Every now and then, someone writes some kind of article inflating the dangers of yoga. Can yoga make you too flexible? Aren’t more and more people getting hurt in yoga? Is yoga dangerous?
Let’s break this down.
Is yoga dangerous?
Not inherently, no. It’s generally less dangerous than high-impact exercise or crossing the street. (I don’t have the stats on that, but you get my point.)
You shouldn’t avoid yoga because it’s dangerous any more than you would avoid climbing a flight of stairs, petting a strange dog, or eating leftover meatloaf.
Some years ago, I was searching for liability insurance to cover me as a teacher. I asked my car insurance agent if they had anything available. They said yes, as long as I was only teaching yoga, but since I taught other exercise classes, as well, they wouldn’t do it. In other words, they considered all those other classes far more dangerous than yoga.
And since 2002, I can only remember one twisted ankle and a couple of people sitting down because they felt sick in a fitness class. As for yoga, one woman’s arm buckled and she landed on her chin, scraping it on the floor. Rare occasions.
Are yoga injuries on the rise?
This CBS News article says they are, but acknowledges that the chance of getting hurt in yoga is still pretty low.
Of course, accidents can and do happen. But more commonly, yoga injuries are caused when people push too hard, too soon. Injuries happen when people try to force a pose they’re not ready for because the rest of the class is doing it or because they feel like they should be able to do it.
As my teacher says, “Yoga is not a workout. It’s a work in.” When you approach it as a workout, something you have to push through, you’re more prone to injury. In yoga, we don’t push. We invite. We allow. We encourage.
What can I do to stay safe in yoga?
- Listen to your body. Your body knows when too much is too much. If a pose doesn’t feel good, don’t do it. Ask the teacher to help you adapt it.
- Move with intention. Keep your mind on your practice, and use strength and control as you move through the yoga poses. Certain techniques and breathing exercises are fast-paced, but even those are performed with body awareness and control.
- Go to an appropriate class. Pregnant women should be in a pre-natal class if at all possible. (If not, tell your teacher you’re pregnant, and listen to his guidelines.) Beginners should not join a “Level 3” on the studio schedule. If you’re not sure what the class will be like, talk to the studio owner or the teacher to get a sense if it will work for you.
- Avoid contraindicated poses. All people can do some yoga, but not all people can do all yoga. There are some poses that are not good for people with high blood pressure, knee replacements, or even headaches. If you have an illness or condition that makes you wonder if you can do yoga, talk to your doctor and then to your yoga teacher. Chances are, yes, you can do some poses and breathing, but the professionals will be able to point out which poses you should skip or adapt.
- Don’t do yoga on the edge of a cliff. Seriously, yoga wasn’t really meant to be practiced on fence posts or moving cars, no matter how great the photo looks.
Have you ever gotten hurt in a yoga class? Upon reflection, what led to that injury?