We have nearly all experienced aches and pains after a stronger yoga class! Generalized muscle soreness can be a passing inconvenience, however, when these aches and pains develop into long term or more serious injuries this spells trouble! In fact, recent research published in the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine has found that reported yoga injuries are increasing, especially amongst older adults. So why the increase and what can we do about it?

The reported increase in injury could simply be a reflection of an increase in the popularity of yoga. In addition to this, as we age, our joints, tendons, and muscles can become more vulnerable to wear and tear. Which when loaded at end range positions can contribute to injury.

So what are the most common injuries we see? In my practice as a physiotherapist, I regularly treat and manage injuries related to yoga practice and here are a few of the most common problems I see.

  1. Hamstring Tendinopathy– This will be experienced as pain right on the sitting bone where the hamstring attaches. This is usually a result of overstretching the hamstring tendon at its insertion point in forwarding bends and can be notoriously tricky to manage! Read more about hamstring tendinopathy here!
  2. Knee Pain- A loss of flexibility in the hips and excessive twisting at the knee can contribute to pain in the meniscus- which is the cushioning cartilage that lines the knee joint. Knees don’t like twisting! Learn more about knee pain and what to do about it here!
  3. Back Pain- There can be many contributing factors in the onset of lower back pain and each patient I treat will be managed slightly differently. However common factors contributing to back pain with yoga can be trying too hard with poor technique and loss of hip mobility in forwarding bends, poor control, and excessive force into backbends. Access your FREE videos here on how to modify you practice if you have pain in backbends or forward bends
  4. Shoulder Pain– Impingement of the rotator cuff or subacromial bursa is the most common cause of shoulder pain I treat and is often a result of poor scapula control and excessive load into side planks (vasisthasana) or repeated chaturanga. Learn more about shoulder pain here

I will be exploring preventative measures for each of these common injuries in future blogs and look forward to sharing injury prevention tips!

In the meantime, what can we do to prevent yoga injuries as we age? Here are a few of my favourite pieces of advice.

  1. Relax, let go of the ego! Each body in class is different and you should not be attempting to be where your neighbour is throughout your sequence of postures. Use your class time to close the eyes, turn inward and listen to your own body. Comparing yourself to your neighbours or your teacher can result in pushing too hard and straining important ligaments or tendon insertions.
  2. Breathe! Listening to the breath is always a good indicator. If you are holding your breath or struggling to breathe you may be pushing too hard or too far into postures. Back off, slow down and breathe.
  3. Alignment! Your teacher will have good cues to assist you in optimising your alignment and preventing injury- make sure you listen! Practicing with mirrors can also help you see when you might be compromising your alignment, such as rounding the lower back or dropping the shoulders.
  4. Find your own unique blend of effort and effortlessness. It’s easy to be caught up in trying way too hard in class. Equally, we can have days or moments where we simply want to stop trying and lie down in savasana! Can you walk the fine line between creating some effort in your practice; yet maintain ease in the postures. Walking this line and creating a blend of effort and effortlessness is sure what to maintain a good practice without injury!

I look forward to sharing more injury prevention tips for yoga! In the meantime, enjoy

Namaste’
Niky

The Yoga Physio is powered by Nichole Hamilton and her physiotherapy practice Synergy Physio. To learn more about her physiotherapy practice and her team at Synergy Physio click here

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