When master yogi Erich Schiffmann was a young man, he wanted to plumb the depths of yoga. And so began a decades-long journey that involved traveling to England and India, and studying with the great masters of the time. The Los Angeleno would spend hours a day learning and perfecting his yoga technique. So for him, too much yoga turned out to be a good thing, as he was destined to become a renowned teacher. For you, though, unless you plan to fly the Nest to become a famous yogini, you might want to ask yourself whether you're practicing too much yoga.
Set Yourself Straight
Giving yourself over to a full yoga practice when you're young can keep you limber and strong. Even if you have an office job and are tied to a chair for seven or more hours a day, you'll be up on all the yogic tricks to ease the stress and strain out of your neck, back and shoulders. The physicality of a regular yoga practice will help you sleep better and feel more energized in general.
But make sure the yoga you are performing is done with absolute precision. Proper alignment in a yoga pose is key in helping you stay injury free. If you are not vigilant over the placement of your limbs when you begin a yoga practice, you could be looking at repetitive stress injuries and damaged tendons and ligaments down the road. Too much yoga is a bad thing when you're not doing it properly.
Choose a Path
Scurrying to the yoga studio to practice yoga at a frenetic pace can actually engender the exact opposite effects to those you're trying to cultivate. Asana or the physical practice is only one of the eight limbs of yoga as delineated by Patanjali in the "Yoga Sutras." The other limbs range from living and acting with an attitude of nonviolence towards yourself and others; to practicing breathing techniques; and finally to reaching an ascended state of enlightenment through self-study and meditation. Yoga can be described as a whole system, and embracing just one of the limbs without giving equal weight to the others might leave you feeling empty. Too much yoga can be a good thing if you follow the balanced and measured eight-fold path.
The Time of Your Life
When you're young and strong you feel like you can power through anything. That can-do attitude will get you far, except at those times when your body or soul needs nurturing instead. Before or during your period, too much yoga is not a good idea. Your body is moving into a phase during which you need to take care of yourself, so just replace a hard-core practice with gentle, restorative poses. The same applies when you're suffering emotional upset. Choose to spend more time practicing deeply calming breathing exercises along with a less rigid physical practice. Be creative with your poses so that you can act out your inner turmoil. Transition from too much yoga into a more appropriate level of yoga for your current physical or emotional state.
Only you can tell whether you're doing too much or not enough of the right kind of yoga. Being out of whack may surface as physical or mental discomfort or an emotional emptiness. But, the beauty of a yoga practice is that you can control the direction you're taking, the amount you're doing and the way you want to feel. The key to discovering whether you're doing too much yoga is to stop what you're currently doing and experiment. Try different styles and methods. You'll have your answer, one way or the other.
Linda Kaban is a certified yoga teacher and professional life coach who specializes in helping people achieve their fitness goals. With a bachelor's degree in the humanities, Kaban has been writing since 1998 and has been published in YOGALife magazine along with other healthy living publications.