Yoga can help relieve those aches and pains but it can also lead to an injury, researchers warn.
A University of Sydney study has found yoga caused musculoskeletal pain – mostly in the arms – in more than 10% of participants. Yoga also exacerbated 21% of existing injuries.Lead researcher, Associate Professor Evangelos Pappas, says the risk of pain caused by yoga is higher than previously reported.
“Yoga may be a bit more dangerous than previously thought,” Pappas said.
“Our study found that the incidence of pain caused by yoga is more than 10% per year, which is comparable to the rate of all sports injuries combined among the physically active population,” he said.
The prospective study assessed more than 350 people who attended yoga classes at two studios in New York.
Participants, mostly women with an average age of 45, were asked to complete a questionnaire at recruitment and again after one year.
Most of the “new” pain (13.3%) reported was either in the shoulder, elbow, wrist or hand.
Pappas, who himself is a yoga instructor, says this makes sense because the upper limbs were not designed to support a lot of weight.
“And in yoga you actually have a lot of these inversions, the downward dogs, that put lots of weight on the upper extremities,” he said.
The good news, however, is that two-thirds, or 74%, did report yoga relieved pain in the lower back and the neck. The findings are published in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies.
Given yoga’s popularity and perceived safety, it’s important that participants treat it like any other exercise, says Pappas.
“These findings can be useful for clinicians and individuals to compare the risks of yoga to other exercise, enabling them to make informed decisions about which types of activity are best,” said Pappas.
It’s recommended that yoga participants discuss any pre-existing pain, especially in the upper limbs, with yoga teachers and a physiotherapist, to explore posture modifications.