Yoga injuries have been in the news as of late, in part due to Journalist William Broad’s New York Times article, “How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body.” Others have refuted Broad’s argument, insisting that yoga is quite safe and injuries are typical of any exercise or movement therapy.

I can only relate my own experience. I had the “gift” of a violent collision 14 years ago: my Honda wrestled with a semi truck. The gift is that my body is now very sensitive to the various styles of yoga, and tells me quite clearly which style or type of yoga hurts, and which helps.

As part of my 500 hour viniyoga study, I also did research on as many styles of yoga I could include. I found that many styles of yoga either hurt my body or just did not feel right. Many did not warm or prepare the body sufficiently, or sequence properly (for my body anyway). Some were too aggressive or forceful. Some hardly mentioned breath, which brings us present. As B.K.S. Iyengar and others have stated, when we are aware of the breath, we are present and do not hurt ourselves.

Below are some tips to avoid injury during yoga:

  • Relax: Simply relax. Many injuries occur when we are pushing, striving and forcing, trying to get somewhere.
  • Leave your ego at the door: We are taught to compete and seek approval. Close your eyes when possible to avoid comparing yourself to others (but do watch the teacher’s examples). Make sure you are in an appropriate class for your experience.
  • Focus within: When we are tense, or competing, we are focused outside ourselves. Do not give too much power away to the teacher, who may be misguided. But also beware of your ego discarding the teacher’s appropriate advice.
  • Follow the breath: When we are with the breath, we are present. And when we are present, we do not hurt ourselves.
  • Let your body lead: The body has wisdom. Help it regain trust in you by following it, rather than your mind insisting on where you want to go.
  • Less is more: We are often excessive or over-amped in our masculine energy, the yang, the no-pain-no-gain, make it happen force energy. Access your feminine energy, your heart-based softer side. Back off and wait for the invitation to go deeper.
  • Focus on feel, not “should,” intellect, or how we look: Tune in and notice what really feels right to your body, mind and spirit. Feeling is healing.
  • Ahimsa (Nonviolence): This is Yama number one (Yoga guidelines in the Yoga Sutras). Do no harm. Be kind to your body and your self.
  • Satya (Truth): This is Yama number two: Truth. Be true to yourself. True to your body. Trust yourself.
  • You are already whole: In truth, we are not trying to get anywhere. We are always already whole. You are that which you seek.

[Photo by milopeng – CC BY]


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Roy Holman

Roy is an experienced yoga and meditation teacher based in Everett WA. He began the inner journey in 1995 when he discovered the world of meditation and yoga. He began teaching in 2000 and has since been leading classes and yoga retreats focused on the grounded, breath-connected, meditative, flowing traditional hatha yoga. You can learn more about Roy on his website.

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