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Yoga Teachers Reveal 6 Common Yoga Mistakes to Avoid

Yoga Teachers Reveal 6 Common Yoga Mistakes to Avoid

The world of yoga has changed a great deal since Lilias Folan’s PBS show “Lilias, Yoga and You” brought yoga into living rooms across the United States during the 1970’s. Now, yoga can be found at most local gyms and fitness centers, and has become an entire industry unto itself, from the yoga fashion of brands like Lululemon and Be Present, to DVD’s, books, magazines. Plus, the many retreats offered in exotic locations around the globe all dedicated to improving ones yoga practice. It can be hard to remember at times that the true goal of yoga as it was originally taught in India is spiritual liberation.

The word yoga means union. Practicing yoga involves a deep quest of uniting body, mind and spirit and is much more than just a physical practice. Given the many styles of teaching that have come forth since Lilian Folan’s television show in the 1970s, and that some practices may have strayed from what Patanjili, the author of the ancient yoga sutras, had in mind, it seemed worth investigating these six common yoga mistakes to avoid in today’s yoga world.

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1. Don’t hold your breath

Paying attention to the breath is important in most yoga practices. Yoga teacher Dr. Madan Bali reminds us of this one major mistake to avoid, “cardiac patients should be particularly careful not to hold the breath while practicing yoga.” His statement infers a gentle monitoring on the part of the practitioner to do what works for their own bodies, beyond just what a yoga teacher may be telling them. This 90-year-old yoga teacher from Montreal is a living example of a healthy yoga practice, and has been on the faculty at the world’s premier holistic learning centers Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, and Omega Institute for Holistic Studies.

2. Don’t overdo it

Jean Koerner, who has been teaching yoga for over 20 years, and is one of the yoga teacher training faculty at ISHTA Yoga in Manhattan, says,  “one common yoga mistake people make is not listening to their body and pushing or over efforting, which can cause injury.” The importance of deeply listening inside and honoring one’s own body and its limits must always be a priority.

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3. Just relax

“Another common yoga mistake people make is trying to fit their body to a pose rather than fitting the pose to their body,” says Ms Koerner. “One of the biggest mistakes people make with a yoga practice is that they think there is something to achieve or to get to. Because we exist, we are there already.”

4. Know your yoga

Glenn Black, a well respected yoga teacher and faculty at Omega Institute for Holistic Studies, who was also highly quoted in a William J Broad’s “New York Times” article in 2012 titled “How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body”, says: “the biggest mistake people make is to call asana Yoga.”

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Mr Black’s comments emphasize that in the West some of the more mindful elements of yoga can often be left out or forgotten. He continues, “Biggest mistakes people make is to think that they can do asana and even the mental (meditative) techniques without preparation or proper assessment of their bodies or minds, and expect good results.”

5. Don’t ignore the fifth limb

Known for his wry sense of humor, Glenn Black also addresses the common yoga mistake that many in today’s yoga world being that people ignore the fifth limb of yoga called Pratyahara, which is about withdrawal and sensory transcendence.

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“It is time for people to be devout. To cut the ties we have to the attachments that fill out society,” says Mr Black. “The results of serious practice may then have a chance to raise Consciousness beyond when we jumped from the trees.”

6. Remember that it is more than a form of exercise

Gillian Arthur, who studied yoga at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health and now teaches as restorative yoga faculty at Omega Institute for Holistic Studies, sums up her thoughts with “A common yoga mistake is to see it as a practice of doing. Yoga is not a practice of doing, but a practice of being.”

Hopefully with the wisdom of these teachers and others, we can be reminded that to misappropriate yoga as simply another fitness craze or way of getting a physical workout misses the true essence and spirit of an ancient system of healing and enlightenment.

Featured photo credit: Young woman is practicing yoga at mountain lake via shutterstock.com

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Last Updated on March 2, 2021

7 Practical Stretching Tips to Enhance Your Next Workout

7 Practical Stretching Tips to Enhance Your Next Workout

Stretching is one of the most essential aspects of a healthy fitness routine. It’s also one of the most overlooked. Instead of thinking of this activity as a separate entity, consider stretching as a continuation of your exercise routine. By making stretching tips a part of your workout, you won’t neglect the attention your muscles and joints require to perform effectively.

Whether using stretching as a way to wake up, get your mind in the game, or recover from strenuous activity, your body will reap its short-term and long-term benefits. In the moment, stretching is a great way to warm up the body and prevent yourself from overextension and injury. In the long run, stretching daily can help loosen your tendons and muscles, and ultimately help you maintain a full range of motion later in life.

Taking these ideas into consideration, follow these 7 simple tips for stretching to add stretches back into your workout vocabulary.

1. Stretch and Stretch Often

Ultimately, your body can benefit from stretching daily. Many of us experience a somewhat stationary lifestyle at work, so we naturally need to warm up our bodies after remaining immobile for long periods of time.

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With only ten minutes of stretching, you can increase your strength, balance and flexibility. From working out to waking up in the morning, slow, easy movements can warm up the body. Just remember to be gentle; any jarring movements can cause injury and muscle tear.

For the best results, hold each stretch for at least sixty seconds[1].

2. Warm up Before a Workout

Similar to establishing a daily stretching routine, warming up the body pre-workout is vital for having a successful session and one of the most important stretching tips. Just grabbing your foot to stretch your calf for a couple seconds could actually harm your body, so make sure you begin slowly and take your time.

Attempting any exercise with “cold muscles” or without “waking up the body” will also hurt your body and cause muscle pulls and tendon tears. Try taking a short walk or elongating your stretches for optimal results.

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Once you’re warmed up, check out this Simple Cardio Home Workout Plan to keep you moving.

3. Gauge Your Tension

Stretching should never be painful. Monitor how your muscles feel as you stretch. Naturally, you should feel some mild tension, but don’t push yourself past the edge of discomfort.

If you’re starting to experience sharp pain or sensations that gradually get more severe, you are doing something wrong. Try to focus on one area at a time so you are only pushing yourself so far. When you begin to feel comfortable stretching, deepen your stretch, but don’t over-exert yourself.

4. Avoid Bouncing

Stretching tips don’t often mention this, but bouncing can be one of the most detrimental things you can do to your body while stretching. When your body constantly shifts, your muscles can tighten, and you can increase the risk of pulling or tearing a tendon. Find your balance or focal point, and remain steady.

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When in doubt, try using a mirror to watch yourself stretch to improve your form. Don’t be afraid to consult your doctor or trainer for someone to monitor your posture and stance[2].

5. Just Breathe

One of the main benefits of stretching is its ability to help the mind and body relax. Therefore, try to breathe normally and make sure you don’t hold your breath[3].

As you deepen your stretch, make sure to inhale and exhale slowly. Any abrupt, fast breathing or lack of breathing can cause tension in your body and increase your risk of injury. Make sure you are comfortable so that your mind focuses on the task at hand.

6. Vary Your Routine

While stretching, don’t forget to work on opposing muscles and incorporate as many muscle groups as possible in your routine for a holistic workout. Also, one of the most important stretching tips I can offer is to change your routine often so you don’t get bored.

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Often, boredom can cause carelessness and a loss of focus, which, in turn, can cause injuries. Look to Yoga workouts[4] or Pilates classes, as they are great resources for finding new stretches.

7. Always Remember to Cool Down

Stretching is also an excellent form of recovery to avoid muscle soreness. Don’t overlook this part of a workout, as it releases the tension in your body and increases blood flow to muscles that are warm and worked. Cooling down can prevent injury and decrease your heart rate after an intense workout. Do what you can to help your body quickly recover from your daily exercise routine.

Final Thoughts

Stretching tips are vital when participating in an active lifestyle. However, your body needs fuel to assist you through these daily routines. Therefore, don’t forget to eat the right foods and stay hydrated. Not only do you replenish your body with fluids and nutrients lost, but you can keep your muscles strong and ready for the next routine.

If you struggle with stress and anxiety, stretching can help you move into a calmer headspace and find both mental and physical balance. Furthermore, stretching can help you and your body focus on something else, which will help you move past the stress.

As you plan your next workout, incorporate time for pre and post-workout stretches to see how it improves your exercise experience.

More Stretching Tips

Reference

[1] Harvard Health Publishing: The ideal stretching routine
[2] Harvard Health Publishing: Six tips for safe stretches
[3] Penn State: Balance, Breathing and Flexibility
[4] Health: Best Yoga Poses for Your Trouble Spots

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