While yoga is often considered a practise that involves mild exercises, it – like all other forms of exercise – can occasionally lead to injury. However, this isn’t something that should put you off, rather something that you need to be aware of and, ultimately, help heal any injuries sooner rather than later, via other yoga manoeuvrers.
With yoga, it is important to stress that the chances of injury are small. A 2008 Finnish study found that there were 1.18 injuries incurred for every thousand hours of yoga practised. The study was conducted over several days with 300 different yoga studios surveyed – making it a rather accurate study. Compared with other forms of exercise, such as weight lifting, this injury-to-hours ratio is considerably small.
But, still, the chance of injury still remain.
Generally, as with all exercises, the best way to avoid injury is to not go all-out – there is no need to “be the best” at yoga. Ego is often said to be the main cause of any injury, and is particularly common in weight lifting, when somebody tries to lift more than they should. But, ego is prevalent in yoga, also. Always try and concentrate on what you know you are accustomed to and capable of, before pushing the boat out into more complex and demanding areas.
Looking around the gym and trying to emulate the poses being performed by other yoga students is not advisable. We all have to start somewhere, and allowing our body to gradually find the perfect pose is key in preventing injuries. If you are performing a new pose and you feel any type of pain, no matter how small – stop.
Lower Back Problems can be prevalent among yoga injuries. This is often the case when legs are kept too straight and the backs are rounded when going in to a pose. Props are also recommended in certain positions or as aids before the position can be maintained safely. For beginners it is best advised to keep a micro-bend in the knees and to keep the back straight. There is no need to concentrate on the abs unless instructed.
Knee Tears can be very problematic. Although sometimes they can lead to surgery, don’t let this alarm you – the vast majority of knee tears heal on their own. However, they can take a long time and put you out of action for weeks, which can be very frustrating. The three common poses known to cause knee tears are the pigeon pose, the warrior poses and the half lotus. Many personal trainers advise that the best method to avoid knee tears is to move from the hip while the knee bends.
Hamstring Pulls are also a common injury in many forms of exercise and sports. Although rare in yoga, they also make the occasional dreaded appearance. With yoga, working too intense on a forward bend can lead to excess stress on the hamstring near the buttocks. It is wise to go deep into a forward bend and control your breathing to apply oxygen to the length of the hamstring.
Wrist Strains are the fourth most common form of injury. While we often associate this injury with exercises that involve weights and rapid wrist turns, it also makes common sense that the number of balancing exercises in yoga that involve our hands and fingers can also lead to wrist strains. It is best to make sure that your fingers are evenly spread and that the heel of your hand is pushing into the mat.
Neck Injuries are of serious concern in any field, be it yoga, sport or anything else. They also take a long time to heal properly. Resting on the head before going into a pose is often the cause, as the body’s weight is being supported by the neck. Likewise, poses like the camel and upward dog can cause you to fling your neck too far back – be cautious and only attempt moves you are familiar with. Whenever in doubt, ask an instructor. Always put neck safety first.