in depth


Balance and Bliss

Practicing Safe Yoga

There is no doubt that yoga classes are an inspiring and supportive way to practice this ancient healing modality. Whether you are in need of healing the heart or the body, the end result is balance and bliss or unfortunately, if you are not safe—injury.

With over 20 million Americans practicing yoga, it’s crucial to understand the foundation of a safe, nurturing practice. Who better to provide tips for a safe yoga practice than one of my favorite teachers and Los Angeles’s top yoga therapists, Larry Payne PhD.

According to Dr. Payne, common culprits causing injuries in a group yoga classes vary from women to men. Most injuries occur when practicing the inverted postures such as headstand, full shoulder stand (without blankets) and forward folds for men.

Payne’s top three rules for avoiding injury in group classes are:

Avoid “extreme” yoga classes. The recommended time for holding a posture is 30 seconds to 1 minute to achieve a good stretch; anything longer can result in injury. Extreme yoga classes can wear out joints and do extensive damage over time.

No matter what the teacher says…back off! The yoga that came to the West from India was originally designed for young men. As we age, our bodies change. Moderating postures or resting is an essential part of protecting yourself from injury. If your intuition tells you to back off, listen to it. Find an instructor who makes you feel safe and supported.

Yoga is not a competition. This is a simple philosophy, but hard to implement. It is tempting to want to “copy” or do the exact pose as your neighbor. The key is to find a safe, strong way to do your asana. Look for strength in your postures, not “appearance.” Remember, no two bodies are designed the same, and the body changes each day and with the time of day. It doesn’t make you better at yoga if you can do the same postures as your neighbor. Be true to yourself and your form will support your practice.

Heidi Rayden
Yoga Therapist, Media Producer
Free Your Soul TV 
Samata International/Yoga RX

Recommended: Yoga RX: A Step-by-Step Program to Promote Health, Wellness, and Healing for Common Ailments by Larry Payne Ph.D and Yoga for Dummies by Larry Payne


Anonymous commented on 10-Sep-2012 04:17 PM5 out of 5 stars

Great article. I feel the three things mentioned, especially the third one, should be mentioned in almost every yoga class, because even when one is aware of such things there is still the tendency to want to 'keep up' or do as well as others, even though
that misses the point of why we are there.

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