How does yoga help our health?

Yoga has been shown to be a highly beneficial activity which can give the participant increased flexibility, increased muscle strength and tone, and an improvement in respiration and energy. Yoga can also be a huge help in weight reduction, maintaining a balanced metabolism, and boosting cardio and circulatory health.

What’s more, the mental benefits of yoga can’t be discounted. It’s undoubtedly one of the best activities for fending off and managing stress, which – as we know – can have a sizeable impact on both body and mind.

We may think of yoga as the most low-impact and safe exercise regime available, but even Yoga can carry risks if not approached in the correct manner.

A study from the University of Sydney demonstrates that yoga caused musculoskeletal pain in 10 per cent of the people involved and exacerbated 21 per cent of existing injuries. This was the first prospective research project to investigate injuries caused from participation in yoga, which included 354 participants from two local studios.

Upper body area put at risk

The study discovered that the ‘new’ pains caused by yoga were chiefly located in the upper extremities – shoulder, elbow, wrist, hand – possibly due to the downward dog posture and similar techniques which put pressure on the upper limbs.

It's not all bad news, however: according to the report, 74 per cent of participants in the study reported that existing pain was improved by yoga.

What to do to avoid yoga injury

So, what can yoga participants do to avoid getting into trouble? According to Professor Evangelos Pappas, the lead study author, the study proves that – like in more traditional sports and exercise regimes – it pays to have a modicum of risk assessment and preparation if you want to get the most out of yoga.

"These findings can be useful for clinicians and individuals to compare the risks of yoga to other exercise enabling them to make informed decisions about which types of activity are best.” He explained. "Pain caused by yoga might be prevented by careful performance and participants telling their yoga teachers of injuries they may have prior to participation, as well as informing their healthcare professionals about their yoga practice.”

So, like all participants in any exercise regime, people who practice yoga are advised to consult their GP before beginning a programme, be aware of any danger signs, be transparent with teachers and peers while participating, and get a feel for what your body is capable of doing, without pushing it.