Are You Pushing Yourself Too Hard? 6 Body Cues You Should Never Ignore in Yoga
We know what it’s like. You start something new, get hooked and a little excited. Sometimes a bit too over excited and you get impatient to get better, to see progress, to be able to do more, be better – fast!
We know because we’ve all been there. Yup, we are all human and this excitement and motivation is awesome! That said, when it comes to Yoga just like most other new activities, it’s important to listen to your body! Here are some signs that you might be a bit over excited, perhaps pushing yourself too hard. Listen out for these body cues that you should pay attention to.
1. Intense pain – There aren’t many rules in Yoga, but this is one we do refer to. That is ‘no pain’. There is a big difference between a deep stretch (that you can breathe through), or activation, hard work or strengthening of your muscles (that you can breathe through) and pain. Stretching and strengthening that you can put up with, breathe through, albeit it might be intense, is good. Pain is not good – EVER, period.
2. Neck Aches or Stiffness – Often the neck can be one of the first parts of the body to show the signs of ‘trying too hard’ in yoga. That is because often when we are trying too hard, we can start to strain the wrong area of the body, in an effort to ‘get’ into a position (either achieve what we think is the right ‘look’ or ‘get’ into a bind or a particular version we want to achieve). Sometimes when we start to get confident, or when we twist or move our head in the direction of the teacher who is demonstrating, we can cause ourselves neck strain. Or when we start to do headstands or shoulder stands and we try to ‘look’ rather than ‘listen’ we can cause undue pressure on our necks. Don’t worry, the solution here is simple. It’s to listen rather than look, and to focus on what it feels like, rather than what it might look like. As you start to get a bit more confident in yoga, the positions become a bit more familiar and that is when the really good stuff can start to happen! You’ll start to hear more of the cues, so listen out for those tips as to where and what you should ‘feel’ and focus on that. If you are feeling a tight neck or any neck strain, start to remind yourself in your positions to relax your neck. Even if the teacher doesn’t prompt this, if your neck is sore it shouldn’t be, so make sure you lower your shoulders, lengthen your neck, unclench your jaw and try to find strength and relaxation at the same time ☺
3. Dizziness – There are lots of reasons why you might feel dizzy during a class. It may be as simple as how much you have, or haven’t eaten that day, it may be low blood pressure or other factors. Or it may be as simple as you standing up too quickly (moving from the floor to a standing positions). Whatever the reason is, your body is definitely telling you to slow down and take a moment. And you should listen. You are always in charge of your body and you have to listen to this, it’s a strong cue. Stop initially, perhaps bend over and put your hands on your legs for support, and focus on your breath. Or you could try breathing out (rather than in) on your way up from the floor to standing. If it doesn’t pass quickly, take a rest in childs pose, because that’s what your body is telling you. That you need rest. And Yoga is about LISTENING to your body, so as much as you may not want to stop or rest, you actually aren’t ‘doing yoga’ if you ignore what your body is trying to tell you.
4. Sore at the Front of Your Shoulders – This is an important cue to listen to. It’s easy to get confused and think shoulder pain is a good thing, thinking you are building your push up/ chataranga strength!!! When you might actually be ‘dumping’ into the front of your shoulder joint, rather than using your triceps and biceps to move from high plank down to low plank. So double check your are hugging your elbows in nice and close to your body and ask your teacher to check your alignment. And maybe drop down to your knees, and lean your body weight further into your hands (probably further than you think) and aim to walk out of that class with sore triceps/biceps (eg: you are trying to work your bingo wings!) Dropping to your knees is a great thing – it doesn’t make you weak or anything else, it means you are focusing on technique, acknowledging a bit of fatigue and/or choosing to pinpoint and target a specific area for improvement. Now that, is cool!
5. Lower backache – Unfortunately, this probably isn’t you ‘working your back muscles’. This could be a few things – it could be that you are not activating your core (you are using your back to dodge out of stomach strengthening exercise) and, or you are not tucking your tailbone under, so you are potentially arching your back or holding your pelvis the wrong way. This is really common as we start to fatigue or when we try to advance ourselves forward in a position. Or for example if we are holding a position such as chair, or plank for a really long time – we might make a little adjustment to allow ourselves to hold the position for longer, and later feel the result in back ache. So our advice here is to slow down and take it back a notch, listen harder for the cues from the teacher, again ask them to check your alignment and focus on re-engaging your core, and getting that pelvis in the right position and work back up from there. It will be 1 step back, 3 leaps forward in no time ☺
6. Sore Knees – Knees get a fair bit of work in Yoga, and knee position is important. Sometimes we find that as students progress, they will lunge deeper to deepen their position. This is great, wahoo, go you! BUT you need to always make sure you are keeping your knees safe, and that is by always having your knee directly lined up above your ankle or behind it. Never forward or beyond it. A good way to check this (from above) is to look down and check you can see your toes and the top of your foot over your knee. While you are having a look, make sure your knee is tracking directly over your foot and isn’t taking a detour off to the left or right, as this is another way you might put unnecessary strain on that knee. Remember knees are meant to go forwards and backwards, not from side to side, so always keep them tracking forward.
Phew, there are a lot of things to look out for! But please don’t get intimidated or worried… most of these things are actually very normal… and easy to correct…. and most of us have felt some or all of them at some stage in our Yoga lives.
Often when we come to Yoga we start by focusing on the movement and the positions, and in no particular order we may start to focus on the breath and become more aware of our bodies. BINGO! That is when the awesome stuff starts to happen. So if you are noticing any of these things it’s a really really good thing, as you are becoming more self aware. Hold on tight, because you have just started on the next awesome phase of your Yoga journey. It’s time to listen, nurture and observe what you body is saying. One day it might be saying ‘You can do this, try that advanced position’ but the next day it might be saying ‘Hold on, I need Childs Pose!! Give me REST pretty please! Neither day is better or worse than the other, they are just different and the key is to listen, turn up and go with it.
All the teachers at Yoga Everyday are qualified professional Yoga Teachers, who have their own personal yoga practice and passion and have combined that with the skill of teaching…to share Yoga with you. So don’t be afraid to ask questions, come early, grab them after class and tell them what you feel and get any clarification on any concerns you might have. It might be one of the cues above, or if might be double checking you are doing something correctly. And if the teacher is busy, feel free to grab Paula or Hannah on reception as they can help too.
Another option is to try a different type of class. If you are familiar and comfortable in Yoga Flow or Hour of Power Yoga classes, you may really benefit from coming along to a Beginners Yoga class or a Foundations Yoga Class, which specifically offer more cues and tips per position, focusing on alignment. That could be a great way to seek clarification or alignment on what you are doing. Similarly, if you have been attending just one teachers class, you should mix it up and try a different teacher as perhaps they will explain something differently and you’ll hear something new that will help you on your yoga journey.
See you in the Studio Soon!