When to Practice and When to Rest

t’s that time of year again. I’ve noticed sniffles in the Mysore room, week long absences, and occasionally people doing their full practice in the closing room because they are sick. And this past week some bug hit me too.

I went to the doctor on Monday with a high fever and described my symptoms. “Have you been in contact with anyone who is sick?” she asked me. Most likely — since I am in close contact with about 35 different bodies a morning. Her follow up question, “Are you sore?” My response — pretty much all the time.

I might be a little hard to diagnose and over the years of practice I have developed a high tolerance for discomfort. Frequently as Ashtangis we are told to work through it. And sometimes that is the case — but as always it is wise to use discernment.

WHEN TO PRACTICE

You are sore from doing a lot of yoga or other physical activity, sleeping funny etc.
Practice! Scale it back if you need to, but get on your mat and do something — even it its sun salutations and the last three seated poses. Why? Because if you are sore and you don’t practice for a few days and then you come back and you practice hard you are only perpetuating the cycle. Best to remain steady and let your body settle into the rhythm.

You have an injury.
One of the beauties of a Mysore practice is that is the poses can be modified to fit you! So – if you have an injury tell your teacher and modify your practice as needed. Its best to keep your blood and body moving. Your injury will likely heal more quickly if you keep moving.

You have a cold or are under the weather.
Do a light practice at home – so you don’t get anyone else sick.

You are constipated, hungover or you just ate.
Do what you can do – this is actually a good barometer for your body and a good way for you to learn what you can do to keep your body feeling good.

You are anxious, angry, sad, depressed or moody.
Practice something, but be smart about it. If you are feel angry or anxious – second might not be the best practice for you on this day or you might want to scale back on backbends. If you are feeling lethargic then maybe primary isn’t the best practice for you on this day. Some of this is trial and error – get to know how you feel and be open to talking to your teacher. The practice of yoga is actually aimed at steadying our minds – so practice when you feel unsteady and let the yoga help you.

WHEN TO REST

You have an acute injury or suffered some type of trauma.
If your body has experienced trauma and you are in acute pain its best to rest until the acuteness has alleviated. Your body needs to use its energy to heal right now — and it’s probably best to see a doctor while you’re at it.

You have a fever.
In yoga we are trying heat our bodies from the inside out. This is not going to help your body regulate its temperature. Don’t practice with a fever — you’re sick — take rest!

You have your period.
Take rest! This was a hard one for me to accept in my early 20s — and now I must tell you, I like ladies holiday more than Christmas. Menstruating is apanic and our practices are pranic — you take off three days around ladies holiday so that you do not interrupt your flow and you can give your body the opportunity to rest. This will help stabilize your cycle over time – I find a lot of students crave rest during this time of the month — take advantage of it!

I know resting can be hard. It took me many years or practice and some aging to realize that progress isn’t always a straight line and it isn’t always obvious. Sometimes it feels like you take two steps forward and one step back. It’s important to remain realistic about what our bodies can do and put setbacks in perspective. The objective is to be in the practice for the long haul – not to achieve some asana. Try to let go of your desire for instant gratification and think of your return on investment as something that happens over the years.

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