Yoga is one of the fastest-growing sports worldwide, but new research released last week suggests that it is not as safe as previously believed.
A joint study, conducted by the University of Sydney in Australia and the Mercy College in New York, found that 10 per cent of people who practise yoga experience musculoskeletal pain, while 21 per cent experience further pain to existing injuries.
The study looked at injury rates for those who practise yoga.
Associate Professor Evangelos Pappas from the University of Sydney's Faculty of Health Sciences, one of the authors, said this study is the first to outline the risks of yoga.
"We wanted to objectively assess the benefits of yoga in terms of musculoskeletal pain, and the risks. We found that the incidence of pain caused by yoga is more than 10 per cent per year, which is comparable to the rate of all sports injuries combined among the physically active population," he said.
The new data shows the injury rate for yoga practitioners is almost 10 times higher than what has been previously reported.
Prof Pappas said more interaction is needed between those in the yoga community and medical experts. "Our study highlights the importance of open and honest communication between the yoga teacher, the practitioner and healthcare professionals," he said.
Yoga practitioners who experience musculoskeletal pain, according to the joint study conducted by the University of Sydney in Australia and the Mercy College in New York
Respondents who experience further pain to existing injuries
The practice of yoga includes many complicated and strenuous poses. The study found that many of the injuries were in the "upper extremities" (hands, wrists, elbows and shoulders) and suggested that this could be due to the body weight placed on the limbs.
Prof Pappas said, however, that yoga is still very effective when used with other therapies to relieve injuries and pain. He said he hopes the study will highlight the inherent risks of yoga practice, just like any other sport.
However, it is not all bad news as 74 per cent of participants in the study reported that existing pain was improved by yoga sessions.
"These findings can be useful to compare the risks of yoga to other exercises, thus enabling people to make informed decisions about which types of activity are best," he said.