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When yoga may not help
Shilpa Shet
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April 04, 2007

If Shalini Patil knew doing yoga would lead to an injury, she would have never joined a yoga class. "I had never done yoga in my life," she says. "But, because my job requires me to sit for 8-10 hours in one place, I was told I should practise it."

She followed her friend's example and enrolled in a class close to her house. The first two days were tiring, but not too stressful.

On the third day, trouble hit. "I had a very tiring day at office. When I went for my class, I was already bushed. After the warm-up, when the asanas began, I just couldn't muster the strength to do them," she recalls.

While doing one of the asanas, Shalini realised she had become locked in the position. "With the help of my teacher, I managed to correct my posture, but the pain was unbearable," she says. "I couldn't move or walk. I went to an orthopaedic and was duly told I was a fool to do yoga asanas."

Shalini was also told that this was because she has lax ligaments. She had never faced a problem because of her ligaments and therefore did not know she had the condition. Ligaments support the joints. When the ligaments are lax, injuries are common and that can give rise to pain.

It is conditions like these that make yoga seem like a hazard for some. It is therefore critical to know if yoga suits your body structure and constitution.

According to a note in the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons site, 'Yoga can cause muscle strain, torn ligaments or more serious injuries if practised incorrectly.'

Here's what you need to do:

1. Talk to your family doctor before enrolling for a class. You must do this particularly if you have a history of chronic muscle and joint pain.

2. Try out a few simple things before you actually enroll for a class. Something as simple as stretching your hands and feet can give you an indication of how comfortable you will be with the different postures.

3. It is a good idea to enroll yourself with a certified yoga practitioner. There are many institutes like the Yoga Institute, Mumbai and Iyengar Institute, Pune, that offer courses on teaching yoga. Request for a sample class first, then decide whether you want to join.

4. Enroll at a class close to your residence. This gives you two advantages. You will not make excuses for not attending a class and you can rush home in case you feel tired or unwell.

5. Walk to your class. It will provide some warm-up to your muscles. It is a good idea to do yoga in the morning.

Few basic tips

Once you have enrolled for a class, it would be a good idea to follow a routine. Here are a few basic tips you can follow before a class:

~ Do not eat an hour before and after the class.

~ Wear loose cotton clothing. You can also wear a track suit if you are comfortable in it. Even comfortable salwar kameezes work for most women. Men can wear track suits or comfortable pyjamas.

~ Tell your teacher you are a new student and that you might need help.

~ Try not to drink water during the yoga class. Drink water about half an hour before the class and visit the restroom before you enter class.

~ Remove your footwear and socks while doing the asanas.

~ Inform your teacher if your doctor has imposed any restrictions.

~ Teacher if you face discomfort while doing an asana.
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