One of my students said he hurt his hip from a yoga stretch. Why?
Yes, you can stretch in a wrong way that's not conducive for progressing your body.
First he's tall and has not had a long history of regular stretching. He was reaching for his hip stretch, the piriformis figure 4 stretch and his legs are too long for his arms to reach. So he strained his shoulder and was tugging at his legs aggressively. He also has a history of back pain. Often tight hips and thighs are related to tight back. Having multiple parts that are tight make opening a stretch more difficult. FORM IS EVERYTHING. If you don't know how to put yourself in the right form, you're not going to get the right stretch. Believe me, I've hurt myself before in stretches so I can sympathize!
STRETCHING TIP #1: Never cause pain. Stretches should feel like you're pushing your limits but the "ache" should be TOLERABLE not painful. Be gentle---don't jerk or tug at any body part. Especially be mindful of listening to your body messages. If your knee or other joints hurt, perhaps you need to loosen something else before you do that particular stretch.
STRETCHING TIP #2: If you don't know how to do the stretch, especially in a group class, ask the teacher to come help you. You might need modifications. Also tell the teacher if you have a history of some kind of injury or chronic pain so that the teacher can give you the right modification.
STRETCHING TIP #3: Modifications are not wimpy---it's meeting your body where it is at. Always have a towel -- like a hand towel -- available for wiping down your sweat, providing a head rest, or for using it like a yoga belt. You can use the towel like a yoga belt to help you reach when your arms can't reach.
MOST IMPORTANT TIP! Breathe, imagine a balloon of air helping you loosen the area that feels stubborn---don't push on stubborn but use the breath to help you relax. INTERRUPT this pain cycle with breathing: Fear of pain causes you to forget to breathe. Not breathing causes pain. Stretch with curiosity, not fear.
NUTRITIONAL TIP / FUEL TO SUPPORT HEALTHY MUSCLES: Like most of us, you might not be eating enough greens and foods that give you enough magnesium to support healthy limber muscles. Magnesium is an essential mineral needed, and deficiency shows symptoms like tight muscles or headaches. Also, you're probably also deficient in potassium, which Dole Foods did a great job of advertising for bananas but coconut water is much more powerful to help you fuel healthy muscles (including your heart!). While fresh coconuts are always better, I buy my coconut water by the case so I don't run out! If you're not sure you'll like the taste, the ones flavored with pineapple or mango are tasty! Drink a couple servings with a meal every day to ward off tight muscles and muscle cramps. While I try my best to eat foods high in magnesium and potassium, it's easier for me to go with supplements and coconut water so I know I have a decent baseline each day. I don't want muscle cramps to limit my activities or ruin my sleep!
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