Avoid these Common Yoga Injuries...
Updated: Feb 23, 2019
No matter how experienced you are, if you are practicing yoga, make sure you're aware of these common yoga injuries and how to avoid them...
Generally yoga is a safe and healthy way to improve muscle strength, flexibility and balance. In a 2015 review of yoga studies, yoga was found to be as safe as walking or stretching exercises, even for people with a wide variety of health issues.
That said, it is possible to injury yourself during yoga.
The most common yoga injuries often occur in the lower back, shoulder, knee, neck, wrists, hips and groin. Take a look below at the following areas for specific ways to help protect your joints in yoga.
Neck injury associated poses: Upward Facing Dog, Headstand, Shoulder Stand, Plow, Extended Side Angle, Extended Triangle
When doing Upward Facing Dog, Headstand, Shoulder Stand, Plow, Extended Side Angle and Extended Triangle Pose be aware of your neck and it’s alignment.
Imagine your neck is an extension of your spine. Avoid thrusting it too far back, especially during backbends, in an attempt to deepen the pose.
For example, people often thrust their neck back during Upward Facing Dog in an attempt to deepen the backbend. Instead, lengthen the neck so it’s inline with your spine and work on opening and broadening the chest by drawing your shoulder blades down your back and towards each other.
Shoulder injury associated poses: Warrior I, Warrior II, Upward Facing Dog, Low Plank, Side Plank, Bow
Holding tension in your shoulders can lead to your shoulders creeping up towards your ears.
In poses such as Warrior I, Warrior II and Upward Facing Dog make sure your shoulders are not hunched or shrugged. Draw your shoulder blades down your back towards each other.
Downward Facing Dog is another pose where people often hold tension in their shoulders.
In Downward Dog work on externally rotating your shoulders, this strengthens your external rotator cuff muscles. Make sure your hands are shoulder width apart, your elbows are extended (not sticking out), and your elbow creases are facing forward.
Elbow injury associated poses: High Plank, Low Plank, Downward Facing Dog
There are two poses in particular to be aware of when it comes to the elbows.
Firstly, when lowering yourself to the ground from High Plank to Low Plank keep your elbows tucked in close to your body (don’t let them buckle outward). If this does not feel comfortable or you don’t have the strength yet try lowering your knees to the floor first instead and then lower your chest and chin to the ground (Half Chaturanga) . This will help build up your core strength and support your elbows.
Secondly, if you are jumping back from Standing Half Forward Bend to Plank make sure you bend your elbows when you land, to lessen the impact on your elbow and shoulder joints.
Associated knee injury poses: Warrior I, Warrior II, Extended Triangle, Lotus, Half Pigeon, Hero, Tree Pose
When your front knee is bent in standing poses such as Warrior I, Warrior II and High Lunge be aware that your knee should be vertically inline with your ankle so that it forms a 90 degree angle. Make sure that your knee isn’t leaning too far forward past your ankle, this is where it becomes more at risk of injury.
If it hurts pressing your knee into the mat during poses like Low Lunge use a folded blanket or get a thicker mat to cushion your knee.
Avoid applying pressure directly on a knee joint, a common mistake often made is in Tree Pose. In Tree Pose you should avoid placing your foot directly on your knee, you should place it above or below the joint.
Wrist injury associated poses: Downward Facing Dog, Low Plank, Side Plank, Handstand
Poses such as Downward Facing Dog and Side Plank can put a lot of pressure on your wrist.
To evenly distribute this pressure and take weight off your wrists make sure your entire hand (palm and fingers) is pressing on the ground - and be sure to spread your fingers wide.
If you have wrist conditions or injuries you can modify Downward Dog by coming down on your forearms (Dolphin pose).
With Side Plank you can also also come down onto your forearm.
Lower Back and Spine
Lower back associated poses: Standing Forward Bend, Seated Forward Bend, Revolved Triangle, Revolved Lunge, Upward Facing Dog, Seated Spinal Twist
Forward bends and twisted forward bends can be hard on your spine and lower back.
It is important especially for people with low bone density to avoid excessively pulling themselves forward with their hands, for example, in poses such as Seated Forward Fold pose.
A quick test! When lying on your back using a strap, can you comfortably bring your legs past 90 degrees towards your torso? If not, then you should avoid Seated Forward Fold pose and instead stay in Staff Pose, seated upright. Here you could bend your knees and focus on the middle of your chest drawing forward toward your thighs.
Hip associated poses: Lizard, Half Pigeon, Warrior I, Warrior II, Extended Triangle, Half Moon, Goddess, Twists, Yogi Squat
If you have tight hips or prior hip injuries you can use blocks or other props to help support your hips, especially in poses such as Lizard Pose, Half Pigeon Pose and Reclining Bound Angle Pose.
In Lizard pose - you can place blocks under your hands or forearms so you avoid sinking too deeply into your hips.
In Half Pigeon Pose - place blocks underneath the thigh of you back leg to support your hips if they are not able to reach the ground.
In Reclining Bound Angle Pose - if your knees don’t reach the ground you can add blocks or cushions beneath both knees in order to avoid straining your hips.
When in difficult yoga poses it’s very common to clench your jaw. Stress can also cause you to clench your jaw and can lead to problems such as teeth grinding and pain in the jaw joint. Loosen your jaw by opening it slightly, especially in poses such as Standing Forward Ben and Wide-Legged Forward bend.
If you are worried or unsure that you are using correct alignment ask your yoga teacher for guidance. All our Yoga and Pilates retreat teachers at Downward Dog Retreats are qualified, & certified. They give advice on safe alignment through their classes.
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