Just like in other physical exercises and activities, yoga students are prone to injury. We reached out to 12 Seattle-area yoga teachers and asked for their advice on how to avoid injury when starting up yoga. Here is what they had to say:


Focus within the four corners of your mat. It’s easy to get inundated with yoga class distractions – “she’s so good at yoga” “do I fit in here?” or “woah, what is that person doing?!” But distraction breeds injury. The parts of your brain that “light up” during self-perception and bodily awareness aren’t activated as much when you either look in a mirror or think of how someone else perceives you. The lesson: let the mirrors and other yogis go. You know your body best. You’re the only one in it! When you commit to self-awareness you also protect yourself from pain. Enid Rosalyn Spitz


Because I primarily work with athletes, I like to joke with them that they’re not trying to win the yoga class. And this applies to everyone! In my own practice, the times that I’ve gotten injured have been when I felt like I had to make a pose look the way someone else in the room was doing it. There’s no winning or losing at yoga; it’s all a practice. There are a lot of variations because not everything works for every body, and that’s part of what’s awesome about doing yoga.Kat Selvocki


Learn to listen to your body, which is a process in and of itself. This is best done through cultivating the breath. I always tell my students, “Everything that comes out of my mouth is just a suggestion, except for the breathing part. You must breath. The rest is up to you.”Anna Holden


Let go of how you think a pose is supposed to look, and instead tune in to how the pose makes you feel. Teachers can offer alignment cues and suggest props and modifications, but only you know what’s happening inside your body. The practice of turning inward and really listening to your body is one of yoga’s essential lessons—and an invaluable tool for preventing injury.Jennifer Ball

Laura Humpf-yoga-seattle

Make your practice your own. Listen to your body because you are the expert of it, not me or anyone else. Honor the signals, warnings and sensations that your body offers you. Learn the difference between physical pain and strong sensation. Learn from your mistakes. Yoga was a pathway both to injury and healing for me, and it was a huge lesson to wake up and pay attention. The pain taught me to listen, and through that listening (and an amazing PT) I healed. Our culture is into the, “No pain, no gain” mentality, and I believe in the “No pain, no pain” mentality. This is a new idea for most people, so it can be hard to put it into practice. This mentality, like handstands and arm balances, is something we can practice over and over, and it does get easier the more that we practice it.Laura Humpf


Listen to your body. You don’t wait until your tank is completely empty before you refill the gas in your car, so don’t wait until you’re exhausted to take a rest. Child’s pose is always available to you. Don’t be afraid to modify a pose if you’ll receive a greater benefit from a pose that appears to be less advanced. Everybody’s body is different, and you know your body better than the yoga instructor does. Gabriella Horowitz


The most important thing to remember is to relax. Anxiety to do more, fear of being judged, doubt in your ability, etc. all increase tension and take your awareness outside. Instead relax and turn your awareness inside. Your body is constantly telling you when to go deeper and when to stop. You just need to listen! Pavel Dmitriev


If you notice you are holding your breath, you have gone too far away; back off the degree of posture, start with the place where you can maintain the calm breathing. Stick with the instruction word by word. Move slow rather than abrupt and too quick. Be patient with your progress trusting the process of yoga; you are getting the benefit from day 1.Saiko Malae Shima


Don’t try to do too much too soon. Too many people try the hardest version of the pose right away- Always opt for the most modified pose you can do correctly with proper alignmentJenniferlyn Chiemingo


Don’t focus so much on finding a deeper pose, it will naturally come to you when your body relaxes and settles. If you are hurting, back off. Once you are into the pose and you are ready to come out, move out slower than you came in!Alexis Zurdo


I think this is the teacher’s responsibility primarily. When you have a beginner in class, the instructor should simplify instructions, demonstrate clearly, offer variations, modifications, props and watch the new student carefully. If the student does not listen and tries to overdo it, the teacher should casually remind the class about kindness or ahimsa ( non-violence) towards the body and how asana practice is not an exercise. Arundhati Baitmangalkar

We hope you enjoyed reading the advice shared by this group of local yoga teachers. This article is part of a series of articles focused on yoga for beginners. Make sure to read the first article focused on yoga for beginners advice for your first yoga class and the second one focused on the most common mistakes to avoid in yoga.

Interested in more content like this? Get social with us: