Ohm My Gosh! I’m Going Down, Dog! | Element Physio


Yoga.  Just a bunch of breathing and stretching, right?  How could someone possibly get injured?  Wrong.  Yoga can be extremely strong, powerful, and physically challenging.  It is known for being rehabilitative and therapeutic, and in most cases this is true, but with the number of down-doggers continuing to rise, yoga injuries are becoming more and more prevalent.  In a 2012 survey of 2500 practitioners in Australia, 2.4 percent had a yoga-caused injury over the previous year.

Most of these injuries are not serious – sprains, strains, bruises – and many of them go unreported.  In my experience practicing and teaching yoga, as well as treating yoga-related pain in the clinic, most of the injuries can be prevented.  Some have to do with the ego – trying to “compete” with a yogi beside you or get in to something that you feel you “should” be able to do.  Others have to do with improper alignment or muscle activation.  For all the hardcore yogis, some come from overuse – not taking enough rest days, juggling a home practice and multiple studio visits a week, or not balancing power flows with some yin.

Common injury areas include, but are not limited to, the low back, knees, hamstrings, wrists, and neck.  Whether the onset of pain or discomfort occurred in a yoga class or you’re finding that your practice is aggravating or shining a light upon a preexisting injury, it is possible to treat and rehabilitate these aches and pains, often without giving up that evening class you’ve been looking forward to all week!  Yoga=sanity, we get it!  As a yogi physio, I spend time assessing your downward dog, vinyasa, and warriors to help you find the source of the problem.  We can then give you cueing, exercises, and modifications to support you through the injury, as well as prevent recurrence.  This process is extremely individualized and no two people get the same education or home program.

General tips for preventing injury:

  1. Listen to your body – If something is painful, straining versus stretching, or aching after your practice, don’t do it.  Your body is your temple and yoga is meant to build it up, not tear it down.
  2. Listen to your teacher – All those cues your yoga teacher is constantly repeating aren’t to nag you, but to help keep you safe.  They generally offer options for all skill levels and emphasize the proper alignment.  It is a lot to take in, especially in your first couple of classes.  Starting with some beginner home videos can help you to familiarize yourself with some of the vocabulary.
  3. Do your research – Read about the class types and levels ahead of time and start with beginner classes that will place emphasis on the basics of asana (the poses), posture, and alignment.  Solidifying the foundations will allow you to build and progress your practice safely.
  4. Keep the focus on your mat – No two yogis are alike, and therefore no two practices look alike.  There are many different body types, strengths and weaknesses, and expressions of a pose.  While some people may come to a class to work on their flexibility and mobility, others inherently possess a lot of mobility (sometimes too much) and are looking to build stability and strength.  Set your intention, focus on your individual practice, and move with the breath.
  5. Stay balanced – Yoga isn’t always about “achieving” a pose.  Yoga was meant to open doors, leading to transformation of the whole self – mind, body, and soul.  Asana is just one aspect of yoga – meditation, breathing (pranayama), self-reflection, connecting with the present moment are the true fuel of a practice, with “the pose” just being a small component.  Try to let go of your preoccupation with the external experience and instead, honor your connection with the breath, the present, and yourself.

Namaste, yogis!

“The light that yoga sheds on life is something special.  It is transformative.  It does not change the way we see things; it transforms the person who sees.”
-B.K.S Iyengar