According to recent study published in the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine, yoga injuries are on the rise, especially among older adults.
The study, titled “Yoga-Related Injuries in the United States From 2001 to 2014,” found that there were 29,950 yoga-related injuries reported in hospital emergency rooms during that time. Across the board, the number of injuries has increased in recent years, but among seniors the rate has skyrocketed.
The researchers reported that adults 65 years and older suffered eight times the number of injuries in 2014 as were reported in 2001.
While many doctors, physical therapists, and mental health practitioners encourage patients to practice yoga to improve their health, these well-meaning professionals may not realize the inherent danger in some styles of yoga, warns Heather Berg, a South Florida-based registered yoga teacher (RYT).
There are as many styles of yoga as there are flavors of ice cream, ranging from sweat and calorie burning intensity classes to gentle and restorative approaches.
“It’s important to do your own research and find a style of yoga and a qualified teacher to address your individual needs,” Berg tells Newsmax. “If you are just beginning to exercise, or have injuries, it is crucial to find an experienced teacher who has the right certification and has been practicing long enough to address your concerns.”
According to Yoga Journal, attending smaller classes can help a student get individualized attention from the teacher. This is especially true in vinyasa (flow) classes, where the repetitive flexion and extension of the spine can easily lead to injury if done incorrectly.
“Even better, start by taking a few private classes,” notes Berg. “That way, you can receive individualized attention and explore ways that your body responds to specific poses. A private session can help you create safer variations and teach you how to use yoga props to prevent injury.”
The most common areas of injury in yoga are:
Shoulders. Poses such a Chaturanga and Plank, yoga versions of a pushup, can irritate your shoulders. Berg says that students often exceed their natural range of motion or have improper alignment so that the tendons around the shoulders and biceps begin to tear. “No pain, no gain is not welcome on the yoga mat,” she says.
Knees. Very often, the pretzel-like poses can aggravate your knees. While many of the poses actually strengthen the legs and can be quite beneficial, if you feel a sharp pain in your knees while executing a yoga posture, particularly a twist, back off.
Hamstrings. A very common pose in yoga is the Forward Fold — both seated and standing versions. “Even the most flexible people can injure their hamstrings if they become overly enthusiastic,” says Berg. “I encourage my students to keep a slight bend in their knees.” This also helps reduce the strain on the lower back, she says.
Wrists. Props are perfect for protecting our wrists, which bear a lot of weight in many popular poses such as Downward Facing Dog, Plank and Table-top. “Use props such as blocks, blankets or even a folded towel to ease cranky wrists,” Berg says. “Make sure that your body weight is stacked evenly including using the shoulders and elbows so that the wrists don’t bear the brunt of the burden.”
Neck. Berg warns that headstands are certainly not for everyone ,and can result in serious injury. For years, the Headstand has been called the “king” of yoga postures, but recently has been criticized for exposing the head and neck to weight that can cause injury, according to Yoga Journal. In fact, in some yoga communities, the Headstand has completely lost its place at the throne, and has been banned in certain studios. “I personally do not teach headstand in my classes,” says Berg. “There are safer inversions that are just as beneficial without the risk.”