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Physical Health

Yoga for injuries: 8 ways to prevent injuries through a good yoga practice

Many people come to Yoga for improved health. Relaxation, better sleep, greater strength, and flexibility are just a few of the multitude of health benefits you may find from incorporating a yoga routine into your life! In addition, many folks turn to yoga after injury as a part of recovery to rebuild strength and stamina. Developing a strong practice helps many return to pre-injury fitness (or even better than before!).

But did you know – if practiced incorrectly, you may actually injure yourself during your yoga practice? Injury in yoga most commonly occurs over time from repetitive movementsoveruse, or incorrect alignment in poses that place stress on the injury-susceptible area of the body. If you are someone who is just starting to practice yoga or a seasoned practitioner, and you are concerned about injuring yourself, read on to discover how to change the way you do yoga daily to better protect yourself from injury and improve overall well-being and stamina.

Learn which poses and techniques cause the most injuries and how you can avoid them. By understanding these common causes of yoga injuries and following the preventive measures outlined, you can enjoy a safer, more beneficial yoga practice.

Read on to learn more.

What is yoga for injuries?

Yoga for injuries refers to the practice of utilizing yoga as a method to prevent and heal physical injuries.

It involves adapting your practice to your specific needs and choosing yoga poses (asanas) to:

to safeguard against future injuries. This approach to yoga is mindful and emphasizes listening to your body, ensuring a safe and beneficial practice.

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Benefits of practicing yoga to avoid injuries

Practicing yoga in this way will have positive impacts beyond preventing injuries:

Strengthening muscles and joints

Yoga poses are designed to strengthen the muscles and joints, which in turn, support and protect the body from injuries.

By focusing on areas like:

  • Shoulders
  • Knees
  • And back

yoga can help build the necessary strength to prevent common injuries.

Increasing flexibility and range of motion

A key benefit of yoga is its ability to increase flexibility and range of motion.

This is crucial for injury prevention, as a more flexible body is less likely to suffer from strains and sprains.

Improving balance

Through strengthening the whole body and focusing the body, energy, and mind, many yoga practices improve overall balance.

Better balance means a lower risk of falls and related injuries, especially in activities outside of yoga.

Enhancing body awareness

Yoga encourages heightened body awareness, allowing practitioners to recognize their physical limits and avoid pushing beyond their capabilities, which is often how injuries occur.

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Yoga postures that can lead to injury if practiced incorrectly.

Certain yoga poses are more prone to causing injuries due to the complexity of the movements, the level of strength or flexibility required, and the potential for misalignment or overexertion. Let us be clear – no yoga poses in and of themselves cause injury. If that were the case, no one should be teaching them!

Rather, many postures common in yoga make it difficult to find the right alignment in your body. Additionally, transitions in and out of postures can be a time when we may slack, not moving with integrity and safety.  In these cases, repeated practice out of alignment may cause strain, stress, and even injury over time. The majority of injuries due to yoga are attributed to repeated misalignment (injury over a long period of time) or during faulty transition (moving too quickly and without care between postures).

Here are some of the poses that carry a higher risk of injury and the reasons why:

▶️ Chaturanga dandasana

This pose demands significant strength from the shouldersarms, and core.

Incorrect form, such as sagging hips or misaligned elbows, can lead to shoulder and wrist injuries.

▶️ Uttanasana

Overstretching in this pose without adequate hamstring flexibility or with a rounded back can cause lower back and hamstring injuries.

▶️ Ustrasana

Without proper core engagement and spinal alignment, this deep backbend can strain the back and neck.

▶️ Sirsasana

Requires significant neckshoulder, and core strength. Improper weight distribution or lack of control can lead to neck injuries.

▶️ Adho mukha vrksasana

The pressure on the wrists and the demand for upper body strength and balance make this pose a common source of wrist and shoulder injuries.

▶️ Virabhadrasana

Incorrect alignment, such as the knee or toes turning too far inwards, can cause knee strain.

▶️ Sarvangasana

Like headstands, shoulder stands place pressure on the neck and shoulders, risking injury if not properly supported or aligned.

▶️ Bakasana

This arm balance puts a lot of pressure on the wrists and requires significant core strength, leading to potential wrist and lower back injuries if not executed with care.

These poses are particularly prone to injuries due to the balance of strength, flexibility, and technique required.

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8 Common yoga injuries and how to avoid them

Yoga strengthens both the body and mind, but sometimes, if practiced without integrity and awareness, it can lead to injuries. Understanding the causes of injury and strategies for prevention is key to a safe and fulfilling practice.

1. Knees

Knee injuries in yoga, often result from improper alignment in poses like Warrior or Pigeon.

When the knee extends past the toes or twists unnaturally, it may put undue stress on the joint, leading to pain or injury.

➡️ How to avoid knee injuries

  1. Retain strength and integration through the feet by actively engaging the feet in all standing postures, like suction cups to the floor.
  2. Increase hip flexibility to reduce strain on the knees.
  3. Engage glute, thigh, and calf muscles to prevent dumping excess weight and causing strain into joints.

2. Shoulders

Shoulder pain can occur from overextending in poses like Chaturanga. Chaturanga in particular takes an incredible amount of core, back, and arm strength. When practiced with awareness, integrity, and gradually as your strength increases over time, this posture is great for developing the strength necessary to avoid injury. However, in many modern settings students move through chatturanga too rapidly and without proper engagement, actually leading to injury over time!

Overstraining or lack of engagement due to low strength and flexibility can lead to strains or more serious shoulder injuries from yoga.

➡️ How to avoid shoulder injuries

  1. Strengthen and open the muscles that support the shoulders with targeted exercises.
  2. Practice proper alignment, especially in poses that put weight on the shoulders. For example, in chatturanga, do not lower your torso beneath your elbows, bent at 90-degree angles.
  3. Extend the shoulder blades down the spine, lengthen the neck, and engage the muscles of the upper middle back. Avoid shrugging the shoulders up towards the ears.

3. Wrists

Wrist problems in yoga stem from placing too much body weight on the hands in poses like Downward Dog, combined with improper hand alignment.

➡️ How to avoid wrist injuries

  1. Distribute weight evenly across the hands, focusing on the knuckles and fingertips. Press firmly and evenly into the hands, fingers spread wide, palms planting. Energetically “suction-cup” the hands from the earth, wrapping up the arm toward the shoulder, to increase engagement and integrity.
  2. Practice wrist-strengthening exercises.
  3. Use props or modify poses to reduce pressure on the wrists, such as hands-on blocks.
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4. Muscles

Muscle soreness from yoga can result from overstretchingrapid movements without adequate control and integrity, or not allowing the body enough time for rest/strengthening as you adapt to new poses.

➡️ How to avoid muscle injuries

  1. If you are prone to hypermobility / hyperflexibility, you may find it “easy” to enter deeply into a posture but discover muscle soreness/pain later on. Don’t push past your edge – instead, embrace gradual stretching with strength. Hold back a bit from the “stretchiest” expression of the posture to remain more in your strength.
  2. Listen to your body and respect its limits. This means every day! Our bodies’ needs shift and alter daily. Stay curious, attuned, and respectful.
  3. Warm up properly before engaging in more intense poses. Always start your practice with a warm-up, and build your practice toward a peak-pose with postures that support gradually meeting that point.

5. Back

Back sores after yoga often occur from improper forward folds and twists, leading to rounding of the spine or uneven distribution of weight.

➡️ How to avoid back injuries

  1. Keep the spine elongated and avoid rounding. Bend from the hips, only as far forward as you can comfortably reach with a straight spine. This may be dramatically different from how far forward you can reach with a rounded spine! That’s okay – remember, bending from the hips, and elongating the spine, will allow you to gradually deepen and develop back flexibility and strength without injury.
  2. Engage the core to support the lower back.
  3. Move into poses with mindfulness and control. Be mindful of not just the postures themselves, but how you arrive there, and how you release them. Remain engaged and strong!

6. Legs and hamstrings

Hamstring injuries can occur when forcing deep forward folds or performing movements that stretch the hamstrings without a proper warm-up.

➡️ How to avoid hamstring injuries

  1. Always keep a slight bend in the knees during forward folds.
  2. Gradually increase flexibility through consistent practice.
  3. Avoid jerky or rapid movements that can strain the muscles. Move fluidly and with awareness and care.

7. Tendons and feet

Tendonitis and foot injuries in yoga can arise from repetitive movementsoveruse, or incorrect alignment in poses that place stress on these areas.

➡️ How to avoid tendon and foot injuries

  1. Practice balanced sequences that don’t overemphasize one part of the body.
  2. Use props to support and align the feet and ankles properly.
  3. Rest and treat any signs of overuse or strain immediately.

8. Neck

Neck pain after yoga can occur from incorrectly performing poses that put pressure on the neck, such as headstands or shoulder stands. 

➡️ How to avoid neck injuries

  1. Avoid placing excessive weight on the neck.
  2. Strengthen the neck and shoulders before attempting advanced inversions.
  3. Use props and modifications to ensure proper alignment and support.

Practice yoga and avoid injuries

Yoga offers a holistic approach to physical health, making it an ideal practice for those looking to prevent injuries.

By focusing on strength, flexibility, balance, and body awareness, yoga can help you build a stronger, more resilient body. Remember, the key to a safe yoga practice is listening to your body and respecting its limits.

By understanding these common causes of yoga injuries and following the preventive measures outlined, you can enjoy a safer, more beneficial yoga practice.

With the right approach, yoga can be a powerful ally in your journey toward injury prevention and overall physical well-being.

Namaste.

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