Tailor Your Practice to You

– Back issues:
 Implement a micro to deep bend into your knees for all forward folding poses. Transitional poses such as downward dog or high plank, focus on engaging your abdominal muscles and maintain length in your spine. Lastly, become acutely aware as to how far you’re going in standing, seated, and reclined back bends.

– Knee issues:
Avoid “locking” the knee joint, try to engage the muscles around the knee, and always keep each of your knees pointing in the same direction as the second and third toes of each foot. Try bending the ankle to 90 degrees to engage muscles around the knee, preventing unnecessary knee pressure. In standing poses, you can keep the back knee straight or on the ground (perhaps with a blanket cushioning the knee). The front knee in standing poses can be straight (but not “locked”), softly/slightly bent, or bent directly above your ankle (and never beyond the ankle), but always tracking with the second and third toes.

– Prenatal:
Avoid laying on the back or stomach but laying on the left side is appropriate for many. Widen the distance between the feet and point the toes out about 45 degrees when standing or when doing a forward fold. In twisting poses, ensure nothing (including your leg or legs) is in the way of the abdomen. You may wish to gently engage the abdominals and focus on hip opening poses and breathing. Avoid balancing poses if you are prone to dizziness. If nauseous, avoid any posture in which the head is lower than the heart.

– Arthritis:
Move slowly and focus on your range of motion rather than the speed of your motion. Also, reconsider the more fast-paced types of yoga including “flow” classes. Instead, try Hatha Yoga, Alignment-Focus Yoga, Restorative Yoga or Bikram Yoga.

– High blood pressure:
Consider avoiding all inversions (any pose where the head is lower than the heart), avoid holding your breath, pause whenever your breathing is not steady and slow, and avoid fast changes in elevation in relation to the heart and head (don’t quickly move from laying down to standing up).

– Low blood pressure:
Avoid going from an inversion (any pose where the head is lower than the heart) to an upright position quickly, or at all. For instance, move from standing forward fold to standing slowly, or avoid the inversion of standing forward fold by replacing it with half forward fold, keeping the torso parallel to the ground.

– Sinus pressure or congestion:
Try the same practices explored for low blood pressure. Consider a supported inversion such as downward facing dog with a block under the forehead, or supported bridge pose. Be mindful of yoga classes with quick transitions between inversions and upright positions.

– Wrist pain:
Avoid weight bearing on the wrists entirely. You can modify poses such as downward facing dog, plank, and low cobra by placing the elbows and forearms on the ground with the palms facing down. You may also use two blocks underneath each hand in downward facing dog.  

– Neck pain:
Keep your head neutral / in line with the spine and avoid collapsing into the neck by engaging the neck muscles gently. Avoid turning your head while the neck is weight bearing, or avoid turning it entirely. For instance, in triangle pose you could keep your gaze downward or straight ahead rather than upward. Consider avoiding poses in which you could accidentally put pressure on the neck such as bridge, shoulder stand, fish and plow pose.

– Anxiety:
Engage a vigorous practice, but avoid overly fast-paced movements and fast-paced breathing exercises if they agitate you. Focus on the exhales when concentrating on the breath; deep exhales ground the body, spirit, and mind. Be mindful with backbends – approach them slowly, hold them for short periods of time or perhaps try supported backbends with blocks and blankets. Also, try exploring yoga classes that feature a set series of poses if knowing what comes next puts you at ease.