All too often I hear people saying ‘you should do yoga, it’s good for you’. People are being told by their doctors or physios to ‘do yoga’ as a way to help with all sorts of sports injuries and back problems.
My concern with this advice is that it’s way too broad.
I’ve been practising yoga for years, trying out different classes and different styles of yoga. I found I was drawn to classes that provided lots of opportunity to stretch as I was naturally flexible. I enjoyed the feeling of ‘letting go’ in a pose. But the next day I’d be in pain. Proper pain which needed painkillers to help me manage it. I couldn’t understand it. Surely it wasn’t the yoga that was causing this because all yoga is good for you. Isn’t it? Yoga just has this image of being the perfect answer to all our problems.
This kept happening and for a while I stopped practising. No matter which class or style I was attending, I just experienced pains the next day. Or sometimes during class. I often found my wrists just couldn’t cope with any weight bearing or that my shoulders would ache so bad if I held my arms up. I started to think that maybe yoga wasn’t good for me after all so it was better to stop.
But that didn’t feel right either because I loved my time on the mat, the philosophy and opportunity to re-connect with your own self.
It was when I embarked on my training to be a pelvic floor specialist that I began to find the reasons for my pain and discomfort.
Here’s what was happening for me…
I’m hyper mobile so I have a tendency to be really flexible in many of my joints. Because of this flexibility there is very little opportunity to build strength in my muscles – especially if I let my body relax down into a pose as far as it can go. I was enjoying the momentary stretchy feeling and paying for it later. And I hate to admit it but I was letting my ego take control as I enjoyed achieving all these advanced stretches.
By learning more about the science of movement, human anatomy and importance of building strength and stability rather than flexibility I started to be able to change how I practiced each pose.
I’ve been on quite a ‘movement’ journey over the last 2 years, learning from movement educators all around the globe! Learning about biomechanics, barefoot shoes and dangers of sitting too much!!
I’ve changed how I practice on the mat because I now know what’s good for my body. So in answer to my own question, ‘is yoga always good for you?’ my simple answer is no. But also yes – if you know how to move your body and adapt the poses to suit you!
Group classes vs 1-2-1
I love group yoga classes for the opportunity to practice together and build a community. My only concern is that if you’re only ever practising in a group, that you may not be practicing the poses in a way that will help you to be strong and mobile. You may be trying to achieve a range of movement that’s just not possible for your body right now or over stretching like I was!
Recently, I’ve been working with women in small group classes to help them find more ease and comfort in their yoga practice. Working 1-2-1 or even in a small group gives me the opportunity to assess how your body moves. Together we can work out when to use props to support the body and where to place your body so that you can benefit from the practice.
By deconstructing your current practice we can re-build a stronger version that will ensure you’re practicing in a safe and sustainable way.
If you’d like support to help refine your yoga poses then get in touch about my 1-2-1 yoga coaching.
You might also be interested in reading how private yoga can help your aches and pains