INJURY PREVENTION IN YOGA ASANA
Injury can happen in yoga class and if it happens to beginners they are likely to never return to your class or yoga in general. It is our job, as teachers, to make beginners safe, supported and excited about the prospect of joining those already on the yogic path. Most yoga injuries are not serious and often go unreported to teachers. However, though rare, some serious injuries also occur, some of these include sprains, fractures, strains, dislocations, ligament tears, bone spurs, etc. Most injuries that come from yoga come from sustained, out of alignment, postures that are practiced with repetition and high intensity, most develop gradually and can be corrected if the student learns to be more mindful of the postures, and is shown that there is no wrong or right, only safe and unsafe. As teachers, we can assist our students and help them to not get injured, yet we cannot force someone, who is determined to do it “the right way” to keep their bodies safe. You cannot keep your students safe, but you can put them in danger. Yoga asana that is gentle, alignment based, with proper sequencing and attention should be used to teach beginners.
Take the time to practice with props. Props are a wonderful way for advanced practitoners to support the joints, build strength in different areas, and deepen poses. And for beginners to gain body awareness when starting the practice. Use props when you demonstrate to make your students feel ok about using them. Encourage all the students to try the props first. When you demonstrate, show the pose that is realistic for that class. Encourage your students to check in with the yamas and niyamas in the poses. Know your anatomy as a teacher. If a student has an injury that you don’t understand, ask them about it, and don’t be afraid to tell someone you don’t feel comfortable working with their injury or condition – you don’t want to endanger your students because your ego got in the way. We can’t know everything as teachers and it is good for our students to be able to share their knowledge, and if they are unable to tell us, they often realize this and then do more research. When in doubt, have the student do an alternative pose. Do not push your students; encourage them and support students to move into more challenging poses when they are ready.
Common causes of yoga injuries (student and instructor related)
Competing with others or a past image of oneself
Weight bearing on non-weight bearing structures without proper support, sequence, preparation
Too many poses in a row putting weight on non-weight bearing structures
Too many asymmetrical poses in a row
Teachers that don’t continue studying the function of the body
Teachers who don’t practice or study with teachers
Poses that are consistently out of alignment (knee in front ankle)
Help your students prevent injuries
Intake forms where first time students can write injuries is important as students are often too shy to say it in front of the class
Remember they don’t always tell you of the injury, then you go to assist them and they say,” be careful I broke my neck”
Know your students
Keep up with current research on injury prevention
Use proper sequencing in class
Do not compare students to one another
No pain no gain doesn’t apply
Props, props, props, (walls, blocks, straps)
Encourage the students to be honest and gentle with themselves
Learn the principles of alignment to correct misalignments in your students postures
Give your students a rest in the sequence and be able to modify your sequence to your class
Let your students know they can rest if they need to
Wrists must be spread wide and if they hurt supported with a rolled up mat or plank board
Elbows out of alignment will experience joint pain, Keep the elbows tucked alongside the ribs when bending and keep the “eye “ of the elbow forward
Shoulders must be in alignment, esp. when bearing weight on them, try not to lift them towards the ear in a shrug and pinch the muscles which can cause injury. Strengthening this area is more important than over stretching it.
Ribs and spine should be lengthened in twists. Use the puppet string from the head to feel that lift.
In twists allow the pelvis of the opposite side to move slightly to protect the SI ligaments
In forward bends the spine should lengthen rather than bend. The goal is to lengthen not get the head to knees, ground etc.