Although I’m in favor of pushing and challenging myself physically, there is a very fine line between stretching a muscle to its “edge” and taking it to a point when it can literally snap! There’s also a very fine line between getting my heart rate up into a “training” zone and pushing myself to a point where I can barely breathe. It is vital that we know where this line is, and it’d different for every single one of us.
As a yoga teacher of some 15 years, I’ve seen men and women over and over again push themselves beyond what is healthy for their fitness level. Showing off in yoga classes is a breeding ground for injury. Yoga is supposed to be the most chill exercise and completely non-competitive, but the truth is that women in a yoga class are way worse than women in a gym when it comes to twisting into bizarre poses that aren’t for most of us for the sole reason of showing how hardcore they are. They have absolutely no problem – actually they seem to enjoy putting lesser mortals (who shake in plank pose), to shame. Anyway I digress (its a pet peeve), but my point is that my chiropractor said that the most horrendous injuries he encounters are very often from a patient over-extending themselves when practicing yoga or any other fitness activity. The moral of the tale being: DON’T push yourself beyond that which you are capable of.
However, some of us (myself included), think we can do a whole lot more than we actually can. I tend to think (maybe because it’s how I feel most of the time), like a twenty year-old, but my body knows differently. This is why I have learned over the years to LISTEN TO MY BODY, and never push it beyond what feels right.
Here are 5 tips to make sure that a sudden and unwelcome injury doesn’t take you out of the game for weeks if not months:
- Check with your physical therapist or doc before embarking on a new exercise regime. Ask him/her to take your blood pressure, and give you a general assessment.
- Know when to say NO: If a trainer or a yoga teacher “invites” you to go beyond what feels comfortable to you, tell them that you need to protect yourself. It’s a good idea to stop what you are doing if you are with a trainer and take some time to investigate further. Above all, you not he/she is the boss of your body. Yes, you pay them to push you, but if they are a good trainer they should encourage you to listen to your body and stop if something doesn’t feel right.
- Compete with yourself: As hard as it is, don’t ever compare yourself to another student or gym member. You don’t know how long they have been training or working out for. You also don’t know if they are pushing themselves past the point of their own personal safety. Compete with what you did yesterday, and commit to do a little bit more.
- Before you practice yoga, run, jump up and down, or do any strenuous exercise, start slowly and take a few minutes to check in. I think of this time like a moving meditation and ask myself a bunch of questions: how am I feeling? Am I full of energy or drained? Am I angry or sad? How do my neck, back and shoulders feel? Are my hamstrings tight? etc. This way you are checking in with the intelligence of your body to see what’s okay for you to do or not.
- Do not let a yoga teacher or trainer manually force or adjust you into a position that your body isn’t capable of doing.