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Advil becomes you buddy when yoga hurts!

Y-ow!-ga: When Yoga Hurts Instead of Heals

As I type this, my neck really hurts. I am laying on the couch with a heating pad on my neck and a bottle of Advil within arm’s reach. Why?

I pulled a muscle doing yoga.

Wait, what? Yoga is the panacea for all that ails you, isn’t it? Many yoga enthusiasts, including myself, are quick to tout an endless list of the health benefits yoga offers. In fact, the internet is chock full of personal stories about how yoga transforms people for the better.

But what happens when your yoga practice has the opposite effect?

The notion that an exercise like yoga can cause injury is far less appealing, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. I’m living proof. Yoga isn’t considered a high impact activity which is why I think many people don’t take the risk of injury seriously. I know I didn’t. But the grim reality is the risk of injury is present no matter what kind of exercise you engage in.

So this week I’ve been reading up on injury and prevention and thought I would share my findings. Maybe it will spare some poor soul out there a week of pain-killers and neck braces.  

Take it Slowly to Start

This is the one that got me last weekend, and to be totally honest, it’s not the first time. Whenever I have a new surge of motivation to exercise, I always jump in and give it 110% intensity and the next day I’m inevitably nursing some sort of injury. In this case, it had been a couple months since I’d been to a vigorous vinyasa class, and I hit the mat as though I’d been going every day for weeks. It’s a recipe for disaster – or a least a strained tendon.

If you’re just starting yoga or coming back from a hiatus, take it slow and skip more advanced variations of the poses if you haven’t done them in a long time.

“No Pain No Gain” is the Worst Motto Ever

I get that the concept behind this saying is that you won’t grow if you don’t push yourself. But the phrase needs a refresh because it sounds more like the goal of exercise should be agony, which is just wrong.

Especially where yoga is concerned, if it hurts, don’t do it! No pose should ever be rushed; the transition into and out of the pose is more important than the pose itself. Ease very carefully into stretches and back off the moment anything feels too intense.

You Don’t have to do Everything the Teacher Instructs

When your teacher tells you it’s time for scorpion pose, it’s an invitation, not a challenge. At no time during yoga class should you feel the need to do every pose the teacher instructs in it’s most advanced variation. This can be a difficult lesson for some people with a competitive nature. (I should know!)

You may look around in envy at your classmates who effortlessly pop into difficult postures, but it’s not worth risking your health if it hurts or your body is telling you no!

I stopped attempting headstand a couple years ago because every time I tried it, it just felt completely wrong. If this pose comes up in class, I always substitute it with a posture I’m comfortable with.

Funnily enough, a lot of the pitfalls that can lead to yoga injury are the same things you’re supposed to check at the door to a yoga class anyway; impatience, ego, and competitiveness are a one-way ticket to Ow-Town.

Once I’m all healed up I look forward to hitting the mat once again – this time with 110% mindfulness.

Tree yoga pose

Why Yoga is My New Run

I used to be a real running enthusiast. There was nothing I loved more than a long run outside or the thrill of running in a race. In the past decade, I’ve run an assortment of races from half marathons to 5ks. Even when I wasn’t training for a race, I’d still get out for a run just because I enjoyed it.

Sadly, within the past three years, I developed a chronic soreness in my right hip that has barred me from continuing with long distance running. More recently, I’ve been getting painful headaches after even short runs.

I have yet to identify exactly what it is that’s causing these problems as the usual suspects like shoes and posture don’t seem to be the culprit. In the meantime, I’ve had to find something else to fill the exercise void.

Enter Yoga.

Although I started classes about six years ago, my practice was intermittent at best. I’d go a few months practicing several times a week and then suddenly forget about my mat for months on end. My practice mostly consisted of tagging on a few asanas after a run to stretch out my hamstrings and quads.

But for the past year and a half, I really started taking my practice more seriously and it’s gradually replaced running as my main source of exercise. I’m now one of those annoying people who’s always talking about how awesome yoga is and why everyone should be doing it! 

Aside from being a low-impact exercise, here are the main reasons why yoga is my new beat!

Minimal Space and Equipment Required

I always loved running but finding the time and place to go for a run would sometimes be a problem. In the winter months, running outside was less than ideal, and I didn’t want to keep a gym membership. With yoga, all you need is a  6’ by 2’ rectangle of space and you’re good to go!

No gym? No problem!  Raining outside? Downward dog inside! Only place to exercise in is a hallway? That’s ample space!

Like running, yoga requires minimal gear.  The one big purchase is a quality mat – instead of quality running shoes – then you’re good to go for years! Sure you can buy props like yoga blocks and straps, but I’ve found that household items like books or a belt work just as well if you’re on a budget.

Different Styles of Yoga Achieve Different Goals

The thing about running is it’s great for cardio but not a whole lot else. It was refreshing to discover that different styles of yoga can target different fitness goals. Vinyasa is by far my favourite style of yoga because it’s a cardio-style workout that gets me sweating. 

The fantastic part is there are many other yoga styles that can help you target different goals. Power yoga will count more towards strength training while rejuvenation-type classes focus more on stretching and recovery. No matter your mood or energy level, there’s a yoga style for it!

Great Stress Reliever

Don’t get me wrong, running is a great stress reliever (as is most exercise) and I always loved how I felt after a run.  But yoga just seems to lend a little extra serenity. Even after the most vigorous vinyasa class, by the time we’ve finished with a few supine twists and savasana, I’m as cool as a cucumber, and the feeling lingers for hours.

I find even a short, 15-minute session will result in a more relaxed outlook on life. 

It Benefits Other Areas of Life

It’s interesting how the things you learn in yoga start to infiltrate other areas of your life, for the better. Along with the physical benefits of the exercise, it trains you to not sweat the small stuff, and teaches you how to live in the moment.  For example, I recently had this article published about how yoga can help your career. The truth is, the same lessons can apply to almost any facet of life!

 

yoga; pyjamas

Why You Should Do Yoga in Your Pyjamas

When I first discovered yoga, I only practiced in a classroom environment where I had the guidance of my teacher. But with my work schedule, it was hard to make it to class more than once a week. In order to make more progress with my asanas, I began practicing on my own at home.

One evening after a long day at the office, I was too lazy to change into my lulus, but I wanted to work on my chaturangas. Thus, my pyjama practice was born. This turned out to be a valuable life-hack for me. If you like to practice yoga at home but haven’t tried it in your PJs, here’s a few reasons why you should:

It’s Comfortable

Yoga pants are my second-favorite article of clothing. They’re comfortable, they double as leggings, and they’re more or less acceptable to wear in public. But let’s face it, nothing’s quite as comfy as your jim-jams, especially those that are a looser cotton fabric with a bit of stretch.

You Practice More

I can be pretty lazy, and sometimes all it takes to discourage me from doing yoga is the effort it takes to change into my workout clothes. If you’re like me, fewer wardrobe changes equal a greater chance of a yoga session occurring. If It’s in the evening, you’re just going to change into your pajamas anyway, so why not take a vinyasa or two? Just keep the yoga session shorter and less vigorous so you don’t go to bed sweaty.

When you wake up in the morning, you’re already in your “yoga clothes”, so there’s no excuse not to hit the mat for some spirited sun salutations!

You Sleep Better

Practicing relaxation poses right before bedtime can promote a more restful sleep. Yes, bed yoga is a thing! Focus on easy stretching, and postures that use gravity to help you relax. My favorites are reclined cobbler pose and Shavasana. The latter is optimal for transitioning to sleep, as it helps you mindfully release thoughts from the day that might keep you awake.

 In Summary

As you can see, doing yoga in your pyjamas has many benefits. And really, how many other exercises do you ever get to do in your pyjamas? Swimming? No. Running? Not recommended. I rest my case!

Just save it for your home practice— Your yoga classmates probably don’t need you showing up to the studio in your Superman onesie.

 

Photo Credit: rachelakelso via Compfight cc