Common Yoga Injuries and How to Avoid Them
If you’re thinking of taking up yoga to avoid sports-related injuries, there’s something you should know. Yoga, although considered by many to be a kinder, gentler way of getting into shape, carries its own set of hazards.
Decades ago, people who practiced yoga on a regular basis were a minority, but yoga has gained in popularity by leaps and bounds in recent years. Today, millions of people are attending weekly yoga classes, and sometimes the results aren’t pretty. Strained muscles, over-stretched ligaments, joint injuries, neck and back pain, even stroke and brain damage can occur when yoga poses are done incorrectly or over an extended period of time.
Reduced tension, increased flexibility, lower blood pressure, increased metabolism and improved heart rate are some of the benefits of yoga. However, the potential for injury is also ever present. Here are some of the most common yoga-related injuries, and how to prevent them.
Neck: Hyperextension of the neck can cause injury to soft tissue and cervical vertebrae. If you experience chronic neck or shoulder issues, avoid full inversion poses. Head or shoulder stands can compress the neck and injure cervical vertebrae. Never force your body into a pose that is uncomfortable, and consider using props that elevate your neck off the floor.
Hamstrings: The hamstrings run from the hip along the back of the thigh to just below the knee. Pushing your body into a deep forward stretch can cause injury to these muscles. Keeping a slight bend in your knees and remembering not to bounce when bending forward will help safeguard these muscles.
Wrists: Placing too much weight on the wrists can be very dangerous. Spread your fingers wide and be sure your index fingers and the heels of your hands are both pushing into the mat. You can also roll your mat or use a towel to raise your wrists.
Back: Lower back pain is the most common yoga-related complaint. Rounding through the spine causes it to flex the opposite way it is supposed to, which can cause disc problems. Bending at the knees can aide in avoiding stress to the lower back and protect the hamstrings at the same time. A folded blanket or block can take pressure off the lower back during seated forward folds.
Knees: When performing standing poses such as Warrior I or II, ensure your body is bearing weight properly by maintaining a straight line from knee to heel. If chronic knee pain is an issue, use a block or rolled up towel or blanket under the knees when in cross legged positions.
When practicing yoga, whether it’s your first class or you’ve been doing it for years, the best way to avoid injury is to warm up before class and never force your body into any position.