By Jill Lawson for DietsInReview.com
In our modern world, yoga is taught in a wide array of places by teachers with experiences ranging from a lifetime to a weekend. Two of the eight limbs of yoga, breath work and postures (pranayama and asana), have created deep grooves on the face of yoga like a well worn yoga mat. Since the limb of asana involves physical activity, we must treat it as such. As with other types of activity, it is important to proceed with caution.
In reference to the New York Times Article “How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body,” yoga injuries occur when the student, for whatever reason, goes beyond a safe range of motion. Any time we do something physical, great care must be adopted to avoid injury at all costs.
Relative to who we are and how we practice, the following red flags are important to watch out for when you take your next yoga class or embark on your next physical endeavor, so that the benefits outweigh the risks.
Request for Extreme Flexibility
For some, too much flexibility leads to muscle instability and this in itself can cause an assortment of problems later in life. While pushing past your limits in a yoga class can cause muscle tears, tendon inflammation, or worse, ligamentous sprains, you can incur these injuries while doing almost anything physical if you are not careful. Moderate flexibility offers many benefits. Staying within a healthy range while practicing the yoga poses will help you gain the benefits without the risks brought on by pushing too far.
Ignorance of Pre-Existing Conditions
No two bodies are exactly the same. Some of us may suffer from conditions such as high blood pressure, scoliosis, osteoporosis or other unique issues that require caution. Thankfully, yoga as a whole can help such conditions. The key is in adopting the proper method of yoga, and practice it with caution.
Inappropriate Pairing of Fitness Level
A select few have such athletic prowess that they can perform new and unfamiliar activities with ease. Most of us need a lot more coaching and must start with the basics before proceeding to something more complex. Just as we wouldn’t play in the Superbowl if we’ve never donned a football helmet, we wouldn’t want to try a yoga pose that is beyond our ability. A continued practice however, will improve physical fitness over time so we can do a little bit more and feel a little bit stronger.
Lack of Body Awareness
This is the most important red flag to watch out for to avoid injury. It is easy for a yoga teacher to tell their students, or for us to tell ourselves for that matter, that we need to honor our limits and work within our range, but not everyone has a keen sense of what those limits actually are. Luckily, we do gain more awareness with an evolving yoga practice, but it is necessary to take it slow.