Like running, skiing, playing basketball, lifting weights, shoveling heavy snow, or anything else that involves pushing your body’s range of motion and stamina, practicing yoga can lead to injury if not done with care, moderation, and self-awareness.
Here are 3 simple ways to avoid injuring yourself as you tap into the many benefits of yoga.
1.) Go to an appropriate class (in two parts).
Part 1 – Choose the right class – i.e. type of yoga & level of class:
If you are new to yoga (even if you’ve taken a few classes), are slightly out of shape, don’t get a lot of exercise, have some chronic pain, or know that you are a little stiff in the joints, you should ONLY be taking an introductory yoga class. Don’t push it. I’ve been practicing yoga for almost two years and still get just as much out of an introductory class as I get out of an intermediate level class. I know people who have practiced much longer than I have and they say the same thing. We see a lot of guys who show up to our Broga II class (presumably believing that the Broga I class is too easy) that really shouldn’t be there. We make sure to communicate this professionally and respectfully whenever necessary and recommend the Broga I class, but you (the student) should recognize when you’re out of your comfort zone. When you’re in the right class, you’ll know it because it will feel right.
There are many types of yoga and many types of classes. Our recommendation is that you find a yoga class that is specifically designed for you. You wouldn’t go to a prenatal yoga class (unless it was prenatal for couples) right? If you look around you’ll find a class that is specifically for you.
Part 2 – Choose the right instructor:
Once you find the type of class that you want to attend, you should then find the best available instructor for that class. Friends and colleagues can give you a good recommendation, but you need to ask the right questions. If someone who has been practicing yoga for 10 years recommends a yoga instructor, ask if that instructor pushes them. If so, it’s probably something that they appreciate, but you won’t (unless you have also been practicing yoga for 10 years). You need an instructor that will guide you through every movement with clarity and care.
Also, once you identify what seems like the best class and teacher, go a little early – good teachers (often) have full classes. Don’t hesitate to introduce yourself to the teacher and see #2.
If your first class isn’t what you’d hoped or expected DON’T GIVE UP. You’ll have good days and bad days (so will teachers) so assume it just wasn’t a great day and try again. You should give it at least a second chance before you decide to throw in the towel or look for another class/instructor. On the other hand, if you’ve done a bit of research, you’ve probably found the best class right away. If so, it should be a challenging, but rewarding first experience.
2.) Tell your instructor if you have any injuries or limitations or concerns.
Most good instructors will ask if anyone has any injuries or limitations at the beginning of every single class. If you do have an injury, even if you don’t think it’s a big deal, MAKE SURE YOU TELL THE INSTRUCTOR. If the instructor doesn’t ask, he/she isn’t being responsible (dock them 10 points and don’t go back), but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t speak up. Your yoga class is FOR YOU, not your teacher or even the other students. Be smart. Be a little selfish. Protect yourself. Make sure you are clear, even if it feels weird to speak up, about your injuries or limitations or concerns. Most good instructors will keep you in mind throughout the class and will give you variations of poses to help you get the most out of the class – without hurting yourself.
3.) If it don’t feel right, don’t do it!
There is absolutely no reason that you should do anything in a yoga class if it doesn’t feel right. If you’ve been injured before, you know that “Uh-oh” feeling when some part of your body goes past the point of no return. If you are paying attention to your body (as you should be in a yoga class) you’ll sense when your knee, or neck, or back, or hip starts to feel a little “tweaky”. When you feel that, back off. A yoga practice should challenge you, push you to your edge, cultivate a sense of awareness, and help you improve your body and mind, but it shouldn’t push you past your edge, make you take risks, spur a sense of competitiveness, or cause injury. If it don’t feel right, don’t do it!
Bonus: Be your own advocate and guide. Go with intention. It takes motivation, maybe some encouragement from friends or relatives, and willpower to go to a yoga class. Maybe there are other things you could be doing or maybe you went out last night or you have a cold or you’re “just not feeling it”, etc. When you do surmount your personal obstacles and decide to go to a class, go with a good attitude. Go with intention. Go with a desire to learn something “about yourself” and to take yourself to the edge. Go with the intention of coming home and feeling better than you did when you left. And go knowing that you won’t hurt yourself.
How did we do? Have you been injured in a yoga class (and learned something from it)? Did we miss any tips? Let us know! Leave a comment.