5 Most Common Yoga Injuries

date Sep 5, 2018
authors Garrett Neill, Ksenia Sapunkova, Anastasia Buterina
reading time 8 mins

A great book which gave practical insights on how to counter and prevent injuries. There are some good diagrams and exercise photos in the book as well. Practice safely, with movement, variety and consistently!

Common themes:

  • Importance of Preparation
  • Mobility vs. Stability
  • Active vs. Passive ROM (range of mobility)
  • All movement is good movement: Counter, resistance and strengthen
  • Repetitive Stress

1. Knees


End-range loading

End-range loading is a term used to describe putting force on a joint that is at the end of the physiologic range of motion. The joint cannot go further, and unnecessary force, especially repetitive, at this range can cause potential harm to the joint.


Warm up

It’s always a good idea to throw a little ankle and hip ROM work into your warm up before you do yoga.


It’s a good practice to cushion your knees whenever it’s possible, even if it’s comfortable to do it without.

Bending knees

Start super slow with a microbend. Gradually increase the bend (This may take multiple tries/attempts at the poses)… Your Hip and ankle will still remain aligned above each other, the main difference is your knee is bent

Tip toe

Push into your Big Toe. This movement will activate “the core” (the arch muscles) of your foot & help you stabilize


  • Star lunge (with towel for sliding)
  • Bent knees Warrior 3, Half Moon, Dancer poses

2. Lower back


Open scissor syndrome

In this position, the lower back is shortened and can use some forward fold stretching to lengthen it. Know that the person whose posture looks like this is going to have their diaphragmatic breathing impaired big time!

Sitting down

The lower back is an area that is often pre- stretched.

Going too fast

In larger backbends, like Camel pose or Wheel, we can often find ourselves in a space where we can jam these spinal joints. If we go too fast and too far all at once, we can fracture them, which is not fun but also not very common.

Non-neutral lower spine during twists

When loaded repetitively or with too much force (like lifting something heavy), the result of coupled spinal flexion and rotation can be a herniated disc. Therefore, it’s important to maintain a neutral lower spine in many of our twisting postures.


Counter seating

Remember that forward spinal flexion is a common position for the modern human, therefore we don’t need a large amount of it because we already are doing that off the mat!


Breath is key when it comes to alleviation and prevention of back pain, and is likely one of the best ways yoga helps.

Lying on back

Whether your back is long from sitting, or short and open scissored from standing, lying on your back helps to neutralize both!

Focus on lifting

Respect the curve of the spine! Focus on lifting up when you go into a backbend to ensure that the muscles are engaged and safely protecting the spine.

Bend knees

As I stated above, protect your back and take out some strain by bending your knees, even if you don’t feel like it’s that bad at the moment. You’ll thank me in a few years.

Twist from heart/chest

…encourage yourself and your yogis to twist from their heart/chest! That way we can ensure proper lower back spinal alignment and proper positioning for the discs of our lower back.


  • box legs to have a relaxed flat back
  • forward folds with bent knees
  • Cobra, Sphinx to counter seating
  • table top to stretch upwards by opening chest
  • Cobra to locust to strengthen your back
  • Bridge with arms up and over your head

3. Hips


Wear and tear

The hip joint itself is a subject to a lot of “normal” wear and tear, especially on its cartilaginous surfaces. It’s pretty difficult to keep your hip healthy, and the number of hip replacements in both the active and sedentary is a great indication of this.


A hip joint that is constantly being thrown into extremes ends up damaging the cartilage, or the cushiony surface that lines our joints… Poses like Triangle, Deep lunges (e.g., Crescent Lunge), Standing Forward Folds without the knees bent, etc. can throw your hips into some pretty deep places.


Impingement refers to some portion of the soft tissue around the hip socket getting pinched or compressed.


Many hip movements

  • flexion / extension
  • abduction / adduction
  • external / internal

Contracting muscles

Instead of going into the vast depths of a pose you can also try contracting the muscle that is being lengthened or stretched.

Knees Bent

A lot of these poses that place the hips into extremes tend to feature a straight knee. As we learned in the first chapter on knees: Always keep a bend in your knees!

Resistance training

A lot of the exercises most beneficial for hip impingement involve decompressing the hip with resistance bands & rehabbing the muscles that stabilize the hip like the gluteals.

Hip mobility

A new standard in the management of low back pain is assessing and restoring hip mobility. If you have back pain, do some mobility work for your hips

Dynamic Stability

Dynamic stability is the new mobility. Small controlled movements of the joint in all ranges of motion is the best way to warm up. It helps to activate the muscular chains and systems of proper activation, balance, support, and stability.


When your brain is getting a lot of feedback, it’s paying more attention, and you are much less likely to get injured. More neurons = more stability = safer/ more efficient movement.

Stay active in poses

If you are actively contracting your muscles in a stretch or as you move into a pose, it’s hard to place your body into an extreme where it can get injured. If you do like the deeper poses, please practice them in moderation and counterbalance them with strengthening exercises. Doing deep stretches feels good at the moment, but may equate to some pain in the future.


  • Table top to fire hydrant knee circles
  • 90-90-90 leg box against the wall with internal rotation

4. Shoulders and Wrists


Holding postures for a long time

Another important note: it’s not “poor posture” that’s injuring you off your mat. There is no such thing as perfect posture. Posture is dynamic in nature and variability is key. • How long have you been holding [insert position here]? Over 20 minutes? Okay, it’s time to move! • How many times do you repeat that position? Okay, it’s time to change it up and introduce some variability through new movement!


Texting and typing in this extended position can place a lot of strain on the wrist joints. To add to it, whenever we place our hands on the ground, we’re also putting our wrist into extension! Wrist extension puts a lot of compression force, or creates less space, in the joints between your Carpal bones.

Not enough core strength

The position of your elbows closer into your torso requires more core strength than your elbows wide. A lot of people don’t have the amount of core strength to sustain the pose, let alone do it over 10x

Scapular winging

Your Scapula’s ability to move and remain stable is essential for healthy shoulders & wrists!


Neutral and counter

  • What kind of movements can you sequence in to help them reestablish their neutral position?
  • What kind of movements will help take some of the strain out of the shoulders and wrists?

Scapular movements

Scapular movement is essential for a healthy shoulder joint. A lot of people don’t have awareness or lack the proper stability. Awareness of your Scapula can really make a difference in improving how people use their arms on and off their mat.


  • Thumb release on palms
  • Flipped palms on table top
  • Sphinx reach
  • Supine T and Supine Y poses with boxed legs

5. Neck


Movement follows the neck

When you lean closer in to view your screen, your Thoracic Spine will also round forward along with your shoulders internally rotating to accommodate the position of your head. When you turn your head to the side, your spine and your hips may follow it into the twist.


Neutral neck

Looping it back into yoga: the best position for our neck starts with establishing neutral position!

Overextending neck

It’s all the times we over extend our neck to look up in back-bending poses like Upward Dog, Camel, Cobra Pose, etc. It’s also all the times we over flex our chin to our chest in forward bends or regular “neck neutral” poses.

Neck in the headstand

The most important alignment note: You should have close to no weight in your head. Supported Headstand (with the forearms on the mat) is much safer than a Tripod Headstand (head and hands on the mat).


  • Baby Sphinx