5 Things You Won’t See At This Yoga Studio (And Why)
Do you ever wonder if you’re doing yoga the right way?
You’re not alone. A lot of people feel the same.
You show up to class. You follow the instructions. You go home. Rinse and repeat.
But could you be getting more from your practice?
Are there things that you should or shouldn’t do?
Well, the good news is, I’ve been in the yoga game for nearly 24 years. I’ve attended tons of yoga workshops, read tons of yoga books, and I’ve put in tons of hours searching for the safest way to practice (and to teach) yoga.
And from all of that experience, I put together a list of five things to avoid in your yoga practice (and what to do instead). These are simple techniques you can use, right now, to get even more from your yoga routine.
Shall I share them with you now?
David Swenson told a story about teaching yoga to prisoners.
He noticed that one of the inmates was clasping his fingers as if holding a gun during Warrior 1.
When David asked the prisoner why he chose that hand position, the inmate said, “It feels like a gun and I like it.”
Needless to say, David is not a fan of “the gun” and encourages his students to press their palms together instead.
There are other reasons to drop “the gun” from your yoga technique.
One reason is it can create an imbalance between your left and right arm. That’s because one arm will always have more mobility and more strength than the other arm.
When you clasp your hands, you’re allowing the stronger and more mobile arm take over for the weaker and less mobile arm.
Plus, one of the many benefits of yoga is that it is unilateral in nature. That means you get a chance to develop both sides of your body to it’s fullest potential.
Instead of “the gun,” separate your hands. This way, each arm has to do equal work.
Do this instead of “the gun.”
Tree Pose (Classic Variation)
Tree pose is definitely the “go to” balance pose for a lot of yoga classes.
It makes sense because it’s pretty easy to do and you can get a lot of benefit from it. Better balance and deeper levels of concentration are just a couple that come immediately to mind.
But when you’re asked to place your foot high up on your thigh (common in the classic variation), a couple of things happen…
One: You shut off your glutes and hips. That robs you of the muscle toning and strengthening aspects of the pose.
Two: Your bent knee may not be able to bend that deeply.
Instead of the classic variation, try the Functional Yoga Instruction version. This way, you keep your knee safe because it isn’t bending as much, and you’re encouraged to use your muscles to make your hips and glutes toned and strong.
Check out this blog (with a video clip) to learn more about FYI Tree Pose.
Standing Forward Fold
Years ago, when I taught at a different studio, I had a student in class who insisted that she force herself into deep, forward flexion (standing and seated). And I used to advise her during class to back out of it a little because she was going so deep into the pose.
I noticed I hadn’t seen her in class for months. And one day, we bumped into each other outside of the studio and I asked where she’d been. She said her doctor told her to stop doing yoga for a while.
When I asked “why?” she said because of her back pain. “What caused your back pain?” I asked, “vigorous forward flexion of the lumbar spine,” she answered.
Most of us get plenty of forward flexion of the lumbar spine (the low back) because of our lifestyle. We slouch over our breakfast cereal, we slouch at our desks, we slouch at the dinner table, then we curl up – a form of slouching – and go to sleep for six hours.
You get the picture.
Instead of the Standing Forward Fold, learn how to do the Half Forward Bend (aka the Hip Hinge). This way you learn to develop the muscles to help relieve back pain and you learn how to undo all of the damage from slouching all day.
This blog gets deeper into the benefits of the hip hinge.
Upward Facing Dog
Upward Facing Dog is another popular yoga pose seen almost everywhere.
The benefits of this pose include a stronger back and better posture.
But that assumes you’re doing it correctly and it assumes you don’t have preexisting issues with your neck, low back, wrists, fingers, elbows, or shoulders.
That’s why I was so happy I found the Locust pose. You get all of the rewards without any of the risks.
Instead of Downward Dog, use the Locust pose. You’ll get the benefits of Downward Dog but you won’t worry as much about getting hurt (as long as you’re doing it properly).
This blog (with a video clip) digs deeper into Locust Pose and it’s amazing benefits.
It’s a popular myth: You have to use a heated room to do yoga. Or using a heated room is more beneficial than not using a heated room.
Here’s the truth: Although ‘hot yoga’ is extremely popular, ultimately it is just a gimmick.
Think about it for a second… if you have to bring your environment to 99 degrees F and above in order to move, what will happen when you are out of that environment?
If you go to pick up your groceries, will you have to wait for it to be hot in order for you to do so?
Also, heated rooms create false flexibility and can lead to dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, as well as other negative side effects.
Instead of hot yoga, look for a studio that uses room temperature for their classes. The reason is simple: you want to be able to move well at all times and not be limited to moving well when the temperature is right.
Consumer Reports has a great article about the dangers of hot yoga.
This blog busts other popular yoga myths.
It’s Up To You
Sometimes you can feel uncomfortable in a yoga class.
It happens to everyone.
Even if you follow the instructions to a “T.”
But what if something doesn’t feel right? Or maybe you’re wondering if there’s a safer way to practice.
Well, now you have five effective options to help ensure you’ll be doing things safely.
Review this list to keep these ideas fresh in your mind and do your best to apply them. It’s time to take your practice to the next level.
You’ve got this!
PS: If you want more great yoga tips, check out our popular video downloads.