pre-existing injuriesBy Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

How can Yoga help pre-existing injuries? As the benefits of practicing Yoga, to cope with chronic health concerns and pre-existing injuries, becomes more well known, the need to choose an experienced instructor and appropriate class is more important that ever. Yoga is more than a physical exercise; it is a healing art that is good for the mind, body, and spirit.

Nevertheless, there are a few precautions to consider before starting any new exercise, especially in the case of pre-existing health conditions. A Yoga teacher, who is well trained in therapeutic techniques, and familiar with contraindications, can establish an individual program that not only fits initial needs, but also evolves with progress and prevents further injuries.

Restorative poses or Chair Yoga are helpful in relaxing the body and creating optimal conditions for healing. Additionally, the use of props or adapted postures, allows movements that otherwise could not be attempted. Still, Yoga requires patience and proper training, if it is to be practiced safely and effectively.

The following conditions have an increased risk of injury if improper asana alignment is practiced, or postures, that are too challenging, are attempted.

• Weak muscles

• Pre-existing injuries within any joint of the entire body

• Pre-existing medical conditions

• Strained backs and hamstrings

• Muscle groups that are tight or out of balance

• Improper skeletal alignment

Yoga has proven to be helpful in healing injuries relating to the back, shoulders, knees, neck, and wrists. However, special considerations are needed, in some instances, to keep from aggravating pre-existing injuries. Examples are given below.

• Although Yoga is a popular means for dealing with lower back pain, these poses may reduce pain or actually worsen the condition: Backward Bends, Cobra Pose, Forward Bend, and Spinal Twists. Therefore, all back problems are unique, and one should proceed with caution.

• While carpal tunnel syndrome can be improved by Yoga therapy, the condition may also be worsened by putting excessive weight on the wrists. Downward Dog or Plank Pose should be practiced only with props and careful supervision.

• Exercise helps to keep the neck strong and flexible, but too much pressure on the cervical region is counterproductive. Postures, such as Plow, Shoulder Stand, and Headstand can be harmful in some cases.

• Pinched nerves in impinged shoulders, or pain caused by weak back muscles, may be exacerbated by poor alignment in Triangle Pose and other similar postures.

• Sitting in Lotus Pose can cause knee pain if the hips are tight, and special care should be taken to avoid hyper-extending the knees when doing any postures with straight legs.


Yoga should never be competitive or painful, and no one can personally monitor safety more closely than an aware and informed student. Patience, proper instruction, and personal knowledge are the keys to a successful and safe Yoga practice. facing the feelings

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