As the new year approaches, many of us make grand resolutions for the upcoming months. Foremost among these commitments are often health-related vows, such as increasing exercise frequency, losing weight, or eating a more balanced diet.
Yoga is a popular exercise choice for beginners. Whether you are considering yoga to relieve pain, develop a leaner appearance, or gain greater flexibility, knowing your body and how to engage in the exercises correctly is extremely important. Yoga may be considered a gentle workout compared to CrossFit, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get injured.
Follow our tips below to improve your yoga routine and feel better all day, every day.
Don't Force It
If you are new to yoga, you might assume that it is just a matter of doing stretches on a comfy mat. It’s easy to take those stretches too far, though, and that’s a recipe for injury.
Be gentle with your body as you start yoga, especially if you haven’t been active in some time. Pushing yourself or trying to stretch too deep can result in common injuries to the hip, shoulder, knee, wrist, hamstring, and back. To avoid hurting yourself, focus on increasing your strength in your poses instead of getting a deeper stretch. Also, pay attention to creating balance to encourage your core to support and stabilize your body. Remember, stability is as important as mobility.
To cultivate your body's strength and stability, you may need to do certain things as you are exercising, such as:
- Ease back when in certain poses if you feel pain
- Reduce extreme ranges of motion
- Utilize aids that reduce the weight on certain joints, such as a wedge tool or towel roll
- Perform poses to the best of your ability instead of as the instructor does them
Take Care of Your Hips
As mentioned above, stability is a crucial element in yoga. That stability largely comes from the muscles in the core of your body, especially your hip flexors, which are responsible for keeping your back, hips, and legs in line.
How Hip Problems Begin
A popular staple of yoga is 'hip-opening' exercises that can involve unnatural movements and lots of hip rotation. These actions can create too much mobility in the hip, and when the hip joint's stability is decreased, the predominant hip muscles (the iliacus and psoas or 'hip flexors') try to re-establish the stability of the hip, lower back, and pelvis by tightening (holding tension).
This overstretching can put a strain on the hip capsule, making your hips feel sore. If the issue is not corrected, it can progress to long-term problems, such as arthritis, poor posture, or even tears in your muscle.
Breaking the Hip-Yoga Pattern
When addressing hip pain, there are preventative measures you can take, like working on strengthening your core or focusing on posture and breathing. If you are already experiencing hip pain, try to shorten your stance or find alternative poses that are more comfortable.
There are a few key things you can focus on to break the pattern of tension in your muscles:
- Stop overstretching – Don't stop doing yoga, but reassess your goals. Rethink the notion that you must stretch ever deeper to have an effective workout. Instead, listen to your body and stop stretching once you attain a level of flexibility that is comfortable for you.
- Avoid movements that misalign your pelvis – Be cautious of exercises like warrior and triangle pose that rotate your pelvis and can cause the hip flexors to tighten. It is not necessary to stop doing these poses but practicing simple modifications can lessen the strain on your muscles.
- Use the Hip Hook – Applying sustained, angled pressure via the Hip Hook tool will help to release muscle tension.
Dealing with Hypermobility
Many drawn to yoga have a level of natural flexibility and don't necessarily need to focus on becoming more mobile. If you do live with hypermobility, though, you still need to be careful with your yoga practice, as it’s easier to overdo it when you’re naturally flexible.
If you push past the natural limits of the human body, your muscles will attempt to compensate by holding tension, and not just after or during exercise, but while going about normal activity and times of rest as well. This is why it is so important to know your body to understand when it may be time to ease back on your exercise routine.
To help with yoga-induced pain for hypermobile people, follow these three tips:
- Know Your Body, Know Your Exercise – You must listen to your body and understand how to perform your exercises safely, especially when you may be more flexible than your instructor. This means not ignoring pain or pushing your body past what is comfortable.
- Practice Balance – Take a whole-body approach when it comes to your workouts. Focus on building strength equally in all areas of the body and decreasing putting strain on only select muscles.
- Go for a Deep Release – Stretching or rubbing a muscle can have temporary benefits that feel good, but to teach your muscles to relax, sustained pressure at the correct angle is required.
Help Tight Muscles, Don't Hurt Them
Muscles that don’t allow for a full range of motion are holding excess tension. Although massage and stretching can be effective means of relief for tight muscles, they often only bring temporary ease. The best way to release tension is not through massage or stretching but through prolonged pressure on the muscle.
Tight muscles are often at the core of pain issues. You can resolve tense muscles by applying deep pressure at just the right angle and for just the right amount of time. The Hip Hook does the job, and it, along with the other tips in this article, can help you maximize your yoga routine day in and day out.