Many people have
asked me this question over the years. If you are a yoga teacher, you have
probably been asked this question by your students as well.
In the past, before I learned about common injury-patterns, my standard answer has been “Oh, just do some yoga each morning.” I would say, “Don’t task yourself with too much for too long in the beginning – just do 20 minutes of whatever feels good. The next morning, you can change it up, and vary your routine.”
There is nothing wrong with that advice. However, lately my yoga recommendations have gained a more specific edge:
“Reverse your habitual patterns.”
I say this to my massage clients, when they ask what else they can do (in addition to bodywork) to fix their back pain, chronic shoulder tension, neck stiffness, or achy hips.
What does it mean to reverse your patterns? How would it be helpful for someone who has chronic tension and pain? And finally, how can we reverse our patterns with yoga?
I am talking about our movement patterns, which are governed by gravity and our habits of convenience (sitting, driving, being lazy). In other words, our body habituates into a very narrow pattern of movement. We mostly sit, stand, walk, and lie down.
If you watch children play, their patterns are a lot more diverse: climbing, crawling, hanging, twirling, rolling, squatting, and so on.
When was the last time you hung from a high bar? Or held your butt above your head? Or moved laterally, sideways? Or balanced on one leg?
These are all natural movement patterns that our bodies are capable of, but after a certain age we stop using them. As the saying goes, “if we don’t use it, we lose it.” We fall into a narrow pattern of movement, which causes a long list of problems. Here are some examples:
These are some of the most common ones. There are many other issues in almost all of our tissues.
Fortunately, yoga offers solutions for reversing our habitual patterns so we do not lose mobility, or stability, or develop the above-mentioned injuries.
So, what should one do in their morning yoga practice?
My answer: Any practice that aims to reverse your habitual patterns: