---ASHTANGA AND INJURY
Aging plus Ashtanga practice has equaled, for me, a bit less clinging to the insistent flow of thoughts. Or at least sometimes, a little less belief in their overwhelming reality. Yoga has given me a stronger insight into some of my personality grooves, which have been worn by habit (while my wife Tara gives me insight into other grooves). My pointier bits are sharper, and my rough edges are smoother.
Unfortunately, for me this process also included some pain and injuries, yoga-related and otherwise. (To paraphrase James Murphy, "Skateboarding I love you but you're bringing me down.")
Ashtanga is a movement-based practice, and like throwing a ball or chopping onions, there is risk of injury.
While in the Mysore room, I seek to minimize your exposure to risk of injury. I employ a couple rules of hard-earned thumb in hopes that you will continue to enjoy breathing/moving as long, as consistently, and as pain-free as possible.
1. If You Can't Breathe It's Not Worth It
When I breath/move during my asana practice (that is, practice vinyasa), I notice that my ego — the sense of myself that lives in the future and the past — is strongest when my breathing stops. Put another way, my breathing stops so that a sense of my future self can expand.
This future self is a few seconds away, sitting perfectly and peacefully in a twisted pose.
(There are many times we want our breath to stop, especially during the Ashtanga pranayama sequences we practice, but these are careful and calculated, and take place while we sit still.)
When I stop breathing, often I struggle to fit my body into the posture in the future picture in my head. This picture is of what the "completed" asana should look like.
I try to stop moving, regain my breath, and maybe take 3 or 4 more breaths to get into the shape. Sometimes I call it good for the day.
It is just not worth it to hold my breath and contort myself.
2. More Is Not Better
If a body part is bothering you, adding additional stress (asanas) is never helpful. In fact, I would encourage you to do less.
3. When There's Doubt There Is No Doubt
The Ashtanga sequences can kick up some adrenaline, cortical cannabinoids, endorphins, and other stuff doctors and scientists will discover later, and result in a nice hazy glaze.
So if I am not sure if I feel a pose in my joints (wrist, shoulder, knee, low back usually), or if I'm not sure if a posture hurts, I just assume I am hurting myself. I then stop doing the pose.
When I use this approach, what is the worst-case scenario? I remain uninjured.
Jason owns and directs Portland Ashtanga Yoga.