Maybe, you have just started with yoga, or you feel like a forever beginner. What should you look out for and what are the most common yoga slip-ups?
First of all, I would like to point out that yoga practice is very personal experience. But with that said, there are still rules that are not to be broken. Most of them start to make a real sense only after a few years of yoga practice. But it’s good to start to be at least aware of them from the very beginning. We will have a look today at 6 “mistakes” I see most often on a yoga mat.
1. You’re not breathing properly
Breathing is a problem for every beginner. I remember my first classes (first dozens of them, actually), where I simply had no clue how to breathe and I was out of breath most of the time. There is no simple rule to prevent this. The instructor usually tries to guide you through and tells you when to inhale and when to exhale and trust me; it will become natural to you one day. But it will take time. First, we focus on understanding what to do with our body and only then we focus on what to do with our breathing. That is normal. However that does not mean that you should not at least try to control your breathing. Yoga without an emphasis on breathing is not yoga. Remember that breathing come first, the movement follows. Also believe that by telling you how to breathe, the instructor is not trying to make it more difficult, but actually the opposite.
2. You push yourself too hard
I am an advocate for creating challenges and tackling them. And you will hear me say encouraging words during my classes that push you to do at least one more repetition. However, only in positions that are based on strength. Muscles need stimuli in order to grow. Do not try to push yourself the same way in positions that are based on flexibility. You will do more harm than good. I have been fighting a pulled hamstring for the past two years just because I let my ego win once. As the saying goes, learn from your mistakes, it is not worth it. Yoga is a lifelong journey, same as healthy lifestyle and anything and everything in life that is worth it. Go for slow growth. Maybe that, taming your ego, this never ending cultivation, is your yoga, your journey.
3. You’re not using your core muscles
Strength comes from your core. Inactivated core can be observed in the plank position by having lowered hips and the body not in alignment. Try to tuck in your coccyx bone and you will feel the difference immediately. The core must be engaged in all positions. Let’s take the Warrior 2 pose, for example. We can feel the core by compressing lower ribs when exhaling, the core becomes activated. It takes a while to learn how to do it. Again, this in a longer run, is going to make your practice easier. This core activation will help you to flow from position to position with ease.
4. Forgetting your fingers and toes
Fingers and toes are often forgotten about. And it is a shame because by using them effectively, you can take a position to a different level. First, you have to realize that each position has a beginning and an end. By extending your fingers up, to the sides or down, you can create support and space. That is important when transferring to more complicated positions. You can try this in a shoulder stand. Imagine that someone is pulling you up towards the ceiling, spread or point your toes and your body will automatically straighten up and the weight will shift to your shoulders, where it is supposed to be. Then, you can try to put your arms down on the mat and not support your back with your palms. You might find out that you don’t need arms in this position at all. I can’t also stress enough the importance of using your fingers in downward facing dog; it is the only way to release the pressure from your wrists.
5. You are in a rush but getting nowhere
In my classes, I often come across clients that are ignoring their breathing and they just try to quickly go from position to position. And it is usually the same ones that say that they didn’t sweat enough and feel like they could have pushed more. Well, not surprising since the quantity surpasses the quality. Advice: Turn off the autopilot and listen to the instructions carefully. We often believe that we know it all and we just go with the flow and we miss the point. Also, do not forget that getting in and out of a position is as important as the position itself. Do not try to speed up, there is no rush.
6. You give up too soon
I have been practicing yoga with some breaks since I was 15. In the yoga instructors’ profiles, I usually see things such as: Yoga was love at first sight. It was not the case for me, I was actually the exact opposite, I hated it. But I liked the way it looked, I wanted to know how to do it and I kept visiting the classes. And I suffered. For years. Because I was not consistent with my practice, it was just frantic 2 or 3 months periods of yoga practice and then nothing again. Needless to say, it was useless. So I escaped into the world of HIIT and functional circuit workouts. I had returned to yoga three years ago. This time my passion was way more intense, because I finally “figured it out”. I have no clue what had changed but I believe that things happen for a reason and that I had to suffer through the terror – as I like to exaggerate. Do not give up after your first class. Hang in there, it’s coming.
What about you and yoga? Are you “guilty” of any of these?