Yoga should heal, not hurt, according to Roger Cole, Ph.D. In his presentation at the ninth-annual American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Health & Fitness Summit & Exposition, Cole reviewed the injuries most often suffered by yoga practitioners and recommended ways to avoid them.
“Many injuries—such as those to the knees, back, neck, shoulders, wrists and ankles—occur when practitioners try to force themselves into difficult postures,” Cole said. “The first rule of safety is to avoid forcing your body. Instead, practice with awareness, common sense and self-respect. Yoga is supposed to teach us not to compete or show off, but to use focused attention, conscious effort and relaxation to achieve results.”
Cole also emphasized the importance of learning proper technique to keep safe in yoga. “Specific poses carry the risk of injury if you do them incorrectly. It’s easy to avoid problems if you know what you are doing. For example, forcing the lotus position can damage cartilage in the knees, but you can prevent this by learning ways to redirect the force away from the knees to the hips, where it is needed.”
In addition to the knees, bodily sites most prone to yoga injuries include the lower back, hamstring and sacroiliac, according to Cole. While the latter two are more commonly injured, problems with the knees and lower back tend to be more serious.
“Many common yoga injuries occur during straight-leg forward bends from a standing or seated position,” said Cole. He recommends stretching moderately in such poses; bending from the hip joints and elongating the spine, and taking days off from these postures.
ACSM’s Health & Fitness Summit & Exposition ends today at The Flamingo Las Vegas Resort. The American College of Sports Medicine is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world. More than 20,000 international, national and regional members are dedicated to promoting and integrating scientific research, education and practical applications of sports medicine and exercise science to maintain and enhance physical performance, fitness, health and quality of life.