“Patanjali’s dictum in sutra II.16, ‘heyam dukham anagatam,’ means that we need to avoid creating future suffering. If you intuitively feel that the performance of a particular posture will be detrimental, then take the responsibility of your own body into your own hands and do not perform it…you may have heard that yoga looks at the body as a temple. How will you worship the Divine in this temple if you have defiled it through an injury because you wanted to live up to some ideal?”
-Gregor Maehle, Ashtanga Yoga The Intermediate Series
This doesn’t give me license to skip or avoid postures that I don’t like or find uncomfortable, but it does empower me with discernment, one of the qualities invoked in the opening chant. The line “sankhacakrasi dharinam” provides an image of a conch, discus, and sword. The sword represents discrimination or discernment. I like to break the idea of discernment down into part of the Serenity Prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
If I begin each practice by invoking discernment, the wisdom to know the difference, then choose to ignore the little voice in the back of my head saying, “you know, that pain in your low back is more stabby than achy at this point. This might be a good place to stop,” then I’m not practicing the very thing that I pray for.
We are allowed to stop when the body says stop. Sometimes, we have to scale back and rebuild. It’s so easy to let my ego get in the way of this.