According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, there were more than 5,500 yoga-related injuries treated in doctors’ offices, clinics and emergency rooms in 2007. Just like any other new sport you try, yoga should be started with precautions to prevent you from sustaining an injury that could prevent your enjoyment of yoga for many years to come.
Here in the United States, the Yoga Alliance has set guidelines for yoga teacher training programs. Make sure the instructors you take classes from have obtained both yoga teacher training and certification. This will greatly reduce the chance of injury due to receiving an improper adjustment, or from a teacher pushing you further than your body’s limits.
Unfortunately, many yoga injuries come from attempting poses that your body is not ready for. Remember that yoga is a non-competitive sport. Our bodies are all different, each with our own strengths and weaknesses. Listen to both your instructor and your body; only go as far into a pose as you can without feeling pain from too much strain, no matter what the yogi beside you is able to do. Proper form and body alignment are more important than ‘how far can you go.’
Common weak spots for many of us include having an overstretched neck, bad knees, or a tight lower back. Be sure and let your instructor know at the beginning of class if you have any trouble spots or are currently suffering from an injury; he or she will be able to offer you variations for poses specific to those areas.
Above all, set realistic goals for yourself. Never attempt an advanced yoga pose unless you are an accomplished practitioner. Advanced poses such as Dragonfly Pose, Forearm Stand and Scorpion Pose require the strength, balance and flexibility of years of practice.
Despite taking the proper precautions, you may hurt yourself accidentally. If this happens, take your injury seriously by seeing a doctor, and only return to your practice after you are fully healed and ready to get back on the horse….er, dog. Downward, that is.
Locally, consider attending a class at the YogaSoul Center in Eagan, where they offer a wide array of yoga, tai chi, and pilates classes for yogis of every level. Plus, your first week is free!