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How to do Yoga online and avoid getting injured?

Yoga means UNION.

It's the marriage of the breath and the movement, of the body and the mind. And, if you want to go deeper, it's the union of all the parts of you together... and then, of you with others and everything around you.

But it can just be about the breath and the movement if you're not into the spiritual part of it.

Whatever the case, there is one rule I've come to realize is fundamental to getting any benefits of Yoga at all, and in the same time, making sure you don't accidentally hurt yourself while doing it.

And it's this: Conscious Breathing.

No matter your reasons for practicing Yoga (or any physical exercise for that matter), you gotta bring your breath into it.

I know it sounds simple, but it isn't actually always so.

Although, we all breathe all the time (hopefully), unfortunately most of the time we don't breathe deeply enough and we breathe without being aware of it. Conscious breathing is a mindfulness practice that you can develop and use in your everyday life, but it's especially crucial when doing yoga or any kind of physical activity.

Have you ever noticed how every time you hurt yourself, (stubbed your toe or hit your elbow, got burned while cooking and other similar injuries) it was always because you were not paying attention? And if you ever got injured during performing a physical exercise it was always when you were straining yourself and- most probably without even realizing it- holding your breath?

I guarantee you that 99% if not more of all such injuries happen because we either don't pay attention or allow our mind to push ourselves in a very disconnected manner... disconnected from our body.

We bend and we think, "I can do it, I can touch my toes, just a little more, a little more", all the while almost holding our breath, or breathing though our teeth in a very constrained way. And then we're surprised that we pulled a muscle.

That's not the way to do it.

Here's what I've come to know over many years of practicing Yoga:

Your body will never let you do something it isn't ready for.

It will never allow you to bend deeper than you're ready to bend at that moment or stretch more than you're able to stretch. It will never allow you to twist your ankle or hit your head either. It always speaks to you, always. And all you need to do is listen to what it says.

But the problem is that most of the time we don't listen. If your mind is too loud, standing with a whip and yelling at your body like an angry boot-camp instructor, there is no way you're going to hear anything your body wants to say.

You will likely become stressed and full of (depending on your personality) angry, upset, anxious or other kinds of negative thoughts. And once we are stressed our breath usually gets shallow. Unfortunately this doesn't happen just with exercise. We tend to spend most of our lives living in our heads trying to exert force on and over our body... And it's no wonder we're like that, living in a society that conditions us to always push ourselves beyond limits, no matter the costs. A society that rewards the outcome, that's focused only on the final result. With which, of course, it's never truly satisfied, because it can always be better, can't it?

So we miss out on all the goodness in between. We completely overlook the journey which actually is the ultimate reward itself. And what's more, we often get hurt in that process of skipping the actual process.

We get hurt emotionally (but that's a whole other topic) and we often get hurt physically. When all you need to do to avoid it is to pause.

Pause and take a breath.

Observe your breath.

Your inhale and your exhale.

Slow it down and deepen it.

I promise you will not regret it.

Say you're trying to bend down and touch your toes. Notice how your body expands with an inhale and contracts with an exhale. Your muscles work in a similar way. Take advantage of that. Take a breath in through your nose and allow your body to expand. And then gently deepen your bend with the exhale- also, if possible, through your nose. This way, breathing mindfully you become "bodyful", that is: conscious of your body, present in your body, connected to your body.

This is how you tune in. This is how you listen. Listen and get into a dance with your body and your breath. Lead with your breath and allow your body to follow.

And as you're breathing consciously, be gentle to your body. You don't push it. Just invite it and wait for it to respond.

Sometimes it will follow exactly to where you want it to go.

Sometimes it will say, "I'd love to but I need a little more time".

If that happens, make sure you acknowledge it. Accept where your body is at and trust that it wants to accompany you to where you're going, but maybe it isn't quite able to do it just yet.

And then you respect it.

And as it feels your loving attitude it lets you know that it's open to practicing.

And so you practice. Always with your breath.

And you practice a little more.

Until one day as you breathe in and ask if it's ready, with your breath out it allows your fingers to touch your toes.

For some this dance will take a few minutes, for some it will be days, for other it could be months. However long it takes, know that it's okay. It's exactly as long as it needs to take.

Notice that I'm not saying to let it all go and give up.

What I'm saying is that you need to treat your body like a dance partner with whom you dance to the rhythm of your breath. And to do that you need a bit of play, but you also need a bit of discipline. And like with any dance, even though there usually is one who leads and one who follows it is never a dictatorship. It's always a partnership. It's a dialog. A negotiation at times. But whatever it is, if the dance is to work, that conversation needs mutual respect and trust. Otherwise it just doesn't work.

It doesn't work because using force ultimately leads to pain. And while you might not care as much about your dance partner on the actual dance floor I sure hope you care about THIS dance partner, because it's YOUR OWN BODY we're talking about, ONE AND ONLY.

So that's it. That's the very simple (yet often not as easy-to-do) secret to not getting injured. To making sure that even if you're a total beginner you will be safe starting a home Yoga practice with online videos only.

Of course once it's safe to do so I do recommend going to a class from time to time so a yoga teacher could check your alignment, plus to just get that experience of practicing in a group if you feel you might enjoy that. But for now, and for every day you can't go to class but could devote anywhere from 10 to 60 minutes to a date for your mind and your body, I say let them dance.

Now, the best online teachers out there will always remind you to go back to your breath. They will guide you with their voice or even their own breath so you know during which movement there should be an inhalation and during which you're supposed to exhale. However, there is a chance that you'll find yourself doing a class where they don't mention the breath as much. You can still do it, but just remember to be extra mindful because then it's all on you to focus on that dance, and I bet you'll find that sometimes it's easier said than done. Especially if your mind can't stop wandering off.

But remember that it's all a practice. And practice makes perfect. So it will get easier and with time this dance will become second nature. And if you ever get distracted and lose it- no worries, we're all human. You'll then want to bring your attention back to your breath and you'll get right back into it, I promise.

I commend you for being here and wanting to start or improve your Yoga practice, I know it will work wonders for you. If you're interested here's my post briefly outlining the benefits of a regular Yoga practice

Good luck! And Namaste!


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