, that myheart has been exposed. The opposite of the bliss that I have been seeking. I am sad about the death of my father, but this heartache seems to be directly caused by my practice of yoga. Thank you for any insight you offer. 

A: Thank you for writing and sharing. 

Sorry to hear you are having some difficulty. It sounds like you might have overdone it with practices - 85 minutes is a lot of asana time, especially if you have not built up to it gradually over time as a steady daily diet.

If you didn't overdo, then maybe you did not rest long enough at the end of your routine and something went out of balance from getting up too soon instead of getting released during practices and rest. 

It could also be the mix of your practices. Physical hatha methods are notoriously hazardous when done to excess as stand alone practice. Much better to mix them in moderation with global purification practices of deep meditation and spinal breathing. That is the approach in the lessons. A flexible guideline is 10 minutes asanas, 10 minutes pranayama, and 20 minutes meditation, twice a day.That is not including add-ons like kumbhaka and other practices we will be discussing later. The times can be adjusted up or down to fit the individual via self-pacing. 

Anyway, none of that is going to make you feel better right now. It is just advice for the future. For now, be very nice to yourself. Back off your practices as necessary until your heart heals. But don't give up. Some light spinal breathing and deep meditation might help. Take some long walks. You will heal, and maybe in the future consider moderation and balance of practices. Yoga is powerful stuff, and works well when done in correct proportions. Too much in the wrong combination can lead to trouble – too much purification too fast. It is just a matter of education, and prudent self-pacing according to experiences.

I wish you healing and continuing progress on your chosen path.

Q: Thank you for your thoughtful response. I admit that I am not a moderate person, and I probably am overdoing the asanas. That particular class was filled with many more advanced people, including professional yoga teachers. My desire for progress exceeds my abilities/experience. I will practice non-violence toward myself, and will focus on meditation and spinal breathing. 

I have found your postings to be insightful and useful in my daily life. Thank you for sharing them with me and others. 

A: The desire is good. It (bhakti) fuels practice. Of course, the tendency to overdo is the caution. As you go through the lessons, you will see a lot of situations in the Q&As where it is very similar to what you have been through. Self-pacing has a lot of nuances to it. With ongoing bhakti/desire and wise self-pacing you can't miss. I wish you all success. 

The guru is in you.

Note: For detailed instructions on self-pacing asana routines in relation to sitting practices, see the AYP Asanas, Mudras and Bandhas book, and AYP Plus.

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