By Tracey A.Planinz, PhD
Yoga is a time-honored approach to over-all health and fitness. However, while traditional Hatha yoga is considered a gentle form of exercise, there are some postures that should still be avoided with certain injuries.
Follow the tips below to avoid further injury and get the most out of yoga practice during your recovery. Always consult your health care provider before trying yoga or any other fitness program.
Back injuries or spinal surgery can limit rotation of the spine. Use caution when practicing twisting poses. Twisting too deeply can cause pain and even further injury.
Twists such as Ardhamatsyendrasana or half-Lord of the fishes pose, Marichyasana III or Marichi’s pose, and even gentle seated twists can all be modified for limited rotation by twisting away from, instead of into, the bent leg.
Twisting poses should also be avoided during pregnancy.
Torn ligaments, cartilage or joint surgery in the knees and ankles can result in joint instability. It is important to utilize any medically recommended braces during exercise for extra support.
Over-reaching in forward bends is not only painful, but can further tear injured ligaments and cartilage. When practicing seated or standing forward bends, make sure the knees are not locked or hyper-extended. They should be straight and relaxed.
To achieve the hamstring stretch the forward bend provides, you can also use a yoga strap wrapped around the feet, pulling it into the body with bent elbows. This helps you gain reach without overstretching the muscles and ligaments.
In addition to limited rotation, back injuries may result in loss of flexion and extension, as well as chronic pain. Deep back bends can worsen these conditions and should be avoided if you have had a major back injury or surgery.
Advanced backbends such as Urdhva Dhanurasana or wheel pose, Kapotasana or king pigeon pose, and Dhanurasana or bow pose should be practiced only under the supervision of a trained professional if there are existing injuries to the spine.
Alternately, try more gentle backbends like Bitilasana or cow pose and Ustrasana or camel pose to stretch the spine. Be sure to include plenty of core exercises such as Paripurna Navasana or boat pose and leg lifts to strengthen the abdomen and low back muscles.
Advanced Yoga Styles
Some forms of yoga focus on more advanced asanas, or posture series. Styles such as Ashtanga yoga, also known as Power yoga, and Kundalini yoga should be avoided when injuries are present.
Instead, try more gentle forms such as traditional Hatha yoga, Iyengar yoga which uses props such as the yoga strap, and even Bikram yoga which is practiced in a warm room to help loosen the muscles.
Many fitness enthusiasts may try to continue through an exercise regimen even while recovering from injuries. The “no-pain, no-gain” philosophy does not apply to yoga.
Pay attention to your body. If you notice pain or discomfort, ease out of the pose gently. Do not be afraid to tell your yoga instructor about your injuries. Many poses can be modified to accommodate physical limitation.
1. Yoga Journal: Yoga Poses – http://www.yogajournal.com/poses/finder/browse_categories