Yoga Injuries: Part II

Last time we talked about how yoga injuries can result from a lack of knowledge from the teacher or the student. This time we’re going to go over what injuries are most common in yoga and how they often come about with regards to specific poses and ways of practicing.

Although yoga is a more gentle practice that is usually less intense than more impactive exercises such as running, or playing sports there are still possibilities for injuries to occur if you aren’t careful while doing your sequences. Though yoga injuries are quite rare - they do occur and when they occur they can be painful and lasting simply because of the nature of yoga and it’s complex poses so it’s important to take them seriously.

When yoga injuries happen it’s almost always because a student pushed themselves beyond their limits and tried to do a pose they weren’t ready for yet. This often ends up with a knee, hamstring, or sacrum injury though there are many others that occur as well. These kinds of injuries can take many months to heal completely (if they ever do) and should definitely be avoided. It’s important to take care to do your poses properly because as good as yoga can be for healing injuries is as bad as it can be for causing injuries when it’s practiced incorrectly.

Whenever you push yourself too far during your class or attempt advanced poses that aren’t within your range yet you risk injuring yourself and creating bad habits within your yoga practice. It’s also common for injuries to be sustained while attempting to show off in poses that are beyond your capability as well as from practicing without proper warm up and good sequencing. However this doesn’t mean that we should stop practicing yoga or that it’s a road map to injury. Instead all it means is that we get to be mindful about the way in which we do our poses and be sure that we are staying within our body’s limits and comfort zones while still challenging ourselves to develop our practice.

One of the best ways to avoid injury is simply to make sure that you always feel your body and it’s limits before attempting to deepen a pose in any way. If you know what your range is and know how far you can push yourself your much less likely to suffer an injury than someone who is unfamiliar with what their body can and can’t do.

It’s also important to work with an experienced yoga teacher - one that is familiar with you and your practice and one that you trust. So many yoga teachers, out of genuine enthusiasm and excitement, push their students into poses they aren’t ready for and encourage them to go too deep into a pose risking injury without understanding what it is they’re doing. Many teachers really just want their students to progress but without more experience and a proper understanding of the poses it can be difficult to know when to encourage a student forward and when to remind them to honor their limits and not strain themselves to do a pose. By having an ongoing relationship with a particular teacher your teacher can learn your strengths and areas that need improvement and can also be aware of any unique challenges or situations that can be incorporated into your yoga practice which means your less likely to have an injury due to an inexperience teacher or one who isn’t aware of your particular challenges.

The most common yoga injuries are based in the neck, the knees, and the spine, as these are all areas that can have pressure placed on them during poses. Poses such as forward and backward bends can pose risks to the spine - particularly at the base. Standing poses such as some of the warrior poses and reclining hero can put strain on the knees and risk wearing down the cartilage or stretching out the ligaments too much which can make them looser and more likely to have a joint dislocate or cause an injury. Shoulderstands are commonly a cause of injury to the neck not only to each individual student but often to students falling over onto each as well so care must be taken while doing them to avoid putting weight onto the neck and head and students should be very aware of their surroundings and other people practicing by them as they do this pose.

Although these cautions and warnings can seem intimidating to someone who hasn’t practiced yoga before it really isn’t something that should prevent anyone from starting up or continuing a yoga practice. More often than not injuries are caused by people who aren’t thinking, are acting to aggressively with their poses, or simply aren’t using their common sense. Most of us know that we shouldn’t force our bodies into any position that hurts or is difficult. There’s a big difference between challenging yourself into a healthy stretch and causing yourself pain trying to show off in front of the class.

As far as overall injuries in yoga go, Hatha yoga is considered to be one of the safest exercises around because of it’s focus on loosening, stretching, and strengthening the muscles which is a change from other tight, straining exercises that are more likely to cause injury. Yoga can be a very safe and rewarding way to stay healthy and in shape so long as you practice proper precautions, such as warming up, cooling down, and using the correct sequencing.

If you just throw random poses together without rhyme or reason you may struggle to transition from working on part of the body to another and you also may not warm up your entire body properly which can leave tight muscles and pose a risk for injury or spraining. You can also strain different parts of the body by switching too quickly from one pose to another but if your class has proper sequencing this is much less likely to be an occurrence.

As long as you make an effort to be well educated and informed when it comes to your yoga practice and use common sense when practicing you should be just fine and your risk of injury should be quite minimal. If you’re unsure about a pose or feel as if you may hurt yourself doing it then always attempt a modified version prior to trying the actual pose. Always ask a teacher that you trust for any assistance you might need or for help getting into a pose that you find difficult and remember that the best way to practice yoga is mindfully.