Remember, you are your greatest teacher! Of course it is highly suggested to softly focus on the instruction, cues, and modifications that the teacher is giving during the class. However, you mustn’t forget that YOU know your body best and sometimes listening to what your body is telling you and tailoring your practice to meet your needs of that day is the smartest thing that you could do!
Listen to yourself: Do not do push yourself to engage in any movements poses that trigger stinging, burning, pulling, or straining, regardless of what any teacher says. If you’re not able to maintain a steady stream of breath in a pose or sequence, then that’s your body asking you to modify, hold the pose for a shorter duration of time, slow down the pace, or take rest!
Avoid areas of pain: If you have a physical ailment in a certain area of the body, you may wish to avoid poses that involve that area entirely during class. Instead, try focusing on poses that help strengthen and stretch surrounding areas. For example, if you have knee pain, you may benefit from strengthening and stretching the quads, hamstrings and other nearby muscles to help possibly relieve pressure on the knee joint. Or if you have back pain, you may benefit from engaging the abdominal muscles and stretching the hips and shoulders.
Ease out, decrease depth, or decrease repetition: Try not going as “deeply” as you can into a pose. For instance, while you’re a forward fold, focus on lengthening the spine rather than how tightly you can fold your upper body. You can also choose to hold any pose for a shorter period of time, regardless of what the teacher cues. You may also benefit more by repeating a posture fewer times, or hold the pose for just a breath or two.
Find a safe resting pose:
Child’s pose is the most well-known resting pose in yoga. However, for some students, this pose may place too much pressure on their hips, neck, ankles, or knees. Instead, select another pose that you are able to comfortably sustain (i.e., reclined butterfly, easy seated pose, savasana, or mountain pose). Know that you’re in charge of tailoring your practice to fit your needs; your preferred resting pose can be taken at any time throughout the class, no matter what the teacher says. A successful practice is a safe one!