Is Yoga Safe?

Last week the Mayo Clinic published the results of an excellent, first of its kind, study focused on injuries sustained in yoga practice, with a primary objective of identifying poses that should be avoided or modified by people who have osteoporosis and osteopenia. Read the article here.

For the 89 study participants, they reviewed medical records from 2006 to 2018 and classified injuries in three categories: soft tissue (muscles and fascia), non-bone injuries in the spine, and bone injuries in the spine.

The study authors found that most injuries were related to extreme forward folding or back bending positions. These 4 postures were reported to have caused the majority of the injuries:


The most reported injuries included:

  • muscle strain

  • exacerbation of pain in people with degenerative joint disease

  • exacerbation of pain in people with facet athropathy (arthritis of the joints on the back side of the vertebra)

  • vertebral compression fractures

  • anterior wedging (the wearing down of the front edges of the vertebra resulting in "wedge-shaped" vertabra)

  • spondylolisthesis (slipping vertabra)

While this list of injuries might sound scary, from the perspective of a yoga teacher, all of these are avoidable with smart yoga instruction and well-educated students.

In fact, the authors of this study do not recommend that people should stop practicing yoga. Rather, they recommend that doctors should be "aware that yoga, as with any exercise, is not a completely harmless activity that can be performed with abandon". They note that injuries can occur, especially in older patients with age-related degenerative changes and other connective tissue disorders.

They further recommend that yoga students modify their poses to accommodate their physical limitations. They explain that as "the body changes over time, exercise regimens need to be modified to protect the spine, shoulders, hips, and other musculoskeletal structures."

At The Yoga Room, we specialize in customizing the yoga practice to suit the practitioner. Our small class sizes allow us to know our students and keep an eye on them to make sure they are practicing in a way that is safe, appropriate, and beneficial. Our Individual Instruction is even more customized in that we design the practice to address the goals and needs of an individual person.

If you'd like to know HOW we modify our teaching to suit our students, check out this Facebook Live video Adria and I recorded yesterday. We demonstrate and discuss two popular postures and how to modify them to suit your body.

And if you'd like to learn more about how you can help keep yourself safe, strong, and flexible in your yoga practice, please stay tuned for next week's newsletter!

As always, we welcome your questions and comments. Please email us at

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How Yoga Changes Your Brain

Have you ever listened to On Being with Krista Tippett? It's a podcast and it also airs on KUT (NPR) on Sundays at 6:00 a.m. Last week's was an especially great episode. Krista's guest was Neuroscientist Richard Davidson and they discussed one of my favorite subjects - the effects of mindfulness practices on the brain.

Their discussion really got to the heart of how we practice yoga at The Yoga Room: Physical yoga postures for improving physical health AND mindfulness practices that improve mental and spiritual health.

Here are some key nuggets from the episode:

  • The brain continues to develop and change throughout the entire lifespan.

  • With regular mindfulness practice, one is able to pay attention to the sensations in their body and take decisive action, rather than reacting to the emotional aspect of a stressful situation.

  • For best results, one should practice mindfulness "repeatedly." Richard Davidson recommends 10-15 second practices throughout the day.

  • The circuits for thoughts and feelings are intermingled in the brain. Ineffective response to adversity impairs cognitive function and also leads to emotional difficulty.

  • Resilience is the ability to recover from adversity; it is very powerful when one can return to baseline (homeostasis) more quickly.

  • Studies show that with regular mindfulness practice, children can become familiar with the qualities of calm attention, leading to them being able to self-regulate and return to their baseline.

  • Schools and parents should reconsider how they manage behavior issues. Rather than treating inappropriate behavior as a discipline problem that requires punishment, they should teach children how to calm themselves and manage their behavior.

  • Teachers and parents can harness the power of neuroplasticity and help shape children's behavior by modeling kindness. How we treat and react to children affects their brains both functionally and structurally.

  • Children don't listen to what you say, they watch what you do.

  • Time invested in oneself is an investment in those around you.

Modern research is proving that the effects of consistent mindfulness practice are powerful and beneficial for people of all ages. I encourage you to prioritize your physical, mental, and spiritual health by taking a few minutes this evening to schedule your yoga practices on your calendar just like you'd schedule other important appointments.

People often ask me how often they should practice yoga. It's best to practice yoga every day, but if that's not possible, try to practice most days of the week, either in a class at the studio or on your own at home.

And if you want a child in your life to get started with yoga and mindfulness, sign them up for Mindfulness for Kids (starts this Saturday, Feb 23rd) or Yoga for Middle Schoolers (starts Sunday, March 24th).

All the best, see you soon!

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