Yoga Hurts: Your Flexibility Can Cause Pain

I've known for years that yoga can cause flexible people more pain than relief. Now, it appears that our popular media is finally catching up.

This recent New York Times piece by William Broad, author of The Science of Yoga: The Risks and the Rewards, is a well-written expose' of the damage yoga and extreme stretching can do to women's hips, in particular. The research he cites in the piece, along with my own experience as a hyper-flexible person, led me to seriously back off physical yoga practice years ago, and only encourage my pain-free students to practice yoga at all.

What most yoga lacks is strength training for the hip joint, the core, and the back. Instead, teachers emphasize, as Broad's article so rightly explains, "pushing to your edge," going beyond where your body might feel comfortable going. Challenging yourself is a good thing, but not when you don't understand the consequences or your own limits.

One major reason I developed the Hauber Method™ is that an average person knows nothing about how to keep his or her body healthy. They don't understand the relationship between muscles, bones, ligaments, tendons, and pain or lack of pain. So when yoga became all the rage a decade or so ago, I got mad. I knew people would start getting hurt. I saw (and still see) yoga teachers getting hurt. And yet, the popular media and physicians all over the place were recommending yoga for people with back pain and other joint issues. What they should have been doing was recommending carefully progressed muscular stability, endurance, and strength training—the exact components I include in the Hauber Method™ program.

Yoga was not designed to heal people's backs or any other body parts. It was developed as a physical practice associated with a much more involved spiritual practice—and the physical practice was initially practiced only by teenage boys. Not young women. And certainly not older women. So it's no surprise at all that vigorous, almost competitive, yoga asana practice can and will hurt many, many women, especially those of us who already have more flexibility in the hips than we need.

If you're going to practice yoga, great, I applaud your dedication to something that can advance your physical, emotional, and spiritual growth. But also do proper strength training for your gluteus, your abdominals, your spinal erectors, your hip flexors, your shoulder joint, and the muscles of your upper and middle back—all of which I teach, in careful detail, in the Hauber Method™ series.

My work is about keeping you out of pain, out of the doctor's office, and definitely out of the surgical suite. If you have questions about how to balance a yoga practice with your strength training, post them here.

Sara Hauber (27 Posts)

Sara Hauber, M.A., has practiced the art of back-care and functional-movement therapy since 1999. She specializes in ending clients' long-term back pain after all other treatments have failed. In 2012 she released The Hauber MethodTM, a 6-week at-home program to relieve chronic low-back pain, featuring the methods that have helped her clients and workshop students live pain-free lives for more than 14 years. You can find her on , Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

2 Responses to “Yoga Hurts: Your Flexibility Can Cause Pain”
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  1. […] woman already (I don’t worry about men being too flexible, just because of hormone balance), be sure you read this piece about how your flexibility can be a detriment to a painless yoga practic…. You’ll also want to check out my forthcoming post on explaining how to […]

  2. […] Because people with back pain have bodies that are literally crying out for stability (as I explain here), Anusara classes are typically a good option because of the focus on alignment. I have to say, I am […]

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