Friday, 29 August 2014, 2:07 pm

Yoga poses not to be taken lightly

Yoga instructor Linda Summers of Namaste Studio in St. Catharines, Ont., guides student Mary Lee Kelly into a modified plank pose. PHOTO BY ANDREA CROSBYBy ANDREA CROSBY
Staff Writer
Injuries happen despite the best efforts to avoid them; however, understanding how injuries can be prevented can be beneficial mentally and financially.
Yoga is seen by many as a great aid in preventing injuries as the variety of poses target the areas typical stretches don’t.
Dr. Geron Cowherd, of Lake Street Chiropractic in St. Catharines, trains for Half Ironman triathlons and uses yoga to compliment his flexibility and strength with swimming and running.
After doing yoga for over two years, he prefers vinyassa flow classes, a more fast-paced and physically daunting class.
“As my body warms up, it enhances the stretch which better activates and engages my muscles, preventing them from tightening up and potentially getting injured,” Cowherd said. He would not necessarily recommend yoga immediately for his patients suffering from injury as it can cause further damage.
Cowherd suggested getting the recommended treatment first and then attending a slow or gentle flow yoga class with a qualified instructor.
Yoga can do more harm than good depending on the person, he added. Someone who is hyper-flexible will suffer more injury from continuing yoga practice, unless focused on doing poses and postures to stretch other areas to reduce the strain from being hyper-flexible.
“Yoga isn’t about excessive flexibility; it’s about improving one’s flexibility,” Cowherd said. “Learning to hold back within your own needs and being in tune with your body enough to listen to it when it has reached its limitations is important to be able to enjoy yoga safely.”
Linda Summers, a certified yoga instructor and owner of Namaste Studio in St. Catharines, said yoga has many benefits besides gaining flexibility, strength and balance.
“Yoga helps with mental clarity, helps one connect with breath, be present in the moment and learn to be appreciative,” she said.
Summers said Yoga is also beneficial for athletes and their sports performance.
“It helps to stretch out the larger muscle groups in ways that tend to get ignored by doing very typical stretches, which can lead to injury,” she said.
Summers suggested poses like cobra, upward dog, lotus or child’s pose to release tension in the lower back and strengthen the spine.
Pigeon pose, low lunges, twists and seated forward bends are some of the poses she recommends to try to lengthen, stretch and release the hamstrings, quadriceps and gluteus as these are the most common areas of tightness and muscle tear.
“Listening inwardly to what feels right for your body with the guidance of a qualified instructor to help find a pose with ease and comfort, is important in the prevention of injury,” Summers said.
Mary Lee Kelly, a Grade 7 teacher at Mary Ward School in Niagara Falls and a student of Namaste Yoga Studio, said, “Yoga has, over time, improved my posture and increased my flexibility.”
She said although some of the classes are challenging at times, she always leaves feeling fulfilled.
“Yoga is about understanding what’s right for you.”
Kelly said she is never intimidated to keep up with anyone but herself, which means never compromising her safety, and can focus solely on her practice.
Susi Hately, owner of Functional Synergy Inc. and author of Anatomy and Asana: Preventing Yoga Injuries, said, “Often when people have pain – whether from yoga injuries or other injuries – their world view becomes smaller, their perception of what they can do is narrowed and their perception of what they can’t do grows.”
After several years of suffering from chronic back pain and having that pain alleviated after partaking in many yoga classes, she became a certified yoga instructor in 1998.
 “It enabled me to become that much more aware of movement. I was able to be aware of when I pushed myself too far and had the patience in that moment not to do any more than my body could absorb,” Hately said.
Her book, the first yoga anatomy book in Canada, was written because there were no books available that blended anatomical principles with yoga poses, and this lack of knowledge she feared was leading to injury in yoga.
“The focus of my book was to highlight how the body compensates when we push too far. The trouble is that over time our bodies will start to feel the impact of that compensation,” Hately said.
“I wanted to highlight where most of the problems happen in each group of poses – forward bends, back bends, twists, inversions, neck and head – to understand the basic principles to move with more awareness; awareness is the key.”

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