Well, it depends. Let’s talk about injuries first.
If you have a recent injury that you acquired in the last few weeks and it is still sore at rest (when you are not moving the part) then no, it’s not the right time. In my opinion, you need to wait until the pain is less than 4/10 intensity and intermittent ( not constant, just on and off pain) before you start doing yoga. This is particularly true if you are new to yoga. If you’ve done yoga before and you are familiar with the poses, then choose poses that don’t hurt your sore part until the pain has died down. If you are getting treatment for the injury ( from your doc or physio), then ask their advice before you start.
If you have a long-standing injury or ailment, which is stable enough i.e. overall not getting better or worse, and the pain intensity is less than 4/10, then you can definitely consider doing yoga. In fact, it will probably help your injury to recover…but only if you follow these rules:
· Never cause yourself pain – no grey area here – pain is not allowed during a yoga class, otherwise you can injure yourself or make a previous injury worse. A stretchy soreness is okay, like when you are stretching out something tight, but no more than 4/10 discomfort.
· If you have a background pain that is ALWAYS there, then at the very least you must not make this background pain worse during the yoga class – you must be the same level of pain or better after the class has ended.
· Be willing to be different! Don’t follow me in doing a pose that is hurting your injury…either leave that pose out ( do some deep breaths instead) or do YOUR version of the pose that doesn’t hurt ( tweak the movement to steer clear of your pain). Be brave – we don’t have to be like sheep! I love seeing people do their own version: it shows they are being responsible.
· Be responsible for YOU. Yes, self-responsibility is really important. Don’t just hand over your body to a yoga teacher to instruct, you need to really tune into your body – decide for yourself whether something is suiting your body or not.
· Always keep within your comfort zone. So yes, it’s good to push yourself a bit in yoga, but get the balance right: push yourself a bit but stay on control and still at the level where you are enjoying the class….otherwise, what’s the point of doing it?
· Work the nearby joints/muscles instead of the sore area itself. As a physio, when someone has a knee problem, I’ll always end up getting them to focus on their hips ( above) and feet ( below) during a yoga class. Or if someone has a lower back problem, I get them to work on their hip and legs ( below) and their upper back ( above). Get the idea?
· If in doubt, book a 1:1 session with me to start with and then join a class.
· Check out my ‘Mind Your Body’ series of videos , explaining how to mind your joints during a yoga class. Have a look here.
What if you have a medical condition?
Once again, depending on the condition, yoga is possible and might even help you to relax and enjoy your body again. The best thing to do is firstly check with your doctor if it is ok to do yoga, and then tell me so that I know what adjustments you might need during the class or whether you need a 1:1 class before joining a class. Here are the most common precautions:
· If you fall pregnant, you definitely need to tell your teacher. Some of the poses aren’t advisable during pregnancy, even before your bump starts to show. There are many teachers specialising in pregnancy yoga so you won’t be left out!
· If you’ve had an operation in the last 6 months, you need to check with your doctor that you are ready to take up a yoga class. And once again, let your teacher know so they can guide you properly.
· If you have low blood pressure, you may get dizzy after some of the poses, so you may need to take extra care coming OUT of the poses…talk to your teacher about this to get specific advice.
· If you have high blood pressure, there are also some poses that don’t suit, especially the ones with your head upside down, so you may need to adjust certain poses for you.
· Detatched retina is another condition that means you have to avoid certain poses, especially those that have your head upended.
In general, yoga should feel good for your body, even when you are working it hard. Any dizziness or nausea is a sign that something about the poses isn’t good for you, and you need to stop or adjust them. Becoming breathless is normal during a movement class, but not to the level where you are losing control of your breathing.
So the general rule is stay within your comfort zone and stop if any discomfort occurs. Let your teacher know what your issues are before you sign up, so they can guide you through things.