Yoga has so many benefits for our physical, mental and spiritual health. These benefits are experienced when we listen to our body, our moods and last but not least our

If we do not do this, yoga can also lead to injuries. In western society we are taught to be ambitious and attempting to do more is seen as normal. Sitting and simply relaxing
into paschimottanasana (seated forward bend) can be frustrating if we do not reach our toes right away, as we are taught to try our best and strive for perfection. Therefore it is hard for us to see that it is precisely by surrendering to our body’s needs, that helps us to grow and flower in our practice.

So here are the top 5 yoga injuries caused by being overly ambitious:

1. Knee
This is the most classic and many knee surgeons and doctors say that yoga can be bad for you if you have weak knees. This is untrue if the postures are done correctly. Most
knee injuries come from hip opening asanas like baddha konasana (cobblers or butterfly) or upavista konasana (wide legged seated angle posture.) When our body is
not yet flexible enough we tend to make up for this inflexibility by forcefully pressing our
knees further to the sides, or trying too hard in the latter to get our torso’s to the ground
and putting pressure on the muscles around the knees by having them rotate outwards.
Anatomically our knees are not built for side movement, so pushing too hard results in
injury. If you have a knee injury and know about these facts and how to listen to your
body, other yoga postures can actually help support the knee joints. For example
padangustasana (standing forward bend) or vrkasana (tree pose) helps to strengthen
the leg muscles and hamstrings when done with proper alignment and should be tackled
beforehand. These asanas also help us not to overcompensate with pressure on the
knees if our hips are not open enough.

2. Lower Back
Our lower back is another part of our body that can get injured easily. In yoga the spine
is in our main focus of our training. Our main chakras are located on the spine. In our
everyday lives we may sit a lot or move too little and other psychological issues may
lead to the wrong alignment of our spine. So when we start doing yoga our goal is to
free our bodies from these blockages. If we go too fast and bend forward or backward
too strongly, or do not warm up enough, or fail to support our back, or just don't have the
right feeling and knowledge about what bodily sensations really tell us, we can easily
hurt our lower back. For most of us this feeling will disappear again, but it may stay as
well. So it is important to support yourself. Whenever you lie on your back, always press
the lower back into the floor so that you won`t hurt it when raising your legs. Don't push
so hard in your bending exercises, go only as far as your body can or wants.

3. Neck and Shoulders
If you ever feel tense in your neck and shoulders after a yoga class, you know you have
been too ambitious. These areas easily tense up with over exertion if we are not able to
relax and surrender. Always check your shoulders and neck during practice to see if you
are sufficiently relaxed.
Some inverted postures like Sirsasana (headstand) or Sarvangasana (shoulder stand)
are known to put pressure on your shoulders and neck. Again, listen to your body, if you
feel sore or your strength dwindles make sure to do different, easier variations. You
need not give up on the asana completely. For example you can place your hands
equidistantly apart on the floor, about a metre away from the wall facing in the opposite
direction and walk up the wall with the legs and feet. This does not put as much
pressure on your neck and shoulders as you have the legs supported.

4. Pinched nerves
This is another injury that comes from being too strong and forceful in your movement. It
may occur in inverted poses but it will mainly happen when twisting too strongly in a
pose that you are not yet ready for, i.e. Marichyasana C and D (sage seated twist), as
well as in triangle posture, if we have the tendency to not align ourselves properly. We
think the main focus is to get our hand down to the floor, putting too much weight on the
front leg, without the hips parallel and by not opening our heart centre and pulling up.
There is a lot of potential then to pinch a nerve when not moving correctly. It is best to
learn and practice these exercises with an experienced teacher who can assist and
adjust you.

5. Circulatory Collapse
Last but not least is circulatory collapse. Most of the time we think of yoga as relaxing,
but there are several asanas that have a strong affect on the circulatory system. i.e.
headstand, shoulder stand, handstand, wheel or backbend. This is noticeable when you
start breathing more heavily, are out of breath or stop breathing or the room is too hot,
i.e Hot Yoga. If you have a tendency to suffer from high blood pressure, heart disease,
or have cardiovascular problems (CP’s) like a history of stroke’s or heart attacks,
hardened arteries or aneurysm, then these asanas should be avoided as they may be
too much for your body to cope with. Watch out for strong inverted postures and again I
cannot stress enough the importance of practicing only with a skilled teacher.
Go slow, listen to your body, work at understanding what is right for your body in that
moment, never compete with someone else and be aware of what asanas can be done
safely or modify them. Only then is it possible to experience the true fruits of yoga.

Copyright Sonja Appel ©
Sushumna Yoga TM

Author's Bio: 

Sonja moved from London to India 8 years ago and is certified by the British School of Yoga in Hatha & Meditation & is also a certified Vibrant Living Teacher in Hatha Flow. Sonja has studied intensely mainly in India and London and believes that living yoga in it's essence helps to impart her knowledge better and more succinctly. She started practicing yoga fifteen years ago and has thirteen intensive years of experience teaching Yoga and twenty five years experience of teaching Pilates in London, India and Nepal. She is also registered with Yoga Alliance, E-RYT 200 (Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher, with Yoga Alliance for 200+ hours of Teacher Training.)

Sonja has devised her own practice in yoga called ‘Sushumna’ which is a carefully worked out vinyasa flow, meditation or pranayama, that allows one to do the practice as a meditation and in the process, helps to unleash within ourselves, all of our innate, kundalini Shakti. The flow is spontaneous and she mixes up the asanas in interesting ways, with the help of inspiring music, always ending with a deep relaxing meditation (Yoga nidra). As in Ashtanga - drishti, bandhas, ujjayi breath, counting & vinyasa is always employed.

"I believe in a holistic approach to the study of yoga, giving my students a well-rounded yoga education. I combine alignment techniques of the body, with breath techniques for calming and balancing the mind: Focus and visualization, to balance body and brain. Chanting and music for inspiration and concentration and also Meditation, (the ultimate reason for the practice of asana). I also believe that it is not progression through the 6 series' of Ashtanga that defines Wholeness, but rather a wider focus on all the limbs."

Sonja keeps up with a daily Mysore self-practice as taught to her by her late Guruji, Sri K Pattabhi Jois of Mysore and her own brand of Vinyasa flow. Sonja's Teachers are from all over the world and have greatly helped and influenced her, they are: Sharat Rangaswamy, Saraswati Rangaswamy, Shri Sheshadri, Cathy Louise Broda, Leela Miller, John Scott, Michael Gannon, Edward Clarke, David Swenson, Claire Best, Anna Ashby, Daniel Aaron, Simon Borg Olivier, Rolf & Marci Naujokat, Emil Wendel (yoga philosophy), Yat Malmgren (movement psychology), Mercia Hetherington (Pilates & Ballet) and Imogen Claire (Ballet). She has a B.A. in Classical Theatre and Acting and an M.A. in Contemporary Dance. She comes from a professional performing arts background and has found these two disciplines to be invaluable in balancing and maintaining calmness in her life.

Sonja also conducts workshops in Ashtanga, Sushumna Vinyasa Flow, Restorative Yoga, Mysore self-practice, Ashtanga Vinyasa Flow & Sushumna Pranayama & Meditation, acting & dance in India & Internationally.

Sonja does not believe in organized religion or dogma.