Yoga causes musculoskeletal pain (which affects the joints, ligaments, muscles and nerves) in 10 per cent of people and exacerbates 21 per cent of existing injuries, according to new research by the University of Sydney.
The findings, which have been published in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, come from the first prospective study to investigate injuries caused by recreational yoga.
It was found that most ‘new’ pain caused by the exercise was in the upper extremities (shoulder, elbow, wrist and hands) because many of the poses performed put the body’s weight on the upper limbs.
The researchers gathered data from 354 participants via electronic questionnaires. They examined the incidence and impact of pain caused by yoga and asked whether it was caused, exacerbated, unaffected, or improved by yoga.
The study’s lead researcher, Professor Marc Campo, said: ‘While yoga can be beneficial for musculoskeletal pain, like any form of exercise, it can also result in musculoskeletal pain.’
‘Our study found that the incidence of pain caused by yoga is more than 10 per cent per year, which is comparable to the injury rate of all sports injuries combined among the physically active population. However people consider it to be a very safe activity. This injury rate is up to 10 times higher than has previously been reported.’
‘We also found that yoga can exacerbate existing pain, with 21 per cent of existing injuries made worse by doing yoga, particularly pre-existing musculoskeletal pain in the upper limbs.’
‘In terms of severity, more than one-third of cases of pain caused by yoga were serious enough to prevent yoga participation and lasted more than 3 months. We recommend that yoga teachers also discuss with their students the risks for injury if not practiced conscientiously, and the potential for yoga to exacerbate some injuries.’