The new year has many people trying new and healthier lifestyle habits. Yoga is a great form of exercise, as it helps joint stability and mobility, flexibility, and even strength. It can easily be practiced in weekly group classes or at home if you’re aware of a few important safety and alignment rules. Keep reading to learn how to establish a safe and effective in-home yoga practice.
It’s a good idea to understand a little about the history of yoga before attempting to jump into practice. Yoga was established in ancient India. Its original purpose was to condition the body so that the practitioner could sit in meditation for extended periods of time. Yoga is practiced today in many forms across the West. The version we commonly see in America is geared more toward fitness than traditional yoga. However, it’s meant to strengthen the body and mind so that an intimate connection between the two can be established. It’s a form of movement that truly values achieving ultimate balance.
That can be a bit intimidating when you’re a beginner. The reason it’s important to know, however, is because yoga can help you gain strength and flexibility while also becoming comfortable with the inner workings of your mind.
Foundation is everything
When practicing yoga, it’s important to remember that each pose, or asana, is built on a foundation. If you’re standing, this foundation is in your feet and legs. If seated, it’s in your legs and buttocks, and it’s in your hands and arms when you’re in the popular tabletop and downward dog poses. Teachers will generally tell you to focus on the strength of your foundation to protect the other parts of your body from working overtime. For instance, if you stand in a simple mountain pose with your feet hip-distance apart, you can feel how a strong foundation in the feet and legs affects the alignment of your spine as well as the load it carries.
Care for your joints
One mistake that can cause injury is overtaxing your joints. Knees are particularly vulnerable in some yoga poses. If your knees are prone to injury, it’s best to avoid poses like pigeon or starfish. The low back may be prone to injury as well, especially if you do a lot of backbends in a yoga practice. It’s best to take things slowly, especially as a beginner, and only perform minor backbends, such as lotus, sphinx, or modified camel pose. When you’re heading into a forward fold, whether seated or standing, make sure you tilt your pelvis forward and bend from the hips while maintaining a flat back. This will also work to protect your lower back. Your neck and wrists are other joints to be aware of while moving through a yoga practice. And if you’re in a pose and something doesn’t feel right, come out of it and try something else.
Find your edge
You may have heard your yoga teacher talk about finding your edge. The edge is simply when you begin to feel the stretch in your body. If you practice at home without a certified yoga teacher present, be careful to listen to your body when it comes to finding your edge. In fact, some teachers suggest you find it and then back off slightly so you’re only exerting a mild stretch.
One way to stay safe is to use props. Yoga blocks, blankets, a chair, and a strap are all meant to tailor various poses to meet your needs. The better you feel in a pose, the more you’ll get out of it, and the greater the benefits of your yoga practice will be. Since yoga is all about listening to the body, props make useful tools to help you align with the true intent of the practice. Yoga is great exercise and a good way to relax and unwind the body from daily stressors like work or parenting. By keeping these principles in mind, you can safely develop your own at-home yoga practice. But if you’d rather start with guidance from professionals, you might want to take a class or two from the experts at Hancock Wellness Center.