Juliana Kroese is a certified Yoga Instructor and PT at our North Central Phoenix physical therapy location. She explains how injuries can occur in yoga, and describes modifications you can perform to avoid these injuries and get the most out of your yoga practice.
Yoga. We’ve all heard of it. When we think of yoga, flexibility, relaxation, healthy lifestyles, and comfy workout clothes usually come to mind. In recent years, yoga has quickly become an exercise staple of Western society. We regularly hear people talk about practicing yoga, we see yoga magazines at checkout lines, and we spot flyers for free yoga events all over town – no experience required!
The yoga industry is booming, and more classes are being held at studios, your local gym, or even at free sessions in the park. The business has expanded by offering retreats in exotic locations for people to immerse themselves in a week-long course. These trends have led to an increase in yoga teacher training courses as well. These courses teach individuals about the history of yoga, the various poses, and how to instruct classes. Upon completion, successful participants are able to become accredited with the yoga alliance and begin teaching classes.
Like any physical activity, yoga may lead to injury if performed incorrectly. While it is possible to receive an incorrect adjustment from an instructor, most people become injured on the mat by their own doing. We are all susceptible to this – we may get carried away trying to replicate the person next to us, or mimic the cover photo on a yoga magazine and push ourselves and our bodies over a threshold. When this happens, we overstretch, we strain, and injuries occur.
Any form of exercise should be approached with the same mindset adopted by the medical field. First, do no harm. When starting a yoga class, individuals are strongly advised to discuss any injuries or health concerns with the instructor. An experienced teacher is always recommended if you are currently experiencing complex health issues, in addition to checking with your physician to see if you are ready to do yoga. It is wise for individuals to enter a yoga class with knowledge about their condition and possible aggravating motions they should avoid.
Often, low back pain can be exacerbated by bending forward or backward. Therefore, individuals suffering from degenerative disc disorder should avoid excessive forward bend poses, especially when accompanied with twisting, and individuals with spinal stenosis or facet arthritis should generally avoid excessive back bending. It is always important to exercise caution and perform modifications to avoid straining the body.
Similarly, individuals with poor hip mobility may find themselves experiencing knee pain if they force rotations, such as in pigeon pose. Most yoga classes also incorporate a significant amount of weight bearing through the upper extremities, which could result in shoulder injury if performed incorrectly.
The most important questions to ask yourself before starting any pose are “How is my body feeling today?” and “How can I get the most out of this pose for my body on this day?” Any yoga pose can be performed in a variety of ways through modifications. This does not necessarily mean the poses are made easier; in fact, if done correctly, you can actually harness the challenging action of the pose to improve your body.
An example of this is Trikonasana, a standing pose in which the legs are wide apart, arms are spread out, and the individual bends to the side towards one leg, forming a triangle. For some, this is an opportunity to enhance flexibility while placing the hand on the ankle or floor, while other may use this pose to work on spinal lengthening or core stability by keeping the hand from touching the floor and activating the core to maintain this posture. Depending on the individual, the emphasis you place on a pose can change, so you can get the most benefit from it.
If you find yourself struggling in a yoga class and would like to receive some personalized tips to strengthen your practice, I highly recommend speaking with your PT to help you find the correct modifications. Contact your local Foothills Sports Medicine Phoenix physical therapy clinic today with and questions!
Our therapists are committed to helping you achieve your goals and attain a healthy, active lifestyle. We offer a free, no obligation assessment of your needs, which can be scheduled online here. For more PT advice, visit our blog.