Most yogis have at one point suffered from a yoga injury. When I get wounded, I first spend some time feeling really sorry for myself - but of course while insisting I trust the universe’s path for me. So my complaining is peppered with rhetoric of acceptance that I only half-heartedly believe.
I then tend to curse whatever pose I feel was the culprit, and establish the firm belief that my body is just not proportioned right (“I have freakishly long femur bones, so obviously that is the real problem.”).
Eventually, I realized that even though it is never fun to be hurt, it is also a great opportunity to re-evaluate my practice.
Pain, although inconvenient, is our most powerful teacher. The yoga is not why you are getting hurt. It is how you are practicing your yoga that can sometimes result in damage.
So here are 5 tips to help keep your body safe while you practice and avoid yoga inuries:
1) Unleash Your Inner Mathematician
Yoga is all about alignment and angles. If your alignment is off, then there is much greater chance to stress your muscles. For example, if the angle of your Downward Dog where your legs and torso meet is obtuse, that means your lower back is not lengthened. As a solution, bend your knees to angle hips towards the ceiling to create a right, or acute, angle in the crease of your pelvis area. The more you pay attention to the angles your body is creating, the more you can avoid strain.
2) Don’t Be Afraid To Modify
Because it is essential how we are positioning our bodies, modification is imperative when building strength and flexibility. For example, it is easy to irritate the rotator cuff in your shoulder if not doing Chaturanga properly. If you don’t go forward enough on your toes, and lower your body as one steady plank, your elbows will be in an acute angle, when you need them to be in a right angle. Solution: do not go down as far until you can maintain a perfect right angle in the elbows, therefor avoiding collapsing in the shoulders.
3) Use Props!
Props are a fantastic way to help allow you find the proper position without compromising. For example, many of us compress in the ribs when in "Half Moon" when the hand’s on the ground. Using a block will create the space to allow your ribs to roll under and find freedom in the torso.
4) Get A Private Lesson
At some point, it’s a good idea to ask your favorite teacher for a one-on-one private session to give you the opportunity to examine each pose and apply to others what you learn. Yoga has many similar poses that are just rotated in space. For example, a shoulder stand is an inverted upside down Cobra pose. The asanas inform each other because they are all comprised of the same fabric. Exploring how every posture has a polarity of energy will help guide you.
5) Never Hang Out In A Pose
Even if a pose is not particularly challenging, never hang out in it! There is always some level of awareness that needs to be applied. Even though it is delightful to be one with the universe, don’t space out, and pay attention to how each pose can be improved.
Are there tips that worked for you that aren’t on this list? Let us know so we can all have an injury-free yoga practice! :)