Yoga injuries: What are the most common ones and how can you avoid them?
Millions of people across the UK practice yoga regularly and enjoy the health benefits it provides. Whether you're an Ashtanga devotee or prefer hot and sweaty Bikram, yoga can improve your flexibility, increase your strength and help to reduce anxiety and stress. But like any form of exericse, yoga can cause injury if poses are performed incorrectly.
Most yoga injuries are (luckily) not severe, but you could be one of the unlucky few who suffer a strain or sprain, fracture, disclocation or even a more serious injury! Most yoga injuries develop over a period of time, from over-stretching and performing poses incorrectly, which is why it's so important to avoid developing bad habits and be mindful of your body during practice. But what are some of the most common yoga injuries, and how can you avoid them?
Wrists are used to support your body during poses, and it's important to avoid placing all your body weight on your wrists, to avoid joint and muscle injuries. Spreading your body weight across both hands (such as in down dog position), helps to prevent injury. Spread your hands wide and press down on the mat with your fngers to distribute your weight evenly, pushing your hips back, so you're decreasing the angle of your wrists to the floor.
Be conscious of your shoulders during yoga practice - when your shoulders are raised up towards your ears, you're no longer using the supporting muscles in your neck, shoulders and arms, which could lead to muscle injuries. By over-stretching or over-extending, you could even injure your rotator cuff or shoulder girdle. Make sure you don't over-extend or pull too hard on your shoulders when stretching; keep your shoulders back and down at all times.
Joint pain in your elbows isn't uncommon during yoga, as there are plenty of yoga poses where you bend your elbows out to the sides. Try tucking your elbows alongside your ribs as you bend them, with your elbow creases facing forward. Yes, this might make the poses more of a challenge - feel the burn in your triceps(!) - but it will help to prevent joint pain in your elbows.
Pain in the lower back is the most common yoga injury, and poses such as down dog, where the spine is rounded, could be to blame for that post-class ache. To prevent lower back pain, focus on lengthening your spine up and away from the hips before you bend over - this will help you to avoid rounding the spine. Or you could always try bending your knees when performing down dog or other poses that require bending over, to reduce the strain on your lower back.
Warrior poses and splits could mean you're over-extending your hips, leading to torn inner thigh or groin muscles - more ouch than ommm! To prevent this from occurring, make sure your toes are always pointing forward in the same direction as your hips.
Tight hamstrings are the result of spending all day sat at your desk at work, in your car or in class at university - we're all guilty of it! When your hamstrings are tight, it's all too easy to over-stretch and pull them. Try poses such as down dog or lunges to help stretch out those hamstrings, but remember to take things slowly.
Knee pain can seriously affect your yoga practice and the cross-legged position could be the culprit for many of us. If this bothers you regularly, avoid sitting for long periods of time in full lotus or cross-legged position. Or try placing a rolled-up blanket or block under your knees for extra support.
Easy ways to avoid injury at yoga class
There are some general rules you can follow to reduce your risk of injury, whether you're attending a Bikram yoga class or practising at home with a DVD.
Always warm up
Basic stretches can help to prepare your body for more challenging poses, so you should always warm up before your yoga session, as you would with any exercise.
Ease into your workout
It's important to make sure you don't push yourself too hard, particularly at your first few classes. Choosing a beginner's class means you'll develop a solid foundation, avoid developing bad habits and reduce your risk of injury.
Finish up slowly
If you've been holding a pose for several minutes, it's important that you work out of it gradually. Moving too fast out of a pose could lead to injury.
Communicate with your teacher
If you're struggling with certain poses, don't be afraid to ask your teacher for help. Likewise, if you have a pre-existing injury or need assistance modifying a pose, speak to your teacher - that's why they are there!
Don't forget props
If you can't hold a pose on your own, you're not a failure. It's important not to push your body too hard, and props are there to help you ease into a pose and avoid injury
Listen to your body
Practice mindfulness and be aware of how your body feels - any feelings of tightness or strain are a good indication that it's time for a rest. If you tear or strain something, care for it as you would any sports injury, and take time off yoga practice to recover.
Yoga is a great way to balance your body and mind, making you stronger, more flexible and calmer - but if you're going to practice, it, make sure you do it right! Have you ever injured yourself during yoga? What did you to to recover?