Avoiding Yoga Injuries ~Part II

n Part 1 of this article, we discussed how in recent years the increasing interest in practicing yoga has unfortunately corresponded with an increase in reports of yoga-related injuries. This often results from a practitioner over-extending or improperly executing a routine.

[post-img]Despite these concerns, however, yoga is still regarded as one of the safest forms of exercise when practiced correctly. So whether you’re a novice or a seasoned vet, here are some tips to help prevent yoga-related injuries.

Find a qualified instructor:
Especially if you’re new to yoga and unfamiliar with its poses, this is probably the most effective way to reduce risk. The complex and often unnatural seeming stretches and twists can be complicated to execute without proper guidance.[tip-fact]A trained instructor can help you with personal flexibility issues and offer customized options for your own workout. Don’t be afraid to ask questions!

Practice alignment-oriented styles:
Even for lifelong practitioners, it is important every now and then to reacquaint yourself formally with proper technique. Both Hatha and Iyengar styles focus heavily on the proper kinaesthetic alignment of the various parts of the body. Attending classes like these reinforces proper posture and prevents strain from incorrectly executed poses.

Always warm up:
This cannot be stressed enough. By beginning a workout cold you increase your chances of injury exponentially. A quick ten-minute warm-up could make all the difference. Prior to class, perform a few low-impact stretches, or go through a simple routine. This will heat the muscles and tendons, causing them to be more supple and cushioning them against over-extension.[b-quote]

Avoid competing or comparing:
Yoga is private and introspective. You need only to surpass your own goals, not your classmates’. It’s hard, but don’t feel pressured by a studio full of hyper-flexible people. If you can’t do a stretch or bend, don’t do it. Ask your instructor for modifications, if possible, and practice those before tackling the full pose. To put it simply: you can only go as far as you can go. Don’t push it, and don’t be embarrassed or ashamed if you can’t do it.

Know yourself:
This is easily one of the most important rules underlying the practice of yoga. Understand your limits and work within them. Whether it’s an issue of general flexibility, a past injury, or a long-time weakness, you should always be aware of your capabilities. If a pose is causing you discomfort or pain, there’s a reason. Your body tells you when too much is too much; you just have to listen to it. No yoga pose is without modifications. Know when you need those modifications and implement them in your everyday practice. For a detailed description of some common yoga poses and their modifications, visit www.yogajournal.com/poses.

Nothing is risk-free, and like any form of physical exercise, yoga has the potential to harm as well as heal. But yoga is by no means dangerous. With classes held specifically for seniors and for physical rehabilitation, yoga is more than safe for anyone. In fact, when practiced properly, its passive poses are inescapably therapeutic.

By respecting the discipline and recognizing its pitfalls, you can easily avoid injury and thereby make the most of your yoga practice.