Common Yoga Injuries And How To Avoid Them
Many consider yoga to be an effective yet harmless exercise. Despite its low injury rate, injuries can easily occur if the asanas (yoga poses) are not properly executed. So, how can you practise yoga safely and minimise your risk of injury?
Today, a growing number are embracing yoga. Many practise yoga for exercise and relaxation, as well as to relieve bone, joint and muscle-related pain. In fact, it is ranked number seven among fitness trends for 2015 by the American College of Sports Medicine. However, while yoga may seem like harmless stretching, experts warn that just like any other exercise, it can cause muscle strain, torn ligaments or more serious injuries if not properly practised. Most of the common injuries from yoga develop gradually over time, resulting from consistent incorrect execution.
According to Dr Lim Yeow Wai, Specialist in Orthopaedic Surgery and Consultant, Raffles Orthopaedic Centre, many yoga-related injuries are due to movements that cause an overstretching of the joints. Besides repetitive strain, being over-aggressive in the practice of yoga is another common cause of injury, added Dr Lee Eu Jin, Specialist in Orthopaedic Surgery and Consultant, Raffles Orthopaedic Centre. “Doing too much too quickly can lead to muscle and tendon strain, and as a result, the tendons are overworked and become inflamed,” said Dr Lee.
As with any physical activity, the safest approach to yoga is to learn how to practise the asanas properly and to stay in tune with your body to avoid overdoing it. Dr Lim offered this advice for those who wish to practise yoga safely: “Listen to your body. Not everyone can do all the postures in yoga – stop if there is pain.”
We outline specific body areas that are at risk of bring overstretched during yoga.
Cause: Putting too much of your body weight on your neck when doing headstand, plough and shoulder stand. You can also injure your neck when you fling it too far back without support in certain yoga poses.
Prevention: Make neck safety a priority by being mindful of your body’s limits and only attempting poses of appropriate difficulty. The neck is one of the most delicate areas to injure, and it takes time to heal.
Cause: Incorrect body alignment in headstand and shoulder stand poses. Shrugging (raising the shoulders up toward the ears) compresses the shoulders and injure the muscles.
Prevention: Tight shoulders are often weak, so don’t attempt shoulder stands and headstands until your shoulders open up and are strengthened. Always keep the shoulders held back and down away from the ears, be careful not to pull too hard on the shoulders during stretches.
Cause: Placing too much of your body weight on your wrists during poses where your hands are on the mat. Tender wrists from keyboard use and texting further aggravate this injury.
Prevention: Learn to properly bear weight on the correct parts of your hand: keep your wrists aligned to the front edge of your mat, and spread your fingers evenly with both your index finger and the heel of your hand pushing
Cause: Rounding your spine when trying to go deep into your forward folds. When moving into a pose, rounding your back while keeping your legs straight can also injure your back.
Prevention: Before bending, imagine lengthening your spine up and away from your hips to avoid rounding your back, and focus on breathing into each pose. Aim for a straight back, don’t fold too deep and engage your abs to keep your core stabilised. Remember to keep your knees soft by bending them in poses like forward folds and down dog.
Cause: Lack of flexibility in your hips to execute deep knee-folding or hip-opening poses. Your knee can also twist out of alignment when doing pigeon pose, warrior poses or half-lotus.
Prevention: Work towards achieving hip flexibility – don’t strain and push beyond your limits. Do all the preparatory poses before moving into poses like half lotus and use props during pigeon to support the knee. Move slowly and deliberately until you are comfortable, and never lock your knees in standing forward bends. Keep your big toe aligned with your kneecap at all times.
Cause: Going too deep into your forward fold or moving into any pose with your legs straight. Straightening your legs and back – as well as quick, jerky movements – can pull your hamstring muscles.
Prevention: An easy way to prevent an injured hamstring is to keep your knees soft by bending them. When moving into a forward fold, don’t use your hands to push yourself deeper; pull back and breathe into the entire length of your hamstring to fully stretch it.
Practise Yoga Safely
Follow these tips to minimise your risk of injury
- Talk to your doctor before starting your regime.
- Focus on the breathing.
- Find a trained and experienced yoga instructor.
- Respect your level. Be patient with yourself.
- Adapt poses to your individual needs and abilities.
- Do not compete or compare your progress with your friends or others.