Yoga has become more popular than ever. And with that, there has been a rise in the yoga-related injuries too!! The not so good part – every form of exercise has the potential to cause an injury. The good part – with a few simple precautions and safety measures you can minimize the possibility of an injury. Not only that but with proper practice, you can safely get the best out of your practice for years to come.
Here are some key tips to keep in mind every time you roll open your yoga mat:
Do not skip the warm-ups: There is a reason warm-ups are a mandate before any form of workout. With the sedentary lifestyle that most of have, we are all prone to general body stiffness. Enter warm-ups – do some basic neck rolls, shoulder rolls, wrist and ankle rotations, and gentle spinal twists to prepare yourself for the session. Skipping this regime is a sure shot recipe for strains and sprains.
Ease into the practice gradually: You cannot expect to do a headstand or a split the first time you hop onto the mat. Begin your practice with easy beginner asanas. Also, if you go to a yoga studio and practice as a group, make it a point to not compete with others. Most accidents happen when people try to do stunts just because their batchmates can do it. It is completely fine if you can’t reach your toes or even sit in the lotus pose. You will eventually get there.
Move swiftly between the different poses: Transition in and out of your asanas very very smoothly without any jerky movements. One thumb rule to remember is, come out of the posture as slowly as you went into it.
Do not lock your joints: This is one of the most common mistakes people make. Locking the joints can cause them to wear out and cause injuries. Instead, keep a soft bend in your knees, or elbows, wherever you feel like. It is completely normal to do so. And if some pose just doesn’t work for you, feel free to skip it. Instead, take a small break in Child’s pose and rest until the class gets done.
Use props when needed: Props are meant to assist you to achieve the correct alignment without overworking yourself. I have had students who use blocks to sit in a pose as simple as Sukhasana because they feel like it.
Inform your instructor about any pre-existing medical conditions or injuries: It is a good idea to speak to your instructor about this beforehand. It will help him or her modify the practice to suit your body.
Focus on achieving the correct alignment: Irrespective of type of practice, pay close attention to the instructor’s body alignment. If you are practicing using a video, take a minute, pause and understand the placement of the limbs, spine, and neck. If you have a teacher in front of you, nothing like it. Ask him or her to take a look at your alignments for the first few classes. Correct alignment not only protects you from any mishap but helps you achieve maximum benefits out of your practice.
Do not perform yoga on a slippery mat: A lot of new PVC mats ( even the good brands) are quite slippery at the start. Or maybe it’s not the mat, but your sweat on your soles which is making you slip. Whatever the reason, you can keep a simple hand towel to get a good grip. Let’s try and not have a disaster during our down dogs.
And most importantly, listen to your body: Nobody knows your body the way you do. If you feel something is not working out for you, opt for an easier version and then gradually advance into its variations. There is no shame in skipping a pose or two. Have the courage to say, “Today is not the day” or “Maybe next time”. This practice of listening to your body will go a long way in protecting you from any kind of injury during the practice.