How to Practise Yoga Safely
1. Don't compete
It helps to not even look at others in the room. Direct your focus internally instead.
2. Listen to your body
Acknowledge your limits each time you practice, respect them, be patient.
3. Befriend your body
Drop the idea that you 'should' be able to do something during a yoga practice. Our bodies feel different every day. That you did something last week doesn't necessarily mean you can do it today. Accept this with grace.
4. Don't miss the point of yoga.
Understand that being 'good' at yoga has nothing to do with whether you do the modifications or the 'full' pose. Being 'good' at yoga is about listening to your body, getting to know it really well, and understanding how to modify a practice so that it fits you comfortably.
5. No pain
If you feel pain, back right off. No exceptions.
6. Go at your own pace.
If this means that you need to take consistent rest breaks, then that's what you need to do.
7. You are the ultimate authority on your body
Not your teacher. Instructions in class are there for guidance. You have to make the final call.
8. Speak up
There will sometimes be physical adjustments or verbal corrections made in class. If any adjustments feel uncomfortable, or too strong, you should speak up. If you don't want them, speak up. No explanations needed.
9. Go slow
People often hurt themselves when they are over-zealous, and want that next pose now - before the body is ready. Resist the urge to want to do too many poses too quickly.
10. Choose your poses honestly and mindfully
There are usually a number of different versions of a pose offered during class to cater to different abilities. Allow yourself time to work up to the most challenging pose. Pause to mindfully consider which pose is best for you - don't immediately go for the most difficult version.
11. Pick the right approach
While yoga might be for everyone, not every modern style of yoga is for every type of person. If you are young and fit and have no injuries, then a wider range of yoga will be available to you. If you are trying to manage an injury, you're better off starting in a private session. Some styles of yoga, like Ashtanga and Vinyasa Flow can be highly athletic and might not be suitable if you are nursing shoulder injuries for example. In which case then you might opt for a gentler class.
12. Pick the right teacher.
These days, everyone's a yoga teacher. It's possible to obtain a teaching certification in a weekend. Or in as little as a week. You can get certified through Internet courses these days.
That your teacher can 'do' a pose doesn't mean they can guide you safely.
Make some inquiries about your teacher and their training. Some questions you might consider include:
Where did they train?
How long was their training?
Is their training is ongoing?
Who were your teacher's teachers?
Does your teacher practise, and how often?
What is their teaching style?
Do they have any level of understanding of the human anatomy from a perspective outside of yoga?
Do they share evidence based techniques?
Are they experienced in dealing with trauma?
Are they experienced in assisting people with a specific condition that you have?
Do they give adjustments without warning?
Are they kind?
Do they teach compassionately?
Yoga is largely unregulated. Anyone can call themselves a yoga teacher. The largest organisation that sets standards in the yoga industry is Yoga Alliance, based in the US. Yoga Alliance do not vet their schools or any teacher carrying their certification. Yoga Alliance have no way to enforce their own standards.
13. Let your teacher know of any injuries or conditions (both physical or mental, or any history of trauma) you might have.
It is really the teacher's responsibility to ask you before class. If they don't, then you should really let them know that you have a sore ankle, or are pregnant, or have arthritis etc.
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