In yoga, when we push ourselves into poses or go beyond what feels good, we often stretch ligaments and tendons, making an area where we actually want stability less stable and weaker. This can cause the body to be more prone to injury and pain, or prevent efficient, natural movement.
As a physical therapist, here are seven poses I recommend limiting (or even avoiding) when practicing yoga:
I’ve heard a million times from yoga teachers that it's OK and actually good to feel a very deep, even slightly uncomfortable stretch in your hips, but this is just not true.
Like everywhere else in your body, you want to be careful how much you are stretching here. No need to force yourself into splits. You could end up with a cranky, or even torn, hamstring muscle.
2. Compass Pose
Anatomically, we're not constructed to move in such a way that your leg should be behind your head. Stop trying to fight this!
Evolutionarily, if it would have been in a human’s benefit to move with one leg on the ground and one leg over our heads, our bodies would have evolved to EASILY do so.
When your hip is put into those extreme positions, not only are you stretching some really strong ligaments, but your femur bone knocks into your hip bone. After a while, this isn’t going to feel nice and can potentially lead to impingement.
3. Deep Squats
I can promise, if you are repeatedly going from standing to a deep squatting position, single or double leg, your kneess are not going to be happy. This motion puts incredible strain on your knees.
Unfortunately, many structures in the knee, once damaged, do not heal well, so take care of what you have!
Modifying or avoiding poses that ask a lot of your knees, like a deep squat, will ensure a sustainable yoga practice. If you're coming into a squatting position, put weight into your hands to help take some of the load off of your knees
They'll thank you in the long run!
4. Shoulder Binds
The ball and socket design of the shoulder allows incredible mobility. However, at the expense of mobility, it's also an incredibly unstable joint.
The stability of this joint is provided by a capsule made of ligaments that surrounds the joint, which is reinforced by your rotator cuff muscles.
You might want to think twice before pushing shoulders into binds.
This isn't a place where you want to increase mobility.
5. Deep Backbends
Yes, it looks cool when someone can touch their head to their toes in a pigeon pose, or flip back and forth from forearm stand to wheel pose.
But really, there's no other benefit to pushing into deep backbends. The spine is composed of a series of vertebrae that are connected by ligaments. These connections need to be strong and stable, as the spine is our foundation and protects the spinal cord. It also needs to be mobile enough to allow us to twist, bend and extend our bodies.
When in a deep backbend, you actually end up putting a lot of compression on the nerves trying to exit the spinal cord. Be gentle with your spine!
6. Spinal Twists
The majority of the rotation of the spine comes from the cervical spine.
The thoracic spine doesn’t allow for as much rotation as this part of the spine has the ribs attached, providing increased stability to protect your heart and lungs.
Fighting the natural motion that this anatomical design allows, by repeatedly pushing into twists or backbends, can wreak havoc on your back.
Avoid spinal twists.
7. Headstands Or Shoulder Stands
Performing shoulder stands or headstands puts your head and neck in a position where it must support the weight of your body, which it was not designed to do. Most people practicing yoga begin their inversion practice by jumping into shoulder stand and headstand; this probably means your body is not ready for these poses. I suggest being comfortable with forearm stand and handstand first.
Remember, you are the best judge of what does and doesn’t feel kind in your body, so listen.
Yoga can be a great tool to explore this balance; it is practice that gives you incredible, functional mobility while also making you strong and stable. See what feels good and what doesn’t, and most importantly have fun with it!
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