The small intestine, and why it matters to you

I have had a sore right wrist for the best part of a year.

It started hurting just before I did my yoga training. Then it got better (I wore a wrist widget, which is awesome and helped a lot).

And then, out of nowhere, it started hurting again.

I modified my practice. No planks, no chaturanga, no flying crow (ok, that last one’s a joke). I waited for it to get better, like it had before.

Except this time, it didn’t.

The pain was sometimes bad at night. I googled wrist tears and ulnar sided wrist pain, and looked up exercises to strengthen the wrist on youtube.

I waited some more. And, nothing.

Exasperated, I went on the wrist widget website, and saw a picture of the wrist according to traditional Chinese medicine. The ulnar side is related to the small intestine meridian.

And it started to make sense. Why would I have chronic wrist pain on one wrist, when I had suffered no trauma to the area?

As with most things, the answer to my wrist pain was in my gut. My wrist pain was my body trying to tell me something.

I’ll let you know what happened in my next post.

But for now, know that if you have chronic pain (wrists or ankles in particular), with no obvious explanation, then take a look at your diet. It may get you back to flying crow more quickly.

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Ouch! Yoga injuries and why we get them

Yoga injury is connected to the ego.

How many of you go to what you perceive as the last stage? Because you want to prove that you can do it.

But what if there is a misconception? For example, you think the ‘last stage’ of tree pose is to get your foot on the upper thigh. When actually the pose is a hip opener. The pose is about lengthening the thigh bone out of the socket. And you achieve that lengthening wherever your foot is.

What happens when we try and get to the last stage too early? I was obsessed with forearm stand. I used to practice and practice. I wanted to be able to kick up effortlessly into a beautiful forearm stand.

And yes, I find it easier now. But I think that’s because I’m stronger from my yoga practice, not because I repeatedly practiced forearm stands for months. And I pulled my right hamstring from all that jumping when I wasn’t warm enough. It’s still tender now. I have to modify my practice to accommodate it.

Is it worth it? No. Can I see that now? Yes.

Yoga does not cause injury. We cause ourselves injury. Because of our ego, because we want to see progression.

It is so important to let that go. It’s just noise. You will perform an asana when your body is ready to perform it, and there will be no strain.

That’s not to say don’t practice difficult asanas. They are fun and exciting, and if that’s what pulls you to yoga, then great.

But yoga is not gymnastics. We cannot let our mind get ahead of our body. We must learn to control our ego and be safe.

Meditation: what is it?

There’s a lot of talk about meditation, as if it is a separate thing from yoga. There are people offering to teach you how to meditate. There are apps to help you meditate – you may have tried them.

When you think of meditation, what does it mean to you? Do you picture a Buddhist monk on a hilltop somewhere, sitting in silence, for hours?

Try sitting in stillness with your breath. Try it in your asana practice. Try it in savasana. Try it in seated meditation, in seated pranayama.

Every single person thinks they’re doing it wrong. Every single person thinks that the person next to them is doing it properly. Everyone feels like a fake.

You cannot practice yoga for a short time and expect mental stillness immediately.  It takes practice to start to understand the potential of yoga. The potential to exist in a physical and mental state at the same time.

I try to think about each movement as a physical expression of my breath. I try hard to link the two. And I keep practicing.

Self care

What does that mean in today’s society?

Everywhere you look, there is an emphasis on humanism. You know what’s best for you. You decide. Only you can know how you feel.

How do we interpret that in our yoga practice?

The trouble arises when we focus too much on the ego. The voice that demands better, demands more, demands linear improvement.

Do we really know best?

Yoga is a moving meditation. We are striving to practice without interruption from our ego. We are striving to practice with a still mind, and a smooth breath.

Stewart Gilchrist says an advanced practitioner could go to a practice and do nothing but breathe, and still be advanced. As long as they were reciting the practice mentally and connecting it to their breath, they would be practicing advanced yoga.

Asana is just one of the eight limbs of yoga. Physical ability will eventually fade, so our practice needs to live in our mind.

Switch off the other voice and listen to your breath. That’s the greatest act of self care there is.