Five Tips for Proper Yoga Form

People practice yoga because it relieves tight muscles, increases flexibility and lengthens limbs, but like with any activity or sport, injuries can happen. Here are five of the most common yoga injuries and how they can be prevented.

  1. Lower back injury: Rounding the spine in poses like forward folds and downward dog causes the spine to flex the opposite way that it’s supposed to, which can cause disc problems in addition to that achy feeling post-class.

How to avoid: Before bending, imagine lengthening the spine up and away from the hips to avoid rounding. During seated forward folds, try sitting on a blanket or block to take pressure off the lower back.

  1. Knee tear: It’s unlikely that a yoga injury would be serious enough to require surgery, but a knee tear will take time to heal. It can happen from twisting the knee out of alignment when doing warrior pose, pigeon pose or half lotus.

How to avoid: Moving from the hip while keeping the knee bent often prevents these injuries. Perform a few prep poses or use props to support the knee.

  1. Hamstring pull: Ironically, trying to protect the lower back yet pushing deeply into a forward bend can pull the hamstring muscle up near the buttocks. People who go very deep into forward bends tend to do this.

How to avoid: Instead, pull back and breathe into the entire length of the hamstring along the back of the leg to get a full stretch.

  1. Wrist strain: All that time in downward dog can really do a number on the wrists, particularly for those with carpal tunnel syndrome or those who have tender wrists from computer work.

How to avoid: Spread the fingers and make sure that both index fingers and heels of the hand are pushing into the mat. Roll up the mat or use a towel to raise the wrists as well; having the fingers at a downward tilt can take the pressure off of wrists.

  1. Neck injury: Head and shoulder stands can be the reason for neck pain and injury. Repeatedly and incorrectly placing pressure on the neck can put pressure on the cervical vertebrae, resulting in joint issues and, in some cases, loss of neck flexion.

How to avoid: It might be best to avoid full inversions all together, or use props that elevate the neck away from the floor. For those who don’t need props, make sure the shoulder blades are drawn down and back so they’re safely supporting the body. Most importantly, never jerk the head because it can destabilize the body, possibly causing a fall.

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