Using hip muscles effectively in yoga practice – part 1: bridging and back bending

Weak Gluteal muscles are very common amongst yoga students and teachers alike and cause Sacroiliac pain and dysfunction, lower back pain and hamstring injury. Causes and symptoms are covered in the article on yoga butt and this post looks at the effects of various hip movement cues taught in yoga. Different instructions are required to address individual movement problems and it is up to the teacher to learn to identify problematic movement habits and teach useful corrections, because students can’t see themselves and are often unaware of their habits. This topic will be in two parts: the first looks at the role of the Gluteal muscles in bridging and back-bending and the second at how the hip muscles are commonly used in standing poses and forward bending. Continue reading

Foot pain and yoga

Foot pain and cramping is fairly common in all styles of yoga and has a variety of causes: some foot cramps are caused by sedentary modern lifestyles and shoes and some by yoga practice.

The foot is an intricate structure designed to carry the body’s weight through its arch and move at the toes and ankle. The hands and feet are structurally similar: both have many small muscles (called intrinsic muscles) that refine movements and stabilise the small bones structurally but also separate layers of larger muscles located in the forearm and lower leg which stabilise and move the wrists and fingers and ankles and toes respectively.  Foot pain can be caused by the intrinsic muscles of the feet but also by tension in the muscles of the lower leg. Hip and knee problems also cause foot pain as compensatory movement habits can develop that put strain on feet arches. Feet problems are also the cause of knee or hip pain, for the same reason. Continue reading

Nerve compression in the neck, shoulders and wrists from yoga practice

It is quite common for yogis, particularly women, to develop wrist pain and numbness or tingling in the whole hand or individual fingers, either when they are doing arm balances or Chaturanga or at night if they sleep with arms raised above the head although these sensations subside if the arm is placed alongside the body. Such symptoms should be taken very seriously if the numbness becomes constant because nerve compression causes weakness or even paralysis of the muscles in the hands.

Clear-cut medical diagnosis of nerve compression symptoms is often difficult and controversial. Wrist pain is frequently diagnosed as Carpal tunnel syndrome (Median nerve compression); however, nerve compression and pain caused by yoga originates in postural problems and imbalance in the muscles of the arm, neck or shoulders, not just the wrists. Continue reading

Sciatica and Yoga

Sciatica is a name for a wide range of symptoms and has a variety of causes – it is often difficult for sufferers to find relief from symptoms that range from tingling and numbness to sharp pain in the hips, legs and feet. Although yoga can be helpful for relieving sciatic symptoms, it is also possible to develop sciatica from practicing yoga.

Any kind of nerve-related symptoms should be taken very seriously and assessed by a trained therapist because nerve damage causes degeneration of muscles and Sciatica can be a symptom of serious problems in the spine. Continue reading

Lower-back pain in Savasana

Lower back pain in Savasana can be caused by tightness in the Hip-flexor muscles – mainly the Iliopsoas – that causes the pelvis to tilt forwards.

Hip-flexor muscles are found in the front of the body and are active in forward bending (bringing the head closer to the feet) and in any kind of leg-lifting (bringing the feet or knees closer to the head). One of the functions of the Iliopsoas is to maintain the natural curve (lordosis) of the lower back and if there is excessive tension in this this muscle, the lower back curves inwards more than it should. When someone lies on their back, it’s natural for the pelvis to tilt backwards and for the curve of the lower back to flatten but if the Iliopsoas is tight, the lower back will be painful. Continue reading

Elbow Pain and Vinyasa Yoga

Regular Ashtanga or Vinyasa yoga practice can cause elbow pain at one or both sides of elbows or clicking sounds as the elbow is straightened, or locking of the joint. Some pain is caused by damage to ligaments or joints but elbow pain can be caused by unbalanced muscle function of the shoulder at the Glenohumeral* and the Scapulothoracic** joints and sometimes improves with corrective exercise that balances the muscles at these joints. Continue reading

So, can yoga really wreck your body?

Currently, there’s a heated discussion in the yoga world as to whether yoga really can wreck your body, following the publication of an article in the New York Times. Personally, I agree with the writer of the article, based on painful experience. But despite that, I still practice yoga, mostly as self-practice because I agree with Glen Black that a yoga practice needs to be something that suits an individual’s body, not something that comes in one-size-fits-all packages. Yoga has many health benefits, but as a fitness fad, yoga can only be injurious and many denialists have rubbished suggestions that yoga causes injury but that’s probably because they have not felt that kind of pain themselves. Continue reading

Understanding and Managing Sacroiliac Pain in Yoga Practice

It is common for yogis to develop painful sacroiliac joints, with serious consequences: dysfunction at the sacroiliac joint inhibits the hip muscles and starts a vicious cycle of hip instability and body misalignment. Painful sacroiliac joints must be treated and stabilised to avoid chronic pain and it is not advisable to continue with any yoga practice that causes sacroiliac pain. Successful treatment by a specialised therapist is life-altering for yogis suffering from sacroiliac dysfunction. Continue reading

Balanced Hip Strengthening with Yoga

Hip strength and correct hip function is vital to a pain-free yoga practice but the saying “one man’s meat is another man’s poison” is applicable here: focusing too much on the legs weakens the hips. How much leg exercise is needed in relation to core strength depends on an individual’s physical activities apart from yoga and it can be difficult to get the balance right. Continue reading

Muscle Imbalance in Yoga

The term ‘muscle imbalance’ is used by physical therapists when referring to incorrect muscle function that causes pain at the joints or problems with posture and body alignment.  Muscle imbalance is often difficult to diagnose and treat because a lot of pain experienced is referred pain. Continue reading

Understanding Muscle Pain in Yoga Practice

Muscles feel sore from yoga practice for a variety of reasons and it is important to distinguish between the causes of the pain experienced because although muscle pain is just, well, painful, different causes need different treatments. Muscle pain usually has these causes: Continue reading

Flexibility in Yoga: The Role of the Joints

Some people are more flexible than others: the ligaments around their joints are looser and permit a greater range of motion – hyperflexibility is an inherited body type. Joints are the pivots for movements in the body, supported by strong ligaments and according to a study of flexibility, the importance of these different factors are:

Yoga As Exercise

Yoga has many health benefits, but there is a growing trend of yoga-related physical injuries and many physical therapists view yoga negatively. Unfortunately, these concerns are well justified. A lot of myth surrounds yoga asana practice: many people believe that asanas can somehow heal anything wrong with the body. Claims that regular muscle or joint pain from yoga practice is some kind of ‘opening’ or ‘healing’ should be treated with suspicion. Continue reading

‘Yoga Butt’ Injury

‘Yoga Butt’ is a term for a range of symptoms frequently experienced in Ashtanga and other forms of Vinyasa or Power yoga after a few months of regular practice. It often starts as

  • Pain or discomfort at either of the Ischial Tuberosities (sit-bones)
  • Discomfort in all forward bending and a feeling that the hamstring won’t stretch
  • Inflexibility or pain in Kurmasana and Supta Konasana. Continue reading

Anterior Pelvic Tilt in Yoga Practice

When the hip-bones tilt forwards, creating an arch (lordosis) in the lower back, you have anterior pelvic tilt, one of the main causes of lower back pain. Some people, mainly women, have a lower back that is naturally lordotic. This is due to the shape of their Sacroiliac joints, and is not necessarily painful or problematic. Continue reading