Teacher: “Does anyone have any injuries? Just listen to your body, and if anything doesn’t feel right, stop”

I admit I am guilty of saying that vague and blanketed statement at the start of a class. While it’s the teacher’s responsibility to lead a safe class, it’s not my job to make sure you don’t do something silly. From the front of the class, I can’t be in each person’s body, experiencing the same sensations they do, to ensure they don’t get injured.

Since I started teaching Yoga Tune Up®, the poses and exercises I teach have changed dramatically and in my opinion, so has the chance of getting injured. No longer do I instruct downdog as the first pose – we usually spend the class time awakening and embodying the rotator cuff and external rotators to help stabilize the shoulders in the pose, rather than attempt to “melt” them open.

Now, you’d think that I would take my own advice, but sadly that isn’t always true. I recently found myself in a high intensity workout that I am no longer used to doing. “You’ve been doing workouts far more intense with much heavier weight…you’ll be fine”, I told myself. In hindsight, I realized I was trying to prove my strength to the other people – showing off what (thought) I had accomplished since I’d been away.

What did I actually do? Injure myself. As a fitness professional, an injury is terrible and terrifying. I worried about my ability to lead class and make adjustments where needed, plus I felt like a huge loser for acting like a fool and living with the consequences.

As I complained to my mom each day about how much my shoulder hurt and how pissed I was about injuring myself, we talked about self-reliance. How you have to be your own advocate and work only within your limitations, which doesn’t mean you have to play it safe, but means that you need to be smart.

I am always trying to think of the big picture – how will this serve me and what will it improve? If I can’t answer either of those questions or the answer is less than satisfactory, then forget it! You don’t need it in your life. This goes beyond “listening to your body” because even I’m confused as to what that means at times. My body was not complaining at all during the high impact and intense movements of my workout, it was not until after that I was so sore I was incapacitated that it was complaining.

So perhaps we should stop trusting teachers and coaches explicitly or attempting to listen to our bodies and instead continue to ask the big questions – how will this serve me and what will it improve? Or the even easier – WHY? If you aren’t satisfied, forget it and move on! You’ll be much better in the long run…