People all over the country see yoga as the answer to their need for relaxation and flexibility, but if you’re not careful, the wrong move can lead to injuries, such as pulled muscles in your back and shoulders. Mark Blanchard, a yoga instructor and owner of Yogatime in Beverly Hills, California, offers these pointers for a safe yoga experience:
1. Before the class begins, tell your instructor about any past injuries or physical limitations, such as back problems or pregnancy, so he or she can make sure you don’t overextend yourself. For example, some doctors believe that spine-twisting postures aren’t safe for pregnant women because they may affect the flow of oxygen in the blood to the baby.
2. If the room is overcrowded, don’t take the class. “If it’s wall-to-wall people, and there’s no line of sight from the front to the back of the room or if the instructor can’t pass through any openings to get around the students, you should be wary of taking the class,” says Blanchard. “If the instructor can’t see you, he or she is won’t be able to correct mistakes that cause injury. He or she may be teaching the class for his or her ego rather than for you.”
3. Find the right temperature. The studio should be room temperature, about 70 or 80 degrees–not more, not less. “If it’s too hot, you’ll dehydrate quickly and your body will go into a cool down mode,” says Blanchard. “That means you’ll get tired faster and sweat out fluids too quickly. If it’s too cold your muscles won’t be pliable and they may spasm.”
4. Look for an attentive instructor. If the instructor doesn’t walk around the room to check your posture or periodically remind you to take deep breaths, he or she is not qualified to teach the class. “Also, if they don’t talk about root binding or upward rising binding–two processes that energize the core of the spine and build heat–they also don’t know what they’re doing,” Blanchard says.