Once an obscure meditative practice, yoga has become as mainstream as sports drinks in the last decade, and for good reason: Studies are showing that yoga can enhance your strength, flexibility and balance while relieving stress and even lowering your blood pressure! But before you roll out your mat and jump into a sun salutation, there are a few things you should know.
Like any exercise, yoga is a technical practice which must be done correctly in order to reap the benefits. As more and more people jump on the yoga wagon, doctors are seeing an increase in yoga-related injuries, mostly sprains from overstretching. Some common culprits are lotus pose, plow pose and pigeon pose but hyperextension at the elbows can also occur in upward facing dog. Proper warm up and alignment are critical to prevent muscle strains and sprains.
Do not do poses that are painful, especially for your back or knees. These are common injury sites since the tendons and ligaments around joints are susceptible to micro tears. Also talk to a doctor if you have medical conditions such as carpal tunnel, rotator cuff injuries, or a herniated disk. That being said, there are several ways to prevent yourself from winding up a yoga casualty.
First of all, find a teacher! Yoga videos are a great way of enjoying yoga on your time schedule but they are not the way to go if this is your first time. The best way to get the basics down is to attend a few beginner classes at a studio. A yoga instructor will be able to help with positioning and correct any postures you are doing incorrectly.
Next, do not compete! As an athlete, you probably spend a better part of your life pushing your limits. In yoga, this will land you in the waiting room. The point of yoga is to explore the movements of your own body, not to out-pose the girl on the mat next to you. So close your eyes and enjoy the process, your muscles will thank you.
Overall, the benefits of yoga far outweigh the risks, especially if done safely. Make sure that you are properly warmed up, listen to your body and start with the basics and yoga can be a great asset to compliment your training.