I've taught and taken many a yoga class, and unfortunately I have seen (and experienced) one too many injuries (did someone say torn rotator cuff?). It seems like an oxymoron - yoga is supposed to increase your flexibility, make you stronger while helping you heal and prevent injuries. It is not supposed to make new ones, right?
The next time you pop into a yoga class, keep these helpful hints in mind:
- Drop the ego. Don't compare yourself to Polly Pretzel or Seventeen-year-old Suzie over there. Every body is different and you don't want to attempt advanced poses if you're not ready. Nobody is watching you anyway, so who are you trying to impress?
- Don't compare yourself to yourself either - since your body changes everyday too. 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.
- Don't push yourself too hard. Yoga is supposed to feel good to your body. 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.
- 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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- Listen to your body. Sometimes the order or types of poses an instructor is doing doesn't fit with what your body needs. If your back wants to do a forward bend, and the entire class is doing handstands, well, then do a forward bend. 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, 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 (that's what they're there for). 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.
If you have any other tips, share them below.