Let’s be real. Yoga can be dangerous! From the novice to the expert, there are specific safety guidelines everyone should keep in mind. I listed my favorites below.
My top 10 guidelines for a safe practice:
Know and understand your limitations.
Be understanding of what you can and cannot do. Be willing to try something new, but if you have high blood pressure or heart problems, stay away from inversions. Let your instructor know if you have a recent injury or are pregnant so she can guide you properly. If you have any health concerns that you’re not sure about, always talk with your doctor and your instructor before practicing. Be aware of your personal limitations as well!
Do not push yourself to severe discomfort or pain.
It is okay to feel uncomfortable during practice! The only way to progress, to get stronger, and to become more flexible is to challenge yourself. However, if something begins to hurt, adjust or ease out of that posture. Feel free to take a modification that feels more comfortable or sit back into child’s pose.
Come to your mat well-rested and well-nourished.
This DOES NOT mean that you should eat a full meal right before Yoga. If you’re feeling tired or your stomach is feeling full, you are putting yourself in danger. Fatigue can cause you to be clumsy and disoriented. Hunger causes rapid fatigue, making your muscles weak and your mind fuzzy. Eat at least two hours before practice to allow some time for digestion. A stuffed belly will make you lethargic and nauseous, especially in warm, fast-paced, or strenuous classes.
Balance out your postures.
Practice on both sides of your body. Your postures may not feel or look the same when you switch from your right side to your left, but it is important stretch and strengthen your body evenly. This allows you to become more limber and stronger at a much more even pace. It will also limit straining the overworked and/or underworked sides of your body, preventing injuries on and off the mat.
Always participate in warm-ups.
Your instructor includes happy baby, cat and cow, and frog postures for a reason. When you go for a run, you stretch out your legs, hips, and even your shoulders to prevent pain and injury. Imagine jumping right into splits, inversions, and balancing postures. Your body would be cold and stiff and completely unprepared. Take time to warm your body, to stretch lightly, to slowly move into deeper postures, and thoroughly prepare yourself for practice.
Allow for modifications and variations.
Some days are more difficult than others. Yesterday you could get into the perfect lizard posture and today you can barely get into that low lunge. It is okay to stop there. Your practice is your own. Understand that props ARE NOT training wheels. They are tools to help with your practice, so please use them! Your instructor provides variations and encourages the use of props so all levels can participate in her class. Plow pose may be okay for some, but for others, bridge is the perfect modification.
Do not copy your neighbor!
This is a big one. Yoga is not a competition. Whatever anyone else in the room is doing is not your concern. If you don’t understand the posture, ask your instructor. He/she is there to help you get the most out of your practice. This is your journey. Don’t worry about Becky with the good hair.
WATER WATER WATER! Bring some with you, or if you’ve forgotten your water bottle, it is okay to quietly get up and go to the fountain. You should not feel dehydrated during your practice. Staying hydrated keeps your tendons and muscles lubricated and strong, your mind, eyes, and ears alert, prevents dizziness, and keeps your body cool, energized, and alert.
Devote this time to your practice.
Don’t come to class late or leave early. Not only is it disrespectful to the other students and to your instructor, an incomplete practice will put a lot of strain on your body. From warm-ups to cool-downs, your instructor knows how to keep her students safe. Turn off your cell phone, limit your distractions, and stay focused on what you’re doing. This hour is yours. Be devoted to it!
Listen to your body.
ALWAYS listen to what your body is telling you. Keep in mind that your instructor is only your guide. If your body is telling you to stop and get out of that posture, do it! If your body says it’s okay to sink deeper into your warrior III, by all means, go for it. Only you know what your body has to say.
What safety guidelines would you add? Let me know in the comments below!