Gisele Bündchen shared this picture of her doing a headstand on Instagram.
“Everybody’s doing it!” says this article on the recent wave of celebrities sharing their Yoga pictures on social media. It’s no secret that Yoga’s popularity as a fitness and wellness activity has grown exponentially in the United States. The Huffington Post touted Yoga as a $27 Billion Industry and even former pro-wrestlers are getting in on the Yoga action, with Diamond Dallas Page’s D.D.P. Yoga profiled this month in a NY Times Magazine feature.
But is Yoga a one-size-fits-all activity? In a recent article on Yoga Dork, Brooklyn yoga instructor J. Brown reveals the dangers of being swept up in the pressure to do challenging poses, the headstand and shoulderstand in particular. Mr. Brown experienced a pinched nerve in his neck that went away immediately after he stopped doing headstands. He stopped teaching headstands all together when a student of his injured himself while performing one and never returned to Yoga again.
Mr. Brown’s story is a good reminder to listen to your body’s signals. In this entry, SPEAR’s Phaeleau Cunneen PT, CHT, shares his insights on the Yoga phenomenon along with his tips on how we can all practice Yoga safely!
Mo’ Yoga, Mo’ Problems
1. Yoga has exploded in popularity and with that increase, many new yoga teachers have also come onto the scene, some with more experience than others. The quality of instruction then has been diluted a bit, so make sure you are working with an experienced and highly rated instructor. Don’t be afraid to speak to your instructor and find out more about their training and education.
2. Many yoga classes can be overcrowded, so that the instruction and attention to detail and form you receive is less than ideal. Try to find a yoga class with less students, or enough that you are able to receive some attention to your form as you practice.
You Don’t Have To Be The Valedictorian of Yoga
Hilaria Baldwin practicing a headstand with no hands!
3. We are experiencing the rise of a fitness culture where more and more people want to be pushed beyond their limits by instructors, whether it be through P90X, CrossFit, boot camps, or tough mudders. While it’s admirable to want to push your personal limits, you should understand that safe (and effective) training takes time.
4. Many of us are walking around with slight disc bulges, even disc herniation. They are not always symptomatic, but that doesn’t mean that they are not there. Before practicing Yoga, consult a physical therapist to have your body mechanics evaluated. This way you can understand your body’s limits and any underlying conditions you may have. This will not only help your Yoga practice, but will also help you train up to the more challenging poses safely.
5. Most of us spend most of day with our neck in a forward head position – staring at a computer, looking down at our phone or iPad. The neck is in a flexed position for the majority of our waking hours. The after work we rush to class and go into a shoulder stand! The shoulder stand exerts extreme amount of posterior forces on the cervical spine.
Listen to Your Body
6. If you develop chronic pain from any form of exercise, stop! Don’t “suck it up” or listen to “no pain no gain” chants in your head. Do not continue doing something that is hurting your body because of peer pressure or because everyone else you know does it and it helps them.
7. Serious injuries can occur in any sport from improper form, improper supervision, poor strength and flexibility, and performing a stance or exercise that your body is not ready for.
Phaeleau’s Bottom Line: Although yoga benefits millions, it can lead to injury if you have an unknown preexisting condition, weakness to key stabilizers of the neck and shoulders, poor posture, and or poor flexibility. Listen to your body; it is smarter than you think it is. Chronic pain is often your body trying to tell you something. Your friendly neighborhood physical therapist can help translate!