In Patanjali’s yoga sutra which dates back approximately 2000 years old, he had written a process called the 8 limbs of yoga that was meant to be done in a particular order to achieve the maximum result as a yogi and ultimately forms a practical guide on how to attain liberation from suffering. If the system worked, why do yogis still experience injuries?
In modern-day revival yoga, the ancient teachings have been diluted while overly emphasizing the physical practice and being goal-oriented to achieve postures and taken as a workout or exercise. Creating an imbalance in this otherwise perfect system of healing and wellness which prevents injuries.
We’ll focus on the first two limbs which a student has to practice even before coming onto the yoga mat to start their asana practice.
The first limb of the yoga sutra is Yama (Restraints), this limb talks about the ethics, a code of conduct that should be observed when interacting with the world around us. Often, it is interpreted as guidance on how to act towards others but it actually should be how you act towards others and yourself.
Since we are talking about yoga injuries of the practitioner, we will look at the ethics in a way you can apply it towards your yoga asana practice. We will go through a couple of precepts that apply to this topic.
The first of the Yamas is called Ahimsa which means non-violence. Being compassionate, all living beings deserve to be treated with kindness and love. This includes yourself, on and off the mat.
After Ahimsa, we have Satya which means truthfulness. Being truthful not only to others but most importantly to yourself. In this case, your capabilities to perform through asanas, dancing at the limits of your edge without going over it.
Then we go to Aparigraha or non-coveting. Coveting what other people have, jealousy & envy. It is healthy to be ambitious but remain unattached to the results or trying to look a certain way instead of flowing with how you feel.
The next limb is Niyamas, observances.
The first of the Niyamas is Saucha which means cleanliness. Emptying and cleaning the cup leaving behind our bad habits and opening our minds to find inner focus when we get on the mat.
Followed by Santosa, contentment. Understanding that you are working at your limits and making peace with where you are currently at. Maybe you have to make peace with knowing you might not be able to do the posture in this lifetime but that is alright! (but you are still giving a 100%).
Next is Tapas or self-discipline. Having that inner fire within you. The devotion to practice daily and know that through practice, all will come. All is possible.
Then it’s the Svadhyaya, self-study. Every time you get on the mat be open to learn something about yourself and gain more self-awareness through those lessons.
There’s a reason the yamas and niyamas come before asana in the eight limbs of Yoga. When we take on physical yoga practice, we’re working with directing powerful energy throughout the body. If we get on our mats with a sense of aggression instead of Ahimsa (non-violence), self-denial instead of Satya (truthfulness), being too absorbed by our goal instead of Aparigraha (non-attachment), cupful instead of Saucha (cleanliness), dissatisfaction instead of Santosa (contentment), laziness instead of Tapas (discipline or burning passion) and ignorance instead of Svadhyaya (self-study), then we’re not likely to progress as positively throughout our Sadhana (our practice).
When we keep our cups empty while being fully present, fully aware, non-competing, egoless flowing through love in everything we do. With these virtues, we are in the right space for yoga to happen.
Where there is yoga there is no injury, where there is injury yoga is not happening.