Over the past few months, we have heard increasingly loud calls for talk about injury in yoga. So many students are hurt or have pain, and they don’t know what it is, how it happened or how to fix it. Some are even told by their teachers to push through the sensation to continue deepening the physical postures. After all, these exercises and postures are supposed to be healing, right? When we describe the common yoga injuries, students are both 1) shocked that you can get hurt doing yoga, and 2) surprised to hear us describing the pain and difficulty that they experience.
Yes, yoga can hurt you. It’s true. If you’ve practiced the physical forms of yoga that are popular in the West for more than a few months, chances are you’ve been injured or know someone who has. This is not to say that physical yoga practices are inherently dangerous or should be avoided. The same risk is present in virtually any physical activity: basketball, running, bowling. Anytime we use the body in a repetitive way and push it to go farther and farther, the risk of injury is quite high. We generally don’t know the limits of our capabilities until we go too far!
Yoga is mostly thought of as a healing, healthy and therapeutic form of exercise, not to mention safe. Since most of us approach the practices thinking they will help us, we overlook the possibility for injury until it’s too late. It is especially true in the yoga world, where we want to believe that it only has the ability to make us better, more open, happier, peaceful versions of ourselves. The idea that any of these practices could injure our bodies, nervous systems or minds feels foreign and even contradictory. So all too often we disregard it. Until we get injured. Even then, we may think it was our fault, that we weren’t doing the practice right, because a “healing” practice couldn’t possibly be dangerous.
But injuries are quite common in yoga. And each style has its own tendency toward certain imbalances, as the stress and repetition in each practice are a little different.
We are going to do a whole series of posts about Injuries In Yoga. We will go into some depth about the most common injuries we see, which include hamstring attachment strain, hip impingement and labral tear, meniscus tear in the knee, supraspinatus damage in the shoulder, bicep tendon strain in the shoulder, sacroiliac instability in the low spine, and neck pain in the base of the neck. All of these can be created or exacerbated by physical yoga practices.
For now, we want you to know that yoga can injure you, especially if you think it never will. Always take care and try to understand what you’re doing and why. Some intense sensations are safe and even beneficial, while others are not. Use caution and ask your teacher if you’re not sure. If they tell you that you won’t hurt yourself in yoga, get a new teacher.
If you have an injury or had one in the past that you’d like to tell us about, please comment or message. Let us know your experience!
We finally arrived in London! After more than a year of preparations and a solid month of visa and passport complications, we touched down in London yesterday and begin our studies today. For the next year we will be here at SOAS University of London, delving into the Traditions of Yoga and Meditation.
We at Ghosh Yoga have always straddled the divide between modern Western yoga, Indian tradition and academic scholarship. All three aspects are fascinating and deep in their own right, each with earnest students and diverse perspectives. Put them together and it can go one of two ways: It can be terribly confusing and frustrating with so many different points of view which are often contradictory to one another. Or, as we see it, it can be illuminating, as certain beliefs from one area are unknowingly adopted into another.
We love going to India and experiencing the culture and tradition first hand. It is not only humbling and humanizing to be in another society, but it enriches our understanding of yoga and its underlying philosophy, purpose and development. Of course, being from the US, we were brought up in the modern Western yoga studio system, where the focus is mostly physical with a few hints of mental underpinnings.
This year will be focused, though, on academic scholarship. We will study the histories of Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism that gave rise to yoga and meditation, all from a "scholarly" perspective. This has its limitations, but it is only one piece of a broader set of knowledge. We don't take this type of formal schooling to be the most valuable bit but an equally useful piece of a well-rounded perspective.
We honestly don't know what we will learn this year. It wouldn't be much use if we did! The goal is to put ourselves in the hands of our teachers and to be open-minded. It is exciting to be in the presence of some of the preeminent yoga scholars of today, like Jim Mallinson, Mark Singleton and Jason Birch. Our ears are open!
Scott & Ida are Yoga Acharyas (Masters of Yoga). They are the head teachers of Ghosh Yoga. This blog is about their experience with yoga practice, study and teaching.
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- Understanding Chair Posture
- Lock the Knee History
- It Doesn't Matter If Your Head Is On Your Knee
- Bow Pose (Dhanurasana)
- 5 Reasons To Backbend
- Origins of Standing Bow
- The Traditional Yoga In Bikram's Class
- What About the Women?!
- What About the Hips?
- Why Teaching Is Not a Personal Practice
- The Central Psoas
- The 113 Postures of Ghosh Yoga