Yoga has many health benefits for the mind and body. It’s proven to increase muscle strength and flexibility, as well as decrease anxiety and depression. This increasingly popular exercise can also provide relief for bone, joint and muscle-related pain if practiced correctly. Without using proper technique, this relaxing, stress-reducing activity can cause serious muscle damage, including strain and overstretching of the neck, shoulders, spine, legs and knees.
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) offers safety tips to help individuals prevent injuries and reap the benefits of yoga.
“The key to a successful workout is using proper form,” said AAOS spokesperson and orthopaedic spine and trauma surgeon Brett Freedman, MD. “When the technique of yoga is compromised, the body is placed at an increased risk of injury. New participants should work with a qualified instructor until they are confident in their practice.”
The AAOS recommends the following tips to prevent injuries:
- If you have any medical conditions or injuries, speak to your doctor before participating in any yoga.
- Discuss any known illness or injury with your yoga instructor prior to the class so that he or she can recommend pose modifications.
- Learn what type of yoga you are performing. There are hundreds of different forms of yoga, some more strenuous than others.
- Select the class level that is appropriate for you. Beginners should start slowly and learn the basics first — such as breathing — rather than trying to stretch too far.
- Wear appropriate clothing that allows for proper movement.
- Warm up thoroughly before a yoga session — cold muscles, tendons, and ligaments are vulnerable to injury.
- If you are unsure of a pose or movement, ask questions.
- Know your limits. Do not try positions beyond your experience or comfort level.
- Keep hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids, especially if participating in “hot” yoga.
- Listen to your body. If you are experiencing pain or exhaustion while participating in yoga, stop or take a break. If pain persists, talk to your doctor.