Ashtanga Adaptability,  Uncategorized,  Yoga Philosophy,  Yoga Sutras

Shooting Yourself in the Foot In Your Yoga Practice

shoot yourself in the foot

 to do or say something that causes problems for you- Cambridge Dictionary
 As students, we get in our own way.  If your progress has stalled in yoga, check below to see if you are guilty of shooting yourself in the foot.

Ways We Shoot Ourselves In the Foot in Yoga

Not practicing enough

If you don’t do anything else on this list, do this. Increasing the rate of practice brings exponential improvements. Without adding any technique or doing anything else different, practices transform just by doing it more. Our bodies are creatures of habit and they respond favorably and quickly to repetition.  Muscles start to get stronger. Limbs become flexible. Most importantly, we override messages from our nervous system. Our nervous system lets our bodies know when something is dangerous. In general our nervous system thinks that everything that we are not used to is dangerous. It is trying to maintain the bodies status quo. In yoga, it will send  messages of discomfort even when your body is capable of doing a pose. By doing it everyday, it sets a new status quo and the signals dissipate and go away.



Eating Big Meals Close to Practice Time

We are all familiar with that drowsy feeling after eating a big meal. This robs your practice of energy and lightness. It makes twisting harder and it makes the practice extremely uncomfortable. If you practice in the morning, and you can’t do it on an empty stomach, try cold pressed juice or a small piece of fruit.  If you practice later in the day, eat small light meals until you get the practice in.  Cut the eating off at least 3 hours before practice.

Not Getting Enough Rest

When we rest, our bodies heal themselves.To be at our best, we have to have strong healthy bodies.

Eating Inflammatory Foods

Inflammation that lasts more than a few days is called chronic inflammation and it is very bad for the body and causes damage to the tissues. On top of that, it is just no fun to be sore and achy all the time and the swelling and the tenderness prevent the practice from being as strong as it could be. Certain foods exaggerate inflammation and make it worse because they are irritants onto themselves. Foods to avoid are:

Trans fats/hydrogenated oils


Processed white foods like white bread and pasta


Chemical laden processed food

Eating a diet high in fresh veggies and cutting out processed food can make a huge difference in lightness, healing time and inflammation.



Not Drinking Enough Water

Water regulates body temperature,  lubricates the joints and transports the nutrients you need for energy.

Not Working on What You Want To Get Better At

Where you have tightness, you work on flexibility. Where you are weak, you work on strength. If you want to do Handstand, you work on Handstand. Whatever you want to excel at, you have to work on that pose or skill.

Not Facing Fear

There can be no mastery without control.  When you are in control, you have the ability to respond to the subtle nuances of the pose and deepen it.   There is no way for you to fully be in control during a pose if you are afraid of it.

Not Working on the Foundation

Many times, the one thing that is keeping us from rocking a pose is found in the foundation. The legs are not engaging, the abs are not firing, the feet are to far apart etc. By understanding how our bodies work as a whole to make the shape, we can seek out the areas of weakness and fix them.

Getting Stuck Working on the Foundation

At some point, you have to just do the pose.

Not Being Choosy About Your Teachers

While teachers can teach something they don’t practice themselves, there is a depth of understanding that comes when practicing with someone who has first hand experience.  One little bit of information can make the impossible possible.




Shanna Small has been practicing Ashtanga Yoga and studying the Yoga Sutras since 2001. She has studied in Mysore with Sharath Jois and is the Director of AYS Charlotte, a school for traditional Ashtanga in Charlotte NC. She has written for Yoga International and the Ashtanga Dispatch. Go here for more information on AYS Charlotte. For information on workshops, please e-mail

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