Lately I've been seeing an uptick in students with aches, pains, tweaks and general obstacles to practice. My response, if you are one of them is twofold: 1 - Keep practicing, and 2 - LIsten to your body.  Yeah, yeah, I've heard it all before. But here is what I mean:

Keep practicing: This is key to not only getting past this current obstacle, but avoiding future tweaks, injuries and general blocks. Practice is not meant just for special occasions. The more routine it is, the less pressure for each practice to be “perfect” or to accomplish something big and profound. We can let go of expectations because we know there will always be that next practice...tomorrow, or the next day or the next. This is the principle of Vairagya, as in yoga sutra 1.12:

Abhyasa-vairagyabhyam tan-nirodah
The ending of vrrti (disruptions of the mind) occurs by practice and non-attachment

Listen to your body: Obstacles in practice can be an opportunity to make a deeper study...of postures, of your body, your senses, reactions, etc. Pratyahara is the 4th limb of the 8 limbs of Ashtanga yoga. It means mastery of the senses...a turning inward. On your mat it means paying closer attention to your body and mind and how it responds when you are in these postures...changing one small thing about how we do downward dog, for example. It may mean exploring different prop options to find a more attainable version and building from there, asking along the way: “is this moving me in a positive direction? Negative? Neutral?”

Obstacles are a natural part of the path of Yoga. Yoga Sutras 1.30 & 1.31 even list out the possible obstacles (disease, doubt, lethargy, lack of groundedness in practice, disruptions of the mind, etc) and the symptoms, in case you're not sure an obstacle is present (pain, depression, disruptions of the breath or body). The next sutra (1.32) says:

tat-pratisedhartham eka-tattvabhyasah
To prevent obstacles, practice one single truth/principle

It’s saying to keep it simple. Pick one thing and dig in. It could be breath. Or deep observation of a single position. Or making space in the body. Or getting out of bed when the alarm goes off ;-) Each single step in the process is important and should not be skipped over. Give yourself permission and space to be fully present for them all.

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