Avoiding yoga injuries

Yoga by its nature should be sustainable, yet yoga injury is becoming increasingly common.  This could be due to the surge in popularity of yoga worldwide as well as a growing willingness of people to talk about their injuries, owning up that even the universe doesn’t protect yoga practitioners from injury in their practice.

Flickr.com FiberArtGirl

Flickr.com FiberArtGirl

The benefits of practicing yoga are many, and regular practice of yoga postures increases flexibility, strength and balance, with increased sensitivity being the side-effect. Despite this increased sensitivity, it might seem strange that even the most experienced yoga practitioners and teachers suffer yoga injury at some point over time.

Although there is no sure way never to get injured–we are only human after all–there are some things to keep in mind when you do yoga postures.

Practice with awareness. This might seem deceptively simple, but it means having the elements of asana (postures), pranayama (breath control) and meditation integrated into your practice.  When the teacher says ‘keep your focus,’ ‘keep breathing through your nose’, ‘slow, steady, even breath,’ they are reminding you of something vital.  Here  are three of the principal reasons for yoga injury.

  1. Not letting things be and grasping for something that is out of reach.
  2. Not knowing what you are doing.
  3. Being adjusted or instructed by a teacher who is affected by any of the above two.

What can help you find your balance and awareness is conscious yogic breathing throughout the class.  The ujjayi or victory breath will help you to keep steady while maintaining a flow of energy through the body.  When this breath changes in rhythm, becomes laboured, it is a signal from the body to pull back and find the breath again.

Savasana (dead body pose) at the end of the class, as well as after peaks of activity during the class, is also essential to wind down to. Don’t skip this essential pose. It is one of the most challenging asanas to do fully…. After final Savasana is an ideal time to continue with deeper pranayama practices.

Practice with compassion and consciousness, start the yoga class by bringing your palms together and pressing your thumbs to your heart. Then bring your fingertips to your forehead and set your intention to practice with awareness.

Sources of knowledge and inspiration include Mark Stephens, Sequencing: Designing Transformative Yoga Classes and Erich Schiffmann — The Spirit and Practice of Moving Into Stillness.

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