Yoga can help boost your immune system health, alleviate stress, and give you a full body stretch and workout. Just one 30 minute session of Hatha Yoga, a more active form of yoga, can burn nearly 150 calories if you weigh about 155 pounds – that’s similar to what you’d get with water aerobics!1 Whether your goal is weight loss, fitness, an energy boost, unwinding after a long day, or just making your body more supple, yoga can get you there. Provided you do it right.
Follow These Tips/Precautions For A Safe And Productive Session
Practicing yoga can increase your overall strength, flexibility, and muscle endurance. It may even help manage mental and emotional stress better, possibly because of the focus, relaxing stretches, and calming breathing techniques employed that are almost meditative.2 But to be able to make the most of your yoga sessions, you should have a good understanding of its nuances. For instance, if you are aware of certain equipment that can work as an aid to a pose, you’ll be able to deepen the stretch and complete the asana properly.
By paying attention to these dos and don’ts before you start, you could save precious energy and effort and even help avert an injury or pain.These pointers are a must for a beginner and should be second nature to a seasoned yoga enthusiast.
1. Do Get Professional Guidance To Do Yoga Safely And Correctly
Yoga is probably one of the more controlled forms of exercise. It has been deemed safe and comparable to other therapeutic care and exercise.3 But while yoga can seem like a harmless and very benign form of exercise, unlike for example running, which is notorious for causing injuries, don’t underestimate it! Most yoga injuries, when they do occur, are to the lumbar vertebrae, neck, shoulders, knees, and ankles. Thankfully, some care and insight can help you avoid getting injured at all.4 Sign up for a good yoga class with a trained practitioner or follow instructions from a reliable trainer, manual, or book online or offline. Know your limits and take precautions so you don’t wind up injuring yourself.
2. Do Zero In On A Regular Location Or Space For Yoga
The great thing about yoga is you don’t need too much equipment or a fancy gym membership. In fact, all you really need is a clear area indoors or an open space where you can do your yoga uninterrupted. Just try and stick with that same spot every day so that your routine, including where you do your asanas, becomes second nature to you. It isn’t much fun having to scope out new locations every day – unless of course that is something you enjoy doing!
3. Do Have The Right Equipment Handy To Make Your Session Comfortable
Yoga asanas can be easier to do with the help of some basic and inexpensive equipment.
A yoga mat: There’s a reason yoga is synonymous with the yoga mat. It helps protect your body from the impact of the floor, cushions your joints, and makes your workout more comfortable. Even if you do not invest in any other equipment, get a good mat.
A rolled blanket or bolster: Keep a rolled blanket handy to support yourself for certain asanas until you get the hang of them and can do them unaided. This can be tucked under your back or neck as needed.
A yoga block: This helps with an asana like the utthita parsvakonasana or side angle pose which needs you to stretch toward the ground. The block can help you reach for a height that is closer to your arm, reducing the extent and difficulty of the pose.5
Yoga straps: These straps help you hold poses for longer, using them as extensions of your body. For instance, in the gomukhasana or cow face pose, you need to reach over your back and clasp your hands at the back. Here, the strap can be a stand-in for reaching all the way and touching your fingertips. Instead, you will simply need to hold on to the strap with either hand, allowing you to maintain the pose for longer or do a pose that you otherwise couldn’t.6 In other asanas like the supta padangusthasana or reclining hand-to-big-toe pose, it is core to the asana itself.7
4. Don’t Accept Pain As Normal When You Do Yoga – And Stop If It Hurts
If you’re working out on your own at home, don’t push yourself too hard. You shouldn’t feel pain or the need to grunt or moan when you do an asana in yoga. It is not the same as, say, weight training in a gym that needs you to push your body to an extreme at times. Yoga should feel natural and your body should ease into it.8 If it hurts, you should stop and cool off or do a modified version that’s easier.
5. Don’t Be Afraid To Try The “Easier” Versions Of Asanas
Often, there are simpler versions of the more difficult asanas. Many asanas can also be modified by using straps or a cushion to help you. Find out about them and don’t let your ego get in the way of using an aid like a yoga block or a strap if required. Some modifications reduce the time for which you hold a pose, others change the extent to which you stretch or extend or twist your body, and others use yoga props.
6. Do Know What Asanas Are Risky For A Specific Health Condition You Have
Yoga poses have an impact on internal organs and physiological parameters of the body, in addition to being a good form of exercise. Which also means you should steer clear of certain asanas that could jeopardize your health, given your previous medical history or current health conditions. It is not unlike avoiding high impact exercises if you have a knee injury. For instance, lateral bending or twisting exercises like the naukasana or boat pose must be strictly avoided by pregnant women, anyone who has had recent abdominal surgery, and those with high blood pressure or heart problems. This is because the pose internally massages and puts pressure on this region and could also affect blood pressure.9
A seemingly straightforward pose like padmasana or lotus pose or baddha konasana or bound angle pose should be avoided by anyone with a recent knee or ankle injury or if you have any discomfort in those areas.10
7. Do Wear The Right Clothing So You’re Comfortable At Yoga Class
Soft natural or flexible fabrics that allow you to move freely are good. Here are some pointers to help you choose right11:
- Don’t use overly loose clothing. It can be annoying if they flap about as you do your poses. They also make inversions difficult. For instance, a loose neckline may cause the top to fall onto your face.
- But don’t choose clothes so tight that they hamper your ability to move and prevent you from doing the poses properly.
- Elastic waisted yoga pants that are form fitting work nicely.
- Simple unembellished tops or T-shirts are a good idea.
- Skip drawstring pants because they become uncomfortable for the poses you do lying on your stomach.
- Use layered clothing if you’re going to a yoga class or studio so you can adjust your body temperature depending on how hot or cold you feel. A zipped-up sweatshirt makes a good choice. Shawls or stoles work for when you do seated poses.
8. Don’t Be Afraid To Ask
If you plan to join a yoga class or yoga school, try and find a spot to the front near the instructor so they can keep an eye on you and stop you if you’re doing a pose wrong and could potentially hurt yourself. Also, some asanas are not recommended when you’re pregnant or have certain health problems like, say, high blood pressure. Others can be beneficial if you mention your medical issues. The key is to be upfront and open.12
9. Don’t Do Nothing All Week And Overdo It On One Day
This applies to all exercise and definitely for yoga, where your body needs to stay supple and well-stretched all week through. Try and do a few asanas or a short workout every day or at least every other day. Miss out and you may be stiff or end up injuring yourself because your body is out of practice.
10. Do Take A Moment To Get Into The Right Frame Of Mind Before Yoga
Try and find a moment of calm before you begin the actual asanas to put you in the right frame of mind. Focused breathing exercises like those in pranayama can help you calm and energize the body before you start. For instance, nadi shodhana or alternate nostril breathing is a channel cleaning breath that opens up your energy channels, allowing it to flow freely once you begin your actual asanas or other forms of pranayama.13:
11. Don’t Skip Ahead To Advanced Asanas
Each yoga pose has a different set of health benefits but, more importantly, they also require varying degrees of skill. Don’t get ahead of yourself and try advanced poses like the tittibhasana or firefly pose and mayurasana or peacock pose before you master simpler ones. People take years learning and improving their skill, strength, and flexibility in yoga before even attempting these. Beginners should start with a basic routine with foundational poses such as the mountain pose, warrior 2 pose, cat/cow flow, tree pose, easy pose, and corpse pose.14 You can also try the downward facing dog which is a good introductory asana for inversions, as well as the upward facing dog, child’s pose, side angle pose, cobra pose, bridge pose, and sitting half spinal twist.15 16
12. Do Eat Right Before And After Yoga
As with any exercise, eat right to make the most of your yoga session. Eat a light meal no closer than an hour and a half before your yoga session if you plan to exercise in the evening. For morning yoga, have a light snack to break your fast from the night before. A small banana or some fruit can be eaten about 45 minutes before a class/session. Milk and a few almonds is another option. Whatever you do, avoid heavy or rich foods before yoga. If you can have more vegan or vegetable heavy meals, do that.17 Avoid stimulants like caffeine in the hours leading up to your yoga class. But stay well hydrated.
After yoga, drink about half a liter of water about half an hour after you finish your session. Coconut water comes highly recommended because it also contains electrolytes and can replace those lost through sweat. Wait at least an hour after yoga before you eat anything. Ideally, have whole grains, fruit, and vegetables, or a salad. Skip fried food and spice.18
|↑1||Calories burned in 30 minutes for people of three different weights. Harvard Health Publishing.|
|↑2||Ross, Alyson, and Sue Thomas. “The health benefits of yoga and exercise: a review of comparison studies.” The journal of alternative and complementary medicine 16, no. 1 (2010): 3-12.|
|↑3||Cramer, Holger, Lesley Ward, Robert Saper, Daniel Fishbein, Gustav Dobos, and Romy Lauche. “The safety of yoga: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.” American journal of epidemiology 182, no. 4 (2015): 281-293.|
|↑4, ↑9||Yoga Practice Safety Guidelines. Worldwide Registry Of Accredited Yoga Teachers and Schools.|
|↑5||Whole-Body Wake-Up Call: Extended Side Angle. Yoga Journal.|
|↑6||Work Flexibility in One of Yoga’s Oldest Poses. Yoga Journal.|
|↑7||Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose. Yoga Journal.|
|↑8, ↑12||Pumping Iron, Practicing Yoga. Yoga Journal Jul-Aug 2003.|
|↑10||Yogi Beware: Make Your Practice Safe.Yoga Journal.|
|↑11||Yoga Wear | Secrets for choosing the right yoga clothes. The Art of Living.|
|↑13||Channel-Cleaning Breath. Yoga Journal.|
|↑14||10-minute Foundational Yoga Routine. American Council on Exercise.|
|↑15||Yoga Asanas and Their Poses for Beginners. The Art of Living.|
|↑16||A Beginner’s Guide to Yoga: 5 Widely Practiced Poses. American Council on Exercise.|
|↑17, ↑18||Best food to eat before and after yoga class. Hatha Yoga School Rishikesh.|