MYTH: You can’t hurt yourself doing yoga.
FACT: You can hurt yourself doing almost anything, including yoga.
Depending on what yoga style you practice, you have a higher or lower risk of injury depending on aggressive approach and lack of attention to alignment.
It’s a bit of a dirty little secret, but for yoga practitioners, injury to the sacroiliac joint, neck, knee, and shoulder are not uncommon. Yes, you can hurt yourself doing yoga.
There is still a great deal of controversy over how high or low the numbers of yoga-caused injuries are. Partly because the numbers are difficult to track via emergency room statistics, and partly because it’s sometimes difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of injury: is the injury caused by yoga, or did yoga simply stress an already weakened part of the body?
So we need to be honest about risks. Can you injure yourself doing yoga? Yes. The best way to avoid injury is to be careful: pay attention to how you feel during practice, don’t try to force your body into a pose, respect your natural range of motion, be gentle with stretching, focus on proper alignment.
Teachers who say “yoga can’t cause injury”, and “you can’t hurt yourself doing yoga” may not understand that by promoting that line of thinking, they are promoting injury: you have to acknowledge that it’s possible to hurt yourself if you want to prevent it. You absolutely must be aware that aggressively forcing your joints beyond their natural range of motion can injure soft tissues and weaken joint stability. If you are told by your teachers, again and again, that “you can’t hurt yourself in here”, you might just prove them wrong by accident – and suffer a long-standing injury as a result.
A mindful practice keeps your body mobile. Mindlessly twisting or overstretching is a sure path to limited mobility in the long-term.
Teachers: be honest about risks. Help your students practice with care, so they can continue to practice for a long time. You don’t want to be the teacher who told the student “you can’t hurt yourself in here” when they dislocate a knee during your class.