Vinyasa 101: 4 Ways to Avoid Yoga Injuries

Every yogi, it seems, has a tale of a bum knee, shoulder, or hip. But getting injured in practice often means something is out of alignment.
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Every yogi, it seems, has a tale of a bum knee, shoulder, or hip. But getting injured in practice often means something is out of alignment.
Eddie Modestini performs Crane Pose.

It seems like every yogi has a tale of a bum knee, shoulder, or sacroiliac (SI) joint. But getting injured in yoga class often means something is out of alignment in your practice, says Eddie Modestini, a longtime student of K. Pattabhi Jois and B.K.S. Iyengar.

"Sometimes the body isn’t ready for what's going on," says Modestini, who introduces these concepts in Yoga Journal's upcoming online course, Vinyasa 101: The Fundamentals of Flow. (Enroll here, and be the first to know when this essential guide to vinyasa yoga is launched.) Here, Modestini offers four tips for avoiding injury.

4 Tips for Avoiding Yoga Injuries

1. Don't exceed your threshold.

How do you know that you’re exceeding your threshold? If you have to open your mouth to breathe. All yoga breathing should be done through the nose. If you're shaking uncontrollably, meaning you can't stop the shaking by focusing on the posture, focusing on the breath, or by backing off a little bit, then you're beyond your threshold. Another indication that you're beyond your threshold is if any part of your body goes numb. Sharp pain is also an indication. Sharp pain in a joint is always contraindicated -- never, ever in yoga should there be sharp pain in a joint or basically anywhere in your body.

2. Learn your personal alignment.

Yoga is so personal. Yoga postures don’t really have alignment, people have alignment. If your alignment is correct, it might be incorrect for another person. Some people have restrictions in the joints and muscles or mental and emotional restrictions—all of these need to be taken into account.

3. Stop going to classes that are too advanced for you.

It's really because of the schedule. People don’t look at level, they look at the time they have available. In the Western world, people also tend to see themselves as more advanced than they really are.

4. Find a yoga teacher instead of a class leader.

Many teachers are not really teaching, they're just leading classes, and there's a huge difference. Some teachers are concerned with students, but don't know how to look at a student and get them into their center, emotionally, mentally, and physically. To be centered is different for every individual.

Also see Shoulder tightness, pain, or injury? Here’s the yoga that helps.

Eddie Modestini is the co-director and co-owner of Maya Yoga Studio in Maui. Want to learn more ways to injury-proof your practice, whether you're a teacher or a student? Click here to sign up for Modestini's upcoming Vinyasa 101 course, which will cover the anatomy of the spine, how to adapt asana for various body types, and much more.