STAYING SAFE & HEALTHY
Even though for most people yoga is a safe form of exercise, it is not without its risks. Here are some tips to help you practice Yoga safely:
- If you are pregnant or have a pre-existing health condition: Consult your health care provider before starting a yoga program. Your health care provider can help you know how to judge what type and level of yoga exercise is safe for you. You may be able to practice yoga if you take certain precautions. If you are able to take yoga, please inform the instructor before class of your condition.
- Yoga is not a substitute for medical care. Yoga offers many health benefits and may even be included as part of some treatment plans. But it's still important to work closely with your regular health care providers and get proper treatment when you need it.
- Leave your ego at the door. Yoga is not about competition, whether with others in the class or even ourselves. Instead, it is about learning how to pay attention and listen to the language of the body. Learn the basics, such as proper alignment, breathing and how to maintain balance, before you attempt the more ambitious poses. Remember, you certainly don't have to do every pose your instructor demonstrates! If a pose is uncomfortable or you can't hold it as long as the instructor requests, that's your signal to come out of it. Our instructors will understand and will encourage you to work with proper alignment at your own pace. If you need to rest, stand or sit quietly, breathing deeply until you are ready.
- Wear clothes that allow you to move freely. For more information Click here.
- Stay hydrated. This is especially important. Be sure to drink plenty of water the day before class and after class. Click here for more information.
- Pay attention to what your body is telling you. The body speaks to us through sensation, from the whisper of a faint stretch to an exclamation of pain. Yoga isn't supposed to hurt. Never force or strain. Forcing activates the fight or flight response which is not why we do Yoga! Instead, breathe and pay attention to the sensations you experience, if you feel pain you have gone too far into the pose.
- Always breathe. Always breathe through the nose both in and out, unless specified otherwise. Remember “Nose for breathing-Mouth for eating.” Never hold your breath in the poses! If you find that your breath comes in pants or gasps, this means that you are either not breathing enough in the posture, or that you are pushing yourself too hard.
- If you get cramps . . . you might need electrolytes! As our bodies sweat, our bodies also let go of valuable minerals. It is important to make sure you replace them with either an electrolyte replacement mix, coconut water or even salt – just make sure it’s not table salt which is iodized and has most valuable nutrients removed. If you choose to use salt for electrolyte replacement, make sure it is Himala Rock Salt which comes from the Himalayan mountains. You can put a kernel of salt in your water bottle or make sure to add it to your meals. Please stay clear of hydration drinks such as Gatorade as excess calories, sugar or corn syrup will work against your goals of health and weight loss. Even artificial sweeteners have been linked with weight gain.
- If you feel dizzy, lightheaded or nauseous . . . Simply lie down on your mat and take a rest. It is always ok to listen to your body and sit out as many postures as you need. Just staying in the room means you are succeeding- it may take a few classes to get used to the heat. If nausea is a problem, it could be an issue of having undigested food in your system, being dehydrated or possibly drinking too much water right before or during class.
- Get adequate sleep. Studies have shown that sleeping less than 7 hours a night puts our immune system at greater risk of infection. Sleep is essential for health and well-being, not to mention our ability to concentrate and show up at our best. If you miss a full night’s sleep, try to make up the missing hours over the next few nights – studies have also shown that a “sleep deficit” can accumulate causing greater wear and tear on the body’s system. If you have a hard time falling asleep, check out some of the pranayama practices as a guide and/or consider doing a short (10-15 min) yin yoga practice just before bed to calm your system.
- Eat healthy. There are so many conflicting ideas of what is the ideal diet that we will stick to general guidelines. The first and most important is to make sure you consume the right amount of calories. Sometimes, when people are trying to lose weight, they will go to extremes with the amount of calories they consume. We all need a minimum of 1200 calories- especially when we are exercising regularly. Anything less than that will trigger starvation mode in the body which, in addition to stressing the central nervous system, will cause the body to consume muscle in order to feed itself resulting in less muscle tone. Who wants that?
The next most important aspect of nutrition after the quantity of calories is to look at the quality of the calories we consume. For instance, an apple is 90 calories, as is a small snack size mr. goodbar chocolate, but which do you think has more nutritional value? It’s easy to see in this example- harder to see are the vast amounts of artificial and chemical fillers and sweeteners that are found almost everywhere- from sodas to salad dressings, to ketchup to barbecue sauce. For an eye-opening experience we recommend reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan. It deals with the fact that the majority of the foods that Americans consume aren’t even foods but rather a list of ingredients that no one can barely pronounce, let alone understand.
Eating whole foods is the absolute best way to go- pretty much every nutritionist agrees. Whole foods means anything that is fresh and unprocessed- generally found in the outer aisles of the grocery store. If you aren’t sure if it makes a difference, try it for a week and you’ll be amazed at how it changes your mood and energy level. And if you need to eat processed foods, choose ones that have both the shortest list of ingredients possible and stick to ones you can pronounce- they will be easier for your body to absorb and have higher nutritional value.
Whenever possible, reduce sugar consumption (it has been estimated that Americans consume a half a pound of sugar every day on average!), but if you will eat something sweet, less processed sugars such as cane sugar, honey or real maple syrup have been shown to be less fattening and healthier than artificial sweeteners.
Also, consider eating organic and local whenever possible- not only does it put money back into the local economy and smaller farms but it is also been shown to be better for you- and it sure tastes better!
At the end of a yoga session, you should feel invigorated, yet relaxed and calm. If this isn't the case, talk to your instructor. He or she might have suggestions for you.