Wednesday, December 5, 2012


There is no silver bullet for Ashtanga yoga.

If your back hurts, there's a good chance you pulled, sprained or strained something — muscle or god forbid ligaments or tendons.

This means there's no magic solution that will un-injure your back. No amount of Tiger Balm, deep tissue massage, Rolfing, or chiropractic adjustments will "fix" you.

They may at best mitigate some of the symptoms of your injury.

Also, no amount of Tiger Balm, deep tissue work, Rolfing, or chiropractic adjustments will significantly improve your active flexibility — that is, your ability to hold a posture for a sustained, even, and steady length of time.

In other words, there's no silver bullet that will overcome a lifetime of continually reinforced movement patterns, or a traumatic injury, or your current range of motion.

I have experienced muscular fatigue and soreness in my back — "sweet pain" — but unfortunately not from practicing Ashtanga yoga. 

I have also experienced bitter pain, which made tooth-brushing and tying my shoes quite difficult.

My suggestion and my own practice is best summed up by a paraphrase of Thomas Kurz, who has written some of the best books on the science of flexibility and training.

"Do not do any [asana] that gives you any feeling in the injured side that is different from the uninjured side...

When you have been injured ... any [asana] that causes you even the lightest pain or an abnormal feeling, sets you back by weeks or months from the full recovery. It may even keep you from ever recovering. If you would like to never regain your full ability, all you have to do is to keep [practicing] through discomfort. Stopping practice and following a proper injury treatment and rehabilitation program takes discipline."

I will post the entirety of his comments at a future date. But this is an interesting proposition to the Ashtangi — what if your back hurt, and so you felt mild pain during upward dog? How would you then practice Ashtanga yoga in a Mysore room? How do you practice Ashtanga yoga in a Mysore room if you have torqued your shoulder, and are unable to do chaturanga?

One hopes we all have the teachers with the experience to design an appropriate Ashtanga practice.