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6 Times You Should Ignore Your Yoga Instructor

Prevention logo Prevention 12/7/2018 Amy Schlinger

© Provided by Getty Whether you're a yoga newbie or a seasoned pro, you've surely figured out that a good instructor can make all the difference. But even veteran yogi coaches might say things, cue yoga poses, or make changes to your form that you're just not feeling.

The upshot is that it's fine to take whatever your teacher is saying as a suggestion rather than gospel. "You know your body better than the instructor, so you know what's best for you," says Angel DeSantis, instructor at CorePower Yoga in Austin, TX. Whether you suspect that your teacher is spewing misinformation or just pushing you to a place you're not ready to go, ignoring her is always an option. Here are seven times when you might want to do just that. 

1. When she says to lock out your knees or your elbows
It's never a good idea to lock out your limbs, since it can lead to hyperextension. "If your instructor says to lock out your knee, ask her to clarify what that means," suggests DeSantis. "This is especially common in Bikram classes, which use a script that was written by someone who didn't speak English as a first language." The cue should really be to tense up on the muscles above your knee, DeSantis explains.

© Provided by Getty 2. When he says it's all about the breath

Don't get us wrong: Breath is a very important part of yoga. "It calms the parasympathetic nervous system, keeps the body warm, and helps us stay attentive," explains celebrity yoga instructor Kristin McGee. But don't think it's all for nothing if you can't manage to focus on your breath and your form at the same time. "You're getting benefits out of the postures as you're doing them, regardless," says McGee. "If you have difficulty with the breathing or linking the breath to the movement at first, be patient. It will eventually come."

3. When adjustments hurt

Proper alignment is great, but all bodies are not created equal—and if an adjustment causes major discomfort or sharp pain, speak up. Same goes with instructions that just won't work for you. "I had a woman in class once doing a backbend and I came over to adjust her and told her to put her heels down," says DeSantis. "She let me know that she just had back surgery, so I immediately said 'Never mind, don't put your heels down."

Along the same lines, you should never feel pressured to try a pose that you aren't ready for, especially if you think it could lead to an injury. "Yoga is a process, and you can evolve at your own speed and in your own time," says McGee. "You never have to push yourself too fast or too far."

© Provided by Getty 4. When your teacher makes medical claims
Remember: She's trained in yoga, not internal medicine. Yes, the practice does help oxygenate the body and get the blood moving, but be skeptical about more specific claims. Can a twist really detox your liver? Probably not, says McGee. "Certain yoga postures put pressure on the internal organs which may help massage them a bit, but our bodies have their own natural way of detoxing daily," says McGee. 

5. When he's dishing out nutrition advice
He's not a doctor, and he's not a nutritionist, either. So if your Bikram instructor tells you to eat or avoid certain foods to get more out of your practice, be wary. "You don't have to follow a certain diet to practice yoga," says McGee. And if you're told not to drink water during class? Nonsense, says McGee. If you're thirsty, you should drink.

6. When she tells you to chant or pray
Some people really enjoy the spiritual aspects of yoga, but it's totally fine if you're not one of them. "Chanting is nice, but some people aren't into it, and that's OK," says McGee. Feel free to sit or lie on your mat silently while others get their om on.

Related: Twin yoga - new trend to try (Provided by Cover Media)

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