Practicing yoga with a pain-free approach


"I look like I should be able to go further into pose, and he stepped on my back and popped both of my hamstrings," said YAS Studios owner Kimberly Fowler, describing an overzealous yoga instructor who made an "adjustment." That's one of a handful of reasons yoga gets a bad rap today.

"Well first of all, at a class setting you've got one instructor and you have multiple students. And not everyone is created equal," said orthopedic Dr. Bal Raj.

Dr. Raj says rather than an elite group of limber yogis, today's classes are filled with stressed, de-conditioned, sedentary, often overweight participants with a host of imbalances.

"Bulging disks, shoulder instability, shoulder tightness, knee arthritis, hip arthritis," said Raj.

"People are pushing themselves too hard. People are already stressed out and the body is stressed out," said Cameron Alborzian, author of "The Guru in You." Yet the blame is being put upon yoga itself, Alborzian says.

A recent New York Times article has many yoga enthusiasts uptight, citing an increased risk of injuries, including whiplash, stroke and back trauma.

But rather than point fingers at the instructors, some say you should "look within." Ask what to know before you go.

"You can ask if the teacher has been certified," said Kimberly Fowler. "If you're a beginner, go to a beginners class. Don't go into an advanced class."

Dr. Raj says don't try headstands, back bends and other advanced moves as a newbie. For those with chronic inflammation, watch out for things that put stress on hips and shoulders.

"Exacerbation of your bursitis," said Raj. "Holding that position for a minute or two minutes will cause you to leave out in severe pain."

The bottom line?

"Go in there a little neutral and just take it easy," said Alborzian. "Don't push so far. Breathe and just go into it lightly and just when you feel like it's too much, stop."

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