By: Erin Walkom, CCPE
There are many definitions and forms of yoga practice. In simple terms, yoga is a Hindu spiritual and ascetic (training and exercise) discipline, a part of which, including breath control, simple meditation, and the adoption of specific bodily postures, is widely practiced for health and relaxation.
The purpose of this document is to highlight key considerations for employees who currently practice yoga and those who are interested in starting.
Individuals with Special Needs or Health Conditions
First consult your GP or healthcare provider to determine if yoga is right for you. Yoga may not be suitable for persons with the following:
Potential Dangers of Yoga
Yoga poses can place stain on the joints and soft tissues which in turn can place a person at risk for injury or aggravate an existing condition. The symptoms of an injury may be subtle and a person may not take notice of the warning signs of an imminent injury associated with pushing deeper into poses.
The body regions susceptible to injury may include the knees, back and wrists. Some poses move the knee through unnatural range of motion (rotation, hyper flexion). Other poses hyperextend and/or twist the back, such as cobra (figure 1). The wrists are vulnerable in weight-bearing postures, such as plank and downward dog (figure 2).
Hot Yoga Considerations
Yoga can be a physically challenging activity. Hot yoga is performed in rooms heated up to 40 degrees Celsius (approximate average), which increases the demands on the body.
The hot environment can make people feel that they can stretch deeper and give them a false sense of flexibility. In turn, this can lead to strain of muscles and tendons and damage to the joint including ligaments and cartilage.
Hot yoga, in particular, may not be suitable for persons with the following:
- High or low blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Susceptibility to heat stroke, fatigue, dizziness or dehydration in warm and hot environments
- Beginners at yoga who are older than 40 years of age
Selecting an Instructor
Seek Instructors who have formal yoga training and experience. In Alberta, Instructors have the option of being members of the Yoga Association of Alberta (YAA). Instructors may also be Registered Yoga Teachers (RYT). If you have special needs or a particular health condition, choose an Instructor who is trained to work with your needs and ask them to provide modifications to traditional poses and exercises.
If You Choose to Practice Yoga
If you are just starting out, begin yoga in moderation (e.g. one class per week)
- Avoid excessive amounts of yoga. Like all forms of exercise, provide opportunity for your body to recover from the demands placed upon it through rest and alternative activity
- Bring a mat and towel
- Choose a mat thickness that will minimize pressure against your knees and hands
- Wear comfortable, light clothing
- Drink plenty of fluids before and after class
- Arrive early to meet the instructor, get settled and adjust to the temperature (hot yoga)
- Start slowly and move carefully through the poses
- Do not try poses that are too advanced and do not hold poses beyond what is comfortable or to the point of pain
- Take breaks when needed
- If necessary, ask questions about how to perform or modify certain poses
- Stop at the first sign pain or discomfort including dizziness, faint, chest pain, joint and muscle pain
- Seek medical assistance if necessary