Amid the renewed attention on self-care, fitness and wellness, the yoga industry has experienced exponential growth in Asia and globally, with over 300 million adherents worldwide (and counting). While yoga has been prized for bringing physical benefits associated with flexibility and balance, as well as emotional and spiritual advantages, there is now a warning that the yoga trend is leading to risks to hip health. According to specialists around the world, more yoga teachers are experiencing serious hip problems as a result of pushing their bodies too hard.
The yoga market in Asia is booming. According to government figures in China, there were 20 million practitioners in the mainland at the end of 2017 and authorities estimate that this will grow to over 100 million by 2030. In Hong Kong, one of the most well-known studios, Pure Yoga, has expanded to 12 locations in the city alone, offering 1,600 classes per week to meet the rising demand for yoga practice, while the number of boutique yoga studios is well over 100 .
But growing numbers of budding yogis means more yoga teachers and classes, leading to potentially long-term serious hip issues. In conversation with the BBC, leading British physiotherapist Benoy Matthews says that yoga teachers are pushing their bodies and joints too hard and that some cases are serious enough to require hip replacement surgery.
According to Matthew, people are constantly putting their bodies into “prescribed” yoga positions, when their physiology prevents it. Speaking with Green Queen, Hong Kong-based yoga therapist Charlotte Douglas argues that the potential for injury with yoga practice is “not new information” and has been a part of the ongoing conversation in some yoga communities for some time now.
“People confuse stiffness and pain. If there is a pinching or blocking feeling in the groin, it shouldn’t be ignored…We all know about the health benefits of yoga, but, like anything, it can cause injury. We can’t put it on a pedestal,” he said.
Although this might seem like bad news for yogis, experts such as Matthew and Douglas reiterate that when practiced with awareness – without pushing yourself or being in competition with everyone else – yoga has great benefits to offer. Douglas told Green Queen that she hopes that the renewed attention on yoga injuries will “offer yoga practitioners something to be curious about,” and to rethink the stereotypes and misconceptions surrounding the therapeutic activity that many of us might have subscribed to in the midst of the current yoga-wellness trend.
“Whilst there is never a right or wrong way to do anything, there is a danger of getting stuck into a false belief that yoga is only about the postures and that our worth as a yogi is based on our levels of flexibility,” explained Douglas.
Yoga developed over 5,000 years ago in Northern India, and the original context was about spiritual development to train the body and mind to become self-aware of one’s own nature. Far from what the current yoga trend has led to, this involves deep breathing to create this transformation towards individual awareness, which in fact helps to avoid injury.
In light of the new figures of yoga-induced injuries, Douglas recommends that we should return to the original idea of yoga being a practice that is all about breath. “To me, it is simple. Yoga is breath generated movement done with awareness. So let’s shift the conversation from what is a good posture to a good breath. Allow the breath to find space, and the rest will follow,” Douglas says.
Lead image courtesy of Lessons / CDN.