Concerned about injuring yourself when you do yoga? This may help: the collective wisdom from several of us Dancing Crow teachers boiled down to one digestible list of 7 things to remember…
1. Listen to the wisdom in your body. It is part of your practice to honor your own limitations.
2. Align, align, align. Get alignment cues from a well-trained teacher and pay attention to them. They’re designed to keep you safe (see #7 below)
3. Back off immediately if you experience pain in a joint – especially in your shoulders or knees. *
4. Give persistent discomfort its due. If you have an ache or a pain that doesn’t go away within a few days, find ways to do poses so as not to aggravate the discomfort. If it persists, see a medical professional. *
5. Listen to your breath; it’s an amazing tool to keep you connected with your body. If you can’t breathe smoothly in a pose, it’s time to come out.
6. Don’t treat your asana practice as a workout. Yoga isn’t the end-all workout for strength or aerobic fitness. It’s also not about being an expert or reaching the ‘final expression of a pose’. In fact there is no such thing the final expression of a pose.
7. Remember that your own body is ultimately your best teacher. No matter who your teacher is, listen to your body even more closely than to their words. There are systems of yoga and even “senior teachers” who, for reasons of tradition or stubbornness or ego, teach dumb things.
* For a simple way to distinguish healthy aches from stealthy injuries, see this excerpt from The Athlete’s Guide to Recovery, by Sage Rountree.