The main reason many of us practice yoga is to increase our flexibility, and the last thing you'd expect is to pull a muscle. Unfortunately yoga injuries can and do happen just as easily as they do in other types of workouts, so keep these tips in mind to prevent yourself from getting hurt.
- Spy before you try. Check out the class the week before you take it to make sure the level is right for your ability and needs.
- Drop the ego. Don't compare yourself to Polly Pretzel or 17-year-old Sally over there. Everyone's body is different, and you don't want to attempt advanced poses if you're not ready. Nobody's watching you anyway, so who are you trying to impress?
- Don't compare yourself to yourself either. Your body changes every day. Maybe last week you pressed all the way up into full backbend, but this week, your back may not be thinking that's such a good idea. Concentrate on how your body feels at that moment.
- Move slowly and with complete awareness. Every time you move any part of your body, do it calmly and with intention. Be aware of where your body is and what it's doing at all times.
- Learn to use and love props. Blocks, straps, bolsters, and even walls are great support tools to help you modify poses so you don't strain your muscles.
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- Don't push yourself too hard. Yoga is supposed to feel good. It should never hurt or cause strain, so don't force your muscles to stretch to the point of agony, since this is a great way to pull a muscle.
- Listen to your body. Sometimes the order or types of poses an instructor is doing won't fit with what your body needs. If your tight hips need to do Pigeon and the entire class is doing handstands, well, then do Pigeon. Also be sure to rest your body when you need to — child's pose is a wonderful thing.
- Don't slip. Heated rooms may help keep your muscles warm, but they can also make you sweat, making your mat really slick. Use a regular towel or a Yogitoes Skidless Yoga Mat to absorb any puddles.
- Don't be afraid to ask for help. If you're not sure how to get into a pose, don't be afraid to ask the teacher. Sometimes the format of classes makes it feel awkward to talk or ask questions, so if that's the case, just skip the pose and ask the teacher about it after class.