Yoga Therapy and Safety Blog
Welcome to the Smart Safe Yoga Blog! Here you’ll learn all about preventing yoga injuries by making sure ahimsa, the practice of non-harming, is no accident. We’ll also touch upon asana issues, contraindications, studio safety, plus other yoga resources and news.
PEACE OF MIND, IS IT POSSIBLE?
In our busy lives, many of us struggle to find balance, harmony or peace of mind. If you, like many, function at a high energetic frequency (go-go-go) slowing down to “smell the roses” often necessitates conscious and gradual down shifting. Conversely, if you lack motivation or feel stuck in your life, you may need a push or inspiration to get moving in the right direction in order to realize your dreams. The practice of yoga can help to disperse energy through movement, facilitate a shift in perspective and manage the fluctuations of the mind through controlled breathing. If we are moving too fast or aren’t moving enough (physically and figuratively) we risk missing the joy available in each moment of our lives. It is natural to move from activity to rest throughout our daily lives. It is also natural to move from seeking accomplishment to feeling contentment or even ebbing backwards on the imagined path of life. How can we embrace these natural rhythms of life in a way that supports our spiritual growth and happiness? How can we experience peace of mind? The concept of balance Within the philosophy of Ayurvedic science and yoga exists the concepts of the three gunas. The gunas are elements of our prakriti or our natural state. In a perfect world, this state is one of equilibrium gently swaying from activity to rest. The three gunas are sattva, rajas and tamas. These are respectively balance or intelligence, energy or turbulence and inertia or substance….
The Layers of Back Pain
Back pain may limit your ability to participate in any activity, including yoga. If you injured your back in yoga, why didn’t the person next to you also get hurt? Why do some people heal fast and others do not? Practicing safe yoga is important. This requires body awareness, mindfulness, and good instruction on technique. If these points have been covered and you still hurt your back, perhaps the reason is a bit more personal. As a yoga practitioner you may be familiar with the Kosha model. The Kosha model forms an ideal framework for the therapeutic side of yoga. The five layers of human existence move from tangible to subtle. The layers include physical, energetic, psychological, intuitive and spiritual and are all equally important. Unity of mind, body and spirit requires us to consider these layers individually and as a whole. Our perception of these layers within our own body can guide our recovery and keep us safe on our mat. Pain is a physical response to a noxious stimulus, but pain can also occur without stimulus. The complicated nature of low back pain is due to the fact that we are human beings. Many books have been written with various perspectives on causes and proper treatment for back pain. As a physical therapist, my education has developed around a biomedical model. From this lens, I offer suggestions on preventing back pain specifically from the first layer of the Kosha model. Keep in mind, this layer cannot easily be peeled…
Someone Gets Injured in Your Yoga Class: What now?
[The following should be understood as risk management advice and NOT legal advice or counsel. If you have legal questions or concerns, contact your local legal professional.] Can we talk about this? Anyone who has taught for any length of time has almost certainly discovered that something happened in a yoga class you taught where a student had an unpleasant outcome physically. Let’s stop right there. Check in on your thoughts and emotions right now before proceeding. Just listen to the internal chatter in response to that stimulus. Agreement? Denial? Acknowledgement? Offense? … there’s probably a spectrum of responses that if you will watch a bit longer may invite closer consideration of what I have to write this morning. Consider this…what if one of these lands on my work surface with YOUR NAME in: JANE DOE Plaintiff vs. YOUR NAME Defendant Stop… listen again for protests, gasps, incredulity, silence, etc. What emerges for you? What are these responses based on? What do you think about me the author? What do you think about the legal system? How about the plaintiff (person claiming to have been harmed)? Recently much has been written about yoga injuries. So why bring this up again? The reason I bring this up is because despite a good deal of discussion as to whether yoga injuries are a real problem, who’s responsibility they are, and should the industry be regulated, the actual practice of risk management in settings where…
The common misunderstanding of yoga as merely “stretching” can lead to some not so smart or safe yoga practices. Yoga is more than stretching. The definition of yoga is, in one word, unity (of body, mind and spirit). Without discounting mind and spirit, understanding the physical aspect of yoga will enhance the overall experience of unity. As you explore your body’s abilities on the mat, you will undoubtedly experience the sensation of stretch. Stretching has many benefits including improved circulation, joint mobility and muscle elasticity. Understanding the science of stretching will improve your safety on the mat and your enjoyment. Stretching Methods There are several methods of stretching. These include: Static – considered a passive stretch (muscles not active during stretch) but pushed to end range/tolerance. Passive (or relaxed) stretching – is a form of static stretching. However, with passive stretching, you relax into a pose letting your body weight, or gravity, stretch your muscles. Active stretching – is when you use antagonistic muscle groups (muscles that oppose the muscle you are stretching) or agonist (the muscle group you are stretching) to facilitate a reflexive response that neurologically relaxes the muscle you are stretching. Active stretching is accomplished by the voluntary use of one’s muscles without external aid. Ballistic – dynamic bouncing in and out of stretches These methods of stretching can be combined. A stretch can start out passive but then become active as you contract muscle groups while in a pose. Or, you may actively move into a…
Don’t Let Your Hamstrings Leave You Hamstrung!
Protect them while doing yoga “Bend your knees!” is a common cue used to protect the back when bending forward. In yoga, bending the knees in forward folds is also recommended to prevent strain to the back. Uttanasana (standing forward bend) in the traditional version is done with straight legs. A forward fold (hinging at the hips with the body hanging perpendicular to the ground) can provide traction to the spine and a nice stretch to the hamstrings. Many people do not have the flexibility to fold forward from the hips, keep the spine straight and keep the knees straight all at the same time. Attempting to do so may cause harm. In our effort to bow to the sun, we risk over stretching the hamstrings unless we modify. What Are Hamstrings Anyway? The hamstring muscle consists of the semimembranosus, semitendinosus and the biceps femoris. The former two span from the sit bone (ischial tuberosity which is part of the pelvis) to the inner part of the knee inserting on the chin bone (tibia). The biceps femoris courses the back of the leg and inserts on the head of the fibula, the outside of knee. The primary action of the hamstrings is to extend your hip as you flex your knee. To stretch this muscle, you would do the opposite motion – flex the hip and extend the knee. This is the precise motion we do in asymmetrical forward folds such as padangustasana (extended hand to toe posture) and parsvottanasana…
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