By Jenny Park
According to US News & World Report, baby boomers with sports injuries, mostly “weekend warriors,” or those who exercise only once a week, are now the number two group coming into doctor’s offices, behind only those with colds. Their injuries, caused by taking any exercise too far when practicing infrequently, can also be problem in Hatha Yoga classes.
Injuries caused by pushing the muscles too hard, such as tears or over extension, are more common with infrequent exercisers. Only familiarity with the muscle range allows yoga students to know how far they should push; the temptation to “take it to its limits” should be avoided. Regular practice also builds muscle memory and allows practitioners to assume the correct posture and position naturally.
Mentally, infrequent practice makes concentration more difficult. Only when the mind is focused does Yoga provide full benefits. “Yoga in the Workplace,” a book by Shameem Akhtar, stresses that regularity is more important than lengthy, infrequent practices. Yoga fights stress and muscle aches accumulated over hundreds of hours during the week- expecting a one-hour class attended irregularly to be up to the task of counteracting these issues is not reasonable.
Yoga Teachers Can Make a Difference
As an instructor, infrequent practitioners should be carefully observed and reminded to make sure appropriate modifications are made when needed. Tight hamstrings are a very common problem and affect poses like Downward-facing Dog or Adho Mukha Svanasana, Triangle pose or Trikonasana, Reverse Triangle or Parivritta Trikonasana, and even seated poses like Staff pose or Dandasana. Office workers in particular carry a lot of tension in their neck and shoulders, which may translate into lack of flexibility in those areas.
Moving at one’s own pace should be emphasized, and the misconception that Hatha Yoga is an easy form of exercise should be dispelled. Pre-existing repetitive motion injuries may be more common in our Yoga classes, simply because people without much experience expect anything good to hurt a little. They come to classes thinking it’s easy and push past injuries without thinking. In fact, we know that Yoga should not hurt at all.
Don’t allow classes to become too crowded, as this prevents direct observation and correction of alignment if needed. There have even been cases of students in crowded classes injuring other nearby practitioners by falling over in a pose.
Encourage infrequent practitioners to spend time on restorative poses, as well as those that challenge their bodies. Yoga is not a competition, and he who forces himself into a pose or finishes first is not the winner.
© Copyright 2012 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
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