Blog Post

Worrying Increase in Yoga Injuries

A recent study by scientists at Sydney University has found that yoga causes musculoskeletal pain in more than one in ten participants, actually worsened more than a fifth of existing injuries, and is just as dangerous as other sports.

The Daily Mail is reporting on a worrying trend among yoga enthusiasts who have dropped out of their classes due to injuries ranging from slipped discs to broken ribs.

For example, Julie Thompson-Dredge, 40, had no existing pain when she started taking Bikram yoga classes in 2012. She loved the classes and was attending four times a week. However, when she told the instructor that she was experiencing pain in her back, the instructor didn’t seem to care or even stop the class.

Before long, just sitting at her desk was agony and she was put on high doses of painkillers. And then one day she reached or a glass of water and couldn’t hold it.

A physician referred her to a neck specialist who diagnosed her with two slipped discs that required major surgery to correct.

‘I’d never had a back problem in my life until I got into yoga. I’ve been through hell, with pain unlike any I’ve ever experienced," she said.

“I’ve since talked to various doctors who don’t recommend Bikram yoga,” she added. “I felt the studio basically weren’t interested and wanted me to leave.”

Unfortunately, this isn’t unusual. Jemma Prittie, 42, has spent hundreds of dollars on her wrist and ankle injuries she sustained in a yoga class after falling, she even had to file for a claim with the Bronx Slip and Fall Law Firm Bronx.

“I took up yoga once a week and went to various studios,” she told the Mail. “But after badly injuring my back, I haven’t done any yoga since.”

As it turns out, Jemma suffers from scoliosis, which is a curvature of the spine, and has always been stronger on one side of her body than the other. However, a new yoga teacher didn’t offer any adaptations to the poses to accommodate the weakness in her back and encouraged her to do a difficult back bend known as the camel pose that hurt so much she actually cried out.

Jemma now works out with a fully-trained personal trainer.

‘I’ll never do a yoga class again,’ she says. ‘It’s just not worth the risk when there’s clearly so much variation in the skills and experience of teachers.’

What many people don’t realize is that yoga is a largely unregulated business in the U.S. The industry polices itself and vigorously fights any attempts at regulation.  This means that just about anyone can become a yoga instructor and set up a yoga mat in the local strip mall.

This lack of regulation appears to be posing more and more problems for those looking for a safe workout.

For instance, a study conducted by Betul Sekendiz, a lecturer at Central Queensland University, who analyzed all yoga injuries presented at emergency departments between 2009 and 2016 in Victoria found that yoga injuries serious enough to send people to the ER had increased by almost 80 per cent in just seven years.

Mostly occurring in women between the ages of 20 and 39, she found 118 recorded cases of yoga injuries with almost 10 percent of those being serious enough to require hospitalization.

Sekendiz told ABC News that participation rates had only risen 5.5 percent in the same period so this could not have been a factor in the increase.

Instead, she theorized that people looking for “likes” on social media by performing tricky yoga moves may be to blame.

"I think people know the correct technique, but they might be pushing themselves too early, especially if you look into the influencers on social media," Dr Sekendiz said. "There is a high focus on pictures to attract likes, so people may be pushing themselves without enough preparation or warm up to get into those poses just for the sake of a picture.”

The most frequent pose she sees on social media are headstands, which in turn results in serious head and neck injuries, shoulder dislocations, and injuries to the lower back and spine.

Once again, the lack of regulation is being cited as a problem. Shyamala Benakovic, the CEO of Yoga Australia, says her organization has developed minimum standards for teachers, but globally yoga teaching remains a largely unregulated environment.

This is only the latest edition of a series of reports on yoga injuries that are routinely stuffed under the yoga mat by the multi-billion dollar yoga industry. In 2012, a blockbuster book by New York Times science writer, William J. Broad, sent shockwaves through the yoga community with its lengthy expose of yoga injuries. In 2015, a study found that Bikram or "hot" yoga raises body temperatures and heart rates to dangerous levels. A 2017 study published in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies found that the injury rate for yoga is 10 times higher than previously thought. In March of this year, a risky yoga move left a four-year-old girl paralyzed.

Even more concerning are the spiritual dangers associated with this practice. These articles document the true story of a woman who had to be delivered of 17 spirits as a result of participation in yoga.

Sadly, until this fad wears itself out, this probably won't be the last story of yoga-related injuries that we will be reporting.