Your Yoga Practice May Not Be as Safe as You Think

Many people do yoga to relieve pain, when there is a good chance it can cause or aggravate it.

Yoga is one of the greatest workouts on the planet, right? It relieves stress, burns calories, promotes flexibility, builds muscle and also helps relieve pain. Or does it?

According to a new study published in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, yoga may not only be a lot more dangerous than most people think, it may also be responsible for causing pain and aggravating existing injuries. Kind of the opposite of everything we hope yoga does for us!

Researchers at the University of Sydney found that yoga caused musculoskeletal pain in more than 10 percent of study participants and further exacerbated 21 percent of existing injuries — a surprising finding given that yoga is universally considered to be a very safe activity.

“While yoga can be beneficial for musculoskeletal pain, like any form of exercise, it can also result in musculoskeletal pain,” lead researcher Evangelos Pappas said, noting that the injury rate is 10 times higher than previously reported.

The pain reported by subjects who took classes at two different yoga studios in New York City wasn’t just an ache here or there. According to Pappas, “more than one-third of cases of pain caused by yoga were serious enough to prevent yoga participation and lasted more than three months.”

Most of the “new” yoga pain occurred in the upper body in places like the shoulder, elbow, wrist and hand. This was likely the result of doing inversions and poses like downward dog, which Pappas, who is a yoga instructor himself, explains is because upper limbs aren’t designed to support so much weight.

Before you cancel your yoga studio membership, keep in mind that the majority of people in the study reported that their pre-existing pain was actually improved by the practice. Pappas doesn’t want to scare people away from doing yoga, but he hopes that these findings will educate people to make the right decision about the workout best suited for their situation and also enable them to communicate with their yoga instructors about injuries.

“Yoga participants are encouraged to discuss the risks of injury and any pre-existing pain, especially in the upper limbs, with yoga teachers and physiotherapists to explore posture modifications that may result in safer practice,” he explained.

Other benefits of yoga include improved flexibility, posture, range of motion and circulation. It’s also a great workout for weight loss, as you can burn up to 713 calories per hour, depending on the type of yoga you are doing.

And on that note, namaste.

What Do YOU Think?

Have you experienced pain as the result of doing yoga, or do you find that it relieves it? Do you feel as though the findings of this study are accurate? What do you consider to be the most dangerous yoga poses?