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10 Reasons to Do Yoga on a Grid Mat


Why do you practice yoga? For most people, it’s for the following reasons:

 To reduce/manage anxiety and calm "monkey brain"

 To increase flexibility 

 To build strength

 To improve balance & stability

 For general exercise (cardiac, circulatory, musculoskeletal, nervous system health)

 To lose weight

 To rehab after an injury

"What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.", right? Not necessarily. (Personally, I never subscribed to this idea.) Trauma - whether physical, mental, or emotional -can do permanent damage. The point of yoga boils down to this: We are presented with a series of challenges designed to be challenging engough improve our physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing but not so difficult that they create injury (acute or repeated strain), damage our self-esteem, or create uncertainty and confusion. 

Yoga is one of the best activities we can do for ourselves, but the truth is that it's kind of a complex practice – even the beginner classes.  And, if you are doing it wrong, you could be doing more harm than good. 

Everything about the Gurugrid is designed to help correct common mistakes and contribute to the goal of improved strength, flexibility, stability, balance, confidence, focus, and most importantly, safety.

Please read on to discover 10 ways to avoid, eliminate and reduce common mistakes, using your Gurugrid, and approach yoga with more knowledge and confidence than you did yesterday.

1 Find, establish, and use your proper shoulder width

Relevant poses: Chaturanga, Plank, Up Dog, Down Dog, Crow (Firefly, Pendulum, etc.), Headstand, Handstand, Pincha (Forearm Stand, etc.), Wheel, Cat/Cow, Candle, Cobra

              

Common Mistakes: Hands placed too wide apart or too close together on the mat. 

    

* Hand placement is the position that requires the most accuracy in yoga and unfortunately is the one that is done incorrectly most often. You can see in the photos above, how much of an impact misplaced hands has on the alignment of the entire body.

Short Term Problems: We hear the instruction "Place your hands shoulder-width apart" in every yoga class. But few of us know where that is, let alone repeat the proper positioning from one post to the next. If the hands & arms are not placed in alignment with the shoulders:

  • we put too much weight on one or both shoulder joints
  • displace the entire torso
  • reduce stability in the pose
  • reduce efficiency and effectiveness of the pose
  • create uncertainty and confusion

Long term problems: Risk of injury (most common is tendonitis), create or worsen thoracic imbalance, and reduce general stability. Click here to read more on shoulder injuries and safety.

or:

  • Increased risk of injury - most commonly, tendonitis
  • Create or exacerbate thoracic imbalance
  • Reduced general stability

The Fix:  Determine the proper shoulder-width for your body, find the points on your Gurugrid and use this exact positioning for all poses that require shoulder-width placement.

Properly placed hands (and consequently arms) improves shoulder joint stability and safety as well as overall balance, focus, and the efficiency & effectiveness of the pose.

Click here is how you find your proper shoulder width.  

2 Use the midline to correctly align feet 

Relevant poses: Warrior, Triangle, Revolved Triangle Pyramid, (Extended Angle), Side Plank, (Bound Extended Triangle)

    

A different perspective: 

  

Common Mistakes: Placing the feet in a too-wide or in a criss-cross stance. 

Short term problems: Placing the feet too wide creates too much stability and you lose out on the challenge and benefits of the pose. Placing the feet in a criss-cross position creates too much instability and puts strain on the hip and knee joints.

Long term problems: Create or worsen hip and knee joint injury, exacerbate pelvic imbalance, reduce stability.

The Fix: This one is easy breezy. The midline is there so you can place your feet in a straight line with each other.

3 Use the numbers on the midline to create the proper (lengthwise) distance between your 2 feet or your hands and feet

Relevant poses: Warrior, Triangle, (Revolved Triangle), Pyramid, (Extended Angle), Side Plank, (Bound Extended Triangle)

    

Common Mistakes: Feet (or hands and feet) are placed too close together or too far apart along the midline. 

Short term problems:  Feet to close creates strain on the knee joint (you want a 90-degree angle) and too far apart creates instability. Hands and feet placed too far apart or too close together puts pressure on the shoulder joint.

Long term problems: Risk of injury (repeated strain or acute), create or worsen thoracic & pelvic imbalance, and reduce general stability. 

The fix: The numbers are really helpful here. For example: placing the feet on the 4s on either end of the mat is a good placement for a woman of average height. A  (Did you know that the 4s are 4 feet apart, 3s are 3 feet apart, etc.? This is useful when directed to find "4 feet" or "3 feet" on your mat.) Knowing your foot placement reduced transition, set up and readjustment time & energy and help you find that happy medium between just enough and not too much stability. 

4 Find, establish, and use your proper hip width for "parallel leg" poses

Relevant poses: Utkatasana, Camel, Up Dog, Down Dog, Cat/Cow, Tabletop, Reverse Table Top, Squat, Wheel (for some people), (Bridge)

         

A different perspective: 

  

Common Mistakes: Feet and/or knees are placed too far apart or too close together. 

Short term problems: "Place your feet hip-width apart." is another directive we hear in every class. Feet placed too close creates too much instability and too far creates too little. Focus and balance are reduced and 

Long term problems: This is less serious than shoulder strain from improperly placed hands, but there is a risk of strain and injury on the knee and hip joints.

The fix: Finding your proper hip-width is important, but we don’t need to worry about being as precise as with shoulder width. It’s more about avoiding improper positioning. Once found and established, you can just pop back to that position without much thought or re-positioning. Click here to find out how to find your hip width.

5 Find, establish, and use your proper hip width for "extended leg" poses

Relevant poses: Hanumanasana (split), Lunge, Rotated Awkward, Pigeon, Lizard, Mermaid

     

A different perspective:   

   

* You can see how the pattern is used sort of like a train track to keep the legs in the right position.

Common Mistakes: Legs/feet are positioned in a straight line, rather than aligned with respective hips.

* I really did my research on this one. With the help of over 20 yoga teachers and physiotherapists, the consensus is that the knee should be in line with the hip. The reasons are: 1) You get a much better stretch in the glutes and Piriformis. 2) You eliminate stress on the front knee.

Short term problems:  This creates just enough and not too much stability for the standing poses and reduces strain on the kip and knee joints in the low to mat poses.

Long term problems: Placing the legs in one line rather than aligned with their respective hips puts pressure on the hip joints. Extending the knee too far in Pigeon and Lizard, rather than placing feet at hip-width can strain the knee joint.

The fix: Stretch the proper muscles, prevents unnecessary pressure on the knee and hip joints.

6 Use the symmetrical grid to avoid thoracic and pelvic shift & find midpoint

Relevant poses: Standing & Seated Forward Fold, Half Tortoise, Child’s Pose, Garland, Hero, Reclining Hero, Butterfly, Goddess, Revolved Standing Forward Fold

         

A different perspective:

   

* If you look at the above image of Forward Fold (red pants), you can see my pelvic shift. I took these photos before I discovered how to use the centre point on my Gurugrid to re-align my torso and pelvis. 

Common mistakes: Favouring one side over the other and shifting weight to one side due to pelvic, thoracic or leg muscle imbalances

Impact: The strong and/or flexible side gets worked more than the weak and/or tight side.

Long term problems: Imbalances become worse, and instability increases. Pelvic and thoracic shift can lead to overstretching one side and under-stretching the other, leading to exacerbating imblances and eventually reducing your stability

Increased pelvic & thoracic imbalance

Reduced stability

The fix:  Using the symmetrical grid to set up the on mat points and the centre line to aim the head and torso, we can eliminate this shift and avoid exacerbating imbalances in the torso and pelvis.

7 Use the symmetrical grid to perform poses in "mirror image"

Relevant poses: Warrior, Triangle, Pyramid, Lunge, Pigeon, Mermaid, Half Moon, Spinal Twist, Gate, (Wild Thing), Thread the Needle, Side Squat, Side Plank, Seated Head to Knee, (Revolved Head) to Knee, Lizard, (Fire Log), (Bound Extended Triangle), Hanumanasana

              

A different perspective: 

  

* If you compare the right and left (or top and bottom), you will s

Common mistakes: Favouring one side over the other and repeatedly strengthening and stretching one side more than the other

Short term problems: Reinforcing muscle memory. Need to unlearn movements Confusion? Lack of confidence.

Problems: Creates and/or exacerbates imbalances in our bodies – mainly in hips and shoulders

The fix: By using the symmetrical pattern on the Gurugrid, you can place your hands, feet, knees, and elbows in the exact same place for the right and left portion of the pose and you will be able to detect the weaker / tighter side of your body. Eventually, you will be able to work the side that needs more attention a bit more and even out those imbalances and improve stability.

8 Use the reference points to help with placement for complex poses

Relevant poses: Spinal Twist, Half Moon, Thread the Needle, Gate, (Wild Thing), Seated Head to Knee, (Revolved Head to Knee)

    

Common mistakes: Some poses have several contact points on the mat can sometimes be confusing and we end up just going through the motions and not fully understanding the pose or why we should be doing it.

Potential problems: With several contact points, it can be confusing to find the right placement on the mat AND to repeat it on the other side of the pose.

Long term mistakes: Learning the pose incorrectly and potential for strain on joints as well as adding to imbalances.

The fix: If you know your contact points, it’s easy to snap back into them each time and it eventually becomes second nature.

9 Use the numbers for consistency & to measure progress

Relevant poses: Hanumanasana, Seated Forward Fold, Standing Forward Fold, Head to Knee, Pigeon

    

A different perspective:

   

Common mistakes: This point is less about showing how to avoid mistakes and more about having the opportunity to boost your confidence in your pose and measure your progress.

Short term problems: Without the help of the grid, we can perform the pose so differently from one day to the next, that we are missing out on creating the muscle memory and not getting the all the benefits. Not developing.

Long term problems: Don’t advance as fast as you can. Miss out on benefits.

The fix: Once you know where to place yourself on your Gurugrid, you create a consistent practice that allows you to detect how your body changes and advances.

10 Use the lotuses for drishtis or focal points

Relevant poses: All poses that require a low focal point (Seated Head to Knee, Wheel, Pigeon, Lizard, Pyramid, Standing & Seated Forward Fold, Garland, Goddess, and Half Tortoise) and transitioning between poses

        

Video (jumping from Plank):

Common mistakes: Often, we let our eyes wander during static poses and transitioning between poses. Jumping or stepping forward from Plank can be especially tricky. Energy is all over the map.

Short term problems: Instability in standing poses and flowing poses. Increased risk of injury.

Long term problems: Don’t advance as fast – poses, stability, mental focus.

The fix: This simple action has a big impact on your focus and stability. Whey the eyes go, the body follows.

 


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