5 ways to prevent injuries in Yoga

Yoga is a very healing practice both mentally and physically however, people have obtained injuries not from the practice itself but from attempting to move the body in a way that it isn't prepared for. Yoga doesn't cause injuries, people do. Here's five steps to ensure you don't become injured during Yoga.

1. Use your bandhas

Some teachers will talk about these more than others so even when your instructor isn't saying it, make sure you engage your core as much as possible throughout the whole practice. Ultimately, the lightest most holistic practice is one where the movements are initiated from the inner body, starting with the breath and then the core. An active core also supports the spine and ensures that you do not hyper extend into your hip and shoulder joints. This is a particular concern for those who are extra flexible. Contain your core, go easy on your joints and avoid dislocation or accumulative strain on the joints which can lead to tendinitis, bursitis and more.

2. Slow down

Even in a dynamic class, take your time a little to arrive in the pose before moving into the full expression. It's easy to rush ahead in common sequences such as the Sun Salutations however, this is not a mindful practice. Allow yourself to feel out the movement and move mindfully. Rushing from one pose to the next jolts the body around which promotes tension and even muscle spasm. If the body is tense and you force it to move it can lead to a pulling or tearing of a ligament, tendon or muscle. Find your breath and move with intention. It's not a race.

3. Listen to the alignment instructions carefully

One of the most common things I see in classes is students just doing it their way. Sometimes students don't understand the instruction or they think that they are doing what the instructor has said. Really check in with what has been said about alignment and ensure that you are following the steps correctly particularly in inversions, back bends, twists and binds. 

4. Don't copy other students

Obviously, beginners need to copy someone and that's totally reasonable for the initial introductory period. However, I regularly see newer students trying to copy more experienced students and at serious risk of injury. The most common pose this happens with is Chuturanga. If you haven't attended a workshop or received some one on one training, you are probably practicing Chuturanga incorrectly and straining your shoulders. Over time you may end up with a shoulder cuff injury. Work with your own body on the day and use the distractions as a measure of your ability to remain in a state of mindfulness. Ask your teacher after class to check your alignment and listen carefully to the alignment cues.

5. Stop trying - effortless effort

By stop trying I don't mean take a 90 minute savasana although this is totally acceptable some days! Sometimes we try so hard to get every posture exactly right and at the right time to hold our posture this way and don't let go that way and look to this point and press that point and oh my gosh it's exhausting and what was I doing again? Oh yeah, being peaceful and zen. Yeah right! Don't try too hard to nail every cue that the teacher instructs and definitely do not strive for perfection. Firstly, there's no such thing and secondly it's a killjoy. It can also lead to us generating more tension in the body and potentially an injury. Glide through your practice with grace and a smile, enjoy the sweetness of each inhale and see what each pose offers you today.