Abhyasa: consistent, joyous practice over a long period. This is every yogi’s intention, but at some stage everyone will experience barriers to Abhyasa in the form of a plateau in their practice, discomfort somewhere in the body or even an injury. At Human.Kind studios, the purpose of a physiotherapy-delivered Yoga Tune-Up session is to provide support for people as they work through these challenges. And to cultivate Abhyasa in a fun, playful way under the keen eye of a trained physiotherapist.
- high hamstring (near your butt)
- front shoulder
- lower back
We’ll break down and practically work through these challenge zones, but first, let’s get some perspective. Consider the context from which yoga originated…
Modern Yoga Injuries for Modern Bodies
Your average yogi in India a century ago would have a highly labour-intensive job, sit on/off the floor throughout the day, would walk for transport, or ride a bike if they were lucky and was probably slim with long limbs.
Now consider the context in which most of us practice yoga…
We may sit in-front of a computer for a decent chunk of the day, sit on chairs to eat meals, drive or bus to/from work and have long torsos with short limbs.
Ok, so I’m sure the yogis of the past also experienced injury and discomfort from time to time, but it is clear that our general daily physical activity and subsequent strength is not comparable to those times. In our Yoga Tune-Ups, we seek to cultivate and refine the strength and stability we need off and on the mat to overcome these inevitable but surmountable plateaus.
So how do we retain the richness of a yoga asana practice and adapt this to the modern world?
That’s the Holy Grail right?!
Let’s chunk it down to the hot spots listed above.
A hot spot in this context is an area of high load – a particular structure or tissue of the body that is being repetitively stressed.
There are two ways that we can refine and customise the poses so that discomfort isn’t experienced:
- Modify the movement to reduce the load.
- Strengthen this zone to have the capacity to manage the load
High Hamstring Injury or Soreness with Yoga
Starting with high hamstring pain. This is burning or discomfort at the sit-bones or butt when in forward folds, fingertip lunge, long pyramid, triangle, aeroplane etc…
Within a tune-up, modifications will look different for each person and range from utilising blocks and straps, taking a more manageable expression of a particular posture, or simply tweaking a joint position.
In the case of high hammies, we’ll take particular attention to ankle, knee, hip and pelvic alignment.
In terms of hamstring strengthening, a daily exercise that can make a huge difference is the drinking bird – also known as single-leg deadlift or dekasana.
- Start by standing on one leg with the hips square and the stance leg slightly bent.
- While keeping the torso and hovering leg in a straight line, hinge forward at the stance hip until you feel a load in the back of the leg.
- Press through the grounded heel to return to the start position.
With correct alignment (see a physio for this!), 20 reps each leg once a day to start strengthening this zone.
Front Shoulder Injury or Soreness with Yoga
Next up, front shoulder pain – commonly seen in chaturangas, high planks, lower planks and upward facing dogs.
A common modification here is broadening the shoulders by engaging the back muscles and may require planks to knees and a cobra instead of up-dog for a while while this new movement pattern properly lands.
A nice exercise to strengthen these back muscles is prone shoulder W’s.
- Start by lying on the floor face down, arms making a ‘W’ shape.
- Now lift the arms off of the ground by squeezing the shoulder blades together (broadening your shoulders).
- Next lift your head, shoulders and upper back off of the ground.
- Gently release back to the prone ‘W’ shape. Repeat 15-20 times once a day.
Lower Back Injury or Soreness With Yoga
Lastly, lower back soreness in Upward Facing Dog, Camel, Wheel etc…
Soreness in this zone is often due to core weakness/disengagement in a back-bend and thoracic (mid-back) stiffness relative to lots of lower back mobility. To modify, we will look at pelvic, spine, shoulder blade and shoulder positioning to more evenly distribute the backbend along the vertebrae of the spine.
Strengthening will target the shoulder blades – like the Prone W above as well as core strengthening in a back-bend.
To target the core, try kneeling heel taps. This is a modification of the reverse nordic curl, for those familiar.
- Start in tall kneeling with the shoulders drawing back, the chest slightly lifted and the core engaged (tailbone tucked, lower belly drawn in, front ribs tucked) – what we want is a gentle upper back bend while maintaining a neutral pelvis/lower back throughout the exercise.
- The movement is slowly hinging at the knees to tap the heels with the fingertips, then slowly returning to a high kneeling. There should be no/minimal sensation in the lower back!
Repeat 10-15 times once a day.
Yoga-Tune Ups Beyond Injuries
We can all work through challenges in our yoga practice with the right observations and modifications complimented with a bit of strengthening. The process is insightful, fun and leads to great satisfaction and self-trust when stepping on the mat. Abhyasa is the goal and we’re here to help! Have a chat with one of our wonderful facilitators, physios or receptionists or jump right into a Yoga Tune-Up to learn more.