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Say Om Not Ow: Injury-Free Yoga Tips

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.

Want to see the other tips? Then

  • 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.
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Yogaforlife Yogaforlife 6 years
Never tried Bikram (live in too rural of an area for that class to be offered) but I love my hot Ashtanga yoga class. My first group class, I was the only "beginner" and I pushed myself too hard, and I was sore for days afterwards. By my second class, I talked to the instructor about modifying some of the poses, not because I'm not flexible enough, but because I don't have the upper body strength yet (chatarunga kills me). She helped me with modifications and now she's helping to push me a little deeper in the stretches. Finding a good instructor that works for you is key, and having them understand your limits so they can help you to overcome them slowly really helps. My instructor told me typically people come to class either strong but without flexibility, or flexible without the strength (I'm definitely the latter) and that the key is to recognize your limits and that it takes months to build up strength or gain flexibility. It's not going to happen in a handful of classes. I love my instructor because she knows that I'm tight in my right hip, while loose in my left hip and that I'm so flexible in my legs, arms and back that I tend to hyperextend, which also can cause injury in yoga. She's there to help hold me when I start to feel weak (shoulder stand or balance poses) and she presses me deeper into the bends since I'm not always strong enough to pull myself to where I feel the stretch. She's even beginning to let me know when she thinks I'm ready to try the regular pose rather than modification (like in lotus poses) or when I can go deeper. Once I gave up trying to do what everyone else was capable of doing in class and just focused on myself, it became a much better workout and enjoyable experience. And I definitely recommend skipping the vinyasas in between poses if you're not up to it!
chloe-bella chloe-bella 6 years
I've had several Bikram instructors and no one has ever encouraged pushing yourself to pain - that's just not normal. If anything, they emphasize not comparing yourself to the advanced students and being aware of your own body and how you feel. If your instructor was also turning the heat up more than what's recommended, it sounds like she was maybe just out to do everything her own way. You should try it again with a normal instructor, because Bikram yoga really is great!
Fitness Fitness 6 years
Yes, I agree with Stacey Cakes. When stretching, you may feel a little discomfort, but you should never feel pain. If an instructor is encouraging you to push yourself to the point of agony, then it's time to find a new instructor.
Vanonymous Vanonymous 6 years
Thanks Stacey Cakes. Maybe it was just the instructor. She would also do things like change the temperature of the room to 117 instead of the typical 105, which again, felt like it was a little bit much. I should not have to feel my blood boiling. I should try it again elsewhere. I'd also like to try regular hot yoga (not Bikram). The more I read about Bikram the more he seems like a jerk. haha.
Stacey-Cakes Stacey-Cakes 6 years
Vanonymous, I think you might have just had a weird Bikram instructor. I have been practicing Bikram for a few years and I have tried class with a bunch of instructors. The instructors will typically said to push yourself and a little bit of discomfort is fine. But they always say there should not be sharp pain and always to listen to your body.
Vanonymous Vanonymous 6 years
I like yoga, however, I was very surprised when I tried Bikram yoga. The instructor kept saying how you should feel pain and you're not trying enough if you're not in pain. She also kept saying how pain is a good thing. This just seemed wrong to me. Discomfort when stretching is normal, but PAIN is a bad thing. I think you should always listen to your body. I love yoga, but Bikram is just weird.
TrnSmleShiftRpt TrnSmleShiftRpt 6 years
I am the youngest in my class (by probably 10 years) and everyone always comments how I have it easy being younger. I find it just as hard to get into poses and see their years of yoga experience as an advantage they have over me. The grass is always greener!
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