10 Ways to Prevent Yoga Injuries

Yoga Injuries: Be 10 Steps Ahead of The Pain

 Awareness on your mat is the first step towards synchronizing mind and body.  It isn't about who becomes the most fit.  Or who is enlightened by the end of class.  A change that rapid doesn't occur overnight.  Practicing yoga is a building block for personal growth, and should be treated as such.  The most important take away from this article is, always be honest with yourself and your boundaries. Start by being conscious of the physical and mental baby steps you're taking today.  In time, this practice will be an unconscious graceful dance you do for you.  Just you!  

The most common injuries in yoga:

  1. Muscle Strains- Stretching, pulling, lunging or flexing farther than your body will allow. This can stretch and/or tear muscle tissues in the body.  

  2. Tendonitis and Bursitis- Inflammation or irritation to the bones and/or joints.  Caused by over exerting or contracting during yoga practice.  These injuries can cause major problems in the joints and are hard to repair once the damage is done.   

  3. Ligament and Cartilage damage- These injuries are caused by hyperextension. Hyperextending ligaments and cartilage can cause shin, knee, elbow and shoulder damage.  

  4. Spinal Problems- Herniated, fractured and degenerative disks can be caused by pushing past your limits while in yoga class.  This is the most serious injury on the list and can effect beginners and novices alike.  

It’s safe to say that almost everyone faces posture problems walking into their first yoga class.  Or admittedly seek room for improvement.  These problems are caused by stresses in daily life,  years of work, building a family, caring for a home and several other factors.    

Ways to prevent these common Yoga injuries:

  1. Always warm up- Warming up before class and before jumping into a Vinyasa flow has many benefits.  Most importantly warm ups help to avoid  yoga injuries.  It increases muscle and body temperature which allows a wider range of elasticity throughout the body; making overexertion less likely.  Warming up also lubricates joints allowing the body to experience poses at a deeper level.  

  2. Build a strong foundation- This means to take the pose from the part of your body that is on the Earth and build from that.  Think about every muscle and work those thoughts up through your body.  Staying stable from the root of every pose helps prevent poor alignment. This is beneficial for when you decide to build into more advanced poses.  Always remembering your base is vital!

  3. Root yourself in serene alignment-  This means being properly aligned and recognizing the role that gravity plays on our posture.  Having straight lines flowing down the body pulling at gravity while it pulls at us.  It’s a beautiful counterbalance and it shouldn’t feel strenuous but should not be fully relaxed either.  

  4. Align Your Joints- Keep the ankles in line with the knees, the knees conscious of the hips, and shoulders and neck engaged. Stabilize the joints by engaging the muscles, ligaments and tendons that surround them.  Building a strong foundation and stacking these joints is the key to great alignment.  

  5. Listen to your harmony- Pay attention to what the Earth and gravity are speaking to you on your mat.  Work in harmony with the body, the breath, the pose at hand.  Now seek what role the elements beyond those things play in your practice.  Allow a free flow of energy from your body into the universe, and vice versa.   Universal feeling and communication.  If you don’t feel this just breathe, let go and try again.  This step may take some time.  Practicing outside in the serenity of nature helps.  

  6. Don’t hyperextend- Don't push your body farther than it is ready to go!  This key step is the essence of yoga.  Allow yourself to meet yourself where you are right now.  This does not involve competition with your ego or anyone else in this world.  Be who you are, where you are.  Be proud and adventurous.  Try new things.  Things that scare you.  Face your fears without over exerting yourself.  Please do not ignore your body’s boundaries.   

  7. Build from your bones- Take each pose and build off of the bones that you are working from.  Be mindful of every muscle that is moving you through the transitions.  Think, move, adjust and reset.  This will help you to get the most out of every pose while also preventing injury.  

  8. Falling and flying with grace-  If you have the confidence and regular practice to try a new more challenging pose, do it.  If you fly into it, hold it with confidence.  It is equally important to come back into a resting pose with calm confidence. Be sure that you are coming to the asanas with intention and strong grace.  On the contrary, if you fall, TRY to fall with grace.  It happens to everyone.  Don’t try to fight falling.  That can cause serious injuries.  Just listen to your body and let it take you to the ground in the way that feels most natural.  That’s life afterall...  Let yourself lay and laugh.  It burns calories!  Try again or rest until the next pose.  

  9. Practice Mindfulness- This preventative tool can be used in many aspects of life.  Paying attention to your inner voice and all of the muscles working with it.  If a pose feels too deep or strenuous take it to where you’re comfortable.  Your yoga practice is about you!  If you don’t listen to your body and what it needs, yoga (and other activities) could be put on hold, due to an injury.  The rule of thumb, practice at your 80%.   Before you know it your 80% will be your 100%!  

  10. Use Props- This is a great way to feel the intended stretch of a pose even if your body is not ready to be "there."  Props adjust gaps in the joints and other body parts.  Helping align us with the Earth.  This relieves unnecessary stress on the body, without over exerting it.  Everyone is different when it comes to props.  Private yoga sessions and workshops can help identify their individual place and usefulness in your practice.