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Yoga injuries happen. Especially if you’re new to the practice, if you haven’t taken the time to properly warm up, or sometimes if you’re just unlucky. Today we’re discussing how to avoid yoga injuries, in particular the common yoga injuries – whether you’re a practitioner or a teacher –  and what steps you can take to help prevent injuries from your yoga class.

Wrist Injuries: In yoga, we spend a lot of time in postures that put stress on the wrists, e.g. Downward Facing Dog. It’s not uncommon for a wrist injury to occur. The best way to avoid this yoga injury is to ensure your wrists are properly warmed up both before and as you practice: spend some time gently rolling and stretching your wrists out before class starts. If you’re a teacher, make sure you guide students through a sufficient wrist warm up to avoid injury. Another way to help prevent a wrist injury is to make sure you spread your fingers wide and really press all ten fingers into the ground as you take a posture like Downward Facing Dog, which will help build strength around the joint and thus help prevent injury from your yoga class.

Neck Injuries: These yoga injuries tend to happen when a practitioner hasn’t built the appropriate strength or flexibility and attempts an advance posture like headstand. As teachers, it is important to remind students how to prevent injuries in yoga, and one piece of advice is to tell your class to listen to their bodies and to not attempt a posture they don’t feel ready for. Yoga is a great tool to cultivate self-awareness – only you know what’s right for you and your body – so make sure you’re listening and if you don’t feel warm enough or prepared enough to attempt a posture, then don’t.

Lower Back: This yoga injury is usually caused by repetition and a lack of body awareness which results in bad form. We spend a lot of time in a forward fold in yoga, so to avoid lower back injuries in a yoga class, make sure you (as the teacher) are providing good cues and modifications for your students and that you (as the student) are listening to the cues and not rounding in the lower back. In forward folds, a simple tool to avoid injury can be to bend your knees to take some of the pressure off the lower back, and focus on leading with the chest to ensure you fold forward with a flat back and proper form.

Hamstrings: Limited flexibility in the hamstrings can cause practitioners to over-stretch and injure this muscle group. To avoid yoga injuries caused by tight hamstrings, make sure you are taking a bend in the knee and focus on lengthening through the spine as you forward fold. You will also want to engage through the quadriceps as you lengthen into the hamstrings which will provide stability for your stretch. You should never feel pain at the point of insertion in your hamstrings in any posture; if you do, stop what you are doing and prevent this common yoga injury.

In essence, the best form of defense against a yoga injury is an adequate warm up, practicing good form, and self-awareness. So limber up, listen to your body, and enjoy your yoga class safely!

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