Say ‘om not ouch.
Ah, yoga. In theory, it’s all open hearts and good vibes—you hop on your mat and things just…flow.
In reality, that’s not always the case. “Our go-go-go pace often causes our mind to disconnect from our body, which, if not corrected, can set you up for an unpleasant and even unsafe practice,” says Amanda Kerpius, a yoga instructor and massage therapist in NYC who specializes in functional yoga for athletes and those rehabbing injuries.
In fact, while regular yoga has been shown to improve chronic tension in prime areas (think neck and lower back), it actually causes pain in more than 10 percent of people, landing them with at least one new or aggravated sore spot within a year, according to a recent study in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies. “I see this a lot—women having to take weeks off from the studio because they didn’t listen to their body in class,” Kerpius adds.
All that said, the answer isn’t to ditch yoga—it is an awesome cross-training and active-recovery option that builds strength and balance, after all. Instead, turn your attention to our cues to safe-house your body (and mind) so you can flow with ease.
To elongate your body and invigorate your mind—without compromising any naggy areas—try this series Amanda created exclusively for WH. You’ll also strengthen your core—key to curbing pain from your neck to your knees.
Before you start, stand tall, relax your shoulders, and listen to your breath to bring yourself inward. A quick closed-eye body scan in this position beats lying on your back–it helps you better suss out areas that feel tired or stiff so you can log them in your mind before you begin.
Then, move through Flow 1, then repeat on the other side. Continue with Flow 2; perform on both sides. Repeat the full sequence as many times as you like.
NOTE: Yoga should be uncomfortable at times, but it should never feel bad. If modifying a pose feels better (note: not easier) than holding it, make that adjustment. But if holding a pose feels like it’s strengthening or opening without any pain, breathe through the discomfort.