how to avoid yoga injuries: new book lists poses for certain medical conditions

Dec 11, 2012 by

yoga-injuries

Image: Michaelle Edwards for yogalign.com

2012 has been the year of the talk about yoga injuries. The hot topic sprang to the forefront of the online yoga conversation in January, with the publication of the NYT excerpt from William J. Broad’s book, The Science of Yoga.

There has been a lot of talk, in both the yoga blogosphere and the mainstream media, as well as an increased awareness of the dark side of asana. But confusion still reigns, along with a general paranoia of yoga.

Yoga teacher Victoria McColm wanted less talk and more action, so she decided to do something. She created The Contraindication Index for Yoga Asanas (TCIYA) as a resource for the yoga community.

The ebook is a well-organized, thoroughly researched list of common ailments from abdominal to wrist issues. Each condition includes a short description, general guidelines and a list of “contraindicated” asanas.

contraindication-indexI have a few issues of my own, so I looked them up in McColm’s ebook. Low Back Issues warranted three pages of postures to avoid, while my other issue, Spinal and Disc, included two pages. The book covers 35 common medical conditions, cross-referenced against 112 fundamental yoga poses.

“When I completed the book,” McColm explained in a press release, “I was a little shocked. Pulling all of the yoga contraindication information into a single place really shows how substantial it is and how many practitioners could be at risk.”

The relationship between injuries and asana is complex, and of course it’s challenging to reduce it to an alphabetized list. I know from my own experience with my low back that not all of the listed contraindications are bad for me; the book advises avoiding cobra, half-frog and other extensions, which are actually the absolute best thing for my back.

Nevertheless, the book is a valuable resource for a yoga studio or a doctor’s office. Rather than an exhaustive collection, TCIYA is a cheat sheet that professionals can quickly access in the heat of the moment (before class, with a patient) and receive quality information.

The Contraindication Index for Yoga Asanas
Victoria E. McColm
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13 Comments

  1. Thanks so much Roseanne! Really appreciate the review.

    One thing I wanted to correct quickly – I’m not a yoga therapist. I’ve got my RYT200 credentials and years of experience researching and writing, so I’ve drawn from that to put this reference book together.

    This eBook is really meant to be a starting point for discussion. There is no one-size-fits-all since all bodies are different. I just hope that it will be a useful resource for anyone practicing or working with students who have medical conditions.

    All the best!
    Vic

    • thanks for clarifying, victoria! i’ve amended the text in the post so it reflects the reality of your credentials and experience.

      • HI Roseanne, Joe told me that you had made this post about Victoria’s book and used some photos from my website or my book YogAlign, Pain-free Yoga from Your Inner core. That is me ( Michaelle Edwards) in the blue leotard and my son Zack doing staff pose with the spinal inserts. Did you get these images from my Yoga Injuries website http://www.yogainjuries.com? It is OK but I have a favor to ask. Can you do a post about YogAlign? I will be happy to share information or do an interview with you. I have spent the better part of 20 years inventing YogAlign which gives people the tools to heal their chronic pain, align their posture and also alleviate depression too without the risks of many traditional yoga poses. Posture is the most important determinant of our overall health and 95% of pain originates with bad posture. YogAlign focuses on good posture not good poses.Many forward bending routines shorten the front of the body and also stretch the sacral ligaments and lead to a flat sacrum and weak gluteus muscles. In other words, a flat butt !
        I agree with Victoria that the list of contraindications for certain medical conditions is substantial and shocking. The reason I invented YogAlign is to help all people with or without preexisting medical conditions to approach yoga asana with caution. I have spent the last two decades inventing a way to practice that is powerful, painless and aligned with our natural design which is curving and spiraling. There are no straight lines or right angles in nature and we all hate and are damaged from chairs. Why oh why are so many yoga poses templates of a right angle just like a chair?
        Many people do not realize that the practice of yoga asana can heal and harm. The proliferation of knee and hip replacements in longtime practitioners is proving some major realizations I had many years ago. Many yoga poses make no anatomical sense and the longtime practice of these poses destabilizes the sacral joint in particular leading to many conditions that I now treat on a daily basis in my studio on Kauai.
        If anyone wants to get a copy of my book and DVD and learn how to do yoga that supports joint function and corrects poor posture habits without ever touching your toes, please go to http://www.yogalign.com
        Anyone who is injured from yoga, please go to http://www.yogalign.com to take my online survey for my next book. Yoga injuries need to be discussed, researched and most of all brought out into the open. I also offer teacher trainings in YogAlign.

        • hi michaelle ~ thanks for all the great info. i’ve updated the image to include a reference to you and your website. i’ll also happily follow up about an interview or profile. i think you’re doing great work and would love to highlight it. thanks for understanding!

  2. Joe Sparks

    The picture at the top of the page is Michaelle Edwards. She is the author of YogAlign –Pain Free Yoga From Your Inner Core. It is a must have for every yoga teacher, student, and studio. I am personally and professionally benefiting from this book. She is spot on! Check it out.
    Joe Sparks

  3. Angela

    Roseanne you should also think about interviewing Suzi Hately of Functional Synergy – I went on a course she ran in September in TO and it was really good – highlighted the issue of yoga injuries and the importance of how you get in and out of a pose (as well as how you are in it) matter so much more than just taking up a yoga asana position – she had some really neat exercises as well – very gentle movements that free the body up (she teaches and trains people in yoga therapy). I’d really like to do more studying with her.

    She’s based in Calgary – her website is http://www.functionalsynergy.com

  4. Angela

    Oh, and while you’re at it(!) try and see if you can connect with Peter Blackby – he’s coming over to TO in the New Year to do some workshops at Esther Myer’s studio – I think there are some similarities between his approach to yoga and Suzi’s approach to yoga (I’ve done a workshop with him in the past too). His website is http://www.peteblackaby.co.uk/

    He’s also written a book called intelligent yoga – I’ve not read it but I’m sure it would be an interesting read.

    BTW Suzi produces some excellent free email newsletters and one is about the business aspect of yoga – I’ve found them very helpful and you might find them interesting in light of your recent post about making an income from yoga … they’ve certainly made me reflect on things more.

  5. Michaelle Edwards YogAlign program is groundbreaking and revolutionary. Anyone who does yoga should read her book and study with her. Michaelle should be included as a presenter in yoga conferences and fitness seminars. Her approach to yoga has changed my life and is improving the health and well being of everyone who takes my classes.

  6. Hi Everyone,

    Just wanted to follow-up. Thanks again to Roseanne for the review!

    Michaelle and I have been in contact and I’m thrilled to meet her. I’ve invited her to write for the PYI blog. The Index is really just one tiny part of what I’m hoping PYI will become. If you’d like to know a bit more, please visit: http://www.preventyogainjury.com/who–why.html

    I extend the same invitation to other teachers mentioned in the comments section – please consider submitting an article for the PYI blog. My hope is that we can host a variety of points of view on yoga safety, best practice and contraindications at Prevent Yoga Injury. In no way do I intend to promote myself as a “yoga injury czar” or something. I simply saw a gap, filled it and see a need for a larger dialogue around these important issues that I hope to encourage and facilitate. Students and practitioners deserve a safe practice and not all of them are fortunate enough to have a studio membership. That’s my motivation for working to create a website wholly dedicated to the issue and providing answers.

    If anyone has questions, comments or other ideas, please feel free to contact me any time.

    http://www.preventyogainjury.com/contact.html

    Thanks for all the comments and suggestions! All the best!
    Vic

  7. Pamela

    Big thanks to Victoria (and Michaelle) for engaging the important topic of yoga injuries in an intelligent and productive manner! I think the industry sorely needs to have these intelligent and serious discussions as part of the mainstream conversation. From what I have seen, all too often suggestions of yoga causing injuries have been met with reactionary pushback and denial-ism (not to mention a good deal of blame lumped on the injured students themselves). Clearly not helpful given people are indeed getting injured and not from widespread egotism or inexperience as seems to be the common explanation.

    I’ve sustained injuries from yoga and have practiced for decades. The majority of injuries I’ve personally witnessed have been in teachers and fellow students who practice multiple times a week – the more dedicated intermediate level or greater students who consistently take the workshops and trainings, etc. To my moderately objective eye ;) neither inexperience nor ego played a role in the injuries I have personally experienced or most I have seen in others. I’ve been vocal about my injuries and have had a number of people come out about their own injuries to me and thanked me for saying something. I’ve also had some yoga-is-only-safe proponents throw a lot of blame and shame on me without knowing anything about my practice or teachers – you must have been pushing past your limit or in your ego (nope), I’m sure your teacher was one of those 200-hr fresh off the yoga mill teachers (nope), it must not be for you (yoga worked just fine for 15 years of going to 1 or 2 classes/wk but caused injuries within 1.5 yrs of increasing to 5+ classes/wk, it was repetitive strain not unlike tennis elbow or any other sports injury caused by repetitive movements of the body particularly in not really natural positions).

    Please keep engaging the conversation. It really is needed. People need to know both the potential benefits and pitfalls to the practice so they can make informed choices. And people really need to know they don’t have to hide or downplay injuries for fear of being judged.

  8. I should definitly pick it up! I just came back from my yoga teacher training in GOa with the guys from http://www.smritiyoga.com ( lovely peoples ) but I will read this book now,so I can be a better yoga teacher

  9. Heulwen James

    Is your book The Contraindication Index for Yoga Asanas available in the UK?
    I see that the prices are only quoted in US currency.

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