Lady performing seated spinal twist yoga pose beside a lake

Yoga - is it really good for Me?

March 28, 2019

Yoga - is it really good for Me?

Of course it is, so long as you listen to your body and do not rush to advance.

This question has received a lot of attention. Most yoga practitioners will tell you how great yoga makes them feel or share some life changing choices that they have made since yoga became a part of their lives.

Care must always be taken to make sure that the yoga poses you do and the classes that you chose are appropriate for your current needs and requirements. 

Not all yoga postures are suitable for everyone.

Developing a foundation and good alignment is a necessity for all students of yoga. A solid foundation provides you with a safe platform to build on. Without the necessary groundwork or pushing to advance too soon the risks could outweigh the benefits.

Yoga is for everyone and it brings so many benefits, but students should always start at the beginning and let the path unfold naturally.

Quite simply yoga should leave you feeling good. Ideally students finish their class feeling better than they did before they rolled out their yoga mat. The rest will follow, providing you do not rush to advance and you always listen to your body.

Remind yourself often that the depth of the practice comes from being mindful on your mat and engaging completely with the process. It is not necessarily your physical ability that takes you deeper into the practice. Connecting with the process and being present is everything!

Being present allows you to listen to your body, so that the postures and techniques you perform are beneficial and not causing unnecessary strain or discomfort.

In an interview in 2012 with New York Times Science writer and Author of The Science of Yoga: The Risks and Rewards, William Broad revealed that he has found substantial evidence to suggest that “Asanas such as the plough (halasana) and shoulder stand (sarvangasana) can apply considerable pressure to an artery in the neck called the basilar artery causing restrictions to the flow of blood to the brain; in some people such restrictions can lead to clots and strokes which could be fatal”.

This awareness regarding the safety of some yoga postures is great and is just what everyone needs to be mindful of. So often the ego kicks in and achieving advanced or impressive postures can become the goal, this approach could lead to injury.

Yoga is a tool that can enhance levels of health and vitality and bring so many positive benefits when practiced mindfully.

Listen to your body and let your practice evolve, the ego will try to convince you to move deeper, to go upside down, to do what the person next to you is doing or to try a more advanced pose. The ego is one of the biggest challenges to all yoga students and teachers too.

Yogis today are lucky enough to be able to access up to date scientific research and combine it with ancient teachings to enjoy a safe and effective practice. The word yoga translates from Sanskrit (the ancient language of the Vedic civilisation) to mean join or union. So lucky for us today we are able to unite the ancient practice of yoga with new scientific research as it becomes available to us.

Always remember that if a posture feels unsafe or brings discomfort don’t do it. There are 100’s even 1000’s of postures to choose from; plus you can always spend more time in a comfortable pose such as child or Savasana and focus on your breath whilst relaxing both body and mind.

Here are a few basic points to remember for safe practices

Never turn your head more than 90 degrees.

Never have the weight of your body resting on the back of your neck or the top of your head. 

For those that do include inversions, supported headstands are a much safer option (so too are arm balances).

Those that perform shoulder stands and the plough, lift your chin a little to relieve any pressure from the back of the neck, the back of your neck should not rest on the ground or place a blanket that is folded in half and half again under your shoulders, remember if you experience any discomfort relax the pose immediately.

Never completely circle your head.

Avoid dropping the head back as this can compress the cervical vertebrae and restricts blood flow to the brain. 

In postures that lift through the chest keep your neck in line with the spine, to help you do this always remember that your neck is a natural extension of the spine; do not allow that line to break.

Avoid all breath retentions if you suffer from high or low blood pressure.

If you feel pain or discomfort, relax the posture immediately.

If you struggle to breathe comfortably in a yoga posture relax immediately, the breath should maintain a smooth and steady flow (some advanced practices may vary but this is a good guide to follow for new yoga students).

Always use a non–slip yoga mat.

Seek medical advice before commencing any new physical activity.

Do not compete with yourself or others.

Before selecting any posture ask yourself the following questions; - Is this posture relevant or beneficial to me?  Are you physically and mentally prepared for the posture? 

Advanced students also need to take care and listen to their bodies; do not sacrifice technique to perform advanced postures.

Make sure that you always practise with care and attention, avoid postures that are considered dangerous or not appropriate for your level or current condition, listen to your body and take note of new research as it might apply to you.  Always find safe alternative postures to ensure that your yoga practice remains safe, beneficial and relevant for years to come. 

Yoga 2 Hear provide a safe path for the absolute beginner. Always start at the beginning and never rush to advance.