Mr. Sumit Sharma is an Orthopedic Physiotherapist, YACEP provider and the originator of the “Therapeutic Yoga healing” program though which he helps people in India and around the world.
In this interview, he answers questions about the common muscle imbalances and injuries prevalent today, and provides tips for yoga students, teachers and the community on how to overcome and prevent injuries.
Sumit is known for his dynamic teaching style and charismatic personality. To date, he has taught hundreds of students from over 35 countries. He has a Master’s degree in Physical Therapy, a Diploma in Sports Medicine and has taught Anatomy as part of YTT 200 and 300-hour Teacher Training on behalf of Siddhi Yoga, Shiva Yoga Peeth and Association of Yoga and Meditation in Rishikesh. Earlier in his career, he worked as Head of Department of Nirmal Ashram, a hospital based in Rishikesh and as Chief Physiotherapist at Shiva Cricket Academy.
I met Sumit during my 300 hour YTT where he taught Anatomy, and was impressed by his knowledge and teaching style.
Below is an excerpt from the interview:
Q: How and when did you move into the Yoga community from the medical field?
I enjoyed working at Nirmal hospital for many years as a Physiotherapist. Then I got invited to teach Anatomy to yoga students. Rishikesh is a thriving hub of Asana practice and I soon found myself very busy teaching at many schools. With time, I began to see patterns of injuries in yoga students and it became my mission to impart my knowledge of practical anatomy to ensure stress free practice for both Students as well as Teacher Trainees.
Q: How do you work with beginner students and people trying to lose weight with Yoga?
With beginner students , we have to first improve lubrication of the joint and teach them how to balance the flexibility and strength. In addition we have to build their breath awareness.
For people looking to loose weight with Yoga, we usually work on cardio vascular functions. We work on improving the breathing capacity. We measure the BMI, based on which an exercise regime is given.
Q: What are the most common imbalances that you see in the community today?
Physical injuries like hunch back, rounded shoulders, lower back pain, neck pain and/or imbalance, knee hyper mobility, knee pain etc are very prevalent these days and are related to our lifestyle. In addition, I see that most of the people are chest breathers which in turn brings with it, further difficulties.
Q: Can these problems be overcome? How do you treat these problems?
Life style related problems can easily be overcome through corrective exercises. I usually prescribe therapeutic and muscle balancing yoga postures based on the injury or pain. In addition, I also prescribe pranayama and restorative breathing exercises. The breathing exercise can even be done at your office desk.
The success rate of these programs are high. Within 7-10 days, the mind muscle memory starts to build up, and they start to notice the difference.
The lack of vitamin D3, iron, calcium, magnesium are also common which can lead to bone degenerations and joint pain or osteoarthritis. As part of the programs, I also guide them on how to obtain these nutrients though natural sources.
Q: What imbalances or problems do you see in students practicing yoga these days?
Within the Yoga community, I often see inability to engage the right muscles and a lack of understanding of how each muscle group relates to another. Yogis love to focus on core strength without giving importance to strengthening every part of the body.
There is a tendency to ignore the foundation which is the feet and the foundational pose, Tadasana. They try to work towards the more difficult postures without getting the basics right.
There is also a lack of breath awareness in many yoga students. They don’t utilise their full lung capacity to express their physical movements. Breath is as important as strength and flexibility and I address this in my workshops every time.
In addition, I see a lot of overloading of the joint. There is a constant struggle of Strength Vs Flexibility in yoga students, and hypermobility is very common. Making the body strong requires a lot of hard work, and often yogis get more caught up in the excitement of flexibility and making shapes that ‘look more yogic’. This is causing a lot of injuries.
I often stress in my workshop about how to release the stress from the joint and how to use the correct muscle group for each asana.
Q:What tips do you have for Yoga students to safely practice asanas.
Always check the experience and educational credentials of your teacher. Ask questions and try out as many styles and teachers until you find the right fit.
Listen to your body. Don’t look at the other mats or people. Make it your experience without judgments.
The most important advice would be to work with individual alignment and not with universal alignment. Breath awareness is a must in every posture. You have to learn how to use the correct muscle, reduce the load from the joint and work on staying long in the pose with proper breathing pattern.
Understanding your own body must come first. Self-care, and balancing strength and flexibility are the key to happy, healthy bones and joints.
Q:Would it be possible to adapt the yoga practice to all age groups?
It is never too early or late to move the body using asanas and learn to still the mind through pranayama and meditation . People of every age, every body types and ability can practice Yoga.
Q:What are your future plans for work?
As a qualified Physiotherapist in the world of yoga, I offer anatomy and physiology education that comes from my own passion and years of learning.
However, I am always a student and working on my own yoga practice, taking my 300HR training in 2019 and developing new ways of incorporating the Breath and the Body Healing within Anatomy and Physiology training.
I am opening a new facility called Nirmal Yoga & Wellness in Jan 2019 in Rishikesh. We are registered YACEP providers (Yoga Alliance continuing education program). The aim is to provide Anatomy & Physiology Workshops, Retreats, and Yoga Teacher Training, 50 Hours Anatomy Training for Teachers a few more surprises. Along with my co-Director Alison Quinlan Crinion we plan to offer Vinyasa, Yin, and Yoga Nidra to our students.
My plan is to keep spreading the ‘knowledge of correct alignment’ to yoga students and teachers.
A special heartfelt thank you to Mr. Sumit Sharma for sparing time to talk to me about his experiences.
Mr. Sumit Sharma has kindly consented to come to Dubai to conduct Therapeutic Yoga and Healing Workshops and you will be seeing him here soon. He will also be available to teach in a corporate setting to help your employees deal with work related imbalances and to show you how simple exercises can help deal with ailments. Please send us your enquiries and questions on firstname.lastname@example.org
Hema Laxman, RYT 500
Owner, Flamingo Yoga & Lifestyle
Photo Credits: Mr. Sumit Sharma