Yoga is hailed as the “complete" physical, mental and spiritual practice or discipline that induces flexibility and strength. There are numerous online tutorials and videos that tell us how to perfect Pranayam or Bhujangasana, but are we following these asanas correctly? Yoga expert Deepika Mehta says the most common mistake people make is that they get the posture wrong. “For instance, not activating the core in strengthening poses could lead to back problems, hyperextension of knees and muscular injuries," says Mumbai-based Mehta. “Keep your pelvis neutral and focus on breathing as it will help activate the core in strengthening poses," she adds.

Another common mistake that people make, says Mumbai-based yoga expert Amrapali Patil, is not knowing which asanas suit their body. “There is a common belief that anyone can practise yoga. However, health conditions like heart ailments and respiratory problems could get worse if you practise the wrong set of asanas, and this could damage your body instead of benefiting it," says Patil. For example, something as simple as Yoga Mudra, which is a forward-bending asana while sitting on your heels, could lead to high blood pressure among patients.

Here are some common mistakes that people make while practising yoga:

Awareness

Patil says being focused is the key in yoga. “It is a very delicate balance between inhaling and exhaling, how long should you hold your breath, and the right body posture while performing a particular asana," says Patil. “You can’t perform yoga while watching television or listening to music, as it detracts you from focusing on your breath and that essentially wastes your session."

Even the mantras associated with the various asanas should be understood and recited in the exact prescribed form. “Even if you do Surya Namaskar, there needs to be awareness as to how you hold your hands, which mudra (pose) to select, how much you are inhaling, which mantra you are reciting, and understanding what the mantra means," says Mehta.

Perfect combination

When it comes to yoga, people generally think that they can mix and match various asanas as long as they are doing it on an empty stomach or at the “right" time of the day. “It is so wrong," says yoga expert Seema Sondhi. “The asanas should always be combined on the principle posture," adds Sondhi, who is based in New Delhi. What Sondhi means is that your asanas should be clubbed into groups like turning and balance asanas for the spine, and relaxing asanas for the body to loosen up after a session. “Clubbing these asanas together is essential since they facilitate a 360-degree movement of various body parts, including the back, legs, arms and the spine," says Patil.

Prepare your body

There is a misconception that the only precondition to practising yoga is an empty stomach for at least 2 hours before any session. But that’s not the case. Just like any other form of exercise, yoga too requires the body to be “adjusted" for the poses. “For instance, before you start with leg asanas, you should do Kawa Chalasana (Crow Walking) to prepare your legs to be attuned with your body. Otherwise you would just be putting pressure on your body with no result," says Patil.

Tight schedules and lack of time usually leads people to start their yoga classes straightaway with asanas, another common mistake that leads to the workout being wasted, says Patil. “Yoga is all about bhav (feeling) and bhavana (contemplation). You can’t be thinking that it is the last day to file your tax returns and doing Pranayam. You need to concentrate on your mind and body by meditating for few minutes before starting your sessions," she adds.

Competition

The world is competitive and there is a desire to excel in every field. You would do well if you leave your competitiveness behind when you go for your yoga classes. “There is no perfect posture when it comes to yoga, you can spend an entire lifetime to improve on an asana," says Mehta. “People fail to realize that yoga is a lot about meditation and that surely you can do a pose or stretch more than your classmate, but that is of no use if you ignore your breath, your core and your mind. Progression is the key when it comes to yoga and not aggression, perfection or competition," she adds.

Joint alignment

A common misconception is that exercise or any workout is synonymous with pain, and that pain is an indicator whether your workout was effective. This doesn’t hold true for yoga. “Yoga is not designed to hurt your body. On the contrary, it relaxes your mind and body," says Sondhi. “One needs to be careful while picking the right asana or pose with regard to your body alignment," she adds.

For instance, Trikonasana, or the triangle pose, in which the legs are kept straight and wide apart, in the shape of a triangle, while bending the upper body sideways, with the arms extended at shoulder level. If you have an injured arm, then it is advisable to not stretch it. In fact, you must stop when there is pain. “Yoga can lead to serious injuries, so it is always better to be cautious and know your body," says Patil. “Each yoga asana carries a list of instructions, modifications and precautions. It is very important to follow the instructions for each asana," she adds.

Yoga is a part of life

While this is relevant for most of the workouts, but especially in yoga, don’t expect to see results within a week. Also questions like “Why am I not able to perform that asana" or “Why can’t I bend and touch my toe", should not trouble your mind. Consistency is the key. “Yoga works on many levels. You can judge the effectiveness by comparing your present state of mind to before you started the session," says Sondhi. “Ask yourself, am I breathing better, is my thinking a lot clearer, am I more aware about my body," she adds.

Also, irregular practise of yoga is ineffective as each session builds on from the previous one. “Try and practise yoga every day," says Patil. “Do not think of yoga as an exercise. Incorporate the breathing techniques in your day-to-day life as well," she adds.

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