0351 GMT November 21, 2019
It’s transformed people’s lives — both physically and emotionally.
And many of us who have had to take a break from our regular cardio workouts due to injury have turned to things like yoga and pilates as a way of keeping the body moving gently while carefully conditioning and lengthening muscles.
When you’re injured, the prospect of doing nothing can be depressing — often taking up a low-impact activity can stop you from feeling as if all your previous hard work has been all for nothing.
But one new study by the University of Syndey claims to have found that yoga can actually make injuries worse.
It looked at 350 yogis in New York — mainly women over 45 — and asked them to fill out questionnaires at the beginning and end of one year of practicing yoga.
And 10 percent of participants said that it caused them new musculoskeletal pain, while 21 percent reported that it exacerbated existing injuries.
“Yoga may be a bit more dangerous than previously thought,” said lead researcher Evangelos Pappas.
“Our study found that the incidence of pain caused by yoga is more than 10 percent per year, which is comparable to the rate of all sports injuries combined among the physically active population.”
Evangelous — a yoga teacher himself — claims it’s because our upper extremities aren’t designed to support loads of weight and so doing certain inversions put an unnatural pressure on weaker parts of the body.
“In yoga, you actually have a lot of these inversions, the downward dogs, that put lots of weight on the upper extremities.”
But how much attention should we actually pay to this kind of study — particularly when the study group is so narrow age-wise?
It seems bizarre to conclude that yoga might be harmful when we’re talking about a study which has primarily looked at women who are approaching or who have gone through the menopause.
Changes to levels of collagen can affect the elasticity of ligaments and tendons, and because oestrogen levels decline, many women report achy joints, bones and muscles.
We asked a yoga instructor and a PT whether practicing yoga with injuries — whatever your age — is really a bad idea or not.
“First of all I think yoga is 100 percent good for injuries BUT of course modifications and working specifically with your injury is so, so important — and I don’t think that happens enough, especially in big group classes where the focus is very much on physical practice,” Rosie said.
“It’s important to tell the teacher what you are working with and from a teaching perspective, for them to really hear and work with you.”
Rosie said that some yoga styles are better for rehabilitation than others, such as Forrest yoga.
“There is such a focus on healing during Forrest and the physical practice is very precise and functional which I think is important if working with injuries. Forrest yoga really helped me recover from a bad glute injury I was working with because there is so much specificity on building strength and stabilizing the muscles.
“Iyengar is also great, as it was literally designed to be accessible to those suffering from any injuries and all age groups. Sometimes (controversially) I’m also an advocate of well-taught hot yoga for injuries (but not Bikram). The heat I think can be good for injured muscles and it allows some softness. But you’ve got to be really careful not to overstretch in the hot room.”
“Generally, you want something that is going to help you feel stable (especially in the core — includes the whole midsection, upper legs, pelvis, lower back etc) as I would say a lot of injuries originate from a lack of connection and strength in this area. And something that is going to offer inflamed muscles some space and lots of deep breathing to help that healing process.”
She said that a lot of the dynamic flowing styles that are currently very popular in London aren’t the ones for injuries because the pace makes it hard to be aware of how your body feels.
“Body awareness is so important in injury prevention and communication with the teacher AND with yourself and your body. Ultimately injuries are your body really asking you to listen. So listen!”