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Yoga Injury Prevention

By: Vadim Goz, MD and Lali Sekhon, MD, PhD, MBA

This article was adapted from OrthoInfo. 

Yoga has gained popularity among Americans for its benefits in fitness, relaxation, and relief from musculoskeletal discomfort. While yoga offers numerous advantages, practicing it incorrectly can lead to muscle strain, ligament tears, and potentially severe injuries. 

However, the benefits of basic yoga can outweigh the potential risks, provided you exercise caution and tailor your practice to your individual flexibility level. These rewards encompass enhanced strength, balance, flexibility, and overall well-being. Yoga can also offer relief for specific bone and joint conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, and arthritis. 

To minimize the risk of injury, it’s essential to choose a yoga class that aligns with your personal flexibility level. 

Whether yoga practitioners are engaging in gentle stretching or assuming intricate poses, severe muscle damage and related injuries can occur without the right precautions, especially for individuals with pre-existing musculoskeletal issues. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, doctors’ offices, clinics, and emergency rooms treated over 34,000 yoga-related injuries in 2019, with common injuries involving the neck, shoulders, spine, legs, and knees due to overstretching and repetitive strain. 

Here are recommendations to help prevent yoga-related injuries: 

  1.  Medical Consultation: Prior to starting yoga, consult your doctor if you have any medical conditions or injuries.
  2.  Qualified Instructors: Work with a certified yoga instructor who can provide insights into their experience and credentials.
  3.  Communication: Discuss any known illnesses or injuries with your yoga instructor before the class, so they can suggest pose modifications tailored to your needs.
  4.  Yoga Styles: Recognize that various forms of yoga have different levels of intensity. Identify the style that suits your requirements and physical condition.
  5.  Class Level: Choose a class level that matches your experience. Beginners should begin gradually, focusing on fundamentals like breathing, before attempting advanced stretches.
  6.  Appropriate Attire: Wear flexible clothing that allows for unrestricted movement during yoga sessions.
  7.  Warm-Up: Thoroughly warm up your muscles, tendons, and ligaments before practicing yoga, as cold muscles are susceptible to injury.
  8.  Seek Clarification: Don’t hesitate to ask questions if you’re uncertain about a pose or movement.
  9.  Know Your Limits: Avoid pushing yourself beyond your comfort level or experience. Respect your physical boundaries.
  10.  Hydration: Stay well-hydrated, especially during Bikram or “hot” yoga sessions, by drinking ample fluids.
  11.  Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to your body’s signals. If you experience pain or fatigue during yoga, take a break or stop. If pain persists, consult your doctor.

By adhering to these guidelines, you can enjoy the benefits of yoga while minimizing the risk of injuries and ensuring a safe and fulfilling practice.