This isn’t a post about injuries. If you’re new to yoga and have an injury/existing condition, here are a couple articles I highly recommend reading:
The do’s and don’ts of practicing yoga with lower back pain
Practicing yoga after hip replacement surgery
You may also want to consult a private yoga instructor and/or physical therapist to better understand how you can modify certain postures, as needed.
Once you have a good understanding of injury prevention (as it pertains to you, specifically), there are other important pitfalls to avoid when first developing your practice. Here are the 6 I see most often, both in students and in my own practice.
#1 – Focusing on just your physical yoga practice.
Most people don’t know that yoga is really a multi-disciplinary model for better living. Simply put: It involves a lot more than what you do on your mat. From sensory deprivation to personal inventory and transcendent meditation, yoga involves many practices that you are probably already familiar with.
Don’t skimp out. Consider using the 8 Limbs of Yoga as a mental and spiritual tune-up.
#2 – Practicing on an empty stomach.
There are times when it makes sense to practice on an empty stomach. If you do Yin Yoga, or another kind of slow and contemplative practice, you probably don’t need to eat beforehand. But those classes aren’t very common in the States.
If you’re practicing Power Yoga, or anything Vinyasa-based, you’ll want some fuel beforehand. Even a beginner level class can feel like a bootcamp workout at times.
I recommend something light, like fresh fruit, nuts, or granola. Avoid things like dairy, especially if it’s a heated class. Most of all, make sure you have plenty of water before and during class.
#3 – Not practice because you don’t have a mat.
Maybe you’re on vacation. Or, you’re feeling exceptionally lazy and unwilling to find your gear. Either way, you don’t need a mat to get some yoga in. Rather than skipping out altogether, take 5-10 minutes to flow through a simple standing progression like this:
- Standing at Attention
- Mountain Pose (hands overhead)
- Forward Fold
- Halfway Lift
- Forward Fold
- Roll to Standing
The movements might be simple, but you can make it more difficult by focusing on slowing things down. Breathe more deeply and evenly. If you’re feeling comfortable, you can add Sun A, Sun B, or some balancing postures into the mix.
#4—Not taking notes during/after class.
Next time you practice, keep a notepad and pen near the top of your mat. Take some notes on how you’re feeling before and after class, focusing how certain postures, cues, and progressions impact you. How has your physical, mental, and emotional state changed?
And if you have a moment of clarity during class, take a beat and write it down. Most instructors encourage that kind of diligence, as long as it isn’t distracting. Just be sure to go analog rather than taking notes on your phone. Phones can make people feel uncomfortable in the studio, whereas pen and paper are a clear indication that you’re studying.
#5—Neglecting your fundamentals.
Try this: Stand upright in Mountain Pose. Then, try it with perfect balance and core engagement. Circle your arms overhead. Still balanced? Core still engaged? Where’s your breath? And your mind?
Now, close your eyes. Run the list again. Where are you?
Even basic poses can be made more difficult with simple tweaks. Sure, it’s hardly Insta-worthy. Few fundamental postures are. But they hold key insights that you simply cannot sense if you’re struggling.
There’s a time for Crow Pose, Handstands, and twists that make you shake. Usually, it’s after you have a firm understanding of basic postures and concepts like alignment, engagement, balance, opposition, breath, transitions, and focus.
#6—Not practicing because local studios are closed.
This is an easy fix. Join me for free online yoga classes. Or, go to YouTube to seek out a specific instructor or style you enjoy. Practicing at home isn’t necessarily better or worse than practicing at a studio—it’s just different.
What do you struggle with most?
Are you new to yoga? What do you struggle with most? Share your experience in the comments below!