Fitness and Performance
3 common yoga injuries and how to prevent them
Last year’s lockdown saw a rise in laptop yoga across the UK, as thousands of Brits used their newly found spare time to soak up the benefits. Regular yoga practice can lead to better sleep, lower stress levels, reduced blood pressure, and increased flexibility and strength – it’s no wonder we all went mad for it!
However, as the yoga increased, so did the number of clients we were seeing with yoga injuries, primarily in the wrists, lower back, and the hips.
We’ve pulled together some of our top tips on how to prevent common yoga injuries, so you can stay home and stay supple during the winter lockdown. Here’s to less pain and more zen…
Leave your ego outside
It can be really tempting to push our bodies by skipping to the ‘advanced poses’. Or to test our limits by setting some admittedly unrealistic goals in a short space of time. But pushing our bodies can be a recipe for disaster, and lead to very uncomfortable yoga injuries.
That’s why it’s always best to leave your ego at the door, be present on your yoga mat and focus on what you can do now. Not what you used to do, or what you think you should be able to achieve. It’s safer and more enjoyable, we promise!
Warm up your wrists to prevent yoga injuries
If the mere thought of doing a plank, crow or downward facing dog makes your wrists ache, then it’s worth warming them up ahead of class, and making a few small adjustments throughout your practice.
As yoga incorporates poses that repeatedly weigh onto your wrists, the pressure can start to inflame the wrist joint if it’s not strong enough, or there are underlying problems. This can lead to injuries such as sprains, Tendinitis, and even Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS).
Here are some exercises to help you warm up and avoid wrist-related yoga injuries:
- Gently rotate the wrists through their full range of circular motion, repeatedly changing direction. Then, gently shake out the wrists for around 30 seconds.
- Holding the fingers of one hand with the fingers of the other hand, move the wrist forward and back while resisting the movement with the opposing hand. Repeat for 1–2 minutes if pain-free.
- Reverse the position of the hands, placing the backs of the wrists and hands together, and press firmly for up to a minute.
Build glute strength for strong hips
Yoga poses where you externally rotate your legs and/or go into deep hip flexion (like Warrior II, Happy baby pose or Compass pose) can cause some yogis a degree of pain. During the last lockdown, we saw a rise in hip joint related pains such as hip impingements, among those who had increased the frequency of their practice or begun to push the depth of some poses.
The pain can be a dull ache or a sharp pinching sensation in the front of the hip, or groin. Alternatively, in the front of the thigh to the back of the hip joint.
At Bodyset, we advise balancing out hip flexibility with a bespoke plan of abduction, adduction, and gluteal strength training. If you’ve been experiencing pain in the hips, then it may be time to speak to your yoga instructor about the positions that are aggravating you, and get in touch to speak to one of our expert therapists.
In the meantime, here’s a couple of exercises to start building supportive strength:
Bulgarian squats: Start by standing in front of a chair with your feet hip width apart, head up and chest tall. Shift your weight to one leg and place your other leg on the chair behind you. Keeping your chest straight, lower yourself down. Then pushing through your heel, stand back up without moving your feet to complete the exercise. Repeat on the other side.
Single leg bridge: Start by lying on the floor on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor and your arms resting by your sides with your palms facing down. Engage your core and gently draw up your pelvic floor. Lift one foot off the floor, then slowly extend your hips up whilst keeping your foot and knee in the same place, and your shoulders and head on the ground. Hold this position then lower yourself down. Repeat on the other side.
Support backbends with a strong core
Yoga backbends are a key part of yoga practice. Whether it’s Cobra pose, Camel Pose or Dancer pose, practicing backbends is great for opening the front body, increasing your hip flexibility, and improving the mobility of your lumbar and thoracic spine.
However, in order to maintain spinal health, it is necessary to stretch in all directions: forward bending, side bending right and left, and twisting from side to side. Notably, strengthening your core is fundamental to supporting and stabilising your spine.
Here’s a couple of core-building exercises to help support your back:
Supine heel taps: Lay on your back. Place your arms to either side of your body. Contract your abdominals so that your shoulders are off the floor and look down your body. Also bend your knees so your feet are flat on the floor – you will need to maintain this position throughout the exercise. Reach your right hand to your right heel so that your torso bends sideways then reach for your left heel with your left hand. Aim to do this at least 10 times on each side.
Dead bug: Lie flat on your back with your arms held pointing up to the ceiling. Lift your legs up and bend your knees at 90-degree angles and ensure your back is as flat against the floor as possible. Maintain this position while you slowly lower your right arm and left leg at the same time, until they are just above the floor. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat at least 10 times before you swap to over to exercise the opposite limbs
For more tips on how to build you core and prevent back pain, see here.
Say no to pain and yoga injuries
As strange as it may sound, sometimes yogis accept pain in the interest of personal goals. The ‘burning sensation’ you feel as lactic acid gushes through your quads during Goddess pose, or the sobering stretch you feel along our hamstrings during your first downward dog of the day, is usually healthy and safe – but some sensations are acute warning signs to stop, slow down and listen to your body.
If you experience pins and needles, ‘pinching’ around the joints and ligaments, or a dull ache that lasts more than a few days, seek advice from your yoga teacher or help from a professional physiotherapist. Pushing through pain may result in some short-term wins, but it’s at a greater risk of longer-term damage.
Yoga is an exhilarating practice, with so many benefits for both body and mind. We hope that our tips will help you to stay home, stay safe and stay supple during your winter lockdown yoga practice.