How to prevent yoga injuries while practicing yoga?

A recent study published in a journal has stated that yoga can cause musculoskeletal pain in 10 % of the trainees. Yoga can also aggravate 21 % of already existing injuries. The study found that most of the pain experienced by yoga injuries was caused while doing downward dog pose and other similar poses. It was also found that most yoga injuries were in the upper extremities like shoulders, hands, elbows, wrists etc. These were the words spoken by Doctor Eagelos Pappas who was an associate professor at the University of Sydney.  He also said that the intensity of pain from yoga injuries was so severe that one third of the patients who experienced this pain were forced to stop their participation in yoga training.

Yearlong study: A study was conducted on a group of 354 people who were taking part in the yoga classes in two New York studios. About 95 % of them were women with an average age of 45. Each of the participants was required to complete a questionnaire regarding the musculoskeletal pain suffered by them due yoga injuries before they started learning yoga. The researchers contacted these participants after one year and assessed the impact of yoga on pain related to muscles, bones and joints. 87 % of the participants reported that pain in the muscles was stopped completely in their hand, wrist, elbow, shoulder etc. However 74 % of the participants reported that they experienced improvements in their pain as a result of participating in yoga training.

The yoga practice which is about 5000 years old is gaining popularity in America in the recent years. A study conducted by Yoga Journal and Yoga Alliance in the year 2016 had found that more than thirty six million people in the US are practicing yoga. It was also reported that about 28 % of Americans had participated in yoga training at least once in their life.

Although yoga training was considered very safe, one cannot deny the fact that many people have experienced some yoga injuries while practicing the asanas. This can happen either due to an incompetent teacher or as a result of carelessness of the practitioner himself. While practicing yoga every participant has to keep in mind some important principles which are essential for the overall health and well-being of the person practicing in yoga training. 

It is suggested that every yoga teacher as well as a yoga practitioner has to consider and use them as basic steps for a beneficial and healthy yoga practice.

  1. Each individual is unique: We all know that each individual is a unique person. This means his body and mind are unique. So every participant of a yoga training program will naturally react to it in a different manner in both mental and physical planes. Coordination, motivation, endurance, body structure, physical and mental conditions etc. are different in different persons. These elements play vital roles in deciding the effect of yoga practice on the person concerned. This means that there will not be any duration or unique alignment that  will be suitable for all practitioners and will keep them safe from yoga injuries.
  2. The overload principle: This principle advocates that the physical condition of a person can be improved by subjecting to optimal overload. Hence a yoga trainee is expected to subject his body to more strain or tension than normal. This can be effectively implemented in yoga by increasing the duration of a pose or by increasing the asana’s difficulty. A careful and gradual increase of difficulty can help the practitioner to keep himself safe from yoga injuries.
  3. The principle of progression: The principle explains that there is an optimal overload that naturally applies to each practitioner.  If one makes the overload more intense or apply it too quickly, it can adversely affect the expected improvement and there will also be the risk of yoga injuries. So it is important to increase the overload gradually and carefully.
  4. The principle of adaptation: According to this principle the human body can easily adapt to greater complexity or duration of an asana. Consequently as one practices the different positions of an asana continuously, he gets adapted to the overload. When a practitioner feels comfortable with the present intensity of a yoga practice, it means it is time to modify and adjust according to the overload principle. This will help one to increase the strength, balance, flexibility and stability.
  5. The principle of use and non-use: It is a basic “principle use it or lose it”. Body never remains in a stable condition for a longer period of time. It either gets improved or gets worsened. Every time a person gives up yoga practicing, the strength, balance, flexibility and stamina he has gained is reduced. Therefore the overload has to be regulated according to the use and non-use of yoga asanas by a person.
  6. The principle of rest: When we are taking rest we are allowing our body to close the “stress response” and start the “relaxation response”. One has to understand that growth takes place only during the relaxation period. The health of a person, the type of the boy and the type of the exercise it is doing are the factors that decide the quantity of rest required by a person.  Ideal amount of rest needed for a man varies from person to person.  If the principle of rest is completely understood and followed carefully the risk of yoga injuries can be minimized.

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