When Yoga Goes Wrong: How to Prevent Injuries
Yoga stems from a 5,000+ year old philosophy from India to unite mind, body and spirit. Though yoga advises on how to accomplish this goal and how to partake in an ethical lifestyle, it is largely promoted today as a means of increasing mental and physical health through asana (posture), pranayama (controlled breathing) and dhyana (meditation).
Gloated for their innumerable benefits and lack of side-effects, these practices of yoga have been placed on a remarkably high pedestal. Because of this, the opposite extreme has started to be expressed in main-stream society- mainly, that yoga is a dangerous practice and will cause injury.
FIVE MOST EFFECTIVE WAYS TO AVOID INJURIES:
1.) Avoid Injury by first informing yourself on how a given posture is intended to be performed, through asking questions, conscious experimentation and reputable texts
2.) Avoid Injury by participating in classes only with teachers you know and trust, or evidently have a substantial amount of experience and qualification to be teaching
3.) Avoid Injury by withdrawing the senses from outside and moving them inward
4.) Avoid Injury by releasing any competitive thoughts that arise during the practice. Regardless of how it may appear at face value, yoga is not and should not be engaged in as a work out/gymnastic routine!
5.) Most importantly, avoid injury by staying tuned to the breath, keeping it rhythmic and deep, as well as the sensations throughout the body, at all times. Move into postures only so much as the mind and breath remain stable.
Even though in a given sequence there may be many different postures that appear very different, these principles apply to all. There are also certain technical principles to avoid injury that we can bare in mind when moving through an asana sequence:
-Lengthen the spine and keep the chest open, even if it means using the aid of a rope of micro-bending the knees (this movement is intended to lengthen the spine rendering it more flexible, rather than the legs, although flexibility in the legs is a by product).
-Keep the neck and spine aligned.
-Come up into the backward bend on the IN breath. Lower yourself to the ground on the OUT breath.
-Bend from the thoracic versus the lumbar spine (this may take time and isolated upper-spine opening exercises to accomplish!)
-Only attempt the full backward bend when the shoulders are already somewhat flexible and you have not suffered any serious spinal injuries
-Keep the pelvic bone lifted
-Use the breath to your advantage, keeping it long and rhythmic. Make the space on the in breath, release tension on the out breath. The spine should be lengthened on the IN breath before twisting. The twist may deepen on the OUT breath.
-Never force or yank your body into a twist rotation. The depth to which you rotate must only be as much as the breath can remain long and even and the body does not feel pain
-Ensure, either with an instructor or through a reputable book, that your foundation is correct (where to place your hands, head, etc)
-Move slowly, finding your stability along the way
-If uncertain about your capacity to find balance, practice against a wall
-Never place too much pressure on the neck. If you find this to be happening, reevaluate your technique
Remain inspired knowing that by practicing consciously, without rush, competition or blind faith, you will avoid injury. Instead, you will begin feeling yourself reap the innumerable benefits associated with maintaining a sincere, holistic yoga practice.