Be Careful, Yoga Lovers. Your Favorite Poses Could Be Wrecking Your Body.
Yoga's gentle stretches can protect muscles and help recover from pain. But depending on what hurts, some poses can be dangerous. Find out when you should avoid yoga.
Low back pain
Most people think of yoga as a great way to ease back pain. It may not be. A review of research in the Cochrane Database of Systemic Reviews found that yoga was no better than regular exercise when it came to managing chronic back pain. According to yoga experts, people with low back pain can actually worsen the problem if they don't use proper technique. "Tadasana—the foundation pose of many yoga styles—requires you to tuck your pelvis," says Kate Vidulich, exercise physiologist and certified personal trainer. "Problem is, many people can't do this due to postural misalignment, and they tend to lean backwards, compressing their lumbar spine even further." Check out some other home remedies for lower back pain.
Anytime you bend forward in yoga, you're demanding a deep stretch from your hamstrings, the big muscles at the back of your thighs. If you're nursing a pull in this muscle, you risk re-injuring it. "People who are recovering from a hamstring injury should either avoid hinging forward at the hips or ask their teacher for an adjustment," says Vidulich. "Forcing your way into a forward bend is going to be extremely counterproductive."
Carpal tunnel syndrome
"Yoga can help strengthen your hands and wrists," says Vidulich. "However, doing moves like the downward dog with the heel of the palm flat on the floor can make carpal tunnel worse." The positioning compresses the tunnel and puts even more pressure on the problematic nerve, she says. Find ways to treat carpal tunnel syndrome.
If you're coming off a rotator cuff injury, certain yoga poses such as chaturanga—think of the bottom of a push up—can aggravate your shoulder. "Doing a lot of chaturangas requires you to roll your shoulder forward repeatedly," says Vidulich. That's a lot to ask of the muscles that support your rotator cuffs, she says, and could lead to further injury. Also, stay especially alert during these exercises, which could seriously hurt you.
Wait a bit before resuming your yoga practice after a blow to the head. If you've been concussed, your brain has swelled; yoga poses that involve folding forward or lowering your head won't feel too good. "Whenever your head is lower than your heart, the hydrostatic pressure around the brain increases," says trainer and yoga instructor Kate Hamm. "Something that we think of as healing, can actually impede your recovery."
"Full inversions can put the same kind of pressure on your eyes as they can on your head," says Hamm. People who have glaucoma or recently undergone eye surgery should avoid yoga poses that require lowering your head or folding at the waist—or ask for modifications. Instead, says Hamm, choose easy, restorative poses that keep your head up.