Yoga poses many potential health benefits, but pushing yourself too far can lead to an injury

Yoga has been experiencing an incredible surge in popularity in recent times that seems to only be continuing, as more than 20 million Americans are currently involved in the discipline to some extent.

The numerous health benefits of yoga are generally well known and strongly promoted: better strength and flexibility, reduced tension, anxiety and stress, improved heart rate, metabolism and respiration, and less pain. Though these supported claims make it an attractive choice and have much to do with the reason so many flock to yoga mats, the risk for injury is still apparent under certain circumstances and needs to be considered for anyone practicing yoga.

Most injuries in yoga develop gradually over the years and are a result of consistent overstretching and misalignment of the body. Low back pain is the most commonly seen yoga injury, yet all regions of the body are vulnerable—including the wrists, neck, shoulders and knees—depending on what poses are being performed. Fortunately, the majority of yoga-related injuries are minor, but more serious problems like sprains, strains, fractures, dislocations, and even bone spurs and sciatic nerve damage may occur in rare cases if proper precautions are not taken.

At Dynamic Sports Physical Therapy, we encourage you to practice yoga while being aware of the injury risk and taking steps to avoid any issues. The safest approach is to learn how to practice poses with proper alignment and to stay in tune with your body to ensure you’re not overdoing it. Keep these tips in mind on the yoga mat:

  • Warm up with basic stretches like neck and shoulder rolls and gentle twists to help the body prepare for more challenging poses
  • Come out of postures slowly and gradually, especially if you’ve been holding it for several minutes
  • Don’t push yourself too far or too quickly into more advanced poses
  • Try to never hyperextend, or lock, any of your joints; this can be accomplished by engaging muscles around your joints for stability
  • Listen to your body by staying mindful and sensitive to any tightness or strain you may be experiencing, which may vary on a daily basis
  • Stay for the savasana, which allows the nervous system to slow down
  • If you do happen to get injured to any degree, stop practicing yoga immediately until the pain subsides; if it continues, see a physician

For more guidance on how to approach yoga while keeping your injury risk to a minimum, or for any other musculoskeletal issues, visit us at Dynamic Sports Physical Therapy in New York City. Call 212-317-8303 for more information or to schedule an appointment.