Friday, November 03, 2006

Yoga - Benefits & Risks

Yoga of any styles has been gaining more popularity in recent years. As with Tai Chi Chuan, Yoga has been used as an alternative to ease certain medical conditions and improve general health. Yoga can help improve strength, balance and flexibility and may be beneficial for certain bone and joint problems. In addition, deliberate breathing, relaxation and meditation help you calm down and relieve stress from daily chaos. Anyone who has done yoga knows that after a single session, you feel stronger, calmer and more limber. Studios and fitness centers are offering Yoga-for-Kids classes. Even some pro football players and bodybuilders start to do yoga as a cross training to help them improve posture, balance opposing muscles, as well as increase flexibility and range of motion.

Yoga comes in many different styles, forms, demands and level of understanding and practice. Not everyone can do the same poses in a perfectly professional manner. As with any physical exercises, you have to pay attention and listen to your body and know your limits. Yoga may relieve your back pain. If you bend in the wrong way or overstretch youself, it could break your back.

According to a U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission report, there were more than 3700 yoga-related injuries costing a total of almost $94 million in medical care in 2004. The most common injuries involve repetitive strain, overstretching the neck, shoulders, spine, legs and knees. Serious muscle damage and related injuries can occur if people don't take proper precautions, particularly those with pre-existing musculoskeletal conditions.

Injuries tend to be caused by joint over-compression and pushing soft tissues past anatomical limits. People with back problems or lumbar disc injuries should be careful with extreme forward bending. Those with neck pain may want to avoid or modify the cobra pose.

Yoga is a great exercise and an important rehabilitation method. Before you jump right in and get confused with yoga poses (e.g., warrier, half-moon, triangle, downward-facing dog, cobra, eagle, camel, plow, tree, mountain, lotus, corpse, etc.), observe the class. Ask the yoga instructor what style he or she is teaching. Try one class to see if you like it and can perform the basic poses and movements without too much trouble. You want an exercise that's a little challenging for you but not too difficult to perform. Choose one that meets your needs, abilities and fitness level.

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons have the following recommendations to minimize yoga-related injuries:

  • Speak to a physician before participating in yoga if you have any pre-existing injuries or conditions.
  • Work with a qualified yoga instructor. Inquire about experience and credentials.Warm up well because cold muscles, tendons and ligaments are vulnerable.
  • Wear clothing that allows for proper movement.
  • Start slowly while you learn the basics, such as proper breathing, before you see how far you can stretch.
  • As questions if you are unsure of a pose or movement.
  • Know your limits. Do not go beyond your experience or comfort level.
  • Drink plenty of fluids, especially if participating in Bikram or "hot" yoga.
  • Listen to your body. Stop or take a break if you experience pain. If pain persists, call a medical professional.

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