14 mistakes to avoid during Yoga.
1. You Ignore Your Body
Concerns over yoga and injury have been in the media lately. Fortunately, there are ways to practice the healing discipline of yoga in ways that minimize the potential for injury. The first mistake to avoid: ignoring your body. It seems obvious, right? But it's easy to be out of touch with your body and not really listening to subtle signals. That makes it hard to do the poses or follow instructions (how do I move my right hand behind my back and grab my left toe?) and easy to get hurt, especially if you ignore signs that you're pushing your body too hard. Only you can feel your internal sensations. Practice getting in touch with them -- and respect them. Assess how each pose feels and respond accordingly. If the muscle releases, it's fine to go deeper, but if it doesn't, back off.
2. You're Too Quiet
Before the start of most yoga classes, the teacher asks if anyone has any injuries or conditions that would affect his or her practice. Some teachers like Ana Forrest ask their students to write a short history of their conditions or injuries on a name tag. If you keep quiet about old or new injuries, sensitive areas (like supertight hamstrings) or the fact that you're pregnant, the teacher may unknowingly give you poses that aren't good for you or make inappropriate adjustments. Speak up. The more your teacher knows about your body, the more he or she can offer modifications or adjust his or her way of touching you.
RELATED: Tame Your Tantrums With Yoga
3. You Forget to Breathe
Using the breath to guide your practice is one of the fundamental tools in yoga. It not only oxygenates your muscles, but also keeps you centered and helps you stay focused on the postures. In fact, your breath should match your movements in the posture, generally inhaling as you reach up and exhaling as you move more deeply into the stretch, bend or twist. Struggling to breathe during a pose is a sign that you're in it too deeply for your fitness level or flexibility.
4. You Tune Out
If you're practicing on autopilot, you're not doing yoga. You're just stretching or exercising, and you aren't getting the full power of the discipline. Yoga is about the union of body and mind. Mindfulness is an integral part of it. Every time you step on your mat, bring your full attention to the practice. If your mind wanders during class, gently bring it back to the present.
5. You Never Modify a Pose
In a class full of nimble, flexible practitioners led by an equally flexible instructor, it's easy to get sucked into imitating them as they effortlessly fold or bend into pretzel shapes. Or to think that if you don't replicate the pose in its fullest expression (head to your shins with knees straight in forward bend, for example), you're doing it wrong. Every pose has modifications or props to suit your level of fitness or flexibility, and they can help you respect the integrity of the pose. In triangle pose, for instance, if you're hamstrings are tight, using blocks can help you keep your legs straighter and your waist more extended than if you try the pose without blocks. If a pose looks too scary or requires more flexibility than you have, ask the teacher for a variation. That way you can learn the structure of the pose without risking injury.
6. You Think of Yoga Poses as Exercise
If you're bringing an aerobics or gym class mind-set to your yoga practice, you're missing out on half the value. Yoga is not about keeping up with the pace or getting in sync with the music or feeling the burn. It's really about self-awareness. The poses or asanas are vehicles for self-discovery. Improved fitness, flexibility and health are by-products of the practice. Distractions like music, overly talkative teachers or a fast pace can hamper that process.
RELATED: Stuff We Love: Hot Yoga Accessories
7. You Dismiss Pain
Embrace the "no pain, no gain" axiom and you're liable to get hurt or injured. Pain is a strong signal that you're doing the pose the wrong way or too deeply for your flexibility. Back off or come out of the pose the moment you feel pain and ask for a modification. Do not ignore pain.
8. You Mistake Discomfort for Pain
If you interpret all sensation as pain, you'll end up in corpse pose for the whole class. It's natural to feel some discomfort when you ask tight muscles to engage, but that's different from pain, and it will decrease as your strength and flexibility improves. Always move slowly into a posture, pause when you feel a moderate stretch and wait until the muscle releases. If you can't release the muscle, you're too close to your edge and need to ease up.
9. You Put the Teacher on a Pedestal
The temptation to elevate your seemingly all-knowing teacher to guru status is normal, but it can be dangerous. You're more likely to follow him or her into risky territory, like pushing yourself too hard, attempting a pose you're not ready for or allowing your teacher to make inappropriate adjustments. If you find yourself doing things to please or imitate the teacher, recognize it and adjust accordingly. Exercise your right not to follow instructions that feel harmful or to resist a teacher's attempts to push you further into a posture.
10. You Take Any Class
Signing up for an advanced class or trying a style that isn't suited to your personality or fitness level is a recipe for dissatisfaction at best and injury at worst. Start with a beginner's class, even if you've tried yoga a few times. Stick with it until you establish a firm foundation of technique and alignment.
11. You Think More Is Better
Yoga does a body good, but if you up the intensity or frequency too soon, you can overtax your body and risk injury. If you want to practice every day, mix up some flow classes with some restorative classes.
12. You Don't Trust Your Instincts
Discount your instincts and you could set yourself up for injury or disappointment. When you honor your instincts, you increase your chances of finding the right class, teacher and style of yoga.
13. You Quit After an Injury
If you stop practicing yoga after an injury, you lose the opportunity to learn from it. An injury can help you appreciate modifications and show you that you can practice yoga even with limitations. To avoid injury in the future, explore how it happened. Were you paying attention? Did you follow instructions? Were you tired, angry or ambitious? Were you pushed too hard, either by yourself or an instructor? Are you practicing the right type of yoga for you?
14. You Compare Yourself to Others
Everyone does it. Students eye each other to see who can do the pose the best or how they stack up against the rest of the class. But it distracts from your journey of self-discovery to constantly compare yourself against others or even yourself. Every day is different. A certain pose might be easy one day and hard the next. The best practice is the one that's completely tuned in to what you can do at that moment and honoring it.