Yoga is very well known about it’s healing side, but can yoga also harm you? People have more and more physical problems today and an increasing numbers of population is turning to Yoga for exercise and relaxation. Yoga is well known also about relieving tightness and pain in joints, bones and muscles. Even though Yoga has many health benefits, if practiced incorrectly it may lead to injury and pain. Typical Yoga injuries are muscle strains, torn ligaments, shoulder problems, neck and back aches & pains. One reason of injuries is that people are pushing themselves past their limits and not knowing how far they can go. Another reason is a teacher who is not well-trained and has very limited knowledge about healthy and safe joint alignment and human anatomy.
Did you know that many yoga gurus and yoga enthusiasts have experienced back or neck pain? Many yoga poses force your spine to go too far beyond its normal and healthy alignment. Ideal Yogis are flexible and limber, right? However, too much flexibility is not good for anyone. The joints hypermobility (too much movement) puts excess pressure for your joints, ligaments, tendons and muscles. Loose ligaments and muscles can not support your joint enough, thus increasing risk of injury, pain or even arthritis. Our body is not designed to be like “human pretzel” anyway.
Hot Yoga is worst type of yoga if you have problems with your joint hypermobility, previous orthpedic injuries or fibromyalgia. In the hot room temperature Yoga poses are more intense because warm muscles let you stretch even more and at same time increases risk of injuries tremendously. So, as a Physical Therapist I do not recommend hot yoga as a healing aid for anyone who has problems with inflammation, pain or joint & soft tissue.
In my studio I have two former Yogis with serous back and neck problems. One has fusion in her cervical vertebras as well lumbar vertebras (L4-L5). She has been hypermobile whole her life and her spine was extremely flexible because of spondylolisthesis (slipped vertebras). She used to go to chiropractor three times a week which isn’t definitely helpful for her spinal instability and joint hypermobility. The other Yogis has herniated disc in her cervical spine, I’m wondering what causes that condition for seemingly healthy person…how about head stand or shoulder stand? Normally our weight is shifted by ankle, knee, hip and SI-joint, not by cervical spine. Even though your neck is a correct position while head standing, repetitiions many times a week is not good for your cervical spine and when we are getting older it is not even recommended anyway. It is good to keep in mind that at over 50 years old almost all of us are getting arthritics changes in our spine, which is a normal aging process. My client is over 55 and in a very good shape, but besides herniated disc on her cervical spine, she has also chronic back pain with sciatica, caused by sponlylolisthesis, degenerative disc disease and spinal stenosis. Yep, all of these in one person! She told me that she has been very active for whole her life and also practiced Yoga almost every day in a very advanced level (with head and shoulder stand). If I’m just looking at these two Yogis with all orthopedic problems what they have, my opinion is that Yoga can be sometimes bad for you. Especially if you really are extremely flexible like these two Too much is too much!
So, if you have too much movement (hypermobility) in your joints, you simply need more stability, not joint mobility or muscle flexibility. You need to strengthen supporting muscles around your joints which improve your joint stability and healthy, proper alignments. Pilates is a great form for improving your joints stabilization. Although many teachers typically have dancer background, they may also teach you to go too far. So, take the class from an experienced pilates instructor who has more knowledge about anatomy, proper biomechanics and orthopedic issues that you might have. If you find a good teacher you get definitely a long-term solution for your problems with pain, spine instability and joint hypermobility.
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