What are the contexts for yoga injuries?
We’ve now summarized many of the results from our survey project for you. We discussed the negative experiences in yoga, context of specific yoga injuries and injuries to specific areas of the body. But what about “injury” in general? Are there common contexts for experiencing an injury at all in yoga? Can we avoid ever experiencing an injury in yoga?
I think it is important for us as a yoga community to ask better questions about what we intend to use yoga asana for. And we should consider how much risk we are willing to accept in that process. Yoga asana is physical movement. There is inherent risk in physical movement. Hands up for everyone who has stubbed a toe, skinned a knee, or worse from merely tripping on the sidewalk!?!
What is our real question about yoga injuries?
A better question is where is there more or less risk for injury in yoga? Is there more or less risk in certain postures or sequences? Are there times in practice when injury risk is greater or lesser?
The answers to these questions empower us as asana practitioners to make more informed choices about what kind of asana practice suits us. It gives us information about how we could potentially reduce the risk for yoga injuries, while still doing the practices that we find most beneficial for our particular use.
You’ll remember that about half (54.8%) of our survey respondents (n=2620) reported yes, when asked specifically if they had had at least one physical injury as a result of yoga asana practice during the lifetime of their practice.
We asked those that responded “yes, they had experienced at least one injury” a series of additional questions regarding the context of their injury. In this post we summarize that context for you. Then we discuss which factors seem to be the strongest driving factors for yoga injuries based on our statistical analysis.
Methods and a little more about statistics
In order to explain how we arrived at the results we want to share with you, here is a quick overview of the statistical tests that we used. A full explanation of how these tests work is well beyond a single blog post. Our intention here is only to name the tests used and what kind of relationship between variables they are used to describe. This is so you have a general understanding of how the results were generated.
For the analyses we report in this post, we used the chi-square test of independence to evaluate whether each of the two variables of interest were independent from each other (not related) or were related in some way. If the resulting “p-value” is less than 0.01, then there is a less than 1% probability that the variables are unrelated. Or, you could say there is a more than 99% probability that the variables are related. We would then say there is a statistically significant relationship between the two variables. The chi-square test of independence allows us to explore whether individual practice contexts are related to likelihood of reporting injury in yoga.
We also report the “effect size” of the relationship between the two variables. Effect size describes the strength of the association between the two related variables. For example, we might say that two related variables have a weak, moderate, or strong relationship to one another. This is noted as Cramer’s V=some number. We say there is a small/weak association when Cramer’s V is between 0.1 and 0.2, a moderate association when Cramer’s V is between 0.3 and 0.4, and a strong association when Cramer’s V is equal to 0.5 or greater.
Let’s get started with the results!
Part one: A summary of yoga injury context
We categorized yoga injuries described by survey participants as mild, moderate, or severe. The following describe the conditions for each category of injury severity:
Mild injuries: Practitioner recovered in 6 weeks or less, did not feel pain outside of practice, and did not see a doctor for a medical procedure.
Moderate injuries: Recovery time from the injury was greater than 6 weeks, but less than 1 year and/or the practitioner felt pain from the injury outside of practice. The practitioner did not see a doctor for a medical procedure.
Severe injuries: The practitioner saw a doctor for a medical procedure related to the injury and/or recovery time was more than 1 year.
Here’s a summary of reasons practitioners were injured based on open-answer descriptions from practitioners:
- it just happened; no idea why
- too tired, fatigued
- not paying attention; distracted
- repetitive motion injury: too much practice or too much practice too soon
- yoga exacerbated an existing condition, previous sports-injury, or existing postural imbalance
- injury occurred in a hands-on adjustment by a teacher
- not warmed up enough
- practitioner pushed themselves too far or was overly-enthusiastic
- yoga practitioner didn’t understand a teacher’s instructions
- practitioner didn’t recognize a sensation in their body as a sign to stop
- fell out of a pose and was injured in the fall or tripped/stubbed toe, etc.
- entering or exiting a pose
- was just messing around with an isolated pose outside of a class or practice