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Working with Students Who Have Yoga Injuries, Part 3

Practicing contraindicated poses or returning to a strong practice too soon can exacerbate hamstring muscle tears and shoulder injuries.

By Timothy McCall, M.D.

Like hamstring tears, rotator cuff injuries are easily reinjured, potentially setting your student back to square one. Though it can be hard for your students to do, being patient, never pushing through pain, and avoiding poses that could set them back are the best way to heal these stubborn injuries. It's OK to work through mild shoulder discomfort—and this may be necessary to increase range of motion—but any sharp pain, or an increase in pain after the practice, means your student has gone too far.

As with many injuries, nature and time may take care of the problem—if you can simply get your students to stop doing the action that hurt them in the first place and avoid contraindicated poses during their rehabilitation. They will also need a gentle asana program to build shoulder muscle strength, gradually restore range of motion, improve alignment, and foster relaxation.

In the concluding installment, Part 4, we'll explore the bigger issue of what injuries have to teach us and how they can be a vehicle into a deeper practice.

Dr. Timothy McCall is a board-certified specialist in internal medicine, Yoga Journal's Medical Editor, and the author of book Yoga as Medicine: The Yogic Prescription for Health and Healing (Bantam). He can be found on the Web at

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Reader Comments

Sasha Finn


I do hope you can help me. My knees have started to click, crunch and lock. In the sitting poses I am scared to even try putting my legs into half lotus (or to fully bend the knee) because that is how I damaged one knee last year. I have been told the locking knee could be due to a torn cartillage. My knees do not hurt while practising but in the sitting poses I do not feel anything is happening as I am static and scared to bend the knee fully. ( Certainly attempting lotus or half lotus is now out of the question!) I have been told to see a physiotherapist which I am going to do as I want to know what is happening with my knees! I have been practising Ashtanga for 12 years ( I am 42) and never had knee issues; now I feel 'stuck' in the bent-knee sitting asanas as I am not progressing - I feel i'm moving backwards! What asanas are beneficial to knees like mine? And what modifications can I make?

Many thanks!


What asana would you recommend me for my knees? I was diagnosed with Patello-Femolar Syndrome.
Thanks very much

mary laidlaw

Thank you for directing to Patanjali 11:16 and has really helped me!

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