Yoga is a relatively safe activity when practiced responsibly, especially when compared to higher impact activities such as running and contact sports.
Yet we cannot ignore the fact that injuries can and do occur from time to time. In addition to guidance from a knowledgeable teacher, there are ways to greatly reduce the chance of injury. And they all begin with the mind.
1. Listen to Our Body
We often think of pain as a bad thing. Yet pain is a very important indicator for protecting our body. All yoga poses can be modified, and it’s very important to modify so no pain is felt while in a pose. As soon as pain is felt, back out of the pose until the pain is gone.
In order to perceive pain, we must be listening to our body. Not all pain is sharp and sudden. Sometimes it’s dull and gradual – but the warning is just as important. We must quite our minds and remain conscious as we practice yoga. This way, we’ll be able to hear the messages our body is sending.
By listening and responding to signals of pain and discomfort we can help to avoid injury during our practice.
2. Change Our Attitude
Practicing yoga is not about attaining the full pose. And it’s mistaken to think that if we cannot attain the full pose, we are not doing it “right.”
The yoga asanas were developed for spiritual purposes. The word yoga is Sanskrit for yoke – as in to “unite or attach the mind and body.” If we approach our yoga practice from this philosophical standpoint, rather than a physical standpoint, we’ll see that there is no reason to push our bodies beyond what they can comfortably do.
In the true yoga practice we will enjoy each pose in whatever modified version we can do today. We will respect and cherish our bodies for whatever way they allow us to move. We will never let our ego push the body into something it can’t handle.
3. Employ Patience
The western culture encourages instant gratification - always pushing to go faster and faster. Patience can be more difficult to learn than any yoga pose.
We may look at our yoga teacher in full Wheel Pose and think: “I want to be able to do that pose in 20 weeks.” Yet there is no room for goals or timelines in yoga. What we really need is patience and the ability to accept the here and now.
It may take months or years to attain a full pose. Or, it may never be possible. Our bodies force us into understanding this fact – and sometimes injury is the lesson. We may be able to pay for or demand many options in life. But we can never force our bodies to do something they can’t.