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Safety in yoga practice

Yoga injuries land more people in hospital than ever before, study finds

- ABC News, 10th April 2018

It came as a surprise to learn that the demand for physiotherapy increased in Malaysia during the Yoga boom resulting from injuries inflicted during yoga practice.

In many cases, injuries incur due to the following reasons:

  • Practicing without understanding the present situation of the body

  • Not paying attention to safety alignments in yoga poses

  • Unable to differentiate between good pain and bad pain

  • Teachers lacking the basic understanding of the principles of yoga

  • Pushing the body too hard without listening and encouraging the body

Understanding the present situation of the body

Modern man has adapted a sedentary lifestyle, which has tightened and weakened his muscles due to a lack of use. Even if man trains his body, the focus and emphasis is often on one aspect and specific groups of muscles rather than the whole body.

Strength and flexibility are two primary characteristicsof muscles; and only when both the muscles are fully functioning can the body be light, giving you a better living experience. If your muscles are strong but not flexible you feel stiff and uncomfortable. Likewise, if you are bendy but not strong, you are prone to frequent injuries.

Yoga is nice way to understand your own body, but only if you pay attention. The limitations you can feel in doing the poses will give you a list of your weak and tight muscles which can inform you as you set off on a healing journey. By stretching and strengthening these muscles in a loving way you can make your body feel more supple which in turn enables a more enriching living experience.

Proper safety alignments

Every body is unique in appearance as well as formation; hence every pose must be unique to suit each body.

  • Focus on stretching the right muscle rather than arriving to a desired pose. This approach will help the practitioner to pay attention to the muscles and to avoid injuries.

  • Pay attention to your joints during the yoga practice. A body’s weight should be carried by the muscles. If the weight goes on to the joints, you need to adjust the posture.

  • The spine is a part of the brain; one should feel at ease and relaxed mentally while holding the posture. The muscles may work hard but the brain should be relaxed. If you feel tensed you may be stressing the spine.

  • Extra love is necessary for the lower back and neck, these two areas are main victims of our current lifestyle, sitting for long hours, excessive usage of computers, mobiles and driving.They are tight and weak in most people, and adding extra load can make the increase the risk of severe damage. It is recommended to stretch properly and warm up before doing the practice. Also, pay extra attention to the lower back during bends, any sign of pain is NO GO and the posture needs to be modified.

Good Pain Vs Bad Pain

We all know that pain, when we twitch the nerve or sprain a muscle, this is not good pain. This can happen when we do something in a rush, for example: changing from one posture to another posture suddenly without proper care.

Unfortunately, the current yoga scene is becoming more focused on obtaining the maximum workout in an allocated timeslot rather than placing an emphasis on the depth of the being in each posture.

Good pain is when your body is properly and safely aligned, when your muscles start to work and dance gently as you hold the posture for a little longer.This pain will pass, and not only will it pass but also your muscles will adapt to the extra load of work.

Encourage your body, do not push

The main principle of yoga is cessation of mind; the pose should take the mind inside the body. It should not be the other way around where the mind pushes the body.

We should encourage of our body by listening to it and keeping the attention totally on the muscles and as the body slowly adapts, we can add a little more stretch or increase the duration.

Comparison is a crime when it comes to yoga practice, many people get intimidated looking at others and thus they miss the basic point, to keep the attention inside ones own body. One should be aware of this nature of the mind and should keep diverting the focus within.

Yoga Philosophy

Yoga helps the body to become strong and flexible, but this is not the only purpose of yoga practice. Yoga is a method to heal oneself. Healing does not mean fixing the problem superficially but rather to heal, it is important to understand the nature of the problem and the situation that caused the problem.This approach will help to curtail the problem from happening again. For healing, one should be aware of their physical body, mental body and emotional body.

Yoga practice will make you aware of the existence of these bodies within oneself. This will also help to deal with many of the psychological problems our generation is facing, such as:

  • Stress

  • Excessive thinking

  • Boredom/Restlessness

  • Frustration

  • Anxiety

  • Sleep disorders

  • Tiredness

Yogis have understood that the problem, before it manifests in the physical body, it occurs in the mental and emotional bodies. If one can identify the problem in the earlier stages they can avoid it from manifesting in the physical body.

The main essence of yoga practice is to lead a person into meditation, a state of witnessing their own body, emotions and thoughts from within. This is great revolution in the way of living, as you get to know the space where you can choose the way you can behave rather than being the victim of your own thoughts and emotions.

Yoga is great tool to realise one’s own true nature which is hidden amidst the different layers of personality and roles played in day-to-day life. Being aware of this, a person can distance themselves from the unwanted thoughts and situations.

Having a flexible and strong body is not enough if you are looking for happiness and fulfillment in life. You need to also be aware of your true nature. The essence of the practice of Yoga is not to become a better person but to realise your true nature, which is already pure and blissful, and yoga helps you to stay connected with this.

Best wishes for your safe practice

- Sundar

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