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Tips for avoiding Yoga injuries

There’s plenty of evidence in the research that yoga can help to reduce pain, build muscle strength and improve flexibility. It’s also an effective tool to reduce stress and anxiety and can help with general mental well-being. But it’s still physical exercise and whenever you do exercise there is a risk of injury. In this article I’ll explain what you can do to help you reap all the benefits from yoga without injuring yourself.


In this article:

  • Traditional poses aren't for everyone

  • Adapt poses if you have other medical conditions

  • More is not better

Here’s the video that I did about this for the Sports Injury Group:



Traditional poses aren't for ever


Traditional yoga poses are seen as the ideal to work towards, but the problem is that our bodies are all different. Several studies have reported meniscus tears and hip labrum tears as some of the injuries that people sustained from practicing yoga. In yoga, these injuries typically happen when you force your knees and hips into positions where the joints are strained.


Yoga originated in India. People from that part of the world are naturally more bendy and flexible. Traditional yoga poses are great if your body can move in that way, but if for instance you’re feeling a pinching or uncomfortable blocking sensation in your groin when doing a pose, it is an indication that your joint surfaces can’t move further past one another. If you continue to force that movement, you may end up injuring the cartilage inside your joint.


Top Tip: Don’t force movements. You have to ease off and ask your teacher to adjust the pose for you if the sensation is strongly uncomfortable or painful.



Adapt poses if you have other medical conditions


There are certain yoga poses that you may be better off avoiding if you have certain medical conditions or pre-existing injurie

  • Glaucoma: Positions like the headstand and shoulder stand have been reported to worsen conditions like glaucoma. This does make sense because the blood rushing into your head will also increase the already high pressure inside your eyes.

  • Low bone density: People who have low bone density or osteoporosis can easily break their bones. The research seems to suggests that, for people who have osteoporosis, positions where they take their backs into full extreme flexion or extension can cause compression fractures or the vertebrae in their backs.

  • Arthritis: Forcing yoga poses into end ranges can irritate your joints more easily when you have arthritis. This is because when you have arthritis it changes the shape of your joint surfaces and your joints may be very sensitive to being compressed.

Top Tip: Have a chat with your physiotherapist. Just because you have a pre-existing condition like arthritis or an old injury, doesn’t mean that you can’t do yoga. In fact, yoga may hold loads of benefit for you – it just has to be adapted a bit. Physiotherapists have an in depth understanding of medical conditions as well as exercise and are best placed to advise on how you can adapt poses or positions to allow you to reap the benefits but avoid injury.


More is not better


Yoga is exercise. Just like with other forms of exercise, you can overdo it and cause yourself overuse injuries if you do too much too often. One example of an yoga related overuse injury that I see in clinic is when people do too many deep hamstring stretches and cause themselves high hamstring tendinopathy – a condition that can make sitting extremely uncomfortable.


In a recent article on the BBC news site, a leading physiotherapist also warned yoga teachers that he was seeing more and more teachers with injuries to their hips which were caused by doing too many forceful hip stretches too often.


Top Tip: Listen to your body and your yoga sessions. If you like to do yoga every day, vary the intensity of the sessions so that you don’t work the same parts of the body at the same intensity during every session.


Let me know if you have any questions. Need more help with an injury? You’re welcome to consult me online via video call for an assessment of your injury and a tailored treatment plan.

Best wishes

Maryke

About the Author

Maryke Louw is a chartered physiotherapist with more than 15 years' experience and a Masters Degree in Sports Injury Management. Follow her on LinkedIn, ResearchGate, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.




References:

  1. Büssing, Arndt, et al. "Effects of yoga on mental and physical health: a short summary of reviews." Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2012 (2012).

  2. Cramer, H., et al. (2013). "Adverse events associated with yoga: a systematic review of published case reports and case series." PLoS One 8(10): e75515.

  3. Le Corroller, T., et al. (2012). "Musculoskeletal injuries related to yoga: imaging observations." American Journal of Roentgenology 199(2): 413-418.

  4. Lee, M., et al. (2019). Soft tissue and bony injuries attributed to the practice of yoga: a biomechanical analysis and implications for management.

  5. Swain, T. A. and G. McGwin (2016). "Yoga-related injuries in the United States from 2001 to 2014." Orthopaedic journal of sports medicine 4(11): 2325967116671703.

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