WHICH YOGA EXERCISES MAY BE DANGEROUS
When we have stiffness or pain in the body, we cannot always tell if we have a problem involving only a strained muscle or if we also have a joint problem, which may involve the malfunctioning of the vertebrae and irritation of nerves within our spine.
When attempting to self-treat spinal problems primarily by doing yoga or by doing stretching exercises, if you are unsuccessful, or if your problem worsens, further yoga or exercise may prove to be dangerous. Yoga and stretching are designed to restore movement and function to the spine as a whole, but research has shown that the individual inflamed, fixated, or degenerating joints of the spine may persist and even be worsened by attempted stretching or strengthening exercises.
Once a skilled chiropractic doctor treats you and restores proper function to the problem areas of your spine, after inflammation subsides, stretches and other yoga exercises can then be very beneficial and supportive to healing. Chiropractic care, proper stretching & strengthening exercises, and massage are each vital parts of a "holistic" approach to successfully treating spinal and joint conditions.
I have treated many yoga students as well as many yoga instructors, and I often have found that about 25-30% of the postures they are doing are potentially quite dangerous. If you have any questions about your individual yoga routine, it is good to consult a chiropractic doctor who can examine your spine and make specific recommendations to you for your ideal exercise routine.
POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS YOGA EXERCISES INCLUDE:
(1) Bending while twisting - e.g. especially triangle poses and their modifications. Research has shown that bending 30 degrees forward or more, with even a small twist, will begin to rupture disc fibers!
(2) Straight leg lifts - e.g. boat pose, leg lifts, the bicycle are often advocated as "core" strengthening exercises for your abdominal muscles. They aren't, they actually use your "hip flexing" muscle (psoas muscle) which puts undue stress on your lower back. Many athletes come to my office as a result of low back pain from doing leg lifts and full sit-up types of exercise.
(3) Full Sit Ups - Again, while these are often advocated as "core" strengthening exercises, they also use predominantly your "hip flexing" (psoas) muscles. These exercises are one of the main reasons military personnel come to me for low back problems after basic training! A better alternative exercise are "crunches", which strengthen only your abdominal muscles.
(4) Head or Shoulder Stands - while there are many benefits to inversion, the dangers of head and shoulder stands greatly outweigh their benefits. The plough posture is o.k., but too much spinal stress occurs from these other weight bearing inverted yoga poses, and permanent ligament, disc damage, and cartilage damage could occur. Using a "Roman chair" or other form of inversion machine would be a much better alternative.
(5) Neck Rolls - Rotating the neck for flexibility can and will aggravate underlying joint problems. There are many other forms of safe and effective stretches for the neck.
(6) Ballistic Movements - stretching should involve very conscious, slow, and precise movements, done over a 30-60 second period of time, without any bouncing, flinging, or fast (ballistic) movements. This will result in a more lasting length change for the muscles being stretched, and minimize the chances for injuries.
Please click on the following link below for a chart of some examples of potentially dangerous yoga asanas that could cause damage to the spine. This chart is not comprehensive, and depending on your spinal condition, there may be more exercises your doctor would suggest avoiding for the long term or just temporarily.
*ALWAYS CONSULT YOUR DOCTOR BEFORE BEGINNING ANY FORM OF STRETCHING OR STRENGTHENING EXERCISES! *
You may be interested in this article from Yoga Journal explaining the HISTORY OF YOGA... Is yoga a several thousand year old science that has withstood the test of time, or did much of what we see today arise in the early 1900's from an offshoot from European Gymnastics?