Is it Possible to Hurt Yourself Doing Yoga?
Most people are already aware that Yoga is beneficial. But not everyone thinks about the potential risk. It is most certainly possible to hurt yourself doing Yoga!
First of all, there are a ton of Yoga Myths out there. In fact, the concept of Yoga has become so distorted over the years; many people do not even know what it is anymore!
Many people think Yoga is just a form of exercise or stretching. Nothing more.
But Yoga is so much more than that.
Yoga is a spiritual science that has been passed down over thousands of years.
The physical postures that so many are familiar with today are only a small fragment of what Yoga is as a whole.
However, this part is still quite important!
The Purpose of the Physical Postures
The physical postures that we practice in a typical modern Yoga class are known as asanas, which translates from Sanskrit as a seat.
The primary purpose of practicing these asanas in a particular sequence is to prepare the body for meditation.
Over time, the body will get stronger, more flexible and more resilient to injury and disease.
But to carry out these feats, we have to do the poses in a way that suits our body.
The Right Way vs. the Wrong Way
Despite what many instructors say, there is no right or wrong way to do a pose. There are simply different ways to go about each pose for various people. Once you figure out what is right for you, you will not hurt yourself doing Yoga!
That said, we will address some tried and tested ways you CAN hurt yourself doing Yoga (I have tested some of these personally! Not fun).
1. Moving from one pose to another too quickly
Transitions are a common problem in group Yoga classes because we are trying to keep everyone else’s pace instead of our own.
Quick movements keep us from being able to focus on breath and alignment. They also make us less likely to pay full attention to our actions, making us more likely to jerk something out-of-place.
We should make every transition with intention and awareness.
2. Flowing through a sequence of postures we have not yet mastered
This concept goes along with #1, but even if we flow in and out of poses slowly, we can still do some damage if we are just repeatedly doing a posture for which we have not mastered the basics.
There are certain things we need to know about how to set up each pose. That is why we attend classes or read books. But flow classes are made up of pose sequences.
Sequencing usually involves rapid repetition of these poses. Therefore, it is assumed we already know how to do the poses in the sequence.
If we have not had the basics of each pose laid out for us, it is likely there are some things we need to improve.
What if we have a tendency to place our hands a few inches forward of our shoulders than they need to be in a push-up position? If we do that over and over again over time, it could lead to wrist strain or carpal tunnel!
3. Ignoring your breath
Always remember to breathe! It amazes me how many people forget this! Also, it is very common to hold the breathe when we are concentrating on our movements.
It is vital to breathe deep into the belly when we are holding a posture. And it is also wise to move with the exhalation, meaning breathe out as we transition between the asanas.
Paying close attention to our breath ensures that we are supplying our muscles and cells with the healthy doses of oxygen they need to work optimally and prevent strain on the heart.
If we cannot breathe comfortably and evenly, then we are doing our body a disservice.
4. Hunching your back and shoulders
Hunching or rounding is a HUGE issue for those who spend a lot of time at a desk!
So many of us slouch our way through life. Yoga can reverse this, but only if we make an effort.
If we automatically hunch our shoulders or round our back, we need to make a conscious effort to do the opposite while we are on our Yoga mat.
If we do every forward fold or twist with a rounded spine and drooping shoulders we are just making a bad habit worse.
But if we actively try to open our chest and draw our shoulder blades toward each other, this will carry over into our daily activities as well.
5. Locking the knees or elbows to hold ourselves in a pose
In some cases, locking the knee is a good thing (the instructor will tell you if it is ok). But usually, it is NOT! And never, ever lock the elbows!
Locking our joints in place will cause our blood to stagnate. It can also restrict the blood flow to the areas we need it the most for proper stabilization.
If the (qualified!) teacher says to lock the knee, go ahead and do it, otherwise, keep a micro-bend in the joints at all times.
Everything on this list is easily avoidable if you just practice some self-awareness.
Although if you do not want to hurt yourself doing Yoga, do not overlook the importance of having a qualified instructor.
I recommend the Bikram sequence to those who want an overall understanding on how to handle these issues. The class directly addresses transitions, alignment, breath synchronization, joint locking, and rounding the spine, all in a hands-on way.
If we avoid letting our Yoga practice become mindless and mechanical, then this will become true for the rest of our lives as well.