The romance between yoga and your hinge joints is a bittersweet one. In addition to being very conscious of your knees, it is also imperative to be mindful of your elbows. Either of these complex hinge joints can easily be hyperextended, which can lead to injury and pain. Generally speaking, hyperextensions require rest to heal, which means that holding postures will be better for you than flowing through them. For teachers, this means recommending a student to the restorative class and advising him or her to avoid the vinyasa class. Additionally, postures that stress the elbows will not help the healing process.
Yoga and Your Elbows
Hyper-extended elbows are quite common for active people and this can create problems for the average yoga student. Stretch your arm out in front of you and if it easily twists outward, then you will have to be particularly conscious of your elbows while in weight-bearing postures. Putting weight on a hyperextended joint will wear away the joint tissue and cartilage over time. If a joint is inflamed it requires a healing process that may include a doctor’s visit, hot and cold therapy, rest, or something else.
A good method to correct your elbows during a posture that puts weight on your upper body is to press your weight into your index finger and away from your pinky. This will naturally correct your elbow and you can easily see the adjustment in your socket.
Those suffering from tennis elbow should also be mindful of certain asanas to avoid aggravating the injury. However, by approaching your practice with caution, you can strengthen and improve your elbow joints.
Have your students try the following asanas to strengthen elbows without taxing them:
• Utkatasana – Chair Pose
• Virabhadrasana ll – Warrior ll
• Balasana – Child Pose
These three poses are a gentle way to stretch the tendons and ligaments of your elbows and keep them flexible. In addition, child pose will open your shoulder joints, which lessens the tension on your elbows.
Advice for Students
One pose to be wary of with weak elbows is Chaturanga or plank. You can always start by standing with a modified plank using a wall. Put your forearms against a wall with your feet behind your hips. Concentrate on your abs while slowly bringing the feet away from the wall. This will slowly strengthen your upper body until you can move to a modified, floor plank position with your forearms on the floor.
When you feel you are ready to proceed with Chaturanga without modification, be careful to keep your elbows tucked close to your ribcage. Make sure the crease in your elbow is always facing forward. You will need strength in your triceps to make this work. By taking a few precautions, you will find that yoga will help heal your elbows and eventually decrease your chance of injury.
Advice for Teachers
Explain to your student that joints do not follow the healing expectations of muscles. It takes much more time to heal and strengthen a joint. Go back yo your anatomy training sources and review them. There are no short cuts to the healing process. Pushing a joint to be strengthened before it is ready may cause setbacks. For this reason, a medical professional should be consulted.
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