Even though yoga may seem to be a peaceful and calm exercise with the aim to heal and nourish the body, still injuries happens. Here are the 5 most common yoga injuries, and some useful tips how to prevent them.
Hamstring injury and sittbone pain
This phenomenon, more commonly called Yoga Butt is not uncommon seen among yogis. The pain may feel like a dull and stiff sensation in the back of the legs, or a sharp pain where the hamstrings attach to the sittingbones – hence the name yoga butt. Since this injury is common among all kinds of practicioners, from beginners to advanced students, it is still unknown from where in the practice this injury is caused, but not unlikely it has something to do with forward folding. Pressing your body into forward folds, and hanging out your hamstrings may be a reason for damage over time, and it is easier than you think to do this, especially when your body become more flexible.
Pay attention: To slightly bend your knees in forward folds and to always have a stable and grounded foundation. In sitting forward folds, such as paschimottanasana, press your heels and your sittbones to the ground before folding forwards. In standing forward folds, such as uttanasana and padangushtasana pay attention that your weight is evenly balanced between your heel and the ball of the foot. In parsvottanasana, make sure to point your sittbones downs towards the mat not to overarch the lower back and overstretch your hamstrings.
Also pay attention in forward folds with legs spread, in this pose also the abductors are vulnerable for injury. If you feel any pain in forward folds with legs apart and not when the legs are together, the pain most likely comes from overstretched abductors.
Chaturanga – when moving from plank to upward dog, may be one of the most common transitions done in yoga. Even though this can be a great strengthener for the shoulders and the shoulder girdle, it may also be a devastating exercise for the shoulders and the upper back when done with a wrong technique. To much pressure on the shoulder joint may result in lack of stability in the joint, and this may cause pain.
Pay attention: To use a right technique in every pose when you put pressure on your shoulders, double check your hand placement in chaturanga to make sure your shoulders are straight over your wrists. Never let the shoulders raise towards your ears in up dog, this will take the weight from your supporting muscles in the arms, shoulders and neck and put to much pressure in the joint. Also pay attention not to overstretch the shoulders in downward facing dog. There should be a straight line from your hands to your hips in down dog – not like the shape of a banana!
Pain in and around the knees that evolves over time is very common among yoga practitioners. Sadly, I do know communities of yogis where it is more common with a meniscus replacement than it is not. Knee pain may arise from an injury in the meniscus or a torn or overstretched ligament. Knee pain is a severe injury and should always be taken care of. After a injury of the meniscus, the risk of getting arthritis later in life is much higher.
Pay attention: many yoga poses require a lot of flexibility in the hip joint, if this is not the case, and you still want to fit your body into a certain pose, pressure tend to affect the knee joint in first hand since this is a much weaker joint than the hip. This is the case with for example the lotus. Yet, just the lotus may seem to be a pose in the top of the “asana want to do list”, because the common perception seem to be that this is a pose every real yogi should be able to do. This is not the case. Simply, the fact is, people use chairs more commonly these days, we sit down too much and our hips tighten up. In general, western people seem to have more tight hips than Indians – and this is perfectly fine!
Ask yourself one more time, what is most important, to squeeze myself into a certain pose or to be able to walk in your 60´s?
Be careful with your knees, and do never allow any sensation in the knees in your practice, any pain in the knee is a sign to back off from the posture causing it.
If you are hypermobile, also make sure you are not over stretching your knees in your practice. Never lock any joints, a better option is to micro bend the joint and stabilize it by engaging more muscles, this will also build up more strength over time.
Can you imagine your vertebrates in your neck is almost as small it would be a ring on your little finger? And, can you imagine what happens when you put pressure on this structure, as you do in for example a headstand or a pose like setu bandasana? The neck is a delicate structure, designed to hold up the weight of your head, but not balance on it.
Also tensions in the shoulders, back and upper body have a tendency to manifest as pain in the neck.
Pay attention: In every pose where you put pressure directly on the neck, shoulder stand, headstand and poses like setu bandasana, it is of great importance you build up strength over time before doing the full variation if these poses. Also make sure you do these poses with the right technique, ask a teacher if you are uncertain. Also make sure you are not over tensed in your shoulders, as this may cause tensions in and around the neck. Relax your shoulders by keeping your shoulders away from your ears.
Handstands and advanced arm balances are kind of popular poses these days, but even though it is a lot of fun playing around with these poses, it can also lead to injury if its not done in a proper way. Just as the neck, the wrists are delicate structures.
Pay attention: make sure you use the right technique and the right hand placement before putting any weight in your hands. Always ask for guidance before trying these poses on your own. It is important to use the whole hand when putting any weight over it. A tips is to press the base of each finger into the mat, especially the base of the thumb and index finger. Shoulders should be placed directly over your wrists when doing handstands or arm balances.
General guidelines to avoid injury
- Always be aware of sensations in your body, and learn how to differ good sensations from bad sensations. Sharp and burning sensations, as well as sensations from the joints are signs to back of!
- Don’t let your ego hurt you. Pay attention to what’s going on in your body before comparing it to someone else.
- Go in and out of poses with control and awareness.
- Do never lock any joints. If you have a tendency to overstretch any join, always make sure to micro bend it.
- Technique and mentality are equally important for a safe practice – do never push yourself.
- Modify poses if you need to, make the asana fit your body instead of making your body fit the asana. Ask your teacher if you need any help to find modifications.
- Say no to adjustments that does not feel good for your body. If your teacher doesn’t insist, change teacher.
- Always tell the teacher before the class if you have any old injuries.
- Always stay for savasana
- And the most important – always listen to your own body. You are your only true teacher, nobody else can never get to know your body more than you can. Respect yourself and your body. And remember, yoga is not about your variation of a pose, but your experience about it!