Yoga is popular, it’s as simple as that, and today more and more older people are embracing the practice attracted by the wealth of health and self care benefits it offers.
However, as the number of yoga students has grown, so too have the number of yoga related injuries being treated. Bad news whichever way you try to spin it.
A recent article published on the leading website yoga journal.com has found that there has been a marked increase in yoga injuries, particularly for those in the age categories 40 and upwards. This could be seen as a reflection of the growing number of older students led to yoga on the advice of healthcare professionals. Or increasing numbers of students practicing yoga following many years of other exercise disciplines or very limited exercise habits.
Are physical injuries increasing with yoga’s popularity
The study by the Orthopedic Journal of Sports Medicine examines injuries over thirteen years starting in 2001. This is a period of time that also coincides with a large increase in yoga teacher trainings and the number of opportunities to study and teach yoga.
Although most trainings cover a spectrum of yoga topics, in many cases, only around 20 of those hours are dedicated to anatomy study.
This growth is great news for everyone as it increases choice and accessibility along with employment and experience for yoga teachers. However, currently, the only criteria that needs to be met in order to teach (in most cases) is the completion of a 200hour training. There are many 200hour yoga trainings around which, like most things in life, can differ in style and quality. Although most trainings will cover a spectrum of yoga topics, in many instances only around 20 of those 200 hours are dedicated to anatomy study.
Even for an experienced teacher, a class that provides safe sequencing for a large group of students with an array of physical & medical issues can be challenging.
It is unfair to suggest that any brand new teacher would intentionally cause anyone harm but it takes experience, study and understanding of the physical body and a broad range of conditions to safely and effectively lead a class.
With aging bodies comes the inevitable wear and tear of joints, weakening of connective tissues such as ligaments and other musculature changes as well as the range of physical conditions that spring up in later life. These are all important aspects to consider when teaching an older group of students.
Even for a very experienced yoga instructor, a class that provides safe sequencing for a large group of students with an array of physical & medical issues can be challenging.
This is not to say that a recently qualified teacher does not have the ability to teach a class well. It’s just that older students need to be mindful and responsible for their own self care too.
Listen to your own body and be selective about the classes you attend particularly when starting out. Yoga is all about losing the ego so don’t let your own ego dictate that you attend that fast moving, level 2 class. Take time to build up your practice with a well informed, experienced teacher making gradual progress to the faster, stronger classes if that appeals.
From a student’s perspective, the more yoga experience and study that a teacher has, the more it will also benefit their own learning. Doing some research to find a class that combines your choice of instructor with the appropriate level is important.
Inexperience or little knowledge about a condition could unintentionally cause injury.
Although it may be uncomfortable for you to ask an instructor directly, you can research online or chat with other staff and students at the location where you attend class. Most yoga teachers, regardless of experience, welcome questions as no teacher would want to knowingly hurt a student. However, inexperience or limited knowledge about a condition could unintentionally cause injury.
The benefit of continuing yoga study for experienced yoga instructors
Depending upon the yoga school or tradition the teacher follows, many 200hour graduates may continue in their studies with an additional 300hour teacher training. Others may diversify and focus on a particular school of yoga or facet of practice. These trainings provide practicing teachers with an opportunity to study yoga in more depth including aspects of injury management and yoga therapy.
So take a little time to research further and consider experience, qualifications and ongoing study to find your perfect yoga match.