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Yoga’s focus on physical and spiritual health is one of the biggest reason for its widespread popularity. A fact that is often disregarded, though, is that yoga can be as physically intense and challenging as any other form of fitness workout.
Just like anything else that gets your blood pumping and your muscles working, yoga can cause injuries when done improperly. Keep reading if you want to stay healthy during your practice and continue to enjoy the wonderful benefits of yoga.
Here are some of the most common ways people get hurt when doing yoga.
1. Not warming up
Despite the explosion in yoga's popularity, many still believe the misconception that yoga can’t give you a good physical workout. However, anyone who's actually tried or practiced yoga will tell you that it can indeed make you sweat buckets, and is just as physically demanding as it is relaxing. It targets different muscle groups to give you a stronger, leaner body. So you need to warm up with stretches and breathing exercises before going into various asanas and getting your flow on.
2. Not using props or modifications
Adopting this attitude is another surefire way to get yourself hurt doing yoga. Asana variations and modifications are taught in classes to help students ease into poses of varying levels of difficulty. Just because a pose "looks" easy doesn't mean you can perform it easily and properly — especially with no prior practice or experience. You can't go from novice yogi to inversions master in just a class or two, or even 10.
Don't stress if you can't do the exact same poses that you see your instructor and classmates doing. Using props and performing modifications doesn't make you a lame yogi. It makes you a smart one, because you know and respect your limitations and level of practice, and you know that just like with everything else, performing and perfecting a pose takes time and practice.
3. Skipping the cool down and savasanas
Most people, not just yogis, tend to forget that the cool down part of every yoga session is just as important as the warm up. Remember, yoga engages different muscle groups and body parts; abs, glutes, back and shoulders, arms, calves — you name it. So after a good workout session, you have to allow your nervous system to cool down and return to its “normal” state. Don’t take your balasanas and savasanas for granted, these poses help your body relax and bring “closure” after an intense yoga session.
4. Ignoring existing health issues
Beginner yogis tend to be too shy to communicate with their teacher especially during the first few classes. Some don’t tell the instructor about back issues or a recent spinal injury because they don’t want to draw attention to themselves and just want to blend in. What happens is they end up either badly hurt or in a worse condition than they were when they began.
Yoga is a wonderful practice, but there are certain levels and types of yoga that not everyone can start doing from the get-go. Ironic as it sounds, recognizing your physical limitations, and doing yoga accordingly, will help your yoga practice progress better and faster.
5. Not listening to your body
One of the aims (and benefits) of yoga is learning the ability to build a deep connection with your body. All yogis are taught different physical and mental techniques to foster this connection and become more sensitive to pain and strain. If you’re able to perform a pose but can’t do so without feeling strain and discomfort, there is a huge possibility that you are doing it wrong or you’re pushing your body too hard.
Practicing yoga safely and painlessly all boils down to the connection you have with your body. It is ultimately what should guide and inspire you in your practice. Never work to pain, always work to what is comfortable, as you continue to challenge yourself and push the limits of your yoga practice.