“I have pain in my knee when I do yoga,” said my patient during a free consultation at our physical therapy clinic. “It hurts mostly when I do this pose and while transitioning into a balance pose,” the patient said as he demonstrated the warrior II pose. After obtaining a small glimpse of his alignment during this pose, I started to see compensations that were increasing torque to his knee and likely contributing his pain. We proceeded to do a full screening, which unmasked the underlying culprits. Within a few weeks of targeted exercise and skilled manual therapy, he was reporting no pain with yoga, or with running and hiking anymore.
Similarly, a yoga teacher approached me with concerns about insidious low-back spasms that would come and go throughout her yoga practice or gym workouts. Analyzing her posture in standing, otherwise known as mountain pose in yoga, and some of her painful yoga postures and gym exercises, it started to become clear to me about the inherent core instability this teacher was experiencing.
We used breath work, postural cueing, and a core stability program that started from the foundation to advanced activities in daily life. The patient had a couple more spasm episodes, but they were less frequent and the intensity had diminished greatly. Eventually, the patient was able to report months of relief and the ability to return to her workouts.
Yoga can help people improve their flexibility, strength, and balance and help to manage stress levels. It is a practice that works on mind, body, and spirit, and requires guidance from a certified yoga teacher or yoga therapist to optimize alignment and progression of practice.
If you are unsure about certain postures in the class, make sure that you ask your instructor to clarify or provide a modification that works for your body. If you feel you need a little more help, talk to your teacher after class to get a more in-depth explanation or instruction.
Some aches and pains may require further analysis, and that is where a physical therapist can be helpful. A physical therapist will screen the yoga poses and your unique body mechanics to help address the underlying contributors of your pain. It is worth your time to come in to have these problems addressed so that they do not hold back your practice and exercise routine.
Please schedule a free consultation at your local physical therapy clinic to help you get back on track with your yoga practice.
Juliana Kroese is a physical therapist as well as a certified yoga teacher and yoga therapist, whose unique combination of skills helps yoga practitioners get back on their mat.