Any physical endeavor has the risk of injury, and yoga is no exception. A well-trained yoga teacher will help you to avoid injury in the following ways:
- improve somatic awareness
- lead you into poses in an incremental, anatomically safe way
- and create a space that encourages body acceptance and non-striving.
There has been a lot of conversation about yoga injuries in the past few years. Some of this discussion has been very helpful in understanding (and sometimes discouraging) higher risk poses, inadequate teacher training, and broadening our understanding of the physical body. Many teachers have increased their knowledge of anatomy. The rationale is that if you know more about anatomy, there will be fewer injuries. While it is certainly a good thing to understand the body, more information is only part of the solution. More awareness is the other part--both on the part of the teacher in his/her own practice, and in the student.
A safe class involves guiding the student into a greater awareness of their own internal experience. This way, students will not go beyond their capacity and will be able to truly "listen to their body" as they practice.
When going to a group yoga class, or practicing on your own, become a careful listener to your inner experience. How does your body feel? Where is your mind? Is it on your own experience or comparing yourself to others? Are you in a striving and competitive state of mind? Are you distracted? Are you behaving in a compassionate way towards your body? Make sure you take enough rests if you need them, and go into your poses slowly and mindfully. Expanding your awareness and sense of compassion toward yourself is one of the best ways to avoid injury.