There are phases in the yoga practice where we as practitioners might push, try too hard, and we can end up injured either physically, or psychologically.
I was in Mysore in 2006 as a beginner to the Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga system. I managed by copying a few people in the shala. I was flexible enough to do all of the primary series.
Not strong enough though. Not engaged in the root.
I didn’t realize that at the time. So I pushed myself. Hard. Without realizing it. I was used to exercise, to movement. I had been living in Beirut just prior, where I was attending a few vinyasa yoga classes a day, along with running, dancing, and swimming.
Little did I understand the power of the Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga teaching system, of growing with the practice, bit by bit. Training the system gradually.
I had terrible back pains and ended up visiting the local bone setters, somewhat like chiropractors. They oiled me, cracked me, and then wrapped me up. I walked out of there smelly and looking like a mummy.
I took a few days to rest and I improved slowly.
On the other hand, I have been through low periods where my practice went by what I felt. Mildly depressed. I was slow, mild, sleepy, and dreamy. When I would get into janushirshasana, by the third or fourth breath my eyes would start to close. This is a pose in which one can feel wonderfully aligned and connected if things are working and in place. But I kept falling asleep.
I would do less and less of the practice, or at least in an unconnected manner. There was definitely no growth, some basic maintenance if at all.
Then one day I realized that I was tired and falling asleep, and that my
mula bandha (root lock) was also asleep. When I had the energy to engage mula bandha my eyes opened widely. Immediately. Like magic. I was in the pose, even in the practice again. I breathed in and out. Focused my eyes.
All this, if even for the few seconds that I kept mula bandha engaged, I was connected, not worried about how deep I was in the pose, or how far along in the series, but breathing with attention.
It’s back to balance, between pushing too hard and not engaging enough. Same goes for all the other activities.
Look for the middle ground, connected and engaged, neither pushy nor sleepy.