I meet a lot of people who have been injured doing yoga and are afraid to try it again. Others who have never done yoga may be fearful of the “pretzel” poses that they see on the covers of yoga magazines. I’d like to give you some helpful tips so you can do yoga safely, even if you’ve never tried it before.
1) Warm up before moving to more difficult poses or deep stretches
Don’t start your practice with Uttanasana (a standing forward bend) in a cold room (I pulled my hamstring muscle once doing this!). Instead, you can do a pose that will warm your body up, such as Utkatasana (“chair pose”).
In this pose you stand with your feet about hip distance apart and bend at your hips and knees as if you are sitting in a chair. You can decide how much to bend your knees. Be careful not to lift your chest and overarch your lower back. Let your front ribs descend to keep your back long. Make sure your knees are as wide as your feet, and keep your weight mostly in your heels.
Once you feel warmer (which this pose will definitely do for you!), you can move on to poses that stretch your hamstrings. Sun Salutations are especially good for warming up and stretching the whole body.
For an interesting article about stretching, you can check out: http://sportsmedicine.about.com/cs/flexibility/a/aa022102a.htm
2) Make sure you know the alignment details of a pose when you’re doing it
Don’t just jump into a new pose (especially a difficult one) without some instruction in how to do the pose safely. So if you practice yoga with the help of a book or DVD, you might want to have a live yoga teacher check your alignment when you add a new pose. It’s hard to correct yourself, and a teacher can show you what to focus on and what to avoid. This will help you when you’re practicing at home.
3) Don’t rush your poses
If you move fast, you don’t have time to check your form and can more easily hurt yourself. This is one of the dangers of practicing a fast flow-type class. A “slow flow” or Iyengar style class will be easier to navigate with safe alignment. Iyengar style yoga is usually done slower with an emphasis on alignment.
Yoga is a mind-body discipline rather just a form of exercise. It’s important to be aware of your body when practicing, rather than rushing. Going slower helps you to have more body awareness, which helps to bring you into the present, to relax, and to prevent injuries.
Want More Tips?
In March of 2010 I wrote an article on “How to do Yoga Without Back Pain.” You can go to my blog to find the 5 tips I gave there as guidelines (www.sonomabodybalance.com/blog).
Use these tips to help you stay safe while you’re enjoying your yoga practice. If you’re interested in attending one of my “Yoga for a Healthy Back” classes, you can find the schedule at http://www.sonomabodybalance.com/html/yoga.html.
©2011 Dana K. Davis