If you are just beginning to introduce the yoga practice to your daily routine, there is one very important concept I want you to make note of… the difference between Edges and Injuries.
Recently I have been seeing yoga practitioners injure themselves through a variety of specific poses and practices. To keep all my readers from ending up like these individuals, I have 4 tips to help everyone to listen to their edge.
Not too sure what an ‘edge’ is? An edge is that sweet spot between challenging yourself without overexerting yourself. Granted, there is a very fine line between the two. Injuries are caused by pushing past your edge/limit, not listening to your body’s signals, and potentially tearing or pulling muscles. Here are 4 tips to help you determine the difference between the two.
This applies to poses that require flexibility or strength. If you find your breath is still working it’s way through you (maybe at a slightly quicker pace), you’re doing great! As soon as you begin holding your breath and clenching your way through poses, you are most likely hitting the injury territory. Be very mindful of your breath through your entire practice. Use every exhale to bring yourself slightly deeper into the pose and every inhale to check in on your muscle activation.
2. Alignment vs Full Expresion
Yoga poses have specific alignments for a reason: to keep your body safe. If you are pushing past your edge into a further expression of a pose before you are ready, you are likely coming out of alignment. For a simple example, picture doing the splits: hips both facing forward, spine and neck long, one leg out in front, and one behind. If you are not able to reach the sitting bones to the mat, you would either sit on a block or keep yourself raised with blocks under your hands. Do not be afraid to use props! If you are not listening to your edge and trying to reach the floor, your back is likely curving, legs bent, core not engaged, and hips would be opening to one side. I almost guarantee that you will injure yourself every time you work towards the full expression instead of the correct alignment. This brings me to my next tip of patience.
Yoga is yoga. Whether you are in a forward fold touching your toes, shins, or thighs. Just because you are not in the deepest expression of a pose, doesn’t mean it isn’t yoga. Yoga is not a race. An instructor from Toronto’s Yogaspace, Yosh Maeda, once told me, “being able to do the full expression of this pose does not make you a better person”. I’m pretty sure this was after I had face planted in Crow Pose! But now, I live by those words. With daily practice and patience, yoga will come. Focusing on the journey of growth is more important than making your poses aesthetically pleasing. Practice Baby Cobra before Upward Dog. Practice reverse prayer hands before Camel Pose. Never jump into advanced poses before mastering the “seed” or “root” poses. Yoga is a disciplined practice that is not conquered overnight, or sometimes even through a lifetime of practice!
4. Checking in before practice
Think about what you did yesterday. Did you spend the day traveling on a plane all day or running a marathon? Did you move heavy furniture or sit on the couch all day? Whatever you did will dramatically change how your practice the following day goes. Every day your body changes and your practice will too. In my classes, I like to have everyone check in on their body at the beginning of class. (Try this before your next yoga class: Are your shoulders feeling stiff? Are your legs sore from yesterday’s run?) Keep these in mind when you are going through each pose. A pose that you may have mastered last week may feel like the hardest pose this week. Do not push yourself past your edge to attain a pose you had once ‘achieved’.
Everyone’s body and everyone’s edge is constantly changing. Listening to your edge on that specific day will prevent injury and move you in the right direction of growth (instead of injury rehab!). I look forward to hearing how you all did checking in with your bodies today and during practice. Stay well and stay safe friends!