Most of us enjoy yoga because of the calming and restorative benefits we feel after our practice. It’s considered one of, if not the most, gentle forms of exercise. That might be true, but like any form of exercise, it’s possible to injure yourself in a class. Here are some common yoga injuries and a few tips for avoiding them.
Wrist pain. Dealing with a wrist injury can be devastating in yoga because of our reliance on them in almost every pose. If your pain is mild, simply changing the way you place weight on your hands can make the difference. Make sure your fingers are spread wide and in arm balances, make sure the elbows are stacked over your wrists. If the injury is more severe, try using a prop such as a yoga wedge. Placing the wedge under the wrist can soften the angle of the extension. You can also try going onto your forearms in poses like downward facing dog and plank.
Shoulder Pain/Strain. Shoulder pain in yoga is quite common and can usually be the cause of tightening and shrugging the shoulders towards the ears during class. Doing this takes all of the support out of the arms and neck resulting in pain. It’s also easy to injure the rotator cuff with over-extending. Try to be aware of your shoulder placement. Make sure you’re keeping them held back, down, away from your ears and make sure you aren’t pulling too hard on them while stretching.
Hamstring Pain. Hamstring pain is usually the cause of sitting too long. We spend most of our days in front of the computer, in class or in the car making it impossible to avoid at least a little bit of hamstring tightness. Over-stretching them in forward bends only adds to this pain. Work slowly in poses like downward-facing dog and lunges.
Neck Pain. It’s not uncommon to experience neck pain in yoga. Especially if you’re doing a lot of head and shoulder stands. Incorrectly placing pressure on the neck in these poses can put pressure on the cervical vertebrae and cause joint issues. If you’re experiencing chronic neck pain, you should avoid full inversions or only attempt them under the supervision of your yoga instructor. If you insist on doing them, make sure the shoulder blades are drawn back and down and don’t jerk your neck around once you’re in the pose.
If you are experiencing chronic pain, the most helpful thing you can do is rest and allow your body to heal. If the pain still won’t go away, see your doctor to rule out a serious injury.