Yoga is great for the body both physically and mentally but as with anything physical we have to take care when practising yoga so as to reap maximum reward and minimise any risk of injury. My top tips for avoiding injuries both on and off the mat.
- Work to build an equal balance of strength and flexibility. This is especially true in the shoulders as lots of flexibility in the shoulders and not enough strength or vice versa can leave the body prone to injury.
- Be mindful of alignment. The way we move our body affects the way it works. If you have a regular yoga practise there are a number of yoga poses such as Downward Facing Dog that you are going to do quite a few times and with any repetitive practise this could lead to RSI (repetitive strain injury) if we develop poor technique. The more times we do something we feel more confident and can start to do things on autopilot. See your yoga practise as mindfulness training and in even your favourite and most comfortable poses stay present with what you feel and experience in your body.
- Focus on the transitions. The way we move from place to place affects our experience when we arrive. The transitions between your yoga poses are as important as the poses themselves. Focusing on how you move into the poses not only helps to build more strength and improve the alignment of the pose but is also a great mindfulness practise reminding us that the journey is as important as the destination.
- Meet your body where it is each day. With a daily yoga practise you get very familiar with what your body does and doesn’t do and it is easy to expect it to be the same everyday or to always want to see improvement but each day our body is subtly different as a result of the actions of our previous day. Get really good at listening to the body with an open mind every single time you show up at your mat and let your body show you where the yoga poses are and how they feel rather than recreating a set shape or idea of a yoga pose.
- Listen to your breath. In our yoga practise we are working with the Samavritti breath, same length inhale as exhale. Your breath should remain smooth and even throughout your practise when your breath breaks from this pattern it indicates one of two things, either your focus has drifted and you are no longer practising mindfully or you are pushing yourself to hard and need to back off. If any injury is to occur in yoga it is likely to be because you were either absent minded or pushing too hard, so let your breath keep you in check.