Avoiding yoga injuries

It’s always worth remembering that only you can practice with awareness. Your teacher is only your guide…

Yoga Nieuw-west

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.

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Why practicing yoga postures is different from other forms of exercise

Breathing through imperfect lines: Natasha Gunn

Breathing through imperfect lines: Sketch by Natasha Gunn

When used as a tool for self-transformation and awakening to clearer awareness, yoga starts the moment a student first pays attention to what he or she is doing in the practice.

If a student is unsteady, falling, in pain, or distracted by discomfort, the tendency will be to go back into his or her analytical or agitated mind. Sthira and sukham— steadiness and ease— give the asanas their transformative potential.

Being steady does not mean being perfectly still in a pose that you hold for a very long time. Asanas, by contrast, are alive, in each moment a unique expression of the human being doing them.

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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.

Continue reading

Yoga breathing

The main type of breathing we do in yoga is called ujjayi (ooh-JAI-yee). Ujjayi breathing, known as the victory Breath is characterised by an audibly hollow, deep, soft sound coming from your throat.

Ujjayi breathing is not difficult to learn. It involves narrowing the aperture in your throat by gently tightening the epiglottis, which is done like this:

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Rejuvenating stretch: Dog pose (Adho Mukha Shvanasana)

Working with students at Yoga Nieuw West in the Dog pose (Adho Mukha Shvanasana).

Working on Dog pose at Yoga Nieuw West

Moving up the hips into ‘dog tilt’.

This is a powerfully rejuvenating pose that strengthens the hands, arms and upper body, opens the chest and improves the breathing. It lengthens the spinal column and increases circulation to the brain.

Do this when you need to boost your energy, so not at bedtime unless you do it slowly as a gentle pick-me-up.

Tip: Keep your elbows straight through squeezing your elbows inward and towards each other. Press your chest  towards your legs and tip your hips into dog-tilt as if your tailbone was being pulled gently upwards by an invisible hand.

Working on the dog pose at Yoga Nieuw West

Working with a student on dog pose.

Half candle or half shoulderstand (Viparita karani)

This posture stimulates the thyroid and parathyroid glands, increases blood supply to the brain and also strengthens the upper body, opens the chest and stretches the neck, shoulders and uppper back muscles.

lie on your back and bend your legs and gently bring your thighs as much toward your chest  as possible.  Use your hands to help you move your hips up off the mat.  Place the palms of the hands on the back of the ribs, resting the shoulders well on the floor. Tip your hips backward and bring your legs up to a 45 degree angle. Push from your toes, tip your hips backward into a more pronounced dog-tilt and allow your feet to leave the floor, bringing them until they point upward. Move your spine into your back, open and expand the chest and make your back slightly concave.

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