Yoga precautions

Yoga is generally considered safe for most healthy people when practiced under the guidance of a trained instructor. But there are some situations in which yoga might pose a risk.

See your health care provider before you begin yoga if you have any of the following conditions or situations:

  • A herniated disk
  • A risk of blood clots
  • Deconditioned state
  • Eye conditions, including glaucoma
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Pregnancy
  • Severe balance problems
  • Severe osteoporosis
  • Uncontrolled blood pressure

You may be able to practice yoga in these situations if you take certain precautions, such as avoiding certain poses or stretches. If you develop symptoms or concerns, see your doctor to make sure you're getting benefit and not harm from yoga.

Getting started

Although you can learn yoga from books and videos, beginners usually find it helpful to learn with an instructor. Classes also offer camaraderie and friendship, which are also important to overall well-being.

When you find a class that sounds interesting, talk with the instructor so that you know what to expect. Questions to ask include:

  • What are the instructor's qualifications? Where did he or she train and how long has he or she been teaching?
  • Does the instructor have experience working with students with your needs or health concerns? If you have a sore knee or an aching shoulder, can the instructor help you find poses that won't aggravate your condition?
  • How demanding is the class? Is it suitable for beginners? Will it be easy enough to follow along if it's your first time?
  • What can you expect from the class? Is it aimed at your needs, such as stress management or relaxation, or is it geared for people who want to reap other benefits?

Achieving the right balance

Everyone's body is different, and yoga postures should be modified based on individual abilities. Selecting an instructor who is experienced and attentive to your needs is an important first step to a safe and effective yoga practice.

Regardless of which type of yoga you practice, you don't have to do every pose. If a pose is uncomfortable or you can't hold it as long as the instructor requests, don't do it. Good instructors will understand and encourage you to explore — but not exceed — your personal limits.

Jan. 15, 2013 See more In-depth