“Oh the horror”! Yoga is bad for me???? I am already preparing myself for the hate mail…
First let me clarify. Many patients I have treated in sports medicine over the years have oft asked if it would be wise or safe to begin a Yoga practice. In general I think Yoga provides excellent flexibility, mobility, and strength progressions. However for many people who are recovering from or dealing with an orthopedic injury such as mechanical low back pain, shoulder rotator cuff pain, hip impingement, neck strain, Yoga may NOT be great for them.
Many fail to realize a central premise behind Yoga is really to prep the body for meditation, hence the extreme ranges of flexibility required in poses. Many exercises involve end range motions of the spine.
Another issue I see is patients coming to Yoga for a rehabilitative experience. An acute injury is not the time to begin a new and challenging practice. Without proper education on where and how to begin, these extremes in motion may do many more harm than good.
I have had over the years numerous patients, athletes, weekend warriors, and personal training clients who have come to me complaining of pain after attending a Yoga class. What I often tell them; these activities much like other sports and fitness pursuits are not inherently bad, however certain orthopedic issues may be irritated by certain spine loading, twisting, or weight bearing movements in these practices.
Add to that the risk of the “group” class teaching. Inherently in a crowded class of any type of workout, it may be hard for the new attendee to get appropriate feedback and cueing on form, and the risk for injury is higher. There may not be any specificity and the instructor may not be able to cater the class to respect the injury that my client is dealing with in a larger fast paced setting.
Yoga- the practice is so varied and so rich. It is important to really understand the wide variety of classes and styles, and discern which is best for your body, mind, spirit. There are myriad yoga classes; so one must be conscientious about which style they are interested in practicing : Ashtanga, Hatha, Iyengar, Bikram. For many, a challenging Hatha class or Ashtanga practice may take them through many flow sequences that may put strain on shoulders, lower back, hips, whereas others such as Iyengar or Restorative classes tend to favor more tranquil and slower paced movements with less loading through the spine and extremities. Yoga tends to be a bit more demanding on joints because so much of it is weight bearing and loading through your body. I would suggest to a patient that they attempt to find a “Restorative” yoga class, one that addresses rehabilitation for injuries, but only after properly grasping which poses may aggravate their injured area and need to be avoided.
To keep it simple, if you are dealing with a fresh injury and your body is in the process of recovering, it is probably not the best time to jump into a new health routine of ANY sort. With that said, once people have an understanding of the mechanics of their injury, it is not unrealistic to attempt to seek out a private lesson or Restorative Yoga class where they can get individual attention for their specific issues.
That being said -I practice Yoga fairly regularly and for many years have found it incredibly helpful to open up my hips, chest, mobilize tissue tight from the repetitiveness of my sport of cycling.
I see the relevance of these practices, when the body is able to accept the challenge! Most certified Yoga instructors have a wonderful breadth of knowledge. When I do have patients or clients wanting to begin a new practice, I always suggest a private session or several to begin with, and from a certified instructor.