5 Ways To Achieve A Safer Yoga Practice
Author: Dean Woehrle, NASM-CPT
Practicing yoga provides many health benefits not limited to flexibility, stress relief and enhanced fitness. However, like any physical activity, there are risks involved if not practiced safely. With yoga increasing in popularity within the United States, it is more important than ever to practice yoga safely. The number of yoga injuries treated in emergency rooms or doctors’ offices rose to 5,500 in 2007 according to the Consumer Products Safety Commission. According to a 2016 “Yoga in America” studies, conducted by Yoga Journal and Yoga Alliance: It is estimated that the number of American yoga practitioners has increased to over 36 million in 2016, up from 20.4 million in 2012. With the dramatic increase in the number yoga practitioners, injuries are on the rise as well.
Here are 5 ways to achieve a safer yoga practice:
1.) WARM UP:
Make sure you warm up before you jump into a yoga class. Yoga poses can be challenging for your body. If your body is unprepared, it may be too quick of a challenge for your tissues. Your body needs to be gently mobilized to lubricate the joints and warm the muscles to avoid injury. For example if you perform a deep forward fold before warming the hamstrings and mobilizing the spine you could cause an injury to the hamstring, the lower back and/or spine.
2.) START SLOW:
You wouldn’t find yourself taking an advanced martial arts class or an advanced group class on your first attempt, so why would yoga be any different? While yoga may look simple, it can be more complicated than would seem at first glance. Look for a beginner class and allow yourself to learn the basics of yoga and your body’s limitations to build a solid foundation and knowledge of alignment, before you try a more challenging class.
3.) BE AWARE OF YOUR BODY:
If you ease into a pose and it doesn’t feel right, stop! There is no advantage to pushing yourself through pain. Ask your instructor how the pose can be modified to increase comfort and/or reduce risk of injury. Your instructor should be able to walk you through the pose, describe the correct feeling, and make any corrections necessary to ensure you have proper form. This will help to avoid any discomfort you may feel.
4.) DON’T COMPETE:
Avoid forcing yourself into a pose to match your neighbor. Everyone has their own muscular imbalances and individual joint ranges of motion. While it is good to challenge your physical limits, respect those limits and do not over challenge them. If you stick with your practice, your flexibility, stability, and strength will increase with time.
5.) BREATHE AND RELAX:
The way you breathe affects your movements, posture, coordination and changes within the muscles. Holding your breath will lead to more tension in the body, which in turn will deny you the ability to deepen your stretch and achieve relaxation. Not only does your breath relieve tension in the body, deep breathing through the diaphragm, such as in yoga, can provide the same cardiovascular benefits as other moderate exercise.
In conclusion take what the body will give you and know your body’s limits. Your stretch is your stretch. Remember yoga is a journey of the self, through the self, to the self. Maintain a safe practice and remember to have fun!