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Safety Guidelines in Hatha Yoga Classes
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Forum Posts: 38
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April 27, 2015
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October 10, 2009 - 9:29 pm
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I hear about the smoking gun, but have never seen a student get injured. Don't get me wrong, if a student pushes hard enough I know they can get hurt. It's just I have never seen it happen.


Forum Posts: 146
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April 9, 2013 - 7:51 pm
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About that smoking gun: sooner or later we have to realize that lawsuits are a greedy part of 21st century human nature. There are problems with militaristic teaching methods taught in hot and boot camp type classes. One point to mention is why yoga students should not lock joints - even if an uneducated instructor insists on it!

Yoga students sometimes injure themselves when they are trying to learn new poses. The reason for this is because they often lock their joints. This is largely due to the fact that they are learning and they still do not have the proper technique in order to do the pose correctly. It is important to help students understand early on that they should not lock their joints, as doing so can cause them to damage their joints or even to tear muscles or ligaments.

Students of asana (yoga posture) practices should not lock their joints because injuries are more prone to occur when too much stress is placed on a given joint. Locking joints leaves no room for the body to travel and it places a great deal of stress on the joint, which is locked. Much like a column of wood will crumble under crushing weight if it is not properly supported, your joints cannot adequately support the stress that you are placing on them if you do not position your body in such a way that it is balanced. When you lock your joints, you are throwing off your balance, and doing so even to a small degree can make your body more susceptible to injury.

Furthermore, hatha yoga teacher training intensives are centered on how to teach the student to stretch the body and the mind in ways that were previously thought to be impossible. This means that at times, you will be placing a great deal of physical stress on your joints. Leaving them slightly flexed will help protect you from injury while simultaneously assisting you in maintaining your balance throughout the pose. This is crucial for students who are learning new poses. Proper technique is imperative if you are to get the most benefits from yogic practices, and one technique is sometimes built off another. Therefore, it is paramount that the correct technique is used when forming yoga poses, to ensure that the full benefits are achieved.

Students who protect their joints by leaving them flexed slightly are likely to be able to continue practicing yoga training sessions for a longer period of time than those students who have suffered severe injury as a result of improper balance. While using poor technique during poses may only result in a pulled muscle, it may also have more dire consequences such as a torn ligament, especially in the knee. Such an injury could force a student to stop practicing yoga altogether, thus resulting in that student missing out on the many benefits of yogic practices.

One last point to mention and this flies in the face of yoga teachers who preach that everyone should practice inverted asanas for better health. There are many risks and the following is just one of the many.

The Problem With Yoga Inversions and Strokes

There's no end to the benefits of yoga inversions. However, while inverted poses help ease everyday compression of the lumbar vertebrae and increase blood flow to the upper body, they can spell trouble for practitioners who have had or are at risk for strokes.

To many yoga teachers and practitioners, this may not be a surprise. Even things like neck massages and having one's hair washed in a salon tub carry a risk of stroke. Anything that causes a sudden movement or hyperextension of the neck can result in tiny tears in the linings of the carotid artery, called craniocervical artery dissection. The body repairs these tears by forming clots, which can end up obstructing the artery and depriving the brain of adequate blood flow, or breaking away and lodging in blood vessels in the brain itself.

The bad news is, it isn't easy to tell who's at risk for this type of stroke. While older people and those with certain medical conditions may have an increased overall risk of stroke, arterial dissection is the primary cause of up to one quarter of all strokes in people under age 50. The good news is arterial dissection is relatively rare, and people can help minimize their risk by avoiding movements that are likely to trigger it.

Inversions like Halasana or Pincha Mayurasana carry an added risk of stroke. When the human body is inverted, blood pressure increases and blood can begin to pool in the neck and cranium. This can be damaging to the blood vessels inside the brain, and trigger strokes in practitioners who are at risk. As a result, these poses may be contraindicated in elderly patients, patients who have already experienced a stroke or transient ischemic attack, or patients who have added risk factors like clotting disorders or heart disease.

Symptoms of a stroke include sudden muscle weakness, numbness, or tingling in one or both sides of the face, arms, or legs; paralysis; difficulty walking or speaking; ringing in the ears; confusion; severe headache; or blurred or distorted vision in one or both eyes. A stroke is a medical emergency, and prompt medical treatment is crucial.

While inversions can be of tremendous benefit to most practitioners, it's important for yoga teachers and practitioners alike to weigh the good against the bad. Other asanas may help those at risk for stroke, without exposing them to the increased risk posed by inversions.

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