If you'd like to injure yourself on your yoga mat, please heed the following instructions:
1. Carry your ego and emotional baggage with you into your asana practice.
2. When your body tries to whisper something to you, ignore it until it screams.
3. Focus on the end goal of the pose rather than the foundation and the steps along the journey.
If you follow these basic steps, I cannot guarantee an injury, but I can certainly promise a lack of progress on the path to health, contentment and self-awareness, if not some outright backsliding. I know this, unfortunately, from experience. It is humbling, indeed, that after some 15 years of studying yoga philosophy and asana, I still experience dire lapses in practicing what I preach. Chalk another one up to the human condition.
What I did to my body and which pose I was "going for" are irrelevant as, in fact, I hesitate to call what I was doing yoga. Yoga is the methodology through which one stills the whirling distractions of the mind and senses, and focuses on one's deepest and wisest Self from moment to moment. In various forms of Hatha Yoga, we use the body and the breath to bridge the gap between the manifest world and the divine witness within. If you're busy thinking about past disappointments and pleasures, fixating on future plans or motoring on autopilot through your sequences, is that really yoga? On the day I injured myself, I was angry and upset, and instead of checking my baggage at the door, I hauled it onto my mat. I disregarded the already sensitive areas of my body and the messages they were sending. I pushed past my edge instead of balancing there, and I then I simple toppled from it.
Last month, I spoke about how abhyasa, disciplined practice, will form positive impressions on your psyche and smooth out negative habitual patterns, like complacency or laziness. By the same principle, if you carry ego, anger, competitiveness, judgement, self-criticism and distractability onto your mat, you deepen those samskaras that cause pain and sorrow. It is true that there are times in our lives when we experience sadness, anger, heartache, worry and the vast array of emotions that colour and complicate us. There are times when we are so filled with must-do's and should-have's that our thoughts seem to drop like missiles on our inner landscape and send up clouds of foul moods and devastation throughout our bodies. Yoga is supposed to be the remedy for that! With conscious effort, yoga will help us cultivate a more detached perspective in order to clearly see ourselves. That clarity will allow us to act wisely and live well.
Please learn from my mistake. When you step onto your mat, when you consciously enter the temple of your own body, hear the prayer of your breath and perform the ritual of asana, take the time to pay attention to yourSelf. During that time, nothing else matters.