When practiced mindfully and intentionally with a focus on the breath, Yoga can be amazing for you physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. However, it is often the case in more physically active and ‘flow’ style classes, that there can be an underlying sense of competition and pushing the body past personal limits, trying to stay in pace with the instructor.
When movement becomes less mindful, there is a heightened risk of injury, so it’s no surprise that the number of yoga injuries have increased by almost 80% in the past seven years.
While there’s nothing inherently wrong with power or flow yoga, these fitness-focused classes tend to result in more injuries, where oftentimes (well-intentioned but perhaps less experienced) teachers fail to provide a safe practice for all of their students.
The truth is, any pose where you’re not being mindful or pushing beyond your limit can create harm. As you practice, you want to avoid anything that:
– causes or increases pain;
– creates sharp sensations inside of the joints or shooting down the limbs;
– causes numbness; or that
– makes you uncomfortable to the point where you can’t breathe well
A great rule of thumb is if you can’t remain steady and even in your breath as you transition in and out of or hold a pose, then you’ve pushed beyond your limit and you need to back off.
Ann Marie Johnston, founder and CEO of global Yoga Therapy platform YogaMate and app Yoga for Better Health shares the following yogic postures and how they do have some positive therapeutic benefits; but they are also more likely to land you in hospital. A qualified teacher should be able to recommend modifications, variations or other poses that will bring similar benefits without the additional risk of injury.
The top poses for yogic injury include inversions such as Headstand, Shoulderstand, and Plow Pose. (Exert extra caution if you’re experiencing any of these health concerns: neck, back or shoulder injuries, eye conditions like glaucoma, ear infections, heartburn or indigestion, headache, high or low blood pressure, osteoporosis and extreme risk for people with hypertension or heart disease and risk of stroke.)
Arm balances like Flying Crow (seen at left) or and Side Plank which lend themselves wrist and shoulder injuries.
And deep backbends, particularly when you’re not fully warmed up. Poses like Camel pose and Wheel Pose can aggravate (and even create) disc problems.
When practiced safely in a way that is right for your body, yoga can bring so much healing. Just remember that, particularly if you’ve got a chronic health problem, as one in two people do; general yoga classes can put you at heightened risk.
Do your research and make sure to find a qualified teacher or yoga therapist who can safely guide and encourage exploration in your practice.