A new study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham is the first large-scale examination of yoga-related injuries.
The findings? Yoga is relatively safe overall, but injuries are significantly more common in older participants.
The study—which was commissioned by the Yoga Journal and Yoga Alliance—estimates that roughly 36.7 million Americans participate in yoga. To dial in on the number of yoga-related injuries, researchers "surveyed results only from those who sought medical attention in an emergency department."
In 2014, the rate of yoga-related injuries was 17 per 100,000 participants. Those 65 and older experienced an injury rate of 58 per 100,000. Those between the ages of 45 and 64 had an injury rate of 18 per 100,000. Those between 18 and 44 had an injury rate of 12 per 100,000.
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Nearly half of the yoga-related injuries were to the trunk, an area that includes the chest, abdomen and back. Sprains or strains accounted for 45 percent of all injuries. "There are many benefits to yoga, and overall our findings show it is relatively safe," said Gerald McGwin, the director of the Center for Injury Sciences at UAB.
If you're thinking about trying yoga, now might be the perfect time. Working out in the winter can be a colossal challenge. It's dark, it's cold and the couch suddenly has a strong gravitational pull. Many young athletes struggle to stay active during winter if they aren't involved in a sport, a habit that can lead to lagging muscles and serious inflexibility. But yoga is a perfect cure for those with the winter workout blues.
You don't need equipment. You don't need new apparel. Heck, even the mat is optional. And if you think you can perform yoga only in a yoga studio, think again. Regularly visiting a licensed yoga instructor at a studio is great, but it isn't logistically possible for everyone. If you're smart about it, there's little risk in performing yoga in your own home. In my own experience, I've found it's easiest to perform yoga at home when I have a video to follow along with. Gaiam has an excellent series available for sale, which includes yoga workouts with athletes like Kevin Love and Giancarlo Stanton.
If you're looking for free videos, YouTube can be a goldmine. I particularly enjoy Sean Vigue's channel. If you're totally new to yoga, check out his Yoga for Beginners video series. Once you're ready, you can move on to his excellent Power Yoga for Athletes series. The key to performing yoga on your own is to know your limitations. You wouldn't try to Squat 600 pounds the first time you walk into a weight room, so you shouldn't expect to master advanced yoga moves right off the bat. For beginners, simple poses performed with focus is typically the best path to progress.
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