Firstly, I’d like to make it known, that not only hot headed, pitta type Ashtangi’s are the ones that occasionally find they have gone too hard. It can happen to any yoga practitioner- it’s happened to me from vinyasa classes, and definitely from Iyengar classes. Even from Yin self practice. Definitely from group Mysore practice.
Luckily, it’s less likely as you mature, mellow and grow out of your ego a bit. So, read on, whatever kind of yoga floats your boat/ navasana. This post is very much related to the last post “Effort in Yoga”
So the signs are there… maybe immediately after savasana, maybe a few hours after, or later that evening, even the next morning if you didn’t sleep well…. you feel like crap, or a bit like crap, or kind of awesome and light at the same time as feeling completely crap and about to fall apart at the seams.
Yep, you’ve overdone it.
In your practice that morning ( or whenever- some people actually practice at other times of the day, apparently, and to good effect… apparently):
You did a ‘new‘ pose.
Or you did a pose you don’t usually do.
You applied maximum effort in every single pose, pushing yourself to your limit (not me, not for some years now)
Or you did something incorrectly. Perhaps you played around with letting the buttocks go in backbend instead of your usual tightening- as you’ve heard conflicting ideas. Perhaps you doubted yourself, what you know about yourself.
Or you played around with sequencing without following yoga law and perhaps, if you are honest, that sequencing wasn’t the greatest (headstand in the first 15 mins beginning of class, anyone???… it happens, I’ve seen it! )
Or you did 108 backbends (shish!!!)
Or even 5.
Or you went ‘really deep‘
You forgot to engage your bandhas.
You over engaged your bandhas.
You over breathed (see Simon Borg Olivier on this topic- he’s the man)
Or you got an amazing adjustment in class. Or a shitty one (it happens)
You sweat a great deal ( doesn’t happen to me at all, I get a little jealous sometimes )
You practiced in a very, very hot room ( personally I’m not into artificially heating the body in yoga, though I know a lot of people just love it)
Or you didn’t do savasana at all or for long enough (don’t quote me on this, but isn’t it meant to be 5 mins savasana for every 30 mins of asana practice?)
Or perhaps you finished off your practice with some sex (perhaps not so common in class but in home practice, if you are both yogi’s, all those pheromones floating around….)
Whatever it was, you feel Jittery and Over stimulated. Tired- no, utterly wrecked, unable to do anything. Completely Distracted. Emotional. Off balance, Weird in your spine. Headachy. Spacey. Ravenous. Nauseous. Unable to translate concepts into words. Twitching in your eyes. Fluttering in your heart. You go outside to hang the laundry out and can barely lift your arms over your head…. and your heart pounds like it never usually does from just simple effort.
Any or all of the above ‘mistakes’ to some extent or another.
You’ve over done it. You naughty boy. Bad lady!!
Perhaps I’ve made it sound a bit dramatic. All these things above are not inherently bad in themselves ( well, not doing savasana is bad!!!! ) but they can all set you up for:
nervous system over stimulation ( jittery, spacey, weird in your spine, eye twitches, sensitivity to light and noise )
or muscle exhaustion ( pain and exhaustion, weakness ),
dehydration ( headache, nausea, muscle pain, cramps , cravings),
temporary blood pressure issues ( pounding heart, unable to catch your breath, feeling like your heart is beating behind your eyes),
feeling unmotivated – any of the above mistakes, but especially over effort, perhaps trying over and over to ‘nail’ a challenging pose. It is well known know that motivation/ willpower has a finite scope- we only have a certain amount of energy each day to do things. Use it all up getting out of bed at the cracker, in the dark and cold and going gung-ho doing your morning practice… and you may well be set to waste the rest of your day. Maybe that’s fine sometimes… but if it’s a pattern then something has got to give. If you want to contribute to, you know, the external world.
being utterly ravenous (over breathing does this, in yoga and in sport and other physical activities. It seems to be about the bodies need to return to homeostasis ) Often thirst is also mistaken for hunger, or poor food choices are made, which compounds the situation.
cranky, irritable and decidedly un-yogi ( over pushing AND over breathing, too deep and too fast, increasing adrenaline and cortisol in the body makes for a ‘hot head’– ready for some argy bargy. )
Traditionally, the aim in Yoga was always to increase the length of our breaths in each direction, slooooow inhales and even longer exhales- in order to decrease the amount of breaths we take. ( In Yogic belief, we are born with a certain amount of breaths and we want to learn to breath less in order to extend our lifespan ) SO MANY PEOPLE are over-breathing with their deep, FAST, forced breaths- in effect hyperventilating, and over doing it!
This is not what Yoga is about, feeling like this! Yoga is about restoring the body, supporting it. Purifying it and making it ready for meditation. For union. For self, as in SELF realisation. Loss of ego. You know the score.
Effort is fabulous, and doing tapas is vital to yoga practice. A strong practice is great for many people. But going over board in any form of Yoga is not tapas. It’s not sattvic and it is not a practice of ahimsa, either.
aside: Here is a quick definition of tapas, from yoga journal. Thanks Yoga Journal, my motivation is running out 🙂
The word “tapas” comes from the Sanskrit verb “tap” which means “to burn.” The traditional interpretation of tapas is “fiery discipline,” the fiercely focused, constant, intense commitment necessary to burn off the impediments that keep us from being in the true state of yoga (union with the universe).
You can still be doing tapas without messing with your homeostasis, baby!
Ok, so I could go on at length. Ok, so I have already…
BUT what can we do when we have found, oh dear, that we have gone too hard. What can bring us back to equilibrium?
These things have worked for me in the past- back when I used to push it too hard in a younger, more pitta dominated time ( and when I could spend all day practicing then flopping around lazily post practice- and back when I wasn’t a parent and I didn’t see the direct consequence of being cranky/exhausted/overstimulated etc etc. Nothing is quite as irritating as the noise of children, even happy delightful ones, when you are fried/not in balance. )
Go back and do savasana… for at least 15 minutes. With blankets and eye bag even if it is warm. Go back to bed if you feel really crappy- if you have the lifestyle for it!
Drink more water… warm to hot, never cold. Dehydration takes a while to resolve.
Eat warm food, grounding food such as oats, buckwheat bread, eggs, soup. Root vegetables. Not salads. Not spicy curries. Not raw food. Not cold food. Not processed food. No crackers. A little fruit could help- dates and figs are great if your digestion can cope- just one or two. Warm, cooked apples with cinnamon and a fat source like butter or ghee or coconut oil, unrefrigerated perfectly ripe mango, banana… no sour fruits or citrus. No yoghurt either until you feel in balance again.
Eat GHEE– ghee is good! I have studied pranayama several times with O.P Tiwari of the Kaivalydham and he always tells me to ‘eat more ghee’. prescribing 4 TBs a day for my needs- not easy to consume that much but I do my best. I make it every week and use it in everything. Here it is solid, being winter both outside and inside the house, but if you melt it, it’s easier to eat.
Rub your feet with ghee before going to bed and put socks on, if you feel overstimulated and are worried that sleep might not be yours ( upward moving energy poses and practices can do this- hence not doing headstand, uddiyana bandha practices or even backbends in the evening)
Give yourself a foot massage– again, with oils.
Put socks on- cold feet can really mess with the body after practice.
Drink some milk if milk is your thing. I can’t drink it so homemade, warm almond milk with spices and honey is a good one too.
Go for a quiet, slow walk, barefoot great if it warm enough. Keep your chest and throat and lower back WARM.
Go get some shiatsu. Tell your practitioner what you’ve gone and done to yourself.
Do some Alternate nostril breathing for at least 5 minutes. More is better. Without kumbhaka ( retention of breath ) is advised if you are new to it.
Do Shitali pranayam if you are irritated and cranky. It is a fabulous panacea for over heated, over stimulated post practice yogi’s.
Legs up the Wall pose ( Vipariti Karani) – what a magic pose over over stimulation. Or Legs Up the Couch pose if you find yourself without a wall to lean on. Having your legs above your heart does wonders for the nervous system. Stay for 10 minutes, keeping warm.
Take a warm bath with magnesium salts – especially if you are feeling it in the muscles.
Hide. Choose your activities. Going to the Southern Hemispheres largest mall for some ill advised retail therapy might not be the right thing to do right now (or ever?)
Ok, so say you’ve jumped in your car and are headed to work and you realise you have over done it. The ideas above might not be an option, right? Perfect thing for you to do would be to hum. humming is the way forward. Inhale long, quiet, slow breaths, exhale while humming- long, slow and completely. Inhale, repeat. For at least 5 minutes. Humming quietens down the over stimulated sympathetic nervous system and feeds the parasympathetic nervous system. Chanting Aum could do it, but try any humming- along to music if you like. When you hum for some time, taking care NOT to over inhale, you will notice the benefits. It helps you concentrate, too.
On public transport? Think humming might not cut it with your fellow passengers? Inhale very very very slowly, through the nose into the belly and only lightly up into the chest, ( yes, abandon bandhas for this, people) and exhale even more slowly, making sure to relax the belly on the next inhale. For as long as it takes.n’t reach for coffee, tea, chai or chocolate. But… don’t forget to eat! But then also, don’t go overboard trying to replace that weird feeling with food.
Oh, one more thing. Get off the computer. Doesn’t help a bit.
Any others I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments.