I have a lot of patients who enjoy yoga. Yoga is a wonderful practice that can help with strength and flexibility. But, like any physical activity, it can have negative side effects if you don’t listen to your own body’s needs while doing it.
Have you ever heard the instructor suggest a pose you’re pretty sure you’re not strong enough to hold, and when he or she gives a modification, a little voice in your head says, “Oh come on, do you really need to modify this?” I’m here to suggest that you kindly tell that voice to buzz off.
Because the fact is, you are the one who has to go home with your body when the class is over. Not the instructor. Not the person next to you with perfect form who can balance their entire body on one arm. You. Hence, “you-ga.”
When that “Oh, come on” voice speaks up, just remember what the instructor probably told you at the beginning of class: whenever you feel you need a rest, you’re welcome to return to child’s pose. Child’s pose is a totally valid pose, it’s not just “resting,” even though it’s restorative.
If you don't pay attention to what your body is capable of at any given moment, you may end up pushing yourself to the point of injury. Common injuries occur from stretching too deeply (remember to relax into a stretch, rather than pushing into it) and doing poses you don’t have the strength for (which makes you likely to be out of alignment and, therefore, prone to hurting yourself).
After an injury, you most likely will need to stay away from yoga and potentially other activities until you heal, which is no fun. So next time you’re heading to a yoga class, remember to practice you-ga as well.