Ways To Avoid Yoga Injuries
For so many of us, yoga hits the spot when it comes to our flexibility, stability, and strength. It also works wonders on all those knots and stresses that come with a busy life. And let’s not forget that feeling of calm you get after an intense practice session on the yoga mat. It’s no wonder then that the popularity of yoga is on the rise – with over 36m Americans taking up this ancient form of meditation and exercise as part of their health and fitness regime.
While yoga isn’t a high impact sport, it’s not without some risk. If the stretches and positions are not done properly or if you push your body too far while in a pose, you can cause an injury. With lower back, shoulder, wrist, neck, knees, and hamstring the most common yoga-related injuries, there seems there is a downside to the downward dog after all.
To help keep you safe and reaping all the health and wellbeing benefits of your next mat session, check out our five of the best ways to avoid a yoga-related injury guide and take the stress out of that tricky asana.
1. Find The Right Yoga Style
With the number of people taking a yoga class in the US almost doubling in the last 10 years, there’s no denying the popularity of yoga. And, with a vast array of groups, classes, retreats, online tutorials and video guides on offer, it can be a challenge to find the right class. To avoid injury from bad or uninformed practice, it’s better to start off with a real class from the get-go rather than relying on a video tutorial. With a class you get a ‘flesh and blood’ teacher who can correct and direct your technique in real time, giving you invaluable feedback to keep your yoga practice safe and effective.
Just like picking the right style of yoga shorts, choosing a style of yoga that’s appropriate to your experience, rather than getting your head turned by a trend will ensure your yoga practice is not just a fleeting fashion. Hybrid yoga classes that mix styles and skill levels are all well and good, but if you haven’t put the groundwork into learning the fundamentals of yoga and the core poses you could be putting your body at risk of an injury. Hatha Yoga is the ideal style to start with and smaller classes are also a good idea, as it gives the teacher a better opportunity to work with individuals on their technique. And, if you are new to yoga, a one-on-one private session to get you started is always a good way to go.
2. Take Your Time
One thing is for sure, yoga is not a race so take your time when you practice if you want to keep injury-free. Controlled moves are at the heart of yoga and gives it its restorative power. Push the move – and therefore your muscles and body – too fast, too soon and too hard and you could find yourself in trouble.
Starting each class with a sufficient warm-up is essential, before moving into some of the easier yoga moves (or asanas) to kickstart your practice, will get all your muscles on board and make the session much more effective, enjoyable and safer. Then pace yourself throughout the class and drink plenty of water to keep your body supple and strain-free. A good yoga class should also include a cool down session (often with meditation to get you totally Zen) to allow your stretched muscles time to settle.
3. Listen To Your Body
Yoga may not have the same obvious physical impact on your body as say, running, squat lifting or an intense HIIT session, but it is putting your body under certain strain. And, if you don’t tune into your body during your yoga practice, you could well miss some important signals it’s trying to tell you! Making a conscious decision to connect with your body as you work through your asana is an essential way to keep injury free.
By recognizing the difference between an intense stretch that can border on uncomfortable and actual pain which is abrupt, severe, and sharp, you can keep your body safe and happy. Never push through pain or ignore a nagging injury, in the hope that you can simply ‘stretch it out’ and don’t listen to your ‘ego’ by getting competitive in a yoga session. You may have the best yoga pants on and feel like a pro but overdoing a move beyond your current skill level is a sure-fire way to a yoga injury that will really set back your practice.
4. Focus On Proper Alignment
Do your homework when it comes to your yoga poses and you’ll get all the benefits, injury-free. This means learning the correct way to align your body in each asana and the movement flow between each one. By grounding each asana with a solid foundation and delivering the posture with strong and correct movement will keep your muscles aligned and playing ball.
If you are unsure on how to align your body in a particular pose, ask your yoga teacher to show you how to find the correct form. Time taken to make your asana alignment second nature will more than reap rewards, as well as help to keep your body supple and injury free. And don’t be afraid of using yoga props such as bolsters, straps, and bricks to help you get correctly into position – we all need a little support in our lives now and again and yoga is no exception!
5. Modify Moves If You Need To
No two bodies are the same, and this is important to remember when stepping on the yoga path. Try not to get your head turned by how well the person is doing with their sun salutation on the yoga mat next to you and totally focus on your own asana game. And this means making sure each move works for you. A good yoga teacher will offer several levels of progression for each asana they ask you to do to ensure you don’t take a move beyond your current ability.
There is nothing wrong with modifying a move to help you complete it – and trust us, your body will thank you for it! Gradually working up to the full delivery of a tricky asana can also be really satisfying and will bring you in tune with your body as it slowly releases into the move. And if you have a physical limitation, don’t ignore it but work with your yoga teacher to adapt a move that is just as challenging if done properly but won’t test your body beyond its limitations.
Away from a class, you can then use home practice on a daily basis to build up your yoga ‘muscle memory’ and focus on refining your moves before taking an asana – and your injury-free yoga practice – to a whole new level.