Simple Ways to Avoid a Yoga Injury

Yoga is associated with certain health benefits; it’s thought to help relieve low back pain, boost mood, and improve balance. Though yoga is generally considered safe when practiced under the guidance of a qualified instructor, some participants can suffer injuries that land them in an emergency room.

From 2001 to 2014, nearly 30,000 Americans were admitted to hospital emergency departments with yoga-related injuries, mostly strains and sprains to the torso, say researchers from the University of Alabama, Birmingham.

While the total number of injuries isn’t cause for alarm, it’s notable that, during the 13-year period, the incidence of injury among people ages 65 and older increased eightfold. Older adults were also three times more likely to break a bone during yoga than people ages 45 to 64.

The researchers say that the uptick may be due to aging, which causes a decline in flexibility, bone density, and muscle strength, and to the dubious qualifications of some yoga instructors. But don’t let the risk of injury deter you from practicing yoga; here are a few tips that can help you avoid getting hurt:

Look for a licensed instructor who has trained for a minimum of 200 hours from a reputable organization like the Yoga Alliance.

Choose a form of yoga that suits you best. Yoga classes range from gentle (hatha) to intense (ashtanga).

Don’t push yourself to perform any poses you’re not comfortable doing; ask for modifications.

Inform your instructor of any medical conditions and injuries.

If you have high blood pressure, glaucoma, or sciatica, there may be certain yoga poses you shouldn’t perform. Consult with your doctor before taking a yoga class.

The Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine, published online Nov. 16, 2016