03 Sep When Yoga Hurts
You might call me a “Type-A” student: the type that wants to get the pose just right, in perfect alignment, at the highest intensity safety will allow. I started practicing about 12 years ago, when “tuck your tailbone under” was one of the most used yoga phrases I heard from teachers. I felt an intense stretch on my lower back sides in poses like Triangle, Extended Side Angle, Revolved Triangle, where I held my pelvis in a steady position, and wrenched my spine into a twist. Then I became fascinated with teaching and practicing Yin Yoga (long held stretches of connective tissue, ligaments and tendons), in which most of the poses are forward folds, stretching the low back.
Over time, my sacrum, (the triangular-shaped bone at the base of the spine consisting of five segments fused together, S1 – S5) began to feel heavy and ache – daily. It’s my belief that both my active and passive yoga practices led to hyper-mobility in the joint, causing aching pain as my body was literally trying to “hold itself together.”
I’d read an article by Michelle Edwards, “When Flexibility Becomes a Liability,” and bells started going off. More bells after reading Judith Lassiter’s work on Understanding the Sacroiliac Joint, and what happens when you over-stretch.
Our joints have a job to do: to keep us stable and mobile as we move multidimensionally. If we overstretch the ligaments that hold our joints together, they will no longer support us or act as a shock absorbers as be walk, stand and sit. Pain can occur as the body works extra hard to stabilize the over-stretched area.
Once I realized what was going on, I stopped my Type-A tendencies to stretch to my greatest capacity in yoga class. Although I love the meditative practice of remaining calm in discomfort, I stopped Yin Yoga too. And guess what? The pain went away.
Students often tell me about their sore hips, lower backs and wrists. Yoga is not an activity where “no pain, no gain” works. In fact, most likely it’ll get you injured. Pain is a signal that your body can no longer take the stress you’re putting on it.
If you are feeling pain that you think might be related to your yoga practice:
- Start studying. Observe yourself – what postures or styles of yoga make it flare up, which ones make it feel better? Are your hips, low back, or wrists hurting for days?
- Try backing off. While you’re practicing, don’t go as deep into stretching the aching areas. See if the discomfort diminishes.
- If pain isn’t going away, it’s time to go to the doctor. A Physical Therapist, Kinesiologist or Orthopedic Dr. are all good options. If you have good insurance, go to all three and seek multiple opinions and options for treatment.
- Cross train! Too much of a good thing can cause imbalance. By training different muscles and movements, you’ll have greater likelihood of strengthening weaknesses and increasing overall body health.
**If you have moderate-intense pain, go to the doctor even before you try step 1!!!
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