“Class was great, my shoulders feel good. Thanks for not hurting me,” my new student says to me as she exits class. I’m delighted that she’s enjoyed her practice, but dumbfounded at her parting words. Students get hurt in class? And it's teachers that hurt them? That seems rather backwards to me.
Injuries from yoga practice are not unheard of, but they should be.
Sometimes we get so excited about our progress that we forget how much practice went into learning how to do all the fancy things in the first place. To spare yourself from harm, educate yourself about it. There are two kinds of injuries possible- the sudden and the habitual.
The sudden injury is a muscle pull/tear or a falling bump or bruise from moving too quickly and paying too little attention. These happen when we act from the past -- thinking that our body is the same now as it was yesterday -- or when we act from the future -- being too excited about just getting to the finished product. Even professional performers, acrobats, and contortionists take time on the daily to warm-up and check in with their body skills to see how everything is feeling that day. Fluctuations in diet, weather, and emotions all affect how deep your split is or how easy it is to press into handstand. Some days, those movements may not be right to do based on how your body is feeling. Your body is the same. Sure, you may not be soaring through the air on stretchy silk fabric or lifting your leg behind your head on a daily basis, but you can still borrow from the wisdom of the pros and move slowly, always warming-up.
The habitual injury can be a slipped disc or a worn ligament from practicing a pose or movement with improper alignment. Most common are issues with knees, shoulders, and spines. We prevent the habitual hurt by practicing being present in every moment as we practice, and having a great coach or teacher to keep an eye on us and give physical adjustments. In class, that means making the movement slow and smooth. Mirrors can help here, too, but careful not to get trapped looking at your pretty face. We're looking to make straight lines with the body in all of our poses, stacking joints on top of each other like LEGOs. Chances are, if you haven't had a lot of training in some other movement vocabulary, what your mind thinks the body is doing isn't always what it's actually doing; the inside doesn't match the outside. The coach is there as a witness to sync up your inner and outer perceptions to keep your body mechanics moving smoothly.
Every time I close a class, public or private, I always think about an exchange between two of my friends - a senior teacher and a new teacher. After I completing training at the studio, a few graduates and I were invited to teach weekly Community Classes to put our skills to practice. One day, the new teacher walked out of class and spoke with the senior teacher.
“I just taught a bad class,” said the new teacher.
“Did anyone get injured or killed?” the senior asked.
“No,” said the green teacher.
“Then you taught a successful class.”
Yoga practice is just like flying an aircraft. A good landing is any one you can walk away from.
Written by Corey Loftus
Founder / Visionary : constantly quotable
Corey is a voiceover artist, yogi, and father to a fur-child named Eddy.
He'll work for almond butter.