by Iva deMartelly
Yoga can be an amazing relief from injury! Yet if you try to push your body into poses you are not warmed up for, you can actually cause yourself harm. Many yoga teachers utilize a set of anatomical guidelines when sequencing their practice in order to minimize pain and risk, and optimize the enjoyment of the class for the student! I’m going to share a few of these with you guys today, so that you might be able to use them in your at home yoga practice.
Center your Mind
Many times, whether in class or at home, students come to their mat right after a stressful, hectic day at work or school. It can be hard to suddenly “switch off” anxiety and the weekday mindset. I think it is very important to take a few minutes at the beginning of every class to center the mind and connect the body with breath. This can be as simple as a five minute meditation, some unstructured deep breathing, or basic pranayama breath.
Warm up the Body
You might notice that it can be pretty difficult to access poses that require a level of flexibility without warming up the part of the body being stretched! This is because you need to get the blood flowing to those extremities and warm up the muscle action before your muscles can stretch properly. I like using the Vinyasa Flow, or Surya Namaskar, to warm your legs and arms before moving to the stretching postures.
Don’t do a forward bend right after a backbend (and vice versa)
This is very tough on the spine, and where injuries often manifest in class! Before moving from one to another, try a gentle seated or laying spinal twist, or even just spend a few moments in a seated upright position with a neutral spine. This will prevent injury.
Lead up to your main, or most intense posture
I like to liken my yoga classes to a wave in the ocean. We start small, tranquil, building up energy and force until we crest, peaking, then washing up peacefully on the shore. It is important to make sure that any intense backbends, forward folds, or stretches have poses leading up to them that have properly activated the muscles being used. For example, if my main posture is “Wheel” pose, I will incorporate many backbends and shoulder opening stretches in the beginning of class. This will prevent muscle tears and strains.
Happy Monday! Shake it up this week.