Yoga’s not a competition. Modify.

Due to recommendations by others, along with my own desire to get back into a regular yoga practice, I have decided to start posting about yoga more frequently.

I may eventually start a weekly post one day of the week, but I’m not going to commit to that as of yet.

At BlogHer ’11, I participated in a yoga session offered by Filtrete. I really enjoyed it, but with my yoga teacher training background, there were a few things that bugged me about the session. I’m only going to talk about the one I thought was the biggest issue, though.

He never mentioned a modification for any pose. Not once. Let me tell you why that bugged me.

Yoga is, first and foremost, about honoring your body. Modification when one cannot correctly achieve a pose (as in without using the wrong muscles so you don’t hurt yourself) is considered a sign of strength and observed by other yogis as an advanced thing to do. Yoga is not a competition and in a class everyone should only be looking at themselves.

At my peak, there were several poses I had mastered, but there were probably just as many I had to modify.  I was doing at least five hours of yoga a week on top of about six hours of teacher training which involved some yoga practice time as well.  When it came down to it, I was just better at the poses that required strength and balance and struggled with the ones that required flexibility. There are yogis who have been practicing for a decade or more who still can’t fully achieve some fairly “basic” poses.

Moreover, there are a few poses that should ALWAYS be avoided if a woman is pregnant such as poses that require deep twisting. Two examples off of the top of my head are the revolved crescent lunge and seated spinal twist.  The other poses that should be avoided are anything involving abdominal work, such as crunches and boat pose, or lying on one’s back or stomach after the first trimester.

If you are interested in learning more, I found this more comprehensive article.

That being said, the Filtrete yoga session was fun and left me feeling refreshed and energized for the day. This post was not a complaint, but more an effort to inform in case you plan on taking a yoga class. You should always talk to your instructor before taking any fitness class to let them know if you are pregnant.

As for yoga, whether pregnant or not, if you’re new, you really should stick to the beginner classes for at least your first experience, so you learn the modifications for different poses.  I’m not preaching, but speaking from experience as someone who didn’t do that and learned the hard way after many unnecessary tension headaches and sore Trapezius muscles.

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