The popularity of yoga has exploded in America, with an estimated 20 million people practicing it in 2011 - an increase of 16 million practitioners in just 10 years, according to the "New York Times." That may be due to its numerous benefits, such as its ability to improve posture and increase your flexibility. But yoga is not without its risks. Before pulling on your stretchy pants and heading to the nearest yoga studio, educate yourself on the risks of yoga so you can make a wise decision that's as balanced as a perfect tree pose.
There is no universal yoga credential system; many yoga studios are responsible for their individual hiring practices. Before choosing a studio yoga, make sure the instructor properly educates and guides students through each pose and doesn't rush them or push them beyond their level of expertise. Unclear or rushed instructing often leads to injuries for students. One strategy for weeding out poor instructors is paying attention to how they start a class: A good yoga instructor asks each student if she has strains or injuries, and will tailor the instructions to any injured students. And while there is no national or international teaching credential system that all yoga studios adhere to, you may wish to only attend yoga classes taught by a teacher whose training is affiliated with the American Yoga Association, the International Association of Yoga Therapists or the Himalayan Institute of Yoga.
Hot yoga, such as Bikram yoga and its numerous competitors, place yoga students in hot, humid rooms where temperatures can soar above 100 F. The heat alone can lead to dehydration, heat fatigue and similar health risks. However, its side effect is just as critical: The heat in this style of yoga may make it easier for you to overstretch, thereby damaging your muscle tissues and tearing your body's cartilage.
One of yoga's draws is its potential to help you better listen to yourself, connecting your mind with your body and helping you to meditate and destress. However, some modern variations of yoga now incorporate elements like music and similar Western-style gimmicks. This can detract from yoga's meditative purposes and reduce some of its advantages.
When done properly, yoga might help you reduce your risk of injury by improving your body's range of movement and flexibility. At the same time, many yoga postures are very athletic and require lots of twisting and bending that can lead to sprains, strains and injuries to your spine and joints. As yoga's popularity climbs, the number of yoga-related emergency room visits also climb, with the "New York Times" reporting that dozens of people head to the hospital every year due to yoga injuries. Pay attention to your body and don't push yourself past any positions that feel tight or strained, recommends the American Council on Exercise.