The following is an abstract from an article highlighting some of the more common yoga injuries, how they happen and how to avoid them. Every yoga practice is about steadiness and comfort, never feeling strain or struggle and cultivating our ability to listen to our body.
Shoulder girdle/rotator cuff injury. Many yoga injuries are caused by overstretching. The biomechanical stresses associated with getting a good workout are a far cry from the original purpose of traditional hatha yoga: to prepare the mind for meditation. Among the more common acute injuries these days are shoulder girdle/rotator cuff injuries. These can occur during plank and crocodile poses, during which knees are off the floor such that the lower half of your body is without support. If you feel shoulder strain during these positions, drop your knees to the floor and bring your hands together. Avoid the sensation of the shoulder blades collapsing on top of each other-shoulders remain broad.
Lower back strains. Forward bends and twists can cause back problems, particularly if you are not experienced in maintaining correct form. It's best to bend the knees for all forward flexion, which will also reduce strain on the hamstrings.
Damaged knee joints. Never force your knees into a lotus or other vulnerable positions. Hip flexibility must be obtained first; without adequate training you may tear a meniscus or one of the knee ligaments. To protect knees, do gentle hip-opening poses like the pigeon pose or baddha konasana. This poses is the familiar one in which you sit with the soles of your feet together and knees out to the sides.
Wrist injury. Many yoga injuries are chronic, resulting from microscopic trauma occurring over time through repetitive stress to the same joints, often in tandem with poor technique. Tendonitis in the wrists can be common in inexperienced practitioners of Vinyasa yoga. If you are experimenting with this type of yoga during your workouts, take care to perform salutation movements correctly, such as the down and up dog poses. A student should never feel as if they are holding their weight with the wrist-the entire hand becomes engaged on your mat-fingers spread wide-pressing into the mat, joints aligned. If you wrist feel like a tree stump-there is too much weight placed on the wrist, which will cause injury over time. The wrist should feel flexion, not compression in poses such as plank, down dog,etc.
Pelvis and gluteal inflammation. Soft-tissue inflammation can occur in the buttocks when the pelvic joints become destabilized by too much seated practice.
Neck injury. Poses that do not support your head can be dangerous. Among these are the plow, shoulder stand, and headstand. Note that a yoga instructor may show you how to perform these poses correctly, but if you try it with tight neck or shoulder muscles, you may injure yourself. For this reason it is best to practice yoga in small classes where a teacher can become familiar with your experience level, flexibility level, and even pre-existing medical conditions. People with hypertension, for example, are not advised to perform these inversion poses.
To find and vet a particular instructor or studio, visit www.yogaalliance.org. Yoga Alliance is a voluntary registry of teachers and schools. To be registered in the database, instructors must demonstrate that they have met Yoga Alliance standards for 200 to 500 hours of training. ACE Fitness Matters, 2007, Vol. 13, No. 6, pp. 12-13
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