Injury-Proofing Yoga


One of the most widely practiced forms of exercise in the world today has actually been around for 5000 years. Yoga, both exercise and spiritual practice for some, can be extremely effective at improving flexibility and body control.

A surprisingly large and diverse sequence of moves or poses can be used in a typical yoga practice. These movements can be as “simple” as bending forward to touch the toes or to pull one of the legs behind the head.

Experienced yogis typically work for years to develop the flexibility and control to perform incredible movements. However, despite the stereotype that yoga only demands extreme flexibility, it is in fact a delicate balance of joint mobility AND stability. The human body is a complex machine that is designed to move through specific patterns of joint actions.  Some joints are designed for mobility, like the hips and shoulders, while others are designed primarily for stability, such as the knee, the spinal joints of the low back and neck.  These joint systems are always working together to produce safe and efficient movements. If some joints  are too mobile and unstable, or others are too stiff, the chain of movement will be disrupted and movement will be limited. This can happen if one’s hips are stiff and their low back and core muscles are weak from years of disuse.

All of the sudden, the “simple” action of bending forward to touch the toes is not so simple.  This can explain why the new yoga practitioner is always tight in this movement and the disturbed mechanics can lead to joint, ligament or muscle overstrain and pain.

This scenario can happen all over the body during challenging movements in yoga. This is why Markel Health Performance works closely with our yoga patients and yoga instructors to fully understand a individual’s movement patterns and abilities. The pirmary tool used to assess movement skills at MHP is the Functional Movement Screening (FMS).  The FMS is the gold standard mobility/stability test used in the NFL, NBA, and MLB to identify a person’s movement abilities while performing a series of tests that challenge body control and coordination.  The FMS findings allow the clinician, patient and instructor to see where the patient needs to use caution and where they need to focus on improvement in their yoga practice. This awareness is critical in preventing repetitive movement faults and potential injury during yoga practice.  This knowledge, combined with a personalized corrective exercise and treatment program designed to improve movement limitations can help our patients to continue their practice of yoga safely for many years to come.