Yoga Injuries and How to Avoid Them
Yoga is the best way to ensure peak mental and physical health. It helps you keep all muscles and joints in working condition even with age. Unfortunately, yoga injuries go unreported but that does not mean you should ignore serious injuries like sprains, fractures, and joint dislocation. A safe way to reap all benefits of a yoga pose is to practice each posture correctly without trying to force it.
Injuries That Happen During Yoga Practice
Injuries can happen anytime despite the exercise routine you follow. Yoga injuries often develop over years with the wrong stretching techniques and bodily misalignment. These injuries have long-term repercussions for your body and mind.
1. Wrist Injury
When it concerns using wrists while practicing a particular yoga pose it is all about leverage. Placing all of your body’s weight on the wrists with both your hands on the mat is the culprit behind the muscle and joint injuries.
2. Shoulder Injuries
Specific yoga poses like Urdhva Mukha Shvanasana or the Upward-Facing Dog where you raise the shoulders towards the ears, you often ignore the other muscle groups like shoulders, arms, or back.
Shrugging the shoulders can cause a serious muscle injury. It also increases the likelihood of dislocation of the shoulder girdle or rotator cuff due to overstretching.
3. Lower Back Injury
A common point of injury during yoga practice is the lower back region. Yoga experts often tell you to get into the rounding position during Uttanasana pose. The rounding causes the spine to flex in the opposite direction and that can lead to disc problems.
4. Hip Injury
It is a common mistake to overextend your range of motion with the hips when doing Splits (Hanumanasana) or other yoga asanas. It causes the tearing of muscles of the inner groin or thighs.
5. Neck Injury
Putting too much pressure on the neck during Sirasana (Headstands) or Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stands) often causes undue stress on the cerebral vertebrae. It also leads to loss of flexibility in the neck.
6. Elbow Injury
Practicing Chaturanga Dandasana (Low Plank Pose) requires you to bend your elbows out and towards the sides. Bringing the elbows outwards and lowering them down only causes additional stress on the joints, not to forget also put more pressure on your wrists.
7. Ribs Injury
Twists are the best yoga exercise for releasing tension in the entire body. If you overextend the intercostal muscles (the muscles between the ribs), then it increases the likelihood of you injuring the ribs during the practice.
8. Hamstrings Injury
If you spend the majority of your time sitting on a desk or inside the classroom, then practicing yoga poses such as the Forward Bend only makes your body vulnerable to a hamstring injury.
9. Knee Injury
Flexibility is an important aspect of every yoga pose. Sitting in the cross-legged position for extended periods of time damages the knee. If the hips are tight during a particular yoga pose then your knees are the first to feel the tension.
Yoga injuries are a result of bodily misalignment or practicing a yoga pose by following the wrong technique. You can stay safe from these injuries by taking preventive measures before or while practicing a yoga pose.
Preventive Measures to Deal with Yoga Injuries
Every type of exercise carries a specific risk of injury. If done improperly, yoga poses also carry some risks that make it difficult for you to continue its practice in the long run. You can still come back from the injury or prevent it in the first place.
1. For Wrist Injury
During a yoga pose where you put the weight of your entire body on both your hands, you can distribute the body weight equally through both your hands. Spread both your hands wide and press through your fingers on the yoga mat.
For example, when you practice the Downward Facing Dog, you can push your hips back to minimize the angle of your wrists to the floor.
2. For Shoulder Injury
You can minimize the risk of shoulder injury by not pulling hard on the shoulders while practicing a specific yoga pose. Just remember to pull the shoulders a little backward and below the ears.
3. For Lower back Injury
Yoga poses like the Forward Fold and Downward Facing Dog require you to keep both your knees straight. Try bending both your knees as many times straightening them can put undue pressure on the hamstrings.
For example, when you practice the Forward Fold, then including a blanket or yoga block to take the pressure off the back.
4. For the Hips
To avoid injuring your hips while practicing a specific yoga pose, keep your toes pointed forward. It prevents an injury to the hips especially when they are squared off in the same direction during that particular asana.
5. For Neck Injury
It is quite tempting to try inversion yoga poses. You should develop core and shoulder strength before trying these poses. If you suffer from chronic neck and shoulder problems then it is best to avoid these poses in the first place.
Try inversion poses only under close supervision and use props to lift your neck off the floor. If you want to practice these without any yoga props, pull your shoulder blades down and backward so they support your body.
6. For Elbow Injury
Some yoga poses as the Plank requires you to bend your elbows. You should not only bend your elbows but also keep them tucked alongside your ribs.
7. For Rib Injury
Try extending your spine upwards before practicing any yoga twist pose. Do it while imagining that someone is pulling you upwards towards the ceiling from the crown of your head. Do not twist beyond the point of feeling the stretch.
8. For Hamstrings Injury
Yoga poses such as Warrior Pose or Crescent Lunges help you stretch the hamstring muscles. Just go a bit slow and practice at your own pace.
However, if you already have a hamstring injury then do not practice any yoga pose that requires using the hamstrings.
9. For Knee Injury
Knee Pain is a result of sitting for extended periods in the cross-legged or Padmasana position especially when your hips are not flexible. Keeping a blanket or block under the knees while sitting in this position reduces the strain.
If you practice Low Lunges yoga pose then placing a blanket under the knees helps avoid the risk of a knee injury.
Yoga injuries are a result of not using the right alignment during the practice. It does not mean you cannot prevent these injuries before starting the yoga practice. Remember that proper alignment is key to mastering any yoga pose.
Tips to Prevent Injuries Before and During Yoga Practice
You should know that practicing yoga postures using the wrong technique or preparation often results in a serious injury. That does not mean you cannot prepare to avert such a situation.
1. Look for a Qualified Teacher
Previously, yoga teachers learned this sacred art under the tutelage of a guru. You too need to search for a yoga teacher with Yoga Alliance certification. It ensures the teacher knows everything about yoga right from beginner-level knowledge to advanced knowledge.
2. Proper Warm-Up
Warming up is essential before you start any type of physical activity and Yoga is no exception. You can practice the basic yoga stretches like neck rolls, shoulder rolls, or twists to prepare your body before practicing complex yoga poses. Yoga experts recommend you take a few deep breaths or follow a ritual such as chanting a mantra.
3. Exit Slowly
If you practice yoga poses like the Pigeon or Frog Pose, then remember you need to come out from the asana at the same pace as when you started it. It keeps your muscles and joints relaxed along with minimizing the risk of injury.
4. Never Lock the Joints
During yoga practice, if you hyper-extend your body then it places unnecessary pressure on the joints thereby increasing the risk of injury. Focus more on engaging the muscles around the joints to have more stability during the practice. For example, when you practice the Tree Pose then bend the straight leg a little.
5. Don’t Forget Savasana
Savasana is good for slowing down your nervous system and close the yoga practice. Do not make the mistake of underestimating the importance of Savasana after a yoga session.
6. Never Compete
The practice of yoga is more about knowing your true self rather than focusing on others. Many yoga injuries occur when you try to do a complex pose that another student is doing. You need to stop competing with others and focus more on how you perform a specific asana.
7. Don’t Forget to Communicate
Before starting a yoga class, share any pre-existing medical conditions you have with the teacher. For example, be clear if you have slip disc, joint and muscle issues, or any fractures.
If you are having an issue with using a yoga prop then make sure to communicate the same with the teacher to get support.