Updated: Dec 7, 2022
Yoga is a great way to explore your body’s mobility while also practicing mindfulness and staying in the present.
There are tons of benefits to Yoga like stress management, better energy levels, increased blood flow to the skin which can help with skin damage, and even help relieve digestive issues.
But as with any workout, you start new, and muscle pain and injuries can happen. Here are nine common Yoga injuries you can prevent before so you don’t have to reach for any muscle pain remedies.
How to Prevent Common Yoga Injuries
Wrist pain may be the most common complaint of yoga students. Our wrists are not meant to bear the weight of our body but there are a lot of yoga poses that require students to have their palms planted to the ground.
The straining of the wrists can also be experienced by students in fast-moving yoga practices where they have to jump back into plank pose and then jump forward.
You can prevent wrist pains by not bearing all of your weight on your hands and wrists when you’re just starting your Yoga practice. In poses like the downward-facing dog or plank, be mindful of distributing your weight evenly by spreading your hands wide and pressing through your fingers.
In downward-facing dog, push your hips back to decrease the angle of your wrist to the floor. When doing arm balances like the crow pose, have your elbows stacked over your wrists for maximum stability and weight distribution. Doing warmups and wrist flexes before and after your yoga session can also help the joints relax and release tension.
When doing yoga poses, mindfulness as to how your body parts stack on top of one another is crucial. Not only does it center you and bring your attention back to the present, but it also makes sure you are doing the poses correctly and safely.
If you repeatedly and incorrectly place pressure on your neck, this can lead to compression and put pressure on your cervical vertebrae. As a result, you’re left with joint issues and even loss of neck flexion.
Avoid completely releasing the full weight of your head when it is tipped backward. It may feel like you’re relaxing your neck muscles but you’re actually straining the front of your neck and causing compression in the back of your neck.
Developing shoulder strength is also important. This allows you to provide more support for your neck. If you’re new to yoga and are itching to do cool upside-down postures, reign yourself in a little bit and build your strength first.
3. Rotator cuff & shoulders
The rotator cuff is the four muscles that wrap around the back front and top of the shoulder, stabilizing it. If these muscles aren’t used to being worked, they can be weak. This makes poses that rely on shoulder strength a bigger risk, causing compression and inflammation.
Sometimes your body tends to shrug or raise your shoulders upward toward your ears during certain poses like the upward-facing dog. This can compress your shoulders and could even overextend or overstretch the shoulder girdle and even dislocate the joint.
The best way to avoid any shoulder injuries is to keep your shoulders held back and down away from your ears. Yoga instructors also point out that you shouldn’t pull too hard on your shoulders when you stretch. You should also work on strengthening your arms gradually by doing exercises like modified push-ups that keep your elbows close to your ribs.
Elbow pain mostly happens due to bending them out to the sides when doing poses like a low plank. This puts stress on both your elbows and wrists, unevenly distributing your body weight.
The best way to avoid elbow pain is to keep them tucked alongside your ribs when you’re bending your elbows in a pose. Be mindful of having your elbows’ creases facing forward as well.
A good twist is great for releasing tension. However, if it’s done improperly, it can do a bit of damage. The muscle around your ribs, called intercostal muscles, can overextend or bruise.
Before twisting, lengthen upward through your spine as if someone is gently pulling a string attached to the crown of your head. Be sure to only twist to the point of feeling a stretch, never past it even if you’re flexible.
6. Lower back
Lower back pain can come from overexertion of the muscles around that area. If you’re doing the forward fold and you’re rounding through the spin, you’re flexing it the opposite way than it’s supposed to.
Before you hinge forward at the hips and bend down, imagine your spine lengthening up and away from your hips. In seated positions like the seated forward fold, you can use a blanket or a block to take pressure off your lower back and help you hinge forward even more.
You can also bend your knees in the forward fold pose to allow your lower back to decompress. During twists, slow down and do them slowly with deep breaths. Keep your core strong by engaging your lower belly.
Your hips can easily overextend their range of motion when you’re doing poses like the warrior II and wide-legged forward fold. The muscles of your inner groin or inner thighs are the most susceptible to overextending and tearing.
By being mindful of how your body moves and positions as it goes through the different poses, you can minimize the chances of overexerting the muscles of your hips.
A good rule of thumb is to make sure your toes are pointed forward in any pose that has your hips squared off in the same direction, like in warrior I.
Issues with your knees are very common even for those who are more experienced in the yoga practice. It is often connected to your hips. If your hips are tight in a pose, like in the cross-legged position, then your knees will be the first place to feel pain or tension.
If knee pain is a common thing for you, it is best to avoid staying in a cross-legged position for long periods unless your hips are already very flexible. Placing a rolled-up blanket or block under your knees can help reduce the strain.
During poses that have your bent knee to touch the ground or hover, like in warrior I and warrior II, you can place a blanket under your knees to cushion it. To ensure that your body is bearing weight properly, make sure that there is a vertical line from your bent knee to your heel.
You may feel strain in your hamstrings when you go too deep into your forward fold or move through any poses with your legs straight. Quick, jerky movements with your straightened legs can pull on your hamstring muscles, especially if they’re already tight.
Go slow and work at your own pace when you’re going through the poses. Allow your hamstrings to relax and warm up.
When you’re struggling in poses like the forward fold or downward facing dog, don’t be afraid to bend your knees. A soft bend at the knees can prevent injured hamstrings.
Practicing Yoga Safely
When doing your yoga practice, it is best to always be mindful of how you position your body. Find a trained and experienced yoga instructor and listen to them as they walk you through the different poses.
Focus on your breathing and adapt poses to your individual needs and abilities. You are not competing with anyone. ng yourself again. And if something feels too strained or uncomfortable, don’t push it.
Focus on your breathing and adapt poses to your individual needs and abilities. You are not competing with anyone.
And as always, be kind and patient with yourself.
Written by Katie Pierce, Content Writer | Edited & Published by Mikenze Pearsoll of Yoga With Mikenze