While the benefits of exercise far outweigh doing nothing physical, there is still the risk of injury for anyone who exercises regularly. One wrong move during a workout can result in muscle strains or tendon tears, and the same is true for even more gentle seeming practices such as yoga. While yoga has many health benefits, it can actually harm you if performed incorrectly. Although most yoga injuries aren’t severe, they can accumulate over months of posing misalignment and over-stretching. So what can you do to avoid yoga injuries? As with any physical activities, you can prevent injury by practicing the poses correctly and not pushing yourself too hard.
Common yoga injuries
The first step in avoiding injury in yoga sessions is to understand the common types of injuries that occur and how misalignment in the positions you take can put you at risk of hurting yourself.
- Wrists – To perform certain yoga moves, you need to press your hands on the floor. As a result your whole body weight is placing pressure in the wrists, which can be a painful experience if you stay in that pose for too long. You can distribute your body weight by spreading your hands to the sides so your full weight is not completely over them.
- Shoulders – Yogis often injure their shoulders by going into a shoulder stand pose, lifting their feet high in the air and letting their shoulders carry all the weight. Make sure your shoulders are strong enough to support your weight, and if you feel any pain when doing shoulder stand poses, switch to another pose until you’re ready.
- Hamstrings – Yoga poses like folds and the downward dog can injure your hamstrings through over-stretching. Bending your back forward to touch your feet while keeping your legs straight causes your hamstrings to stretch a lot. To avoid pain, try bending your knees slightly.
- Knees – A common cause of knee pain is the lotus pose which requires you to sit in a cross-legged position for a long period of time. If your hips aren’t flexible enough, your knees will feel under tension and can even be quite painful. Try placing a cushion under your knees for extra support until your body is more used to sustaining this pose.
Avoiding yoga injuries
Incorporating these pieces of equipment and techniques into your yoga practices will help you to gain all the benefits of your poses while preventing injury.
- Supporting equipment – If you can’t hold your poses without feeling pain, you should use props to support your moves. These include blankets or mats to prevent your body from touching the floor, blocks to help you get into poses more easily, and straps to increase your flexibility.
- Warm up – Warming up before doing yoga prepares your body for more challenging poses later. Do a few basic stretches for your arms and legs. Take a few controlled breaths to relax and refresh your mind.
- Communicate – Talk to the yoga instructor beforehand, and make sure you inform him or her about certain poses that you’re not capable of doing. When a pose is not working during the session, you shouldn’t be embarrassed to stop. It would be more foolish to hurt yourself. In the meantime, work on another pose that suits you better instead.
- Listen to your body – If you feel any sign of real pain during a yoga practice, do your body a favor and take a break. Knowing when to stop can help you avoid injury.