Yoga Injuries

Maybe you know a fellow yoga student who has suffered injury on the mat.  Isn’t yoga supposed to be safe and healing?

Unfortunately, injuries are becoming all too common in the yoga community.  Many of these injuries can be attributed to the plethora of under-qualified and inexperienced teachers filling gyms and even studios across the country.  Why is so much riding on the teacher’s expertise?  Poorly sequenced classes that add challenging postures before adequately warming up the body invite injury, as do classes that are inappropriately difficult for the level of students present.  Some teachers push students to work beyond their capacity, or use forceful and unsafe physical adjustments.  Other teachers simply don’t know or fail to teach the alignment principles that would protect their students.

Another major source of injury comes from within.  When a student ignores his body’s warning signals and instead listens to his ego, he puts himself at risk.  Yoga philosophy warns against this mindset, but many students have little or no exposure to the deeper teachings of the practice.

So, how to enjoy your favorite class while staying safe?  First, stand up for yourself, and don’t presume the teacher is all-knowing.  Ask questions.  When a pose feels painful, bring the problem to the teacher’s attention so that she can provide correction or modification.  If you feel bullied by physical adjustments, ask the teacher to stop.  Second, be aware of your own tendencies to push too hard or compete with your friends.  Be willing to modify and use props.  There’s no shame in backing off from a pose, or even resting.  Many yoga injuries are of a repetitive nature, so the fact that you get away with some misalignment one hundred times doesn’t mean that you will continue to do so indefinitely.

Of course, even with the most knowledgeable teacher and the most mindful student, injuries sometimes happen.  They’re an unpleasant but unavoidable side effect of living in a physical body.  Even so, yoga is an extremely safe activity when practiced mindfully under the guidance of an experienced teacher.

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