Y-ow-ga: Are You Overdoing it On the Yoga Mat?

Yoga is a fitness fad that everyone loves – both men and women alike. It takes care of your overall wellness without putting your wellbeing at too many risks, but what if one sex was more at risk than others? Yes, the battle of the sexes has a new battleground; yoga. And girls, we’re winning it.


Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner William J. Broad, author of The Science of Yoga: The Risks and the Rewards, notes, ‘From my own practice and research, I know that yoga is generally a good thing. The bending, stretching and deep breathing can renew, calm, heal, strengthen, lift moods, lower the risk of heart disease, increase flexibility and balance, counter ageing and improve sex. In short, the benefits are many and commonplace while the serious dangers tend to be few and comparatively rare. Even so, last year, after my book on yoga came out, letters from injured guys prompted me to see if the practice, despite its benefits, was hurting one sex more than another. To my surprise, reports from hospital emergency rooms showed that, proportionally, men got injured more often than women and suffered damage that was far worse, including fractures, dislocations and shattered backs.’


This makes sense for two reasons. Firstly, it is well known than women are more flexible than men. The second reason is that macho men – according to yoga instructors – often use their muscles to force themselves into challenging poses and, as a result, get hurt. While the difference between the sexes is relatively small, it is large enough to force wellness experts to issue a caution: guys, you’ve got to be more careful. However, even though men are getting injured from yoga more often than women, that is not to say that ladies are off the hook. In fact, both sexes are seeing more and more problems from overdoing it on the yoga mat, it’s just that men are experiencing a few more injuries than women overall.


Broad details, ‘Earlier this year, the picture of female superiority began to blur when a prominent yoga teacher in Hawaii wrote me about a poorly known threat to women. The teacher, Michaelle Edwards, said that women’s elasticity became a liability when extreme bends resulted in serious wear and tear on their hips. Over time, she said, the chronic stress could develop into agonizing pain and, in some cases, the need for urgent hip repairs. Ms. Edwards sent me her book, YogAlign. It described her own hip pain long ago and how she solved it by developing a gentle style of yoga. Her warning contradicted many books, articles and videos that hailed yoga’s bending and stretching as a smart way to fight arthritic degeneration.’

Jon Hyman, an orthopaedic surgeon in Atlanta, comments, ‘It’s a relatively high incidence of injury. People don’t come in often saying I was doing Zumba or tai chi [when they experience serious hip pain] but yoga is common…People need to be aware, if they’re doing things like yoga and have pain in the hips, they shouldn’t blow it off.’ Bryan T. Kelly, an orthopaedic surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan, adds ‘If [stretching is] done without an understanding of the mechanical limitations of the joint, it can mean trouble.’ Broad concludes, ‘Unfortunately, yoga teachers too often encourage students to “push through the pain.” That’s not smart. Pain is nature’s warning system. It’s telling you that something has gone awry. Better to do yoga in moderation and listen carefully to your body. That temple, after all, is your best teacher.’



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