Yoga is supposed to bring attention — not tension — to the body
Yoga, which can provide relaxation while combining strength training and deep stretches, is becoming a mainstream form of exercise in society. With this popularity have come many publications and online tutorials promoting yoga as a form of intense cardio exercise, one that some instructors caution against unless the practitioner has a strong background in the practice.
“Yoga is a personal experience,” said Shelley Taylor, adjunct instructor of yoga at Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington’s Department of Kinesiology. “Every individual body develops at a different pace, and it can never be a competition.”
Taylor, who has taught yoga in Bloomington for more 30 years, specializes in a more “restorative style” of hatha yoga and believes this style allows the body to slowly maneuver into poses to prevent injuries. She recommends this style for any level of student.
“The purpose of yoga is not to create tension but to give attention to the areas of the body that need energy through the breath,” she said.
Instead of viewing it as a rigorous workout, the key is to view it as connecting to the body rather than pushing the boundaries of the body, which is common in other forms of exercise. It is crucial to understand the proper way to do certain poses and the positive impact they can have on the body, as well as the many ways the poses may have a negative impact if performed inaccurately. Taylor said that taking a class with a qualified, experienced instructor will help the yoga student make sure the breathing, stretching and strengthening poses are being done correctly and safely. This can also eliminate any questions or doubts that may arise from exploring only on one’s own.
“The best way to explain the experience is that it is about learning something deeper than what we see in the mirror,” she said. “It’s about acceptance, forgiveness and compassion for the mind and body you have today.
“Creating space and time for quiet contemplation and observation, and listening deeply to what is occurring in one’s own mind and body, can be very informative. We all have wisdom within us, and yoga is a practice for tapping into that wisdom.”
Here are more safety tips for yoga practice:
- Practice yoga on a relatively empty stomach — eat lightly one to two hours before class if needed.
- Hydrate before, during and after yoga.
- Listen to your own inner guidance and do what is best for you.
- Breathe slowly, deeply and through the nostrils if possible.
- Wear loose, comfortable (or stretchy) clothing and remove anything that might get in the way.
- Do twisting poses from the right side of the body to the left to prevent digestion issues.
- Women should refrain from doing inverted (upside down) poses while menstruating.