Can Practicing Yogasanas be Harmful?

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Yoga has benefited millions of people around the world yet people still do question if Yoga is in any way at all harmful. Some of the most common questions that people ask include:

“Will I injure myself due inflexibility body movement during yoga?”

“Am I putting my spine in danger doing yoga?”

The answer to these questions is that only when a practitioner misuses or is being misled by the wrong concept of Yoga can it result in harm.

Yoga has been practiced for thousands of years by so many and has become a popular practice in one’s journey towards living a holistic lifestyle. The practice of Yoga is believed to help harmonise the relationship between the body and the mind, resulting in better health.

According to B.K.S. Iyengar, a reputable Yoga Master, “Yoga is te union of the individual self with the Universal Self.” This is likened to a drop of rain water that falls into the ocean and becomes one with the ocean. Similarly, the individual self, once purified, is freed from physical attachments and therefore once again becomes Sathvik, that is pure from blemish. Lust, anger, greed, attachment, ego and jealousy can diminish with the practice of Yoga.

The reward of Yoga lies within the pathway of self-realisation and the attainment of enlightenment. Therefore, all practices of Yoga aims to help the practitioner reach out to the higher self.

There is a misconception that the practice of Yogasana, the practice of specific postures, is what Yoga really is about. However, the Patanjali Sutras describe that the Asana is the third out of the eight limbs of Yoga. The aim of practicing Asanas is to help the practitioner master their physical body to promote health and flexibility to achieve balance.

Here are some of the guidelines that you should observe when practicing Yoga:

Do not be misled by advertisements
Yoga has become so commercialised today. Many of the practitioners claim to be qualified Yoga teachers and start conducting classes without sufficient knowledge of the practice itself.

Photographs of extremely difficult postures are usually attached on their advertisements to attract newcomers to join their classes. This is dangerous because people may be compelled to push themselves to follow the teacher’s posture without giving heed to their own limits. Some may also try to copy those extreme postures without professional supervision, which therefore put them in danger.

The practice of Yoga is not all about one’s ability to carry out extreme postures, but really to help raise your awareness within. Practitioners should always remember to practice Yoga according to their own pace and limit. Every individual has their own flexibility and strength. Therefore, be patient in your practice. When you cannot follow the postures demonstrated by the guide, do not force yourself but stretch to the best you can and stop at that point. Then, slowly return to the relaxation pose. Seek for advice from a professional Yoga guide who can supervise your practice and point out to you if you are doing the Asana in the right way.

Selecting the right Yoga teacher & environment
It cannot be stressed enough that one chooses the right Yoga teacher. Due to the over-commercialisation of Yoga these days, there are Yoga classes offered at every nook and corner of the globe. There are some inexperienced teachers who may be gifted with a flexible body, but that does not mean that they thoroughly understand the principles of Yoga practice. Just because their bodies can handle certain postures, they try to push some students to achieve the same results. This is a very wrong perception and it can be worse for men as their bodies tend to be stiffer than women.

Some injuries in Yoga owe to the teachers encouraging the students to push beyond the limit that the student can bear. A good Yoga teacher is one with patience and clarity of thought who is able to guide you step-by-step to attain the final goal. The good teacher is able to identify the students’ capabilities and demonstrate easier alternative postures for those who are not ready. Professional Yoga guides generally have a good understanding in the theoretical aspects of Yoga and the human anatomy. Equipped with such knowledge, injuries in the classroom can be greatly minimised.

It is not important that the practice of Yogasana be carried out in open air and be surrounded with mountain sceneries. Most Yoga practices today are conducted indoors. However, when selecting a Yoga class, assess the crowd in the classroom. Even for a qualified Yoga teacher, teaching a crowd of 30 to 40 people will not allow him or her to pay specific attention to the need of each student. Therefore, try selecting classes that have a small or medium crowd so that the teacher can easily guide you with less distraction.

Knowing your limits
You must know your limit! Yoga students should always let their Yoga guides know their health conditions. Doing this will allow the Yoga teacher to remind you to stay away from some postures that may worsen the condition or also highlight certain Asanas that may help you alleviate that problem. Students should not try to blindly imitate all that the teacher is demonstrating. Everyone has their own level of flexibility and students should therefore stop the exercise and relax should they feel any discomfort, pain, dizziness or headache. Neglecting these symptoms can result in sprain, torn muscles or dislocation of tissues and in worse situations, even brain clots.

Those who find their bodies stiff or uneasy while practicing Yoga, do not hesitate to request for the permission to use Yoga props to help ease the exercise. Never struggle or put full force in attempting to reach a particular posture. You can also request the Yoga teacher to demonstrate to you the easier alternative for the posture that you find difficulty practicing.

The practice of Yoga confers plenty of health benefits when practiced the right way. Yoga does not only enhance one’s spiritual journey, but also help one in living a holistic lifestyle. Remember that there are no shortcuts in all spiritual practices. Similarly, Yoga is also a fine art that requires discipline, patience, awareness and determination in order to attain the final goal.

Author: Wong Eileen

Copyright © 2012 Sandhya Maarga Holistic Living Resources
Holistic Living Annex (July 2012)

3 Responses for “ Can Practicing Yogasanas be Harmful?”

  1. mandygirl says:

    good yoga article! an excellent guide to differentiate what makes a good and safe yoga class. too many yoga instructors out there these days. most people go for the big classes coz we generally feel it's more fun. but never realised that yoga could pose some dangers on the body.

  2. Ivory says:

    And I thought that Yoga was all about trying to push our limits in reaching the final posture as demonstrated by the guide.

  3. Helga Smith says:

    Cool info. Will use the guidelines to select my yoga classes next sem!


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