Safely Practicing Yoga when Injured–Response to a Student Question

I look forward to answering your questions in this blog.  Please feel free to leave a comment or e-mail your questions to

Barbara asked:  “I have been experiencing a variety of aches and pains and am concerned yoga might make them worse.    What suggestions do you have?”

Your concerns are very valid, Barbara.  An effective yoga practice can help decrease pain and increase function in a variety of structural issues.   However, the “wrong” practice for your body or situation can, indeed, aggravate symptoms.

There are three important elements in developing  an effective yoga practice:

  • Finding the right class or teacher for you.
  • Openly sharing your concerns and issues with that teacher both before, during and after class.
  • Listening to your body and not pushing beyond what feels safe and effective for you.

In Viniyoga, we can almost always adapt poses to the individual to make the practice work for them.  The trick is finding the right class for the student and teaching him or her to listen to their body when practicing.   In the West, we are used to a “no pain no gain” mentality, which is completely counter to the philosophy of yoga.  In yoga, the goal is always to work within a pain free range of motion, with the goal of increasing that pain free range of motion over time. Some of my hardest, yet most rewarding work as a teacher is to help students get in tune with their bodies so they learn how to move in a pain free way, both during practice and out in their daily lives.

As for choosing the right class–At Whole Life Yoga several of our series are designed for people with injuries and limitations including:

We also offer gentler drop in classes that work great for people with common aches and pains.  “Yoga for Relaxation” and “Yoga over 50” are great options!

Group classes aren’t appropriate for every student, however.  If the injury is acute or more severe and chronic, a student may need to start with private instruction.  When you work privately with a teacher, they can design the practice specifically to your body.  During their one on one time with you, they can devote all of their attention to observing you and completely customizing the yoga to your needs in a way that isn’t possible in a group class.  Many students start off privately, then transition to group classes when they and the instructor feel confident that their bodies are ready for a group class environment.  More information can be found at our web site:  Private yoga therapy at Whole Life Yoga.

I  hope this helps!  Thank you for the question!

Tracy Weber

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle!

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