Yoga is commonly recommended by doctors and therapists as a way to help in dealing with a variety of ailments. From spine problems to anxiety and depression, yoga can be a great way to relieve pain and balance the physical as well as mental issues. However, not many people realise that, when practiced without proper guidance and awareness, yoga can also do a lot of harm.
That is primarily why choosing an experienced teacher with a right attitude, is key to a safe practice.
The most important factor in ensuring safety is learning the basics of alignment. You must be able to properly perform all the basic asanas, especially if your ultimate goal is to proceed to a vinyasa practice like Ashtanga. Just like you can’t run before you can walk, you should never begin your yoga journey with a dynamic class.
Some of the common mistakes I have seen people make are:
- not using the core enough, especially when performing back extensions – this is one of the main causes of back injury in yoga.
- overextending of the knees and elbows – extremely detrimental for the joints, it weakens muscular support and results in articular cartilage damage.
- not listening to your body – pain is a sign that you are need to slow down, or make an adjustment. Pain is never there for you to push through it (unless you call stretching pain, which some of us do)
- disregarding the feet – your feet are your foundation, any misalignment in this area will affect you entire posture.
- not realising that body awareness is the first lesson of yoga
- forgetting to breathe
- focusing on form rather than substance
It is horrifying how many yoga practitioners have never been told about these basic safety guidelines. I have worked with so many people who have had to learn this the hard way. And I know, there are still many who are unaware of the simple steps they can take to stay safe and avoid injury.
It seems to me like most yoga teachers nowadays have a very fitnessy attitude towards the practice. They push for fast results, sweating buckets and achieving perfect asanas without giving enough time to prepare the body for it. While the remaining, focus so much on the metaphysical aspect, where they disregard alignment and safety altogether. And yes, yoga is a spiritual practice. A spiritual practice that uses the body to reach other realms of existence. And the first lesson on the journey towards higher planes of awareness is learning to respect and take care of your body. Yoga is not fitness, it is not about form or performance. So take it slow, be safe and enjoy a lifelong practice.