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How to Prevent Injury in a Yoga Class

Mistakes You're Making in Yoga Class

People love yoga because it's such a welcoming form of movement — there's something for everyone. Yoga is all about embracing your body's limitations and honoring the light and joy within you. With that said, you're not going to feel very blissed out if you pull a hamstring trying to stick your leg behind your head. Here are some no-nos when it comes to attending a yoga class.

  • Not warming up: Even if the room is heated, the class should begin slowly, with postures and movements that gradually warm up your muscles. Sun salutations, Cat and Cow, circling the neck, wrists and ankles, and Child's Pose are all great to do at the beginning of class. If the instructor begins with challenging poses, arrive early so you can do five to 10 minutes of your own warmup.
  • Trying to be like Polly Pretzel in the corner: It's hard not to look around at the other students in your class, especially the ones who look like they know what they're doing, but don't try to emulate them perfectly. Everyone's body is different, so don't expect your pose to look like Susi Stretchy's.
  • Being competitive with yours truly: Just as you shouldn't compare yourself to others in the room, don't compete with yourself either. Honor your body's abilities at the present moment, and don't try to do what you did two years ago, or get as deep into a pose as you think you should. When you walk into a yoga class, leave your ego at the door.
  • Doing poses you're not ready for: I always encourage my students to try new poses, but not if your body isn't strong or flexible enough. When working on backbends, you know whether it's a better idea to do a beginner version like Cobra versus an advanced version like Scorpion.
  • Being too cool for props: If you're struggling to get your hand to the floor in Rotated Triangle, place your hand on a block instead. Don't think of props as wimpy or just for beginners. Blocks, straps, and bolsters can make poses feel more comfortable and stable, and sometimes you'll feel an even deeper stretch when you use them.

Keep reading to find out what other mistakes you might be making.

  • Having incorrect alignment: Doing poses correctly not only feels better, but it helps prevent developing a yoga-related injury. Some classes and instructors are more focused on alignment, so give those a whirl to make sure you know the basics.
  • Not asking for help: If you're unsure about where your back foot is supposed to be in Warrior 2 or what to do if your wrists hurt in Down Dog, ask the instructor. If it doesn't feel appropriate to ask the question during class, make a point to talk to the instructor afterward.
  • Listening to the teacher instead of to your own body: I mean no disrespect to your yoga instructor, but we don't know everything, and we certainly don't know how poses feel to you. Whether you have an old soccer injury, sore muscles from a long run the day before, or you woke up with a stiff neck, make sure you're listening to your body and doing what feels good to you. That may mean doing a variation of a pose the instructor is demonstrating, or telling the teacher you don't want any assists.
  • Using the wrong mat: There's a reason so many companies make yoga mats. If you're a super sweaty yogi, make sure you have a rug or towel on your mat. If your head hurts in headstand opt for the thickness of a Manduka Black Mat. You'll enjoy your practice so much more if you're not worrying about what's under your feet.
  • Eating a bean burrito 30 minutes before class. You need to fuel up before getting your stretch on, but certain foods are better choices than others. Since you're putting yourself in compromising positions and often in close quarters with other yogis breathing the same air as you, you don't want to, well, you know where I'm going with this. It's recommended to stop eating about two hours before practicing yoga, so when you do, choose a meal that's easily digestible.
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