Yoga might be a low-impact sport but injuries can still occur.
An experienced and trained yoga instructor goes a long way in preventing injuries, but you also need to listen to your body and avoid competing with others in your class. (Photo: Aleksandr Markin / www.123rf.com)
Yoga, ranked number seven among 2015’s fitness trends by the American College of Sports Medicine, has amassed many fans the world over. Yogis do it for exercise, relaxation as well as to relieve bone, joint and muscle-related pain.
While seemingly harmless, experts warn that – just like any other exercise – yoga 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 of asanas (yoga poses).
Many yoga-related injuries are due to movements that cause an overstretching of the joints, says Dr Lim Yeow Wai, consultant and specialist in orthopaedic surgery at Raffles Orthopaedic Centre. Another common cause of injury results from being overly aggressive when executing asanas, adds Dr Lee Eu Jin, consultant and specialist in orthopaedic surgery at 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,” says Dr Lee.
Here are six areas of your body at risk of being overstretched and injured during yoga.
1. Common yoga injury: Neck
Why it happens 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.
How to prevent this yoga injury 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.
2. Common yoga injury: Shoulder
Why it happens Incorrect body alignment in headstand and shoulder stand poses. Shrugging (raising the shoulders up toward the ears) compresses the shoulders and injure the muscles.
How to prevent this yoga injury 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
3. Common yoga injury: Wrist
Why it happens 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.
How to prevent this yoga injury 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 into the mat.
Know how to prevent common yoga injuries. (Photo: Iegor Khimchenko / www.123rf.com)
4. Common yoga injury: Back
Why it happens 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.
How to prevent this yoga injury 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.
5. Common yoga injury: Knee
Why it happens 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.
How to prevent this yoga injury 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.
6. Common yoga injury: Hamstring
Why it happens 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.
How to prevent this yoga injury 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.
The safest approach to yoga? Learn how to practise the asanas properly, and stay in tune with your body to avoid overdoing it. “Listen to your body. Not everyone can do all the postures in yoga – stop if there is pain,” Dr Lim advises. Being self-aware also means being patient with yourself and adapting poses to your own abilities, instead of competing or comparing your progress with others.
This article first appeared in Raffles Healthnews and was written by Muhammad Sadikin. It has been adapted for www.shape.com.sg.