top of page

Yoga Injuries & How to Avoid Them

Injuries are a much anticipated and discussed subject. We need to be aware of them as a yoga community. We can avert potential physical injuries both as teachers and practitioners by being more conscious and tuning inward, first trusting our bodies.

This, in itself, is the very essence of yoga. The human body is brilliant and intuitive, so listening to our body’s cues is always the most critical responsibility of the practitioner while silencing the external noise. Truth be told, your body is far wiser than you think it is.

As teachers, we have an essential responsibility to teach in a way that creates the right balance between not overdoing it and keeping our own egos in check. We must remember that in yoga, we strive for a balance between ease and effort. (Sthira-sukham-asanam).

Yet, sometimes, we get carried away and push ourselves beyond our limits. This is where we become most vulnerable to the possibility of an injury. 

Yoga Injuries

Asana practice has evolved with time. What was once a personal practice or a one-on-one between the teacher and student has now evolved to group class formats in studios and online. In such scenarios when individual attention is not possible, injuries can occur, and hence, it's important to exercise caution and stay true to our inner voice as practitioners and teachers.

We already know the bare basics of injuries. Approaching an asana incorrectly over a while repetitively gives room for injury. Lack of awareness and understanding of specific asanas is a sure-shot recipe for immediate injury, as is the inability to invest in a well-rounded warm-up routine before attempting poses like Sirsasana.

Some of the most common injuries that eventually surface are lower back pain, mainly due to rounding of the back or spine, which is a long-standing habit.

So, when you round your back in forward folds, it causes the muscle to strain. Another common injury occurs to those with hypermobility or loose joints; they run the risk of hurting their ligaments, tendons and muscles due to being over-flexible.

The knees, shoulders-blades, hamstrings, wrists and hips are equally susceptible to injuries for many. Not engaging one’s core muscles actively can result in an injury & so can external adjustments, especially in advanced poses.

Some classic examples of asanas that result in frequent injuries when done incorrectly are Chaturanga, Prasarita Padotanasana C, Padmasana and forward folds like Adhomukha shvanasana.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Let's not forget that a stress-fueled lifestyle is also a massive contributor to injuries both on and off the mat globally.

This blog is aimed at highlighting & helping you acknowledge how injuries can be prevented both as asana practitioners & teachers alike.

1. Set the tone

As a teacher, it is essential to be clear about injuries from the start. Before every class, it helps to reiterate to your students to immediately stop doing a particular asana if there is pain, to stop if there is fatigue & tiredness or if they feel confused and don’t understand the cues given during a class. Before each class, ask your students if they have had any recent injuries, surgeries or pain. This can help you guide them, particularly with certain poses, or ultimately ask them to avoid such poses.

Giving them an alternate relaxing pose to get into, like a child pose, until the rest of the class transitions into the next pose can help them pause and join in when they are ready. As practitioners, it's equally important to know your body and its limits best. Take responsibility & onus when your body cannot push anymore.

2. Warm-up

More often than not, an underrated tool, a good warm-up routine is as important, if not more. Always warm up at the beginning of a physical yoga practice. Warming up increases the coordination and reaction time of muscles while improving the ability of the muscles to protect themselves and your joints. It increases blood flow and prepares muscles for efficient increase in activity and mobility.  Gentle sun salutation can be an effective way to prepare for the asana series to follow.

3. Acceptance

Acceptance is key both as students & teachers of yoga; therefore, it is essential to take active steps to protect ourselves and your students during class. However, we must be realistic and acknowledge that injuries can occur in daily life, and this is almost inevitable. The line between yoga injuries and injuries in life can often be blurry, and it's sometimes difficult to zero in on what caused the injury.

Common examples include – lower back pain due to incorrect lifting of heavy items, shoulder freeze due to a sedentary lifestyle, an ankle sprain during a run, etc. Any of these injuries could be further aggravated in a yoga class and not necessarily by a particular pose being done incorrectly or due to lack of experience. 

4. Provide Alternatives

As teachers, once you have identified what works and challenges your practitioners, offer them props to access certain poses. Give adjustments and assist them individually as required. Regress poses in case they are not yet ready for the pose; if needed, altogether avoid a pose.

For example, if a student cannot get into Chakrasana, you may ask them to remain in Setubandasa. If a practitioner is unable to get into a pose over a long period of time, offering them a set of drills can help them gradually evolve and enable them to prepare for the pose & be confident to do it. 

5. Tailor-made Classes

As teachers, we must assess our group of practitioners and what their collective needs are so that the class can be designed to meet them where they are and not where you want them to be or where you currently are. Strike a precise balance between enthusiasm, gradual progression, and consistency, which is key.

Encourage them to progress, but don’t rush them in excitement until you believe they are not ready. Each baby step counts, and its practice-over-perfection every day in the long run. Let the ego rest outside the door. Being inspired by pushing your students to get into the pose they say they can’t do is not something to be proud of. Stay humble and let your humility be an inspiration for your students.

6. Slow & Steady

Changing too much too soon can also be a problem, as student’s bodies need time to absorb and adapt to corrections. We also need to check our own over-enthusiasm for taking students who we think are very flexible deeper and injuring them via adjustments and assists.

As a student on the contrary, it's essential to ask your teacher for adjustments and help as and when needed. Last but not least, as a practitioner, you know when to stop, and you know your body best, so always listen to your body first.

7. Comparison is a thief of Joy

As a teacher, it's important to remind yourself and your students that yoga is a journey and no two bodies are the same. This is as important as the class itself because it helps make your students more aware and avoids judgment that negates the very purpose of yoga being a personal journey.

8. Asses your Dosha

Did you know that evaluating your student's doshas and understanding their dosha type can be a great tool to recognise their bodies and what works best for them? Our doshas play a dominant role in determining who we are and it is present at a cellular level in the body.

So, understanding that Vata practitioners benefit mainly from meditation, therapeutic yoga, or yin yoga is as important as ascertaining crucial facts about Pita practitioners, who are most susceptible to injuries because they have soft muscles prone to inflammation.

Vata practitioners benefit primarily when asana practice together with Shitali and Shitkari pranayama. Lastly it's Kapha practioners who are least flexible and have solid ligaments and bones.

Their muscle build is bulky, and they cannot be pushed to do advanced asanas. However, with time and practice, it is possible at a later phase. So, concentrating on your students' Prakriti can be a great indicator of how you can guide them through their asana practice.

9. Every Practice is Unique

My body is my temple, and asanas are my prayers.” -Sri. B.K.S. Iyengar.

This quote resonates best in so many ways. There are days we feel rejuvenated, other days energised and delighted we were able to make progress; this is because every practice is dynamic. However, there are also those days in between, whether it a self-practice or attending a group asana class we feel tired & disappointed with our bodies.

Remember this quote then. A prayer is a prayer. When we pray with a pure heart, God never measure the quality or success of our prayers. We can never judge or use a yardstick to compare a better prayer or a prayer that didn’t meet expectations. In the same way, our daily asana practice is like a prayer and does not warrant any expectation or comparison.

But a practical way to assess this is to start with the Surya Namaskara and then a standing series of asanas.

During this time, if you still continue to feel tired and the body is unwilling; accept where you are at the present moment gracefully and show up the next day. This change & shift in mindset will hugely help avoid injuries.

We hope this blog helps give you perspective and encourages you to practice with wisdom, humility, and grace as you continue to practice, teach, and inspire your yoga community.

Stay safe!

Related Posts

See All
Samyak Institute of Yoga & Ayurveda Logo
bottom of page