It is not uncommon for people to get injured from doing exercise. Exercise-related injuries that I treat in my practice are often associated with improper technique, poor form, overuse or repeated movements, previous injury or underlying condition(s), and when people perform movements that exceed their physical limits. As with any type of exercise, people can injure themselves doing yoga as well.
I personally practice yoga weekly but there are certain poses that I do not attempt because I know that I do not have the strength or flexibility to perform the poses. To protect myself from injury, I would either perform an alternate pose or modify the pose into something that I can achieve safely.
Although some forms of yoga appear gentle and consist of various static poses or stretches, people may still potentially pull their muscles by over-stretching themselves. Moreover, there are many different types of yoga and some types can be quite intensive and physically demanding for the body (read my blog post on What Types of Yoga I Practice and Why to learn more). Thus, yoga when not practiced safely can lead to injury.
One study collected data on Canadians who presented to emergency departments because of yoga-related injuries between 1991 and 2010 and found that most injuries (73%) occurred after 2005 (Russell, Gushue, Richmond, & McFaull, 2016); sprains were found to be the most common injury (34%). In a similar study, Swain & McGwin (2016) also found injury rates to be increasing from 2001 to 2014 in the United States; sprains and strains were the most common injuries (45%). The overall rising injury rates may be explained by the growing popularity of yoga. Moreover, the studies suggested that these findings may be associated with more people who may be practicing yoga at an inappropriate level for themselves or a lack of proper instruction or supervision in classes.
There is no doubt that yoga practice can have many physical and mental health benefits, which makes it a great form of exercise that can target various personal health and fitness goals. However, before trying yoga for your first time, here are some of my recommendations:
- Research. Learn about the different types of yoga and which type best suits your goals and your body. If taking a yoga class, consider things like class size, level of difficulty, instructor qualifications and certification (for example, what are his or her credentials? Where did he or she do training? Will the instructor be able to provide appropriate supervision and does he or she know about safety and injury prevention?)
- Don’t go beyond your body’s limit. If the pose feels wrong and is producing significant discomfort or pain… stop!
- It’s not a comparison contest. Some people think that they are not flexible enough to do yoga and end up avoiding yoga. Some people push too hard to try and achieve the perfect pose. Remember that it’s not about achieving the perfect pose. Focus on how you can use yoga to achieve your health and fitness goals in a way that is safe for your body.
- Yoga mat thickness. This may seem like a random one but to me it was quite important!! When I first started yoga, I needed a thicker mat in order to comfortably perform poses that involved weight bearing on my knees or elbows.
- Ask a physiotherapist or a qualified yoga instructor how to modify poses or incorporate props to fit your own body’s limits.
- If you have any questions or concerns before starting yoga, always discuss with a physiotherapist, a qualified yoga instructor or a physician.
If you are interested but unsure if you should try yoga, I would recommend asking a registered physiotherapist or a qualified yoga instructor before trying it. I am always excited to hear from my readers! Please visit Contact if you have any questions, comments or feedback for me 🙂
Russell, K., Gushue, S., Richmond, S., & McFaull, S. (2016). Epidemiology of yoga-related injuries in Canada from 1991 to 2010: a case series study. International journal of injury control and safety promotion, 23(3), 284-290.
Swain, T. A., & McGwin, G. (2016). Yoga-related injuries in the United States from 2001 to 2014. Orthopaedic journal of sports medicine, 4(11), 2325967116671703.