In the last article, we covered some general causes and prevention of yoga injury. Today we are going to discuss the same topic but from a completely different angle. In this article, we will be discussing the parts of the body that are most vulnerable to yoga injuries and the ways to avoid them. You will learn what care you must take while performing a certain group of yoga asana. Most often people make the same common mistake due to lack of knowledge. The awareness regarding the concern of injuries might help you prevent from getting one. Therefore, saving you from an unnecessary delay in your yoga journey. So let’s progress.
Your Natural Body
Yoga demands a great deal of efforts from its practitioners. Strength, balance and flexibility are the most common foundation for yoga practice. Everyone takes their own time depending on the kind of body they have. Flexibility comes naturally to some people but they might struggle with strength and vice versa. Women generally take time to build strength whereas men usually have to keep patience with flexibility. And then there are always some exceptional cases. Lucky are those who are naturally both strong and flexible. But blessed are those who have the patient to learn through the struggle and challenge.
We all need to be aware about the kind of body we have and practice accordingly. You need to recognize the pros and cons of your body. New learners are the easiest to injure theirself due to their enthusiasm. Sometimes even an inexperienced yoga instructor may guide its students to push too far. Some students end up paying the price due to the lack of knowledge of their teacher. Obviously, it is important to give your best, pushing to a little extent with care is alright. But you must know your limitations and move accordingly.
4 Major type of Yoga Injuries and their Prevention
Joints bear a lot of stress in several yoga poses. Wrists, elbows, shoulders, hip joints, knees and ankles are most prone to yoga injuries. An injury in the joint is the most severe one and takes longer to heal. It may easily take up more than a month. Even after recovery, care must be taken for the next few days or week. You can’t immediately go back to earlier practice right away. You must approach slowly. Now, let’s take a look at possible joint injury and prevention for each one by one.
Wrist, Elbow and Shoulders: Various kind of arm balancing poses put lots of pressure on these joints. The weight of the whole body falls on the arms when you practice such poses. Avoid putting the weight on the wrist joint rather distribute it evenly through the palm. Approach slowly as you move into the pose. Step back when you feel too much stress. Gradually the joint and surrounding muscles will develop the strength.
The injury in elbow and shoulder may develop over a long period of time. The cause is often practicing some specific poses incorrectly and repeatedly. Even slight misalignment is enough to develop a injury in long run. As a result, the muscles get no time to gain strength and experience stress after each practice. At times people may also feel it but they assume it to be normal and continue. Instead of pushing yourself too much, better focus on working slowly to see positive results.
Knees and ankles: Padmasana is one of those poses that give a lot of yoga practitioner knee injury. The reason is forcing yourself in the pose or sitting in it for a long duration of time. You must not feel even a slight discomfort while getting into the pose or while coming out of it. It is the indication to back off. Practice preparatory poses that open the hips and to make yourself feel confident to practice it. The same rule applies to other knee poses requiring high flexibility.
When practicing lunging poses, always align your knee over the ankle. This protects both knee and ankle. Misalignment may lead to a sprain in either knee or ankle joint. Ankle injuries are not very common in yoga practice. But if you feel pain in the ankle in any pose. It might be arising due to incorrect practice or a past ankle injury. In such case, practice ankle strengthening poses for a few days or a couple of weeks. Then check if you still feel the pain. If not, continue your normal practice. If yes, see a doctor.
Lower Back Injury
Lower back pain is the second most common type of yoga injury. They mostly arise from backward/forward bending and rarely from twisting poses. In forward bending poses the bent is supposed to elongate from the hips, not from the waist. Some yoga practitioners often round the back as they bend forward which causes muscular stress in the spine. Also over bending can potentially give you a severe backache lasting for days or week. In twisting yoga poses, keep the spine as straight as possible. Rounding of the back leads to an incorrect posture which is often neglected.
Talking about the backward bending, it is important to first develop a level of strength in your legs. Standing backward bending involves a strong support of the lower body. The firmness in your legs allows you to bend backward safely. So avoid making deep backward bending until you feel any kind of weakness in your legs or back. As you bend, pause in between before going further. Deepen the bend only when you feel comfortable at where you are. Otherwise return back, wait for strength, balance and flexibility to develop.
In several yoga poses, the weight of the upper body or the whole body falls partially on the neck. What people mostly do wrong is to put more body weight than they should. That’s what makes the neck vulnerable to injuries. When you feel discomfort in a pose, come out as early as you can and avoid holding it. It will take more time for you to get comfortable in the pose.
While learning shoulder stand, the imbalance of the body puts a strain on neck muscles. It may give you very bad neck pain which can also feel as you return from the pose. Avoid to practice balancing for too long. Or get some help from your friend to support your body as you go out of balance. Another good way is to keep a folded blanket under the head before you start.
Coming to the last kind of yoga injury that is a hamstring injury. The common reason behind the occurrence of a hamstring injury is overstretching. The stretch can be experienced instantly while you come in the pose. A lot of us consider it usual and continue to practice the same way. Later the pain can be felt while walking as well. Sometimes an inexperienced yoga teacher may also motivate you to push yourself. Since you would have paid the fee already, it’s too late to withdraw. So just listen to your body and simply stretch only as far as your body allows you.
Speaking from my own experience I have attended such classes. The teacher will emphasize on going beyond your capacity. I had no knowledge at that time so I did as guided. I used to feel pain in my whole body all the time back then. Later when I gained more knowledge I never pushed myself too hard. At times I have even seen even experienced teachers stressing about trying too hard in your practice.
In the most reputable ancient yogic text, you will find the secret to a safe practice. Mentioned throughout the whole book, saying “don’t strain the body”. It’s a simple rule and easy to apply.
Sravanthi Thumati, an internationally acclaimed yoga champion, and trainer, yoga coach, and a certified yoga therapist. Please follow her social profiles to get latest updates in yoga, health, fitness and lifestyle.