By Melissa Williams
Recent reports have shed light on the various yoga injuries that can occur during a yoga practice. While some are incredibly unlikely and extreme, others, including hamstring, wrist, and shoulder can occur. What can you do to protect yourself?
We will start from the head down.
Support your neck in such inverted postures as shoulderstand and plow, using a blanket underneath your shoulders to increase the length of your neck. Be sure to keep your gaze at your chest while in shoulderstand (not looking side to side).
Chances are if you spend much of your day sitting at a computer, you have tight forearm muscles and perhaps weak wrists. Long stays in downward facing dog can increase the strain on the wrist, especially if you aren’t doing the posture properly. It is important that your wrist crease is parallel with the front of your mat, that your fingers are spread wide, and the “fleshy” part of the palm is connected with your mat. You also want to visualize that you are lifting up from the wrists instead of “planting” them into the floor. If you have wrist pain you can change your hands by making them into fists with your thumb tucked in. Point the thumb toward the front of your mat so that there is no break in your wrist.
If your shoulders round forward, or it is difficult to raise your arms overhead, your chest muscles are most likely overdefined while your back muscles are weaker. If you take this anatomical problem and move into arm balances, including plank, you can put strain on the shoulder tendons and muscles. Instead of practicing chaturanga dandasana try lowering to the floor with bent knees and practicing locust (Belly to the ground, extend your legs straight behind you and gently lift your head, neck, and shoulders off the floor — strengthening your lower back.) Work on opening your shoulders in supported backbends.
Both flexible and inflexible people can experience hamstring issues — for different reasons. It is important that when you fold forward, whether in a wide straddle or feet-together position, that you engage the quadriceps, helping protect the hamstrings. If you already are working through an injury, it is critical to keep your knees quite bent in any forward fold.