yoga teacher trainingBy Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

We all think of Hatha Yoga as a healing activity; but in the case of asana practice, like every form of movement, injuries can happen. It is also true that anyone could be injured while walking. However, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 5,500 Yoga training injuries were treated in 2007. Injuries are most commonly sustained when students have pre-existing medical conditions, poses are done repeatedly, practitioners push themselves too hard, or poses are performed in poor alignment.

Back injuries are common: Upward Dog and Cobra asanas require back bending movement, which can cause pain in the spine. Poses that elongate the back, like Seated Forward Bend, can aggravate discs. Plank and Chaturanga put pressure on rotator cuffs and wrists, while knees are at risk when practicing the Hero’s pose, the Lotus position, and the Warrior series.

Avoiding common Yoga injuries can be as simple as listening to your body. Here are some of the most common injuries and how to prevent them.

1) Hamstring tears and lower back pain. Small tears of the hamstring, that attaches at the sitting bone, are due to overstretching in Forward Bends – and left untreated, can cause persistent pain.  Forcing the back into a Forward Bend can also tear muscles in the back.  At the same time, the Forward Bend has therapeutic applications when practiced mindfully, gradually, and without force.

Drawing in your lower belly to stabilize your core, and tilting your pelvis downwards before moving into Forward Bends, can help prevent this injury. Avoid locking your knees, which strains the hamstrings. In fact, beginners should be encouraged to bend the knees, so that the hamstrings don’t absorb all the tension.  Beginners should also train under the guidance of a competent Yoga teacher.

2) Shoulder pains. Aching, or sharp pain, can result when the shoulder is hunched forward, and the wrists can be hurt, if the arm is not in alignment.

Good posture should be practiced in daily life.  Try standing with the elbows bent by your side, and with wrists flexed, as in a push-up position. Open the shoulders to feel the shoulder blades slide down the back, and the tops of the arm bones move up and back. Watch how your arms form a straight line, without the wrists turning in or out. Notice the space that is created in the chest, and preserve this space when you move onto the mat in position.

3) Knee injuries. Knee joints are meant to open and close, rather than move side-to-side. Twisting the knee laterally, rather than opened and closed, can cause pain and injury. In addition, the leg functions as a whole, divided into segments. By straining the hips or ankles, the tension can be passed on to the knee and result in aches at that joint instead.

Don’t move abruptly into hip openers, and pay careful attention to keeping your knee behind your foot in Warrior asanas.

Although freak accidents are still possible – according to the New York Times, one woman fell forward in Bakasana, or Crow Pose, and broke her nose. With strict attention to detail, most Yoga related injuries can be prevented. For most Yoga teachers, organized safety procedures are in place from the moment a new student is interviewed, to the end of class.

Teachers, who establish a track record of educating students in safety protocol, should be recognized by the Yoga schools who hire them. Although it is often underrated, a track record of safety is just as important as attracting student numbers when factoring a Yoga instructor’s value.

© Copyright 2011 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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