Just because yoga can be a relaxing form of exercise doesn’t mean it can’t cause injury. Here are some tips for avoiding injuries to the back, wrist, hamstrings and shoulders.
Many people have the perception that yoga is a chilled and relaxed way to unwind. This can be true – but many forms of yoga can be challenging and push you to your limits (some forms, such as Yoga Burn, can even help you lose weight). Even simpler forms involve poses that take your muscles to the end of their range of motion.
For this reason, injuries during a yoga session are common. It’s easy to accidentally stretch too far or use incorrect form – especially if you are practising on your own. This can cause muscle strains or damage to the joints.
Aside from being painful, these injuries can slow down your progress. Many injuries take weeks or months to recover from, and may even cause permanent damage.
The good news is that you can reduce the chances of getting injured by using correct form and minimising risk. So, to help you stay injury-free, here are four common injuries along with some tips for avoiding them.
1. Lower Back Problems
One of the main causes of lower back injuries in yoga is forward bends. If not done properly, these poses can lead to bulging disks, muscular problems, and could even hurt your SI joint.
The best way to prevent lower back injuries is to concentrate on doing each pose correctly. This will help improve your inner strength, balance, and stability. I always recommend taking lessons with a qualified instructor even if you plan to do most of your yoga practice at home, as it’s important to get feedback about your posture during poses that might be dangerous.
Here are a few more ways to prevent lower back injuries:
- Keep your knees slightly bent during forward bends and your back straight
- Try to slow down when doing twists and breathe deeply
- Use your abs when doing these poses to help build core strength
- If doing a pose hurts, STOP
- Don’t overdo it, understand your limitations
- Make sure you concentrate when moving between poses (such as in Dynamic Sequencing Yoga) as this is a common time to get injured
2. Wrist Injuries
Because the wrist is such a small joint, it can easily be injured. If you have carpal tunnel syndrome or tender wrists, your risk for injuries is greater than someone who doesn’t have these problems. How can you prevent risk injuries though?
Firstly, you need to make sure your fingers are spread out evenly and that your index finger and heel of your hand are pushing into the mat.
Being on your wrists is not something your body is adapted to handle. If certain moves such as downward dog, plank, and chaturanga are done incorrectly, it could cause an injury to your wrists. Take your time with these poses and work on proper alignment of your hand and wrist.
Here are some more ways to prevent wrist strains and injuries:
- Don’t cup your palms, keep them flat
- Don’t move your shoulders to far forward
- Use props if you need to. They will help take pressure off your wrists.
- Modify poses until you build up strength in your wrists
3. Shoulder and Elbow Injuries
Another common area of the body to injure is the shoulder and elbow. These injuries can be caused by repetitive strain or stress to the joints by overdoing certain poses or positions. They can also be caused by doing the chaturanga incorrectly. If you begin to have pain, modify or skip them altogether.
As with all moves, if your alignment is off, an injury can happen. Always strive to do each pose correctly. Some injuries can be prevented by pushing the heels back and reaching the chest forward while lowering your body. This will take pressure off the shoulders.
Here are other things you can do to prevent shoulder/elbow injuries:
- Ease up on the Vinyasa routines if your shoulders are starting to grumble and try an easier type to aid recovery
- Mix up your routine with poses that are more focused on the legs
- Don’t be afraid to to use forearm support to keep the shoulders at the correct width
If you have tight hamstrings, you are at risk for injuries during almost any physical activity. Your risk also increases if your hamstring length is compensated for by extending the back.
This doesn’t mean you should blast your hamstrings with heavy stretching. When it comes to stretching, less is sometimes more. Instead, work on gradually increasing your flexibility over several weeks.
Keep in mind that it’s easy to over-stretch the hamstrings in straight-leg poses such as forward bends. Always keep a slight bend in your knees as you bend forward and lengthen the spine. You can also use props such as blocks to bring the floor closer during standing poses.
Here are other ways to prevent hamstring injuries:
- Be aware of any pain or discomfort during any straight-leg bends
- Never force your hamstrings into a position it’s not ready for
- If you feel a sharp pain, STOP
The main thing to remember when practicing yoga is to always take your time. Learn to do the moves properly and understand your limitations – there’s no rush! To sumamrise this article:
- Leave your ego outside. Don’t try to rush into advanced poses by pushing your body before it’s ready. This is the fast road to injury and, ultimately, slower progress.
- ALWAYS warm up! Basic stretches can help prepare your body for more challenging poses.
- Give your mind a chance to warm up also. Take several deep breaths to get centered at the beginning of class. Remember to focus when transitioning between poses – not just during the poses themselves.
- Ease in to yoga. Don’t expect to do the advanced poses if you are just starting out. Start out with a beginners class and work your way up.
- Always talk to your yoga teacher or look up answers to your questions. Communication is important. If you don’t know how to modify poses or use props, be sure to ask.