It seems unlikely that a sport as healthy as yoga, ideal for improving flexibility and balance while enhancing spiritual connection, can be harmful. However, some experts warn that it can cause «serious hip problems».
The most affected would not be the novices: the problem concerns especially yoga teachers and those who practice it «in excess».
As early as 2013 Raza Awan, a sports injury specialist from Toronto, Canada, said that if someone is too flexible and does certain poses without good muscle restraint, the joints can be torn and, in the case of the hip, broken part of a Cartilage.
And he’s not the only one who thinks so.
Benoy Matthews, a prominent PHYsiotherapist in the UK, tells the BBC that more and more yoga teachers are struggling with serious hip problems, many of whom require surgery, for over-forcing the body.
Matthews, a hip and knee specialist and a member of the UK Collegiate Society of Physiotherapists, says he receives between four and five teachers from the discipline per month in his office.
The expert believes that the problem lies in the question of people repeatedly forcing the body to adopt certain postures, when their own physiology prevents it.
About half of the teachers he attends simply need advice on how to moderate those stipulated postures and not to put too much strain on the joints.
But those with more advanced problems need medical treatment and surgery, sometimes even total hip replacement, he says.
«Know Your Limits»
«People confuse stiffness with pain,» he says. «If you feel punctures or blockage in your groin, you shouldn’t ignore them. You have to know your limits.»
Matthews specialized in his hips and knees during the last eight of his 22 years as a physiotherapist.
He says it can be easy for yoga yoga people to confuse joint pain — which means he needs to stop moving — with the stiffness, which they should overlap.
Benoy Matthews says the key is to learn to understand what your body needs.» We all know the health benefits of yoga. I practice it myself,» he says.
«But, like any other activity, it can cause injury. We can’t put him on a pedestal.»
«I don’t want to make a complaint against yoga, after all it has been going on for thousands of years. But you have to understand yourself.»
Matthews says the problem often comes down to how a person’s hips are formed and how flexible they are.
«What is possible for one person may not be for others,» he says. «People tend to adopt the same stances, rather than what they find feasible.»
«It could be by ego, for showing that they can go all the way with posture. But instead they should stop when they find it uncomfortable,» the specialist says.
«Just because the person next to you can do it doesn’t mean it’s necessary or desirable to do the same.»
We cannot or should do the same positions.» Combine exercises»
Matthews says the number of yoga teachers who do it, in addition to the fact that they may not do another type of exercise, can explain the problems they develop.
«They may practice yoga six times a week and think it’s enough, they don’t need to do another type of exercise, like cardio or combined training,» he says.
«But it’s like everything. If you do the same thing over and over again, you can get in trouble. You need to combine the kind of exercise you do.»
«The yoga teachers I see are young; they are 40, 42 years old.»
«If they come limping and can’t walk more than 10 meters, there’s not enough physiotherapy that can help them. If it’s been two years, even the best physiotherapist can’t do anything about it.»
Sometimes they have a laparoscopy (hip arthroscopy) or even need a prosthesis.
Matthews suggests that new yoga teachers be evaluated. «You can observe the mobility they have and what their body allows them to do,» she explains.
Natalie Gartshore has been a yoga teacher for 16 years. Moderation
Natalie Gartshore has been a yoga teacher for 16 years. She believes that the popularity of yoga makes her a victim of her own success.
«I don’t think it’s much explained when you’re training as a (yoga) teacher on physiology or anatomy,» she says. «There’s a problem of excessive practice.»
«If there were people en masse doing ballet, they would get the same results.»
Natalie, 45, fractured her hip cartilage five years ago.
He now makes sure to properly manage the class load and doesn’t work weekends, but says he finds it difficult for newly qualified teachers to do the same.
«They do about five classes a day, running, working weekends,» he explains.
Wendy Haring, a yoga teacher and director of education at the British Wheel of Yoga, the largest yoga organization in the UK, says:
«It’s probably true (they have hip problems) in some yoga schools, where people hold their poses for a long time without modifying them. That’s when there’s trouble.»
«We teach people how to change postures,» Haring says.
Compete with yourself, not others. But he also believes that those who teach yoga should be careful and warn whoever wants to train to take courses in qualified agencies.
Pip White, an advisor to the UK Collegiate Society of Physiotherapy, says: «Yoga is a fantastic activity with many benefits for overall health and well-being.»
«However, like any type of exercise, it is important to do so safely and, in this case, to know your own limits, because we all have a different constitution.»
«Yoga is not about competing with others. If you are aware of your abilities and practice it within your own limits, you will get all the benefits it has to offer.»