How to Prevent the 5 Most Common Yoga Injuries for Seniors

As someone who’s starting to get a little bit older, are you worried about common yoga injuries?

Yoga can be a helpful method to counteract your health issues and lead a healthier life.

While there definitely aren’t any age restrictions for taking up yoga, there has been an increased number of seniors, just like you, who are keen to take up yoga, which is a great thing! 

Maybe it’s because you have some additional free time after retirement, or you’re just looking to keep up mobility and decrease joint pain in your day-to-day life.

There are different postures and yoga practices that are suitable for senior yoga beginners. The only concern that needs to be taken into account is the risk of injury due to certain yoga poses.

Based on a medical study performed in the US, it identified that people over the age of 65 suffered the most injuries while doing yoga.

So let’s take a look at some of the common injuries that may arise while you’re doing yoga, and, even better, we’ll take a look at some tips to avoid or deal with yoga injuries and how yoga can greatly improve your life!

5 Common Yoga Injuries in Older People

There are some common injuries that seniors and beginners experience when they start practicing yoga.

These injuries might just cause pain and discomfort, but can also lead to more serious injuries that can keep you off your feet for some time!

So it’s super important to take your time with any poses that you’re doing, and make sure that while you continue to push yourself during yoga, you do it in a safe and controlled way.

Some common yoga injuries for seniors include:

Lower back problems

Lower back problems are caused when undertaking poses that include bending forward and backward incorrectly.

Beginners often keep their legs too straight and firm while doing the bending poses. Rounding of the spine is also another reason that contributes to lower back pain.

Rounding of the spine makes it flex awkwardly and puts pressure on the disks and lower back muscles.

Overstretching also causes lower back irritation and disc problems. The forced elongation of the spine without bending your knees also causes irritation to the lower back and hips.

It is advisable to avoid doing the bending poses with too much vigor as it may strain your back.

How to avoid lower back problems in yoga:

  1. Remember to lengthen your spine when you inhale and fold it with each exhale while doing the pose.
  2. Don’t force yourself to do back-bends as it will create unnecessary strain on your back muscles.
  3. Do all the bending yoga poses slowly and maintain your balance throughout the pose.
  4. Use a yoga block to support your knees while doing poses like the wheel pose.
  5. To avoid straining your back, first try to master back strengthening yoga poses and then start the bending poses

While trying the bending poses:

  • Remember to spread your toes out and draw your leg muscles towards your toes.
  • Bend your knees forward to take the pressure off your lower back and to avoid injuring it.
  • Actively engage the lower belly muscles while doing the bending poses.
  • Soften your knees, do not keep them stiff. Contract the upper thigh to stabilize your body during the bending pose.

Knee Tears

Pain in the knees during yoga practice is quite common among practitioners.

Knee tears usually occur when the person has tight hips or preexisting injuries. It also happens when you twist your knee out of alignment with your body.

Seniors who have weak knees either through age or medical reasons or have had tears in the past should be careful.

While practicing different poses, seniors should remember to not let their knees go over their toes. This should be observed especially while doing lunges as a part of the yoga pose.

Seniors should also micro bend their knees to keep them in line with their toes.

Always remember to check if your toes and knees are pointing in the same direction to avoid knee tears or knee pain.

How to avoid knee tears in yoga:

  1. Bend your knee over your middle toe while doing lunges to avoid straining your knees.
  2. Keep your knee relaxed and soft. Keeping your knees stiff and locking them will build pressure on the knees and cause pain.
  3. Avoid caving your knee inwards as it builds pressure on your lower back and hips.
  4. Do not cave your knees outside as this will exert force on the ACL of the knee.
  5. Moving your body weight from the hip while keeping the knee bend helps to avoid knee injury.
  6. Consider using a good yoga mat for bad knees.

Hamstring pulls

The stretching exercises in yoga often cause hamstring pulls in seniors and young beginners alike. For a majority of people, the hamstring muscles are weak from leading a sedentary life.

Some people often have tight hamstring muscles, and an easy way to tell is that they struggle to touch their toes easily. Hamstring pulls are caused when the bending over poses are practiced without contracting the lower abdomen or having first stretched.

Seniors should engage the front side of their bodies to provide more stability while doing these poses.

The focus should be more on alignment control rather than mastering the pose quickly. Senior yoga practitioners should use slow movements and avoid going very deep into forward bend poses to prevent hamstring injuries.

How to avoid hamstring pulls in yoga:

  1. Yoga teachers recommend beginners to build strong legs before trying different stretching poses. This helps to avoid hamstring sprains and injuries.
  2. Engage your glutes and then open your hips while trying the stretching poses. This will help you to balance yourself better and keep you steady.
  3. Seniors should use a strong chair to balance themselves while trying forward bending poses. The chair will help them to keep themselves steady.
  4. Avoid stretching too much as you can sprain your muscles. Remember to try the yoga poses slowly without any rush.
  5. Check your alignment and body control before doing any yoga pose. It is important to feel comfortable and confident before attempting the pose.
  6. Don’t push yourself with your hips while doing lunges. This will lead to pulled muscles which will lead to sprains and cause pain.
  7. Remember to breathe in while stretching your legs and ensure that you feel the entire length of the hamstring along the back of the leg.

Wrist strains

Wrist strains are a common yoga injury as many people report sharp pain while trying balancing poses.

This is because the wrists are a delicate joint and balancing your body weight on them causes a strain. Practicing fast-moving yoga poses where people jump from plank to other poses and then back to plank is also a reason for wrist strain.

People suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome or people having tender wrists due to long keyboard use are easily affected by wrist strains, so it’s definitely worth noting if you’re running off to yoga class after sitting in an office all day!

In general, people are not accustomed to bearing their body weight on their wrists. Popular yoga poses like the downward dog are repeated frequently and they cause wrist pain.

To avoid straining your wrists, make sure that you align your wrist, arm, and shoulder correctly.

Beginners and seniors can place their knees on the floor while modifying the pose. Placing the knees on the floor helps to build strength in the shoulders and wrists and relieves pain.

How to avoid wrist strain in yoga:

  1. Place your arms wide, at shoulder-length for better stability and support. Maintaining your balance is crucial to avoid injuries.
  2. Spread out your fingers out to increase their span. This helps you to balance your body weight on your hands easily.
  3. Make sure that your index finger and the heel of your hand are pushing into the mat. This action will help you to get a good grip to keep yourself steady.
  4. Move your weight away from your shoulders by lifting yourself with your hips. This will help to relieve pressure on the wrist.
  5. You can also make a fist and balance your weight on your knuckles to avoid spraining your wrist.
  6. Remember to keep your shoulders close to your spine. Avoid spreading your shoulders out from your body as this will cause stress on your wrists.
  7. Don’t turn your fingers inward, make sure that your wrists and palms are facing forward. A wrong angle of the wrist and fingers can cause serious damage.
  8. Keep your palms flat on the ground without cupping them. Flat palms will help you to balance yourself better and keep you from tipping over.
  9. Use a towel or a rolled-up mat to raise your wrists and help to balance your weight easily.
  10. Having your fingers on a downward tilt also helps to take the pressure off the wrist.
  11. Before trying a handstand, do warm-up poses so that your alignment will be better.

Neck injuries

Neck injuries are one of the most dangerous injuries that are caused by doing yoga poses incorrectly. Neck injuries are really difficult as they can take a long time to heal.

Neck injuries in yoga are usually caused when doing inversion poses and headstands. While doing these poses, it’s advisable to either try and place nearly no weight on your neck or to do them assisted.

Seniors and beginners should slowly ease themselves into doing these difficult poses. Proper care should be taken while attempting headstands and shoulder stands to avoid serious injuries.

While attempting these difficult balancing poses, you should remember to align your body correctly and try the pose with slow movements and only do what you’re comfortable doing.

How to avoid neck injuries in yoga:

  1. Balance your body weight on your shoulders and arms. Avoid stressing your neck while trying to balance yourself on your hands or shoulders.
  2. Keep your neck free and flexible so that you can do the pose without injuring yourself.
  3. Have a teacher or a friend nearby to assist you with the pose. Having someone around to supervise the headstand or shoulder stand is a good idea as they can provide external support if needed.
  4. Make sure that your shoulder blades are drawn down and back to support your body. This will help you to balance yourself well.
  5. Do not make any sudden movements while attempting the headstand or shoulder stand poses. Sudden movements may cause you to lose balance and will cause injuries.
  6. Don’t jerk your head as it may disturb your balance and cause you to fall.
  7. Use props like towels to elevate your neck to avoid straining it.
  8. If you are fearful of hurting your neck then it is better to avoid these poses.
  9. Avoid going full wheel and placing weight on your neck before doing the pose. Placing your weight on the neck will only strain it and cause pain.

Common Tips to Avoid Yoga Injuries

Although the risk of injury is a genuine concern, the benefits of yoga for seniors definitely can’t be ignored. So if you’re a little bit older and are looking to start yoga, or already do it, here are a few things you should consider focussing on going forward.

  1. Focus on comfort – In yoga, you must focus on doing a pose comfortably and with ease instead of doing it quickly or repetitively.
    Yoga is different from other exercise regimes in this way. There is no need to become anxious to learn a new pose quickly or do it vigorously. Balancing yourself and remaining comfortable during the duration of the session is most important in yoga.
    If you are experiencing discomfort or pain while doing a pose, it means that you are doing it incorrectly.
  2. Instructions – Seniors should follow the yoga teacher’s instructions carefully to do the pose slowly to avoid injuries.
    For each pose, there are different requirements for balancing your body and arranging your limbs. Always join a class that is being led by a good and experienced yoga teacher who knows how to handle the seniors well.
    Take support from the yoga teacher while trying difficult positions. If you face any pain or discomfort, discuss the same with your yoga teacher so that they can help you to rectify your wrong position in the pose.
  3. Beginner’s class – Seniors who want to start yoga for improving their health should look for beginner’s classes.
    Joining a beginner’s class will ensure that the poses being practiced in the class are not of an advanced level.
    The entire class will be learning easy poses that are suitable for beginners and seniors. By starting with easy poses and taking a slow pace to learn them, seniors can avoid injuring or straining themselves.
  4. Yoga accessories – Seniors should take extra care to understand and learn about what accessories or support devices they need or can use to start yoga.
    Apart from carrying a yoga mat, seniors might need extra accessories like towels or support blocks. These accessories will help seniors to try out different poses without straining their muscles and causing pain.
    Wearing loose and comfortable clothing is also an important requirement for seniors so that they can enjoy yoga.

While adopting yoga is a great practice, older people should remember that yoga practice is vastly different from other exercises. The focus in yoga is on the comfort of the practitioner and not on how quickly you can master the poses.

In yoga, you should always remember that you are not in competition with someone else. Some people might master poses faster than you and be more comfortable in trying out difficult poses.

But, there will be others who prefer a slow pace and practice only some poses which they are comfortable in, so just take it at your own pace.

Appreciating and understanding the difference between both these types of yoga practitioners is essential to feel comfortable at your pace.

Have any other helpful hints we’ve missed? Please let us know in the comments below!

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