Yoga isn’t dangerous. It can’t hurt you. Oh, and it isn’t bad on your knees like that running. And it’s certainly safer than martial arts. And you can’t get hurt like you can falling off a bike or horse. Yoga is safe! It’s the safest workout ever. Right?
Please approach this with an open mind.
As a yoga practitioner, for awhile I was absolutely against the concept of yoga as a dangerous exercise. I jumped into yoga, after all, to heal my other bodily issues. In my mind, yoga was the one workout that could fix my other stuff since there wasn’t much impact on me.
Yoga is like any other sport. As much as most yoga practitioners would fight me on this one, yoga is like any other sport in that there is a technique. If you do not pay attention to the technique, you will sustain an injury.
We have to have good posture all the time when practicing yoga. That means on chaturanga. On updog and cobra. On downward facing dog. On absolutely everything. And what will happen otherwise? Pain. Problems. Injury.
But, like anything, there are some things that are more dangerous than others. No, I’m not talking about forward fold or headstands. I’m talking about some other stuff you might not be thinking about because it looks so harmless.
Google a picture of yoga and you’re going to see this: locked out arms. It’s even in the picture I have here. This is one of the most dangerous parts of yoga. First of all, the arms really don’t like this. Second of all, you’re putting yourself into an arm bar. This state of hyper-flexion will wreck your joints, ligaments, and tendons.
It will weaken your joint.
As someone who has dealt with a bad elbow injury, I’m here to tell you that yes, it will wreck you and you need to stop doing it now.
It might not seem bad when you’re going slow, but as you start to speed up your practice and move into more and more weight-bearing poses, you are going to seriously injure yourself especially as you start looking at side planks and such. Luckily, there’s an easy fix. Keep a slight bend in your elbows. Stacking your joints directly over one another while being hyperextended doesn’t make you a good yogi. It just means you aren’t using your muscles to keep you in place, you’re using the little tension ligaments, tendons, and joints have to offer.
Next up: locking out your knees.
Now, this one terrifies me because it’s ridiculously easy to pull or tear a muscle by doing this. Not only that, with knee hyperextension, it means that your body can’t keep your knee in place…which should terrify you.
Having too loose ligaments in your knee is a real issue. Knees are finicky enough as they are. They are very particular and even then, sometimes they won’t be happy. But, if you want to walk for the rest of your life, you’re going to need to stop locking out your knees.
Speaking of knees, crescent lunge with a knee down is single-handedly one of the worst positions for you knee to be in.
There is a fix, but first let’s look at the problem. The top of your kneecap is just chilling on the mat, under all the pressure of your weight. One little movement this way or that (easy to do because you’re balancing) and that kneecap will wiggle itself out of place. It’s surprisingly easy to dislodge your kneecap.
So what’s the fix? Take a pillow or a nice thick blanket and plop it under your knee for this pose. A little bit of extra support and cushion gives you a lot of leeway. The other fix? Don’t do this pose. Just lift the kneecap off the ground and come to low lunge.
Here’s my last little warning to you (if we’re calling it that): engage your muscles.
Another leading cause of injury here is plopping into poses, pulling on our limbs, and altogether just flopping around. We need to engage our muscles no matter what pose we are in. While it might feel better to push yourself down into the splits, you won’t keep it. It’s not honest. You’ve got to engage your muscles. You shouldn’t have to rely on your hands for any of it. Flexible strength is the safest kind of strength.
There’s a lot more I could talk about. But there is one point to this and it isn’t to stop doing yoga because yoga is amazing for you. The point is: practice good technique.
Understanding that yoga, when practiced the way we do in the West at least, is a kind of sport especially since it has comparable rates of injury to other sports. Taking it lightly is a recipe for disaster. Record yourself or practice near a mirror. Aside from that, research various kinds of proper form. You might do a lot of research and still never hear not to hyperextend your joints.
Yoga can be good for you when you come into it constantly trying to improve your form and working to engage your muscles all the time.
So, come into it with an open mind and be aware that what you’re doing can cause injury. It doesn’t mean you need to stop doing it. It just means you need to be more cognizant of what you’re doing.