I've written posts in the past about yoga for back care, but increasingly, I have evidenced students becoming injured by yoga, often when the yoga is taught to focus on achieving specific shapes, regardless of whether a person's body can achieve those shapes, or moving from one posture to another too quickly, resulting in insufficient time for the body to 'rebound' or transition safely. This has influenced how I teach and practice myself over the years.
I try to bring a mindfulness to practice, focused on why we might want to practice a certain posture:
- what are the benefits of such a shape for our bodies?
- how might different bodies move into or out of the shape?
- are there some shapes that just do not work for some backs, hips, knees, wrists etc.?
- and what modifications or variations, if any, might we choose or be guided towards by a knowledgeable teacher?
We can question whether the postures practiced will have long-term benefits for our joints and range of motion, or whether they are too extreme or challenging or likely to result in injury. We can question why we might do things that are painful or hurting us, and we can speak up and say 'this doesn't feel right for my body today', I will do this instead.
As a yoga teacher, I have worked with many students with back pain or stiffness, and as I found with my own lower back problems, a really careful, slow and mindful approach to yoga is nearly always best. I focus on teaching postures that gradually ease into the shape, spend sufficient time in the shape to explore the muscles, tendons, ligaments or connective tissues being shifted by time spent there, and then give these same tissues time to rebound back by slowly coming out of the shape, resting before the next one and taking time. It is why I teach a gentle mix of yin and yang yoga, focused on back care and overall joint health and wellbeing first and foremost.