Doing yoga can be relaxing, but do it wrongly and you run the risk of injuring yourself. If you don’t warm up properly or overexert yourself, you might end up experiencing back pain, strain on your hamstrings, or a persistent ache in your wrist. Common causes of yoga injuries could also be due to you hyperextending your joints, or ignoring pain signals from your body says Anthony Liu, head of physiotherapy at Natural Healings. “Stop if you feel that you might be injured. Forcing your way through pain could lead to a more serious injury that will take longer to recover,” he added. Below, Anthony shares more about the 3 most common yoga injuries and the exercises that can prevent them.
Yoga injury: Lower back pain
Yoga poses such as forward bend require the rounding of spine. “This rounding causes the spine to flex in the opposite direction of its natural position, increasing the pressure between spinal bones,” says Anthony. Another cause of lower back pain: Forcing stiff and tight muscles into a back-bending pose like wheel or locust.
Exercise to prevent lower back pain
Lie face up on a mat with one hand under lower back. Slowly push down on hand with lower back and hold for three seconds, breathing normally. Do three sets of 10 reps, increasing the holding time gradually.
Why it helps: Pelvic tilts increase awareness of your spinal positioning, so you’re better able to maintain a neutral spine during yoga poses.
Yoga injury: Wrist and elbow strain
Arm-balancing yoga poses like crow and handstand place tremendous stress on the wrists and elbows. Injuries can occur from improper distribution of weight on the wrists, or locking or hyperextending joints in the elbows. “Spread your fingers wide to even out the weight distribution, and reduce the angle of your wrist to the floor to ease the pressure that goes to your wrist joints,” says Anthony.
Exercise to prevent wrist and elbow strain
Extend left arm in front of you, palm facing down. Using right hand, gently bend left wrist towards floor until you feel a moderate stretch in left forearm. Hold for 20 seconds. Do three to five reps; repeat stretch with left palm facing up. Switch sides to complete set.
Why it helps: Regular stretching of the wrists helps to maintain your flexibility and allows the joints to take in more load during weight-bearing activities.
Yoga injury: Hamstring strain
It’s easy to overstretch the hamstrings in certain yoga poses like forward fold and triangle. “Sometimes people misjudge the amount of stretch they put their bodies through, causing minor tears along the muscular fibres,” Anthony explains. “In any pose, there should be no pain, otherwise it means that you’re causing strain to a certain part of your body.”
Exercises to prevent hamstring strain
Lie face up on mat and place twisted towel or resistance band under left foot. Grab towel firmly with both hands and raise left foot, keeping right leg straight on mat. Hold for 20 seconds once you feel a comfortable stretch in left hamstring, breathing normally. Do three to five reps; repeat on other leg.
Why it helps: Regular stretching of the hamstrings helps to maintain your flexibility and prevents sudden pull of the muscle.
Lie face down on mat. Keeping hips level and spine in neutral position, exhale and slowly raise left leg behind you. Do three sets of 10 reps; repeat on other leg.
Why it helps: This exercise strengthens your glutes, which will take some stress off the hamstring muscles.
Text: Estelle Low / Shape / September 2015