Pain, Issues and Injuries in Yoga

Pain, Issues & Yoga Injuries Research Area

The dreaded meniscus injury. Image from http://ortho.ucla.edu

The dreaded meniscus injury. Image from http://ortho.ucla.edu

This page is all about trying to understand the things that can help prevent or reduce the risk of getting an injury or pain and what to do if you get one. It’s not just about being broken but also about good ways of practicing, engaging, aligning and balancing. Lots of these posts have been spread across the website so hopefully with everything in one place you can learn and research what will be useful for you.

It’s fair to say that many of the pains we can experience during an asana practice might be the highlighting of things we have done to our bodies whilst off of the mat. Issues due to postural patterns, bad habits, working conditions, other exercise or hobbies and accidents are just a few examples. It may even be that what we are experiencing is due to stresses placed on the body by tensional patterns arising from the way we are constructed. For example the made on Friday syndrome, when whoever put us together just grabbed whatever was closest, gifting us a shorter leg, uneven pelves, a scoliosis or an excessively kyphotic spine, valgus or varus knees (knocked knees or bow legs) or any of the other strays from ideal.

Stu's Top Tips
Practice with kindness and compassion.
Don’t ignore pain! It is not an opening.
Immediately modify your practice to allow an injury to heal.
Don’t force. Allow your breath to guide you.
Don’t sacrifice good alignment just to get into a pose.
If you keep getting the same issues get a teacher to check your technique.
Don’t just rely on listening to your body if you are the type of person that doesn’t feel things until the next day. You will have to be more sensitive about what you are doing.
Be realistic about your competency and choose the appropriate class for your level.
Keep your ego in check, and don’t compete with yourself or others.
Make sure you get enough rest and recuperation, and keep yourself well hydrated especially in hotter climates.
Find a fantastic teacher that is also kind and compassionate.

However the fact remains that as wonderful and therapeutic as yoga can be it is also easily possible to hurt ourselves doing yoga in much the same way as any other form of physical exercise. Ambition, lack of concentration or understanding, strength imbalances, improper technique, insufficient strength to flexibility relationship or dodgy alignment are just a few of the ways we can land up harming our bodies rather than nurturing them. Matthew Remski  is just one of the teachers that has recently been highlighting some of the things that can go wrong, and his articles are well worth a read (http://matthewremski.com/wordpress/). It’s not even fair to just blame it on the student’s ego or forcefulness. Sometimes issues accumulate through bad technique, excessive repetition or lack of understanding, we may fall out of postures awkwardly, heavily load joints unexpectedly or mistake pain and discomfort for something else (ok that one you will have to except some blame).  We can also just be having a fragile day, we do everything the same as always but today something gives out, we may have slept awkwardly, strained doing the gardening the day before, or not had enough rest and recuperation, who knows, shit happens!

When we are injured it can be a very frustrating time and the longing to get back to a full practice can often lead to a cycle of returning too soon, re-injury and layoffs. I’ve started this page to try and collect together the information on this site that relates to injury so that you might primarily avoid injury and in the event of mishap find the right information to restore you to your beloved practice as soon as possible. I’ve also created a little video series to try and address some of the more common areas whose vulnerabilities may often lead to the experiencing of pain and injury.

Wisdom from David Keil

Talking about injuries in yoga is always more complex than it seems. What everyone wants, is to know the “right” way of doing things as opposed to doing it the “wrong” way. This leads to an oversimplification of what comes together when we get injured.

We often start by saying something like I just injured my X while doing Y posture. This is relatively true. You were doing a particular asana and an injury occurred as that happened. The larger truth is more vague and elusive. Of course, you have to deal with the immediacy of what has happened. But you should also be reflecting back on what has led to it.

There are many possibilities about the literal cause. Of course, it could have been something in the moment. Perhaps it built up over time. In that case, there were probably warning signs that may or may not have been acknowledged or ignored.

My observation over the years is that students are more likely to get injured when they’re not being themselves. What I mean by that is that they are applying an alignment cue or technique to their body that really doesn’t fit what is happening in the moment. We have all done this, and we all do this. In other words, the general rules of alignment and technique are GENERAL. Sometimes they don’t apply to your body, ability, or where you are developmentally in a particular posture. We inadvertently try to stick a square into a circle and it doesn’t fit.

With that in mind, aim towards an ideal in a posture, but know that you are going to go through a process to get there. Don’t try to hurry to the end.

You can find David’s excellent site here: www.yoganatomy.com

A Few Words on Pain by Matthew Sweeney
Ramana Maharshi

Ramana Maharshi

Pain is both a defense mechanism and a reaction to change, whether physical or psychological or both.
Physical pain in an Asana is also a warning and a call to pay more attention. Once your body has a sudden increase in pain, this often means you have not been in awareness of the previous stages where your body was warning you of discomfort. When your body said, “No. Stop! Back off!” Did you listen? Doing a practice repetitiously but without constantly refining both awareness AND adjusting the body as appropriate, is a recipe for disaster: incessant pain.
So this is where we practice “yoga”, not to accomplish postures and increase control, and increase pain and increase attachments to the physical self. But rather to promote awareness and health through doing the most simple postures and movements with balance, integrity and peace. By being aware of the increase of physical discomfort you can start to adjust each and every posture and vinyasa to suit you body’s needs in the moment. In this way, most major physical pain can be avoided, and so joy, aliveness and awareness can increase.
I am not a believer in the “no pain, no gain” theory. This theory is merely a way to cause harm and project your pain onto others. Reduce your pain by being aware, and simply stop trying to do all postures at the end range of motions. Rather work at around 70-80% capacity to maximize awareness, effort and effortlessness.

Psychologically speaking:

We only allow ourselves to change when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of changing. – Henry Cloud

In this way ALL habits eventually lead to pain and suffering. To paraphrase Ramana Maharshi – suffering prompts us to be aware, so in this way pain and suffering are pointing us (or even dragging us) towards liberation. Without it, we are likely to continue to plod along in ignorance. Not projecting your pain and suffering on others however, is also very important. Learning how to reduce pain and transcend your suffering may be a lifelong journey indeed, but it starts here and now, and for every moment from here on, liberation is possible.

Peace
Matthew Sweeney www.yogatemple.com
February 24, 2016

Here are nine videos I made that discuss the most common injuries and their causes when practicing yoga asana

Do no harm: A Buddhist take on ahimsā and injury in our yoga practice by Matteo Pistono
matteo
Ahimsā (Sanskrit) — hiṃsā is to injure, harm or hurt;
a-hiṃsā means the opposite, do no harm.

Ahimsā supports the yogi’s spiritual development. Ahimsā forms the container within which our meditation, concentration and samādhi arise. Without a steady practice of ahimsā, the great yogis of the Buddhist, Jain, and Hatha Yoga traditions assert our spiritual path is without direction.

What does ahimsā look like for a Buddhist?

Ahimsā most obviously means not to kill or physically harm any being. In todays ever more interdependent world, it also means that yogis committed to ahimsā must examine how their own actions and words directly or indirectly support wars, racial conflict, or for example, the breeding of animals for human consumption. This way of looking at ahimsā is an outward approach that assesses how our words and deeds affect others and the world around us?

Yet, ahimsā, for a Buddhist, first and foremost means doing no harm towards one’s own body and mind. This is an inward perspective on ahimsā. This body and mind is where the practice of non-harming and compassion begins. We are advised to consider what we put into our body and how it affects us. If any food or drink harms our body, is that loving or compassionate care for ourselves? We can ask ourselves simply, “Is this food or drink nourishing and replenishing, or am I eating or drinking this out of habit, cravings, or addictions?” Additionally, we are compelled to think about, and indeed reduce as much as possible, the suffering of other beings who are affected by our diet.

Not only does the yogi consider their sustenance, but it is of utmost importance to evaluate what we expose our minds to. What films, books, social media, and television do we spend our time watching and reading and how does it pattern our thoughts and thinking? Does viewing endless loops of Instagram images or Facebook postings calm our heart and mind, or does it create fluctuations of jealousy, competitiveness, or body-image obsessions? What happens in our mind immediately and in the long-term when we repeatedly watch scenes of violence on the television or cinema screen? If we intend to embody qualities of love, empathy, compassion and wisdom, it is worth considering what seeds we are planting in our own minds through our choices.

Finally, when considering yoga postures, and injury, what is the Buddhist perspective?

Yoga postures are one kind of skillful means employed so the body can sit in a comfortable posture for an extended period of time. A still body becomes the container within which our mind calms down and single-pointed concentration can be cultivated, eventually leading towards insights into the true nature of our experience. Nourishing the body, and quieting the mind through yoga āsana is practicing ahimsā from a Buddhist, Jain and Hatha Yoga perspective.

Still, we find yoga practitioners often injuring themselves doing āsana. The reasons injuries happen are always multi-faceted, and sometimes not entirely clear. Often, however, the primary energy that propels injury stems from the yogi not supporting their āsana practice with ahimsā. Why do we ignore that swelling in the joint and still torque the knee into beautiful looking but injury-exacerbating, bound position? While there is a cathartic thrill in many dynamic postures and vinyāsa transitions, is injury-inducing strain really practicing ahimsā? Why do we choose not to use a supportive prop like a block or blanket when our body is calling for it? We move into the realm, here, where the ego highjacks our yoga āsana practice and our body feels the pain. This is precisely the time to dial it back a few degrees, recall our commitment to non-violence outwardly and to ourselves, and then, reengage our practice with a sense of long-term commitment towards ahimsā.

Matteo Pistono teaches meditation, prānāyāma, and Buddhist philosophy. Matteo began studying Buddhism and Haṭha Yoga in Nepal in the early 1990s, and later lived and worked in Tibet and the Himalayas for a decade, which he has written about in two books: Fearless in Tibet: The Life of the Mystic Tertön Sogyal (Hay House, 2014) and In the Shadow of the Buddha: Secret Journeys, Sacred Histories, and Spiritual Discovery in Tibet (Dutton-Penguin, 2011). Matteo earned a Masters in Indian Philosophy from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London in 1998. He has studied Buddhism under Tibetan meditation masters and engaged in extensive retreats regularly over the last twenty years. Matteo maintains a daily Ashtanga yoga practice and studies with David Garrigues. www.matteopistono.com

Articles on yoga related injuries

Hamstrings

Stu's top Hamstring tips
Be very sensitive to pain emerging near the sitbone and immediately ease back your practice of FF.
Stubbornly resistant hamstrings can sometimes lead to us giving them a hammering in an attempt to encourage them to co-operate. Sometimes less and gentle is more effective.
Watch out for hyperextending knees in forward folding postures.
Be especially aware in wide legged forward folds as this can place more strain on the medial hamstrings as well as adductor magnus.
Use a block or bolster to sit on if you feel that you cannot sit up and lengthen the spine in seated forward folds.
  • Themed Interview with Mark Darby: Forwardfolding April 19, 2016 So this season I decided to do some interviews themed around different aspects of the practice. The format is a chat about the subject and then a demo /workshop. In this interview I get to talk to Darby and I chose forwardfolding not only because a good few students struggle at least initially with these ...
  • Yoga Therapy for Hamstring Injuries April 28, 2015 If you’ve ever had an injury at your hamstring injury, you will know about it! You’ll go from comfortable forward bending one day to dramatically restricted, often painful forward bends the next day. This injury occurs where the tendon of the hamstring muscle knits into the membranous lining of the bone, the periosteum. In this ...
  • Sitbone Pain from Yoga Asana March 28, 2014 (proximal hamstring and adductor magnus tendon injuries) by Jenni Crowther Unfortunately enough yoga practitioners suffer from sitbone pain that it has been nicknamed ‘yoga butt’.  We may more correctly refer to this condition as ‘proximal hamstring tendon injury’.The length of time that it may take to heal and the way it will influence your physical practice make ...
  • Got Sit Bone Pain? – What to do with that hamstring May 31, 2013 By David Keil I was in the DC area this month and saw a student that I knew from a previous workshop. At that time Patricia had recently “pulled a hamstring”. Her major symptom was pain at her sit bone (ischial tuberosity) when folding forward, secondary was that it would also hurt when sitting for long ...
  • Hip and Hamstring Flexibility March 11, 2013 By Niki Vetten Hamstrings and hips get a lot of stretching in yoga, because everyone wants to do Hanumanasana, and also get their feet behind their heads, preferably both feet at the same time. For many, this will never happen, precisely because they try so hard and focus only on one set of muscles without understanding ...
  • ‘Yoga Butt’ Injury March 11, 2013 By Niki Vetten ‘Yoga Butt’ is a term for a range of symptoms frequently experienced in Ashtanga and other forms of Vinyasa or Power yoga after a few months of regular practice. It often starts as Pain or discomfort at either of the Ischial Tuberosities (sit-bones) Discomfort in all forward bending and a feeling that the hamstring won’t ...
  • Hamstring Injury, Sciatica and Sacroiliac Pain in Yoga March 10, 2013 By Niki Vetten There are three muscles in the legs that are collectively referred to as the Hamstrings – the Biceps Femoris, Semitendinosus and Semimembranosus. All three Hamstrings attach to the Ischial Tuberosity of the pelvis – the sit-bone. At the knee, the Biceps Femoris attaches to the outside of the Femur and the knee and ...
A Few Words by Paul Dallaghan
paul-d-chaturangaAdapt “plank” into all poses. This means a very supportive and engaged core, primarily below the navel. This proximal base and stability is matched by a more peripheral (distal) mobility. Plank is inborn in Samasthiti. This is the essence of all poses. Even the classic sitting meditative asanas only becomes possible to maintain, with internal attention in place, with this “plank” support, from pelvic floor to navel. When it collapses in sitting one’s mind is already aimlessly wandering. If this core is compromised in “doing” asanas then the likelihood of injury and feeling completely unnatural in the asana is greater.

Neck

Stu's top Neck tips
Keep you arms straight in jump throughs and when going up into handstand to avoid building tension in the upper trapezius.
In twisting postures don’t lead the twist with the head just softly position it, keeping strain out of the neck.
Get a teacher to show you how to do chakrasana properly, and if in doubt leave it out.
Make sure you are lifting the weight out of your head in headstand.
In shoulderstand think of using blankets in an Iyengar fashion to allow for a more gentle angle of the neck.
Avoid straining in postures as this often lands up as neck tension.
  • Putting the Curve Back in Your Neck, Saving Your Neck – Part 3 March 29, 2015 Although we usually think and talk about muscles as being weak or strong, closer to the truth is that muscles are usually inhibited or facilitated, respectively. Inhibition is when neural input (from our nervous system) to the muscle has been down-regulated. Facilitation is the opposite, when neural input to a muscle is excessive or up-regulated. ...
  • You Were Born to Gaze at the Stars, Saving Your Neck – Part 2 March 29, 2015 In Part 1 we looked at some of the biomechanics of neck problems and especially how to eliminate unnecessary tension in our neck when weight-bearing on our hands. In yoga asanas we commonly take our head back, extending our head and neck. Students are often cautious and hold back with this movement, concerned that it ...
  • Saving Your Neck, Understanding the Biomechanics of Neck Problems – Part 1 March 29, 2015 Our necks are one of the most vulnerable parts of our body and once we have a neck problem they can be complex to resolve. There are a few reasons why the neck cops the brunt of it. Firstly the neck or cervical spine has the greatest range of movement possible in the entire spine. This ...
  • A Pointer for Better Posture(s) November 16, 2014 Asana Quick Fix: 16 November 2014: A Pointer for Better Posture(s) I spend anywhere between 4 to 5 hours sitting in front of a computer … an hour or two, behind the wheel of a car .. and admittedly, an hour or so watching a movie or TV. That adds up to about 8 hours of ...
  • Yes, you can get injured doing a headstand… May 30, 2013 By David Keil Yes, you can get injured doing a headstand… especially if you take the name literally. We can often gather information from the name of a posture. Sometimes embrace the quality or energy of the name, like Virabadrasana (Warrior). Sometimes the name is exactly what we should be doing. Shoulderstand comes to mind. It’s not ...
  • Neck Pain from the Hips March 12, 2013 By Niki Vetten Posture affects our necks negatively when there is anterior or posterior pelvic tilt because the spinal curves are altered and the head is carried in a forward position. The muscle at the front of the neck, the Sternocleidomastoideus (SCM) shortens and the shoulder girdle rounds and shifts forward, exaggerating the curvature of the ...
An excerpt from Your Body Your Yoga by Bernie Clark
bernie-clark-webJust as no one else has your dental pattern, no one else has your bone structure, your spine or your hips. Why think, then, that what someone else can do, you should be able to do, too? Or why think that because someone else can’t do something, you also will fail? There are things you can do right now, there are things that you will be able to do in time, and there are things that you will never be able to do. This is not a critique of your abilities or a reflection of your personality or some flaw that needs to be fixed – this is simply the reality of your existence. A five-foot-tall ballerina will never play right tackle for the Seattle Seahawks, and the right tackle for the Seahawks will never win an Olympic gold medal for figure skating. This does not mean that the ballerina is flawed or the right tackle is lazy. A snowflake, in all its beautiful uniqueness, will never be a galaxy of stars. Why would it ever try to be something it cannot be? Better to be a great snowflake. We need to understand our uniqueness and our natural limitations.
Visit Bernie’s website: yinyoga.com

Hip

Stu's top Hip tips
Look for unsymmetrical range of motion between sides and aim to restore evenness.
The ability to take our leg across the front of the body (adduction) will make twisting around that leg easier.
If you are hyper-mobile use bolsters when doing yin style passive postures to protect the ligaments.
Working on the ability to externally rotate the hips will often enhance your ability to forward fold in both legs together and abducted positions.
Even though the hips can be stubborn, work sensitively and slowly to open them.
  • Preventing Yoga Injuries vs Preventing Yoga, Part I: The Hip Labrum January 19, 2014 By Ray Long I’m thinking the ancients were onto something. Meaning this (possibly) 5,000 year old art that so many of us enjoy practicing and teaching. I’m talking about the tradition of Hatha yoga. The one that includes putting our bodies into poses like Uttanasana, Dandasana, Padmasana (Full Lotus), Sirsasana (Headstand) etc. Now, part of that ...
  • Is Your Hip “Pinching” in a Twist? March 30, 2013 By David Keil This situation can show up in parvrita parsvakonasana, ardha matsayendrasana, marichyasana C, or other twists. The sensation is anything from mild discomfort to an ice pick sensation in the front and inside of the pelvis. The most common description however is that it seems as though something is getting “pinched.” This is a situation ...
  • Hip Pain and Injury in Yoga March 11, 2013 By Niki Vetten Hips are vital in all body movements because the body’s centre of gravity is located in the hip area, about 4 finger-widths below the navel or belly-button. Healthy hips are also the key to a pain-free lower back and knees. Flexibility in the hips is determined by strength and overstretching the hips in an ...
  • Hip and Hamstring Flexibility March 11, 2013 By Niki Vetten Hamstrings and hips get a lot of stretching in yoga, because everyone wants to do Hanumanasana, and also get their feet behind their heads, preferably both feet at the same time. For many, this will never happen, precisely because they try so hard and focus only on one set of muscles without understanding ...
  • Lateral Pelvic Tilt in Yoga Practice March 11, 2013 By Niki Vetten When the hips are can’t be held level in a horizontal plane while standing on one leg, lateral pelvic tilt occurs, caused by weakness of the Hip abductor muscles, especially the Gluteus Medius. The pelvis tilts down to one side and the head of the Femur is pushed outwards. This is called Trendelenburg ...
  • How Hinging From the Hips Creates Weak Gluteal Muscles March 11, 2013 By Niki Vetten Yoga practice usually starts with some form of Surya Namaskara and most sun salutations include moving from Samasthitih or Tadasasna to Uttanasana and back upright many times. These movements are often made by keeping the back straight and folding forwards at the hips, with the knees locked and rising back to vertical in ...
  • Anterior Pelvic Tilt in Yoga Practice March 10, 2013 By Niki Vetten When the hip-bones tilt forwards, creating an arch (lordosis) in the lower back, you have anterior pelvic tilt, one of the main causes of lower back pain. Some people, mainly women, have a lower back that is naturally lordotic. This is due to the shape of their Sacroiliac joints, and is not necessarily ...
  • Previous Hip Injury and Yoga Practice March 10, 2013 By Niki Vetten Many people turn to yoga as a way of healing hip injuries that they acquired elsewhere. Some people find that their injuries improve with mild stretching and strengthening, but others find that their symptoms get much worse. Hip injuries that are caused by traumatic events like car accidents or bad falls have a profound ...
  • Reciprocal Inhibition and the Hips March 9, 2013 By Niki Vetten Reciprocal Inhibition is a process that the body uses to create movements. All movement is controlled by opposing sets of muscles, called Agonists or prime movers, and Antagonists that create the opposing force which returns the part being moved back to its original position. Movement is also aided by other surrounding muscles, called ...
  • Lateral Pelvic Tilt in Yoga Practice March 9, 2013 By Niki Vetten When the hips are can’t be held level in a horizontal plane while standing on one leg, lateral pelvic tilt occurs, caused by weakness of the Hip abductor muscles, especially the Gluteus Medius. The pelvis tilts down to one side and the head of the Femur is pushed outwards. This is called Trendelenburg ...
Some insights from Danny Paradise
Danny_Paradise_webI’ve now been doing Ashtanga Yoga for 40 years. I started May 2nd 1976 with the amazing David Williams and Nancy Gilgoff in a beautiful park in Maui, Hawaii. Over the years I’ve gone through many physiological and emotional changes doing the practices. Fortunately through modifying my practice when necessary and paying conscious attention to using the forms to heal I’m still able to maintain a relatively consistent practice. Every day is different. I don’t think about what I was able to do yesterday but rather what is comfortable and possible today to maintain my equilibrium, deep breath and a pain free practice. Fortunately I have learned endless lessons about healing and maintaining vitality through these principles with more lessons to come. Besides for healing, Yoga is an amazing tool for creating evolutionary consciousness, tranquility, energy throughout our lives as well as for learning how to communicate with the Soul of Nature or even the Heart of the Universe. Call it what you want. Define it however you choose. The secret in the practices is the deep, slow breath to create life force, internal locking for protection and never pushing into pain. These and the other teachings of Yoga are ancient Shamanic principles linked with all Shamanic explorations and practices on Earth. Ultimately Yoga is an exploration of personal authority and personal responsibility ultimately leading to universal responsibility.

‘Sharp like a razor’s edge is the path,
The sages say, difficult to traverse.’
So understanding how not to slip off the edge and cut yourself is the endless challenge…

Danny Paradise April 25/2016
www.dannyparadise.com

Knee

Stu's top Knee tips
If you are collapsing in your arches work hard to keep them lifted, this will help to reduce the inclination for the knees to roll in which will place strain on the medial aspect of the knee. Try drawing back the toes to stretch the plantar fascia and lift the arch.
In standing postures it is better for the knee to keep it facing in the same direction as the foot.
Open the hips in external rotation to take stress off of the knee in postures that involve full or half lotus.
Change the first foot into lotus regularly to avoid stressing the left knee. Of course first make sure you are open enough in the hips to do full or half padmasana. NO LEVERING!!
Don’t think it is safe to ignore knee pain you will just bollocks it up!
Be aware that in certain positions a dorsiflexed foot can torque the knee (ie. a narrow frog or when the leg is drawn back from parallel to the front of the mat in pigeon.
  • Flexed or Extended Foot in Lotus March 30, 2013 By David Keil I’ve been hearing for years that we should flex our foot in various poses where we have our knees bent at ninety degrees or more. More recently I’ve received two seperate emails regarding the application of this technique to lotus posture. Should the foot be flexed or extended in padmasana? It’s time I ...
  • How Hip Problems Cause Knee Pain March 9, 2013 By Niki Vetten Pain felt at the outer or inner sides of the knees is often directly related to the hips and can have a variety of causes, which need to be assessed and treated by a specialist. As explained in Knee Injury and Pain in Yoga, the Gluteus Medius stabilises the pelvis in a horizontal plane ...
  • Knee Injury and Pain in Yoga March 9, 2013 By Niki Vetten Knee injury in yoga usually involves tearing the Meniscus, a double ring of cartilage between the Femur (thighbone) and the Tibia (lower leg bone) – either through carelessness – by practicing asanas with the feet and the knees pointing in different directions, or in Padmasana. It is also possible to overstretch the supporting ...
  • Pain at the Kneecap March 9, 2013 By Niki Vetten Knee pain that occurs around the kneecap is usually called Patellofemoral pain and can be caused by tightness in the Rectus Femoris muscle or an imbalance between the Quadricep muscles that stabilise the patella. One way that this occurs is through weakness of the Gluteus Medius in the hip. The Tensor Fascia Latae ...
  • Knees and Padmasana March 9, 2013 By Niki Vetten Padmasana can cause various problems for yoga practitioners. Meniscus tears usually occur as a result of falls and accidents but in yoga they can be caused by incorrect functioning of the Popliteus and Semimembranosus (inner hamstring). Both of these muscles control rotational forces in the leg. The Popliteus muscle retracts the lateral meniscus, ...
Engage, engage, engage! Chris Kummer

Chris KummerIn the world of biotensegrity – the world our bodies operate in, evenly distributed tension facilitates both smooth and free movement. Now is the time to learn and evolve from practicing with disconnected body parts. Move with a unified body by engaging relevant muscles to spread the load of asanas along the fascial body suit. Lack of adequate tension allows forces to go to areas of least resistance, which strains or develops weak spots. Transforming your practice is often surprisingly easy. A few applications of current anatomical knowledge can help.
Visit Chris’s website: www.chriskummer.com

Back

Stu's top Back tips
Rounding the spine in forward folding postures can often lead to strain being placed on the lower back, particularly if you are pulling yourself forward.
So many people I see for bodywork have tight quadratus lumborum (QL) muscles (they sit in the low back area between the bottom rib and iliac crest). Sidebending can often create space and soothing to tightness and discomfort in this area.
Be careful to check you are not hinging in backbending at the bottom of the ribs (T12-L1) or right at the bottom where the spine meets the sacrum (L5-S1). Invariably even if this feels ok now it will lead to instability and pain.
Opening the front of the hip to allow more extension will help to take strain off of the lumbar area when backbending.
  • How to Relieve Back-pain and Bend Backwards Without Hurting your Lower Back August 27, 2015 How to ‘open’ your mid-spine in back bends and not squash your lower back:  Lengthen your Psoas at the hips (hip extension) and immobilse L5-S1 Breathe in to your abdomen (use your diaphragm) Breathe out from your chest (ha-uddiyana bandha) Psoas then extends your spine from T12-L5 (and not L5-S1) because the diaphragm attaches to the psoas, which joins ...
  • Deep Relief for Low Back Pain May 29, 2014 By Doug Keller By applying these simple principles to your asana practice you can strengthen the hidden muscles that maintain the health of your back. While there are no quick fixes when it comes to low back pain, if you address the root of the problem, treatment can be surprisingly simple. Chronic back pain is often attributed ...
  • Sacroiliac Support May 29, 2014 By Doug Keller Gentle adjustments and a targeted yoga routine can relieve pain in your SI joints and low back Do you experience stinging pain at the back of your pelvis on one side when you bend, twist, or stand up after a long period of sitting? This is a likely indicator of sacroiliac instability. As human ...
  • Using hip muscles effectively in yoga practice – part 1: bridging and back bending March 7, 2014 By Niki Vetten Weak Gluteal muscles are very common amongst yoga students and teachers alike and cause Sacroiliac pain and dysfunction, lower back pain and hamstring injury. Causes and symptoms are covered in the article on yoga butt and this post looks at the effects of various hip movement cues taught in yoga. Different instructions are ...
  • Quadratus Lumborum (QL) A real Pain in the Back! March 24, 2013 By David Keil I have written about a number of the “lightning rod” muscles such as the piriformis, psoas, and transverse abdominis. I refer to them as “lightning rods” because they attract attention. Sometimes this is for good reason, after all, everyone should know about his or her psoas. However, every problem related to core shouldn’t ...
  • Gluteal and Psoas Relationship for Yogis March 24, 2013 By David Keil There is a pattern that has shown itself to me over the last few months. I don’t think that this pattern is a result of practice but probably an underlying pattern that already existed. As often happens, regular practice can uncover any number of problems or imbalances in our body. Hopefully the practice ...
  • Sacroiliac Joints and Yoga March 11, 2013 By Niki Vetten Sacroiliac problems are common in yoga – Chiropractors consider the Sacroiliac joint to be the most common cause of lower back pain, more prevalent than disc problems. The Sacroiliac joint is believed to act as a shock absorber between the legs and the spine and although its movements are very small, restrictions at ...
  • Understanding and Managing Sacroiliac Pain in Yoga Practice March 11, 2013 By Niki Vetten It is common for yogis to develop painful sacroiliac joints, with serious consequences: dysfunction at the sacroiliac joint inhibits the hip muscles and starts a vicious cycle of hip instability and body misalignment. Painful sacroiliac joints must be treated and stabilised to avoid chronic pain and it is not advisable to continue with ...
  • Lower Back Pain and Posture (Pelvic Tilt) and how Yoga affects Pelvic Tilt March 11, 2013 By Niki Vetten Posture is not simply a matter of standing up straight, like your mother told you to; posture is created by the Hamstrings and Hip Flexor (mainly the Iliopsoas) muscles. If the Hamstrings are stronger than the Psoas, the pelvis tilts backwards and if the Psoas is stronger than the Hamstrings, the pelvis tilts ...
  • Lower Back Pain in Yoga Practice and the Lumbar Spine March 11, 2013 By Niki Vetten The Lumbar spine, unlike the lower thoracic spine, moves very little and should not be used during back extension movements, because the vertebrae or discs can be damaged. Any muscular imbalances between the hips, legs and lower back cause pain and restriction in the lumbar spine, and can ultimately result in injury. Hamstring ...
  • Back Flexibility with Yoga March 11, 2013 By Niki Vetten As we get older our spines bend less, mostly because of the effects of gravity on the spinal discs, which begin to dehydrate and become compressed after 30, reducing the spaces between the facet joints in the vertebrae and limiting movement. Gravity and an upright human posture also causes some the spinal muscles ...
  • Lower Back Pain and Alignment March 11, 2013 By Niki Vetten Another cause of lower back pain is found in the alignment of the left and right sides of the body, some bodies are structurally asymmetrical: one leg is shorter than the other, or the pelvic halves are different sizes, people can be born that way, or their structure can be altered by bone ...
  • Lower Back Pain and Posture (Pelvic Tilt) and how Yoga affects Pelvic Tilt March 11, 2013 By Niki Vetten Posture is not simply a matter of standing up straight, like your mother told you to; posture is created by the Hamstrings and Hip Flexor (mainly the Iliopsoas) muscles. If the Hamstrings are stronger than the Psoas, the pelvis tilts backwards and if the Psoas is stronger than the Hamstrings, the pelvis tilts ...
  • Lower Back Pain: Some Yoga-Related Causes March 11, 2013 By Niki Vetten The causes of lower back pain are varied and complex. Physiotherapy texts state that in most cases it is impossible to pinpoint the exact body tissue that causes the pain and because humans have an upright posture, it is virtually guaranteed that everyone will have an episode of lower back pain in their ...
  • Lateral Pelvic Tilt in Yoga Practice March 11, 2013 By Niki Vetten When the hips are can’t be held level in a horizontal plane while standing on one leg, lateral pelvic tilt occurs, caused by weakness of the Hip abductor muscles, especially the Gluteus Medius. The pelvis tilts down to one side and the head of the Femur is pushed outwards. This is called Trendelenburg ...
  • Anterior Pelvic Tilt in Yoga Practice March 10, 2013 By Niki Vetten When the hip-bones tilt forwards, creating an arch (lordosis) in the lower back, you have anterior pelvic tilt, one of the main causes of lower back pain. Some people, mainly women, have a lower back that is naturally lordotic. This is due to the shape of their Sacroiliac joints, and is not necessarily ...
  • Hamstring Injury, Sciatica and Sacroiliac Pain in Yoga March 10, 2013 By Niki Vetten There are three muscles in the legs that are collectively referred to as the Hamstrings – the Biceps Femoris, Semitendinosus and Semimembranosus. All three Hamstrings attach to the Ischial Tuberosity of the pelvis – the sit-bone. At the knee, the Biceps Femoris attaches to the outside of the Femur and the knee and ...
  • Adductors, the Pelvic Floor and Lower Back Pain March 9, 2013 By Niki Vetten Pelvic floor contractions are used in Yoga as part of Pranayama practise- Mula Bandha. The pelvic floor also has an important stabilising function, as it controls the forward and backward movements of the Sacrum – these movements are also called Nutation and Counter Nutation. If the pelvic floor is tight and inelastic, the ...
  • Lateral Pelvic Tilt in Yoga Practice March 9, 2013 By Niki Vetten When the hips are can’t be held level in a horizontal plane while standing on one leg, lateral pelvic tilt occurs, caused by weakness of the Hip abductor muscles, especially the Gluteus Medius. The pelvis tilts down to one side and the head of the Femur is pushed outwards. This is called Trendelenburg ...

Shoulder

Stu's top Shoulder tips
Don’t rush into doing too much jumping/floating make sure you have gained sufficient strength and stability. Even if you are an established practitioner don’t go jumping on your first vinyasa let the shoulder joint and muscles warm up first.
Binding can place a lot of stress on the shoulder if you in the right position to take the bind. Don’t put the shoulder in a compromising position just to link your hands, focus instead on positioning your body in a way that is right for you and stays true to the essence of the posture.
Shoulders are inherently unstable so work diligently on creating strength and stability, especially so if you are already hypermobile.
There is of course a direct interaction between wrist/hand placement and shoulder alignment so you need to be aware of foundational quality and symmetry.
All those small repetitive movements involved in mouse control and smart phone use play havoc with the shoulder so if you want a happy and healthy shoulder and neck complex quit your job, get rid gadgets and join us for sunset on the beach 🙂
  • What’s the Problem with Your Shoulder? April 18, 2016 Our shoulder is a precision instrument that simultaneously has a vast scope in its range of motion. With pinpoint precision we can synchronise our shoulder muscles to maneuver our arm to point our finger precisely at our object of choice – an action that requires the coordinated recruitment of numerous muscles that surround our shoulder ...
  • From Specialists to Humans: November 26, 2015 Shining a light on the physical blind spots of an advanced yoga practice Introduction Yoga is a state of being in which we experience ourselves as whole and present. To train ourselves in the state of yoga, we include the practice of physical movements for we are physical beings. We experience and express ourselves through a physical ...
  • No Magic to Protect You in “Wild Thing”, And No Magical Way in Which Yoga Changes the World /// Plus We Heart Be Scofield May 30, 2014 By Matthew Remski Nugget: The claim that Wild Thing can be done safely might involve the same wishful/magical thinking as the claim that yoga and meditation will automatically “shift consciousness”, whether individually, communally, or “vibrationally”. Both claims seem to depend upon overlooking concrete material conditions in favour of nurturing faith in vague metaphysical principles. Concrete material ...
  • Update 3: What Are We Actually Doing In Yoga Asana /// “Wild Thing” Pose: Impossible, Injurious, Poignant May 30, 2014 By Matthew Remski Certum est quia impossibile est. — Tertullian I’m closing in on fifty interviews for this project, and it’s getting richer every week. I’ve spoken to a trauma survivor who has been repeatedly triggered in asana classes by both invasive touch and psychological insensitivity. I’ve spoken to a medical doctor (as well as 30-year practitioner and ...
  • Your Shoulders in Upward Facing Dog March 30, 2013 By David Keil This is a play off an article I wrote for the newsletter back in May. That one was titled Your Shoulders in Downward Facing Dog. There are perhaps as many variations in what we are told to do with our shoulders in Up Dog and it is sometimes just as confusing for students. As ...
  • Your Shoulders in Downward Facing Dog March 30, 2013 By David Keil I think we can all agree about one thing with regard to the shoulders in downward facing dog. None of us like to have our own or see our students shoulders stuck up in our or their ears. How do we get our shoulders out of our ears? In addition what is the ...

Wrist Injuries

Stu's top Wrist tips
Make sure you practice on a firm surface so that you can create a solid foundation. Soft surfaces like carpet and sand can lead to stress being placed in the wrist as weight is more likely to be distributed unevenly.
Warm up the wrists thoroughly before doing a lot of arm balances and handstands. This is something that is often forgotten in the yoga room.
Don’t lift the heel of the hand in jump backs, jump to standing, lifts or jump thoughs. This may be done intentionally or subconsciously to try and create more space to get through, but it is a disaster for the wrist as it tries to stabilize your weight from an insecure position.
If you are new to yoga slowly build up the number of vinyasas that you perform. We walk around on our legs so the wrists need time to adapt to weight bearing.
Consider hanging for wrist and shoulder health. Take a look at Christopher Seiland’s article for more information.
When you hands are weight bearing make sure you bring your attention to the base of the thumb and index finger so that you avoid taking more weight into the outside of the wrist.
  • Wrist Pain from Vinyasa Yoga March 10, 2013 By Niki Vetten Vinyasa, arm balances and handstands often leave yoga practitioners complaining of wrist pain, especially at the Ulnar side of the hand, that is, the base of the palm furthest from the thumb. To combat this, the focus is on various hand positions, pushing down with the base of the thumb, rising up onto ...

General Pain & Injury Discussion

  • David Keil Interview 2016 August 20, 2016 Its that time of year again when David Keil visits Purple Valley in Goa and I get to babble anatomy with someone who really knows his stuff. David is author of the brilliant book Functional Anatomy of Yoga and teaches around the world. In this interview we talk about the emerging interest in fascia, injuries, ...
  • Tingling and Numbness in Yoga Poses April 18, 2016 Pins and needles, or a burning sensation running down the leg, or just a bit of tingling in the fingers? Many meditators and yogis have had them too: should you be worried? What is causing these sensations, and what should you do about them? Certainly, the way we move and hold our body can cause ...
  • Yoga and Aging March 13, 2016 When I was young and naïve I used to say “the good thing about practicing yoga is that as you get older you only get stronger and more flexible!” This is true up to a point and that point is different for every body. The fact is that as we age our body slows down. ...
  • What is That Popping Sound? NEW RESEARCH!!! November 22, 2015 One of the common questions asked by yoga students is ‘what’s that popping sound from my joints?’ quickly followed by ‘is it safe?’ and ‘does it mean I’m going to get arthritis or injure myself?’ The answer depends – If it’s a grating or crunching sound and/or it’s accompanied by pain – then it is either a ...
  • Being Flexible about Flexibility October 18, 2015 These are my modest and provisional notes on the subject of hypermobility, the issues of flexibility in yoga, being able to sustain a yoga practice and specifically practicing Yin yoga. When I first taught yoga in 2001, I did not know what hypermobility or being too flexible meant. I remember Richard Freeman saying in June 2005, ...
  • The Pain Free State September 27, 2014 Tim’s Scribbles: 04 December 2013 : The Pain Free State Femoral Acetabular Impingement is on everyone’s lips these days (from Labrum to Labia). We take the inward rotation of the hip joint a tad too literally for a tad too long; allowing Deep Groin instructions to numb sensory feedback and pushing passionate beliefs into physical ...
  • Update 2: What Are We Actually Doing in Asana? \\\ Questions, questions, questions! March 4, 2014 By Matthew Remski About a month and two dozen interviews into this research project and I can honestly say I’ve learned more about how folks experience yoga than I have over the past eleven years of teaching. The stories of pain, injury, recovery, and wisdom keep rolling, each unraveling unique twists of psychology along with the ...
  • What Are We Actually Doing in Asana? (introducing the WAWADIA project) March 4, 2014 By Matthew Remski On January 2nd 2014, I posted a request to Facebook: ______ Dear Facebook yoga practitioners – I’m doing some research into asana-related injuries for an upcoming writing project. I would like to gather formal interview subjects, but also to hear, via private message whatever details you care to disclose. If you’d like to be an interview ...
  • Preventing Yoga Injuries vs Preventing Yoga, Part III: Joint Mobility, Stability and Proprioception January 19, 2014 By Ray Long A central concept in all healing arts is that of correcting imbalances within the body. The principle of re-establishing balance can be found across all cultures from Navajo sand paintings, Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine to modern allopathy. And anything with true healing power also has the capacity to cause injury when ...
  • Preventing Yoga Injuries vs Preventing Yoga, Part II: Joint Hypermobility January 19, 2014 By Ray Long In this post we discuss labral tears and the condition of joint hypermobility. I also present the case of a specific injury from yoga practice, its biomechanical basis and the steps that can be taken to aid in its prevention. First, however, let’s look at the concept of association vs causality. Simply put, ...
  • Why alignment – Why anatomy? September 21, 2013 By Tim Feldmann A good use and healthy alignment is the natural state of the body. Connecting to this innate state unravels habitual patterns and untangles energy, enhancing well-being, vitality and effortlessness. The means is to practice with a simple yet profound kinesthetic awareness and understanding of the architectural structure of your individual body. why alignment In ...
  • Supta Kurmasana Goes Pop! May 30, 2013 By David Keil Some time ago I threatened to write an article about pain showing up in the joint that connects the collarbone to the breastbone. I have had a couple of more recent requests to talk about this potential problem in Supta Kurmasana. As always I try to look at the anatomy, its function, observations ...
  • Nerve compression in the neck, shoulders and wrists from yoga practice May 16, 2013 By Niki Vetten It is quite common for yogis, particularly women, to develop wrist pain and numbness or tingling in the whole hand or individual fingers, either when they are doing arm balances or Chaturanga or at night if they sleep with arms raised above the head although these sensations subside if the arm is placed ...
  • Action in Practice May 15, 2013 By David Garrigues In this new post I speak about the concept action in asana, action as a catalyst to the revolution within you. There is a wide range from (superficial to deep) of what constitutes action in asana. At times cultivating action may mean that you activate specific muscle groups to move your bones and ...
  • Movement Habits and their Effect on Yoga Practice March 11, 2013 By Niki Vetten There are three particular movement habits in asana practice that either cause or indicate problems with the hips: These will be covered in detail in separate posts, to keep posts shorter 1. Allowing the hip to push out to the side and not maintaining a level pelvis in the horizontal plane – lateral pelvic ...
  • Practising Through Pain and Injury in Yoga March 11, 2013 By Niki Vetten Many athletes and many athletic yogis who experience pain believe that they should keep right on with what they are doing, and hope that the pain will eventually disappear. This is very short-sighted, especially if pain is not associated with a specific injury. Pain without a specific injury is often a sign of muscle ...
  • A Word about Posture March 10, 2013 By Steve Bracken A report my Eyal Lederman (CPDO Online Journal (2010), March, p1-14.) found that there was: • No proven link between posture and pain. • No proven link for lower back pain and: core strength, disc degeneration, hamstring or psoas tightness, SI joint, pelvic asymmetry, lordosis and kyphosis, muscle strength, trunk asymmetry. In fact Lower back ...
  • Pain is your friend! March 8, 2013 By Stuart Girling BSc Anyone who is suffering from chronic pain is already saying “what is this idiot talking about?” Having suffered my own fair share of severe pain, I must say I would gladly have murdered that friend and buried it at the bottom of the garden. In this article we will focus on acute ...
  • Cracking and Popping Joints February 3, 2013 By Paul Grilley There are many myths and rumors about joint cracking. The two most common being our knuckles will get bigger if we crack them or we will get arthritis. Neither of these is likely but there is some truth to the idea that some forms of cracking are undesirable. Two types of cracking. There are two ...

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