It would be a lie to say that yoga is all pros and cons-free, as certainly there is risk in everything that we do. Fret not, like every other activity, it is entirely common to be exposed to injuries in yoga practice. The matter here is, to recognise the pains, and find ways to avoid and get relief from them. Right below are a few of the common pains in yoga, and let’s look into preventing them from a worriless yoga journey.
Shoulderstand and headstand posture may look cool, but be wary of neck injuries if not handled correctly. Unintentional placement of weight to the neck during these upside-down poses will lead to pressure and compression, and what comes after is an issue with the cervical vertebrae.
The piece of advice here is not to rush into performing inversion pose. Instead, attempt with modifications to build up core and shoulder strength, for these areas to be sufficiently strong to support the lifting. When you are ready to engage in the complete pose, bring awareness to your shoulder blades to have them drawn down and back on the mat to safely support the body. Do not attempt to jerk the head when your body is lifted up, as this can destabilise the body and causing a fall in return.
Another bother goes to the shoulder, which is frequently tensed when one unintentionally indulge in shrugging during the upward-facing dog pose. Overextending or overstretching are also the culprits for injuries on the shoulder girdle.
In the upward-facing dog pose, bear in mind to relax and let the shoulders roll down and away from your ears, sticking the chest out front. While holding your body up and forward, broaden by lifting the collarbones up and back, as palms are pressed on the mat, engaging the supporting muscles from arms, shoulders and neck. In stretching and binding poses, execute with care and do not exert too much force to achieve the pulling sensation of the shoulders.
Wrist pain comes hand in hand with leverage, that being the unequal distribution of body weight mostly to the wrist joint. Very often, in yoga poses such as crow, plank, side plank and chaturanga, the wrist is prone to injuries when our body weight is concentrated on the supporting palm.
To avoid this, spread your fingers wide and press firmly on the knuckles of the palm and thumb, to get a good grip on the mat. Look out to stack your shoulder and elbow directly over the wrist, for the passing on of weight perpendicularly through to the ground. Not forgetting, it does help to give yourself wrist exercises beforehand to prep them for the heavy load ahead.
There is more to a backbend posture than simply bending the spine to go into a backbend pose like the wheel pose. Back pain develops when pressure is fed to the lumbar spine, which is when the spinal discs between each vertebra compress and letting out a bone-meet-bone friction to the spine.
To go into wheel pose without compromising the backbone, the core and leg muscles play a vital role to shift the pressure away from our spine. Engage the leg muscles and roll both thighs inward towards each other, as if squeezing a yoga block in between. This gives the strength to draw the tailbone away from the heart and towards the legs, easing the lifting up gesture. Always ensure the spine is in a lengthening position rather than compression, and expand the chest out to open up your heart when you are in the complete wheel pose.
Next comes the knee joint, where pains tend to occur with the bending of knees, such as in chair pose, warrior 1 and warrior 2. Similar to the relief for the wrist joint, always be mindful to transfer your weight to the ground, and to achieve this, ensure that your knee is bent vertically to the heel. As for the leg that is kept straight, give a micro-bend to the knee, as you do not want the knee to bend too far backwards, thus resulting in a hyperextended knee.
While in a low lunges position, pressure may accumulate on the knee that is kneeling on the mat, causing discomfort to the knee joint. Placing a knee pad cushion or even a blanket under the knee works well as the pain reliever here.
Pain is a norm and if you do not already know, there is good pain and bad pain in yoga. Good pain is usually prominent when you are in a discomfort posture, but it is short-lived and will disappear once you are relieved from the pose. The worry here is the bad pain where one is exposed to sharp pain or the feeling of numbness, and the pain does not fade off even after you have released from the posture. Friendly reminder, do not let the fear of pain fend you off from practising, but instead, breathe in awareness to feel each and every part of your body; be it pain, tightness or discomfort. Understanding and accepting your body is the pathway to a meaningful yoga journey, and while you are ready to embark, keep in mind to start slow, but start right.