Yoga is a fabulous form of mind-body exercise. It’s existed for ages because it works, and there’s a style to suit everyone’s fitness level. However, you can hurt yourself doing any physical activity, even gentle ones.
Here are five tips to prevent injury during your yoga practice.
1. Rotate Your Wrists
Carpal tunnel syndrome cases have risen during the technology age, and the current telecommuting era puts people’s wrists more at risk. Unless you pay careful attention to ergonomics in your home office, you can create unnatural strain. Yoga can help relieve this pressure, but can also put pressure on this joint.
For example, downward-facing dog and side plank poses can put considerable pressure on the wrists. The best way to protect this joint is to warm up the way you would when doing any other form of exercise. Dynamic stretching delivers blood and synovial fluid to joints, keeping them safe.
In addition, you may consider pressing into your mat with your fingertips, to take pressure off your wrists. Don’t raise your body onto your fingertips, just press them into the mat.
2. Do a Few Squats
Your knees are another joint that takes a beating throughout the day. Coming to your mat can help relieve the pressure if you do so safely.
Warming up with a few squats gets oxygen flowing through the body and prepares you for more intense stretching. Think of it as putting a rubber band in the freezer versus stretching it when warm. The frozen one is more likely to snap.
You don’t need to bend your knees beyond 90 degrees when squatting. Going lower can activate your hamstrings more, but you should avoid dipping below the point where your spine loses its natural curve.
In addition, many people find their knees stay healthier when they keep their knees behind their toes, regardless of what kind of exercise they are doing. You may not feel pain during the exercise, but if you notice your knees hurt after doing squats, you may be bending with your knees in front of your toes.
3. Twist and Shout
Yoga is one of the best forms of exercise you can do if you have chronic back pain. However, stretching too far before warming up your spine can leave you confined to bed in agony.
One of the best methods for warming up your spine is performing a few gentle twists. You can do so standing or seated in an easy sukhasana seated pose. Don’t turn farther than your body naturally wants to go. Let your arms freely swing or place your hands on your knees if seated.
Another limbering move for your spine is the cat-cow. You can do this pose on all fours or standing with your hands placed against your mid-thigh. As you inhale, bow your back inward like a cow with bulging udders, and exhale as you round like a Halloween kitty.
4. Leave Bouncing for Kangaroos
As much as you want to warm up with gentle, dynamic stretches that increase your circulation, please avoid bouncing. Both the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons and the American College of Sports Medicine advise against ballistic stretching — the type where you bounce your way into poses.
Yoga practice generally incorporates dynamic and static stretching. Longer, static stretches appear in hatha, power, and yin. Ashtanga, vinyasa, and many hot yoga classes include a more active approach, flowing from pose to pose with little pause for rest in between.
5. Find Your Edge
The most crucial part of any yoga practice is learning how to tune into your body and move in a healthy way for you. Your poses might not look exactly like your guide’s or the student next to you, and that’s okay. What matters is feeling a stretch without any pain.
Finding your edge refers to the point where you are mentally and physically challenged, drawing awareness to your body. However, you should be able to maintain an attitude of calm composure throughout the move. How can you test this? Check in with your facial muscles. If you’re grimacing or gritting your teeth, you’re pushing too hard.
Prevent Injuries During Your Yoga Practice
Yoga is a fabulous form of exercise for preventing and easing chronic pain. However, any physical activity can put you on the disabled list, if you aren’t careful. Follow the five tips above to prevent injury during your yoga practice.
If you want to start a yoga practice, or make your current yoga practice stronger, book a yoga retreat at Sewall House in northern Maine, USA. Expert guidance, healthy meals, and peaceful environment are all part of the full yoga retreat experience at Sewall House.