I spend a lot of words on this blog extolling the benefits I have perceived in myself and in my students from the various yoga practices. I also candidly admit (when asked) that not all practices are for every one and certainly not all of the time.
It probably seems obvious that challenging asana would not be right in the presence of certain injuries or illnesses, even if asana practice, which is good for our strength, balance, and flexibility, among other things, is generally beneficial overall. Being an advanced practitioner entails in good measure being sufficiently sensitive and aware of our edge day by day and even moment by moment in our practice so that we expand our capacity to live life to the fullest without blowing past our edge out of ignorance, carelessness, or ego and needlessly injure ourselves.
What is more subtle is finding the same edge in meditation. I am not talking about physical discomfort sitting for meditation. That can be easily remedied with appropriate props, for example a cushion or chair. There can be such a thing as too much meditation or not the right type of meditative practice for certain practitioners or under certain circumstances. Going deeply into the self beyond the surface level of thought can release things that had been buried. We may not be surprised if we have nightmares or anxiety dreams when life is presenting us with lots of challenges and difficulties. It may be more shocking, though, if negative thoughts or emotions come up when we sit for meditation. Meditation is supposed to be benign and health-optimizing.
One way to deal with the shock is to stop, but then we lose the wonderful benefits of meditation. What is more optimal is to learn where is our edge in meditation, just as we do for asana. As we get more proficient and experienced with meditation, if things are coming up that are difficult to handle, we learn when to shorten our time sitting, when to add in more physically comforting and boundary-enhancing asana, and how to release the negative stuff that is arising without it impacting our lives or relationships.
The challenge is that it is precisely the steady, intense practice over time that gives us the insight to know when the practice is too much at a particular time. For me, finding the edge where I can expand perfectly can be a challenge, but is ultimately and completely worth my while.
For some of the alleged dark sides of practice, try entering into your favorite search engine “meditation side effects.” Then read with appropriate skepticism; it is the internet after all, and you should be as skeptical about the claims of the negative aspects as you might be or once have been of the potential benefits of the practices.