You know when you're in class and the teacher makes an off-the-cuff comment that really sticks with you? A comment that she probably doesn't think twice about, but that you end up carrying around in your mind for weeks? That recently happened to me.
Last month, when I was in a training with Schuyler Grant, she cued us into a fairly advanced pose and then said something about it being okay if we weren't feeling a deep stretch--that we don't always need to feel a deep stretch. And then, with a laugh, she said that a lot of yogis become "sensation junkies," always looking for the deepest, most intense sensation possible in each pose...and then she moved on.
Meanwhile, as she was on to her next cue, I was stuck. OMG, I thought, I'm a total sensation junkie.
Somewhere along the way on my yoga journey, I began to subconsciously act on the premise that if I wasn't feeling something super intense in a pose, I wasn't pushing myself enough (to my "edge," as we all say). Or I wasn't in the pose the right way. Or I wasn't letting go into it as much as I should.
I'm a teacher and I should know better, but this happened without my realizing it, this idea just crept into my mind, and I started to practice according to this unacknowledged principle.
But when Schuyler made her comment about being a sensation junkie, something just clicked for me. Of course I shouldn't expect to feel a deep stretch in every single pose! Some parts of my body have become very flexible from practicing so often for so long, and if I always search for that intense sensation, I'm going to overstretch my muscles and hurt myself! Um, duh.
Do I sound like a bumbling fool for not realizing this sooner? Probably, but I feel like it's one of those things that I had to hear 50 different times, in 50 different ways, before it could finally sink in.
So why do I bring this up today? Because I have an inkling that many of you might be sensation junkies, too.
Not sure if you are or not? How about pigeon pose? Are you always chasing the sensation in that pose, even though you're super open and can lie flat on the ground, as if you've been smushed by a cement roller?
And what about poses that stretch the hamstrings--do you push deeper and deeper every time, even though you can already touch your toes and feel a nice, gentle stretch when you do that? These are just a few places where I think sensation junkiness can come into play without your realizing it...
Whether you're a sensation junkie or not, I'd like to leave you with this reminder: it's okay to let a pose just be a pose without a ton of sensation or stretch. Sometimes the work is more subtle and internal, and that's exactly as it should be. Is it nice to feel a stretch that lets you know you're doing something? Yes. But do we always need to be doing something? Heck no.
So with that, I'll let you ruminate on this subject and see what you come up with on your own. I urge you to think about it the next time that you're on your mat, and in the meantime, I'll continue to talk about it (beat you over the head with it?) in my classes ;)