Given our current stay-at-home orders, establishing an at-home yoga practice is no longer an afterthought for yogis, it’s necessary. Whether it’s self-guided or online, yoga students have been forced to roll out their mats at home. And for good reason.
Practicing yoga regularly is a lifestyle choice that can help boost your immune system by keeping your body lean, flexible and pain free. Yoga also helps with memory and mental health problems such as depression and anxiety, which could surface for anyone during this time of uncertainty.
While a home yoga practice is a game-changer for your health, there are certain dangers to be aware of as you develop your home yoga routine.
Here are the most common at-home yoga mistakes and how to fix them:
Mistake: Looking up During Poses and Compressing Your Neck
Why it happens: In an effort to follow your teacher’s instructions while practicing at home, you’ll be tempted to look up at your screen. Besides checking your alignment, you may find yourself continuously looking up to see if your technology is working correctly. It’s the most common misalignment during live classes at home. This torques on the back of your neck, especially if it’s done suddenly. While it may seem slight, it could be detrimental for your shoulders and neck in poses where you should be looking down, such as down dog, standing forward-fold, pyramid, pigeon and seated forward-folds.
Solution: Practice yoga at home with teachers whom you already know using online apps like Zoom. Because you’re familiar with their cues and perhaps even the way they modulate their voice, it will help prevent you from looking up and hurting your neck. Listen to the instructor’s cues and follow along carefully. Most experienced teachers will say the name of the pose before they give you refinements.
Trust your experience but have an open mind, knowing that every teacher is different. During class, when you need to see the teacher on your screen, take your time and lift your whole torso as you look up. Make sure your neck is always in line with your spine. Place your device where it’s easy to see while you practice. Somewhere about three feet off the ground, ten feet away and facing the side-edge of your mat. Trust your technology is working and practice letting go of checking on it obsessively.
Mistake: Pushing Yourself Beyond What’s Healthy
Why It Happens: Overexerting yourself during a home yoga routine is a common and costly mental-error, especially if you’re an experienced student. Seasoned practitioners find that their physical practice plateaus more easily, even while they have a strong desire to advance. If you’re in this category, you may become overzealous and your ego can cloud your judgment.
It happens when you disregard safety landmarks or push yourself while you’re short of breath. Ignoring physical pain to achieve a pose is another common misstep. All of these scenarios are more likely to happen while you’re practicing at home without a teacher present to keep you honest.
Solution: The most important tool in your yoga practice is your breath. It is a built-in gauge to make sure you are not forcing yourself into poses. Always breathe deeply in and out through your nose. It should be intentional, but it shouldn’t be harsh. The person next to you shouldn’t be able to hear it. It’s OK to exhale out your mouth if you find yourself clenching your jaw or if you’re pushing your limits. But if you cannot breathe deeply, come out of the pose and re-establish your expansive breathing technique. When it comes to physical pain, move slowly and always trust your intuition. Even if it means going against what the teacher is instructing.
Mistake: Not Challenging Yourself Enough to Keep Your Practice Rewarding
Why it happens: When you are left to your own devices at home, it is challenging to stay motivated. Without an instructor to encourage you or hold you to a certain standard of effort, you may become complacent. This is more prevalent with beginners. You may find that you attempt certain poses with a healthy work-ethic while others are more of an afterthought. It could become such a bad habit that you only practice the poses you enjoy and neglect the ones you dislike, but need to do. This leads to bigger problems like physical asymmetries, tightness and injuries.
Solution: Consider enrolling in a yoga course or live classes. Almost all yoga teachers have started teaching online since the pandemic started. If you’re taking live classes, set-up your camera so that your teacher can see you and give you tips and support. Teachers usually mix-up their sequences frequently enough, so that within a month’s time, you’ll attempt a variety of poses. If you have to practice without any guidance, go through a weekly focus of poses. I generally cycle through sequences that target hips, hamstrings, twists and shoulder openers or backbends.
Mistake: Allowing Interruptions
Why it happens: If you do not organize your day to accommodate for your yoga practice, distractions will inevitably derail you. Whether it’s your kids, phone, tablet or computer, there’s many ways that your technology-saturated life pulls you away from what you want to get accomplished. Without a reserved time and space for your home yoga practice, other seemingly more urgent things take precedence over taking care of yourself.
Solution: Create an uninterrupted home yoga experience by planning ahead. Establish a morning yoga routine, so you minimize the chance that something will change your schedule. Reverse-engineer your day around your yoga practice. Set out your yoga clothes and mat the night before, eat dinner earlier, get to bed earlier and wake up earlier to ensure you get your practice in. Designate a separate area for yoga, free of technology. If you are using a device to take a class, then that is it’s designated purpose for that time. Keep all of your other devices in a different room or shut them off all together, so you are not tempted to look at them. Even if you only have time for a 15-minute yoga session, commit to getting it done without stepping off your mat for the entire time.
Why it happens: When you’re not in a community, it’s difficult to hold yourself accountable. Without a social or financial commitment, there’s often not enough at stake for you to stick with your practice.
Solution: Join a class that meets up regularly and invite a friend to go with you. Invest in a monthly pass to an online live class or pre-recorded course. Yoga International offers many quality courses with a variety of teachers and styles to choose from. Sign-up for or establish a 30-day yoga challenge to keep you focused and excited to practice. Most importantly, take the time to acknowledge that you’re worth the time and effort spent to keep yourself healthy and happy. Stick with your home yoga practice, and you will see profoundly positive effects on your mental and physical health.
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Common At-Home Yoga Mistakes and How to Avoid Them originally appeared on usnews.com