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Mayo Clin Proc. 2019 Mar;94(3):424-431. doi: 10.1016/j.mayocp.2018.09.024. Epub 2019 Feb 18.

Soft Tissue and Bony Injuries Attributed to the Practice of Yoga: A Biomechanical Analysis and Implications for Management.

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Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.
Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA.



To analyze injuries that were directly associated with yoga practice and identify specific poses that should be avoided in patients with osteopenia or osteoporosis.


We retrospectively reviewed the medical records of patients with injuries that were primarily caused by yoga. Patients were seen from January 1, 2006, through December 31, 2018. Injuries were categorized into 3 groups: (1) soft tissue injury, (2) axial nonbony injury, and (3) bony injury. Patients underwent evaluation and were counseled to modify exercise activity.


We identified 89 patients for inclusion in the study. Within the soft tissue group, 66 patients (74.2%) had mechanical myofascial pain due to overuse. Rotator cuff injury was seen in 6 (6.7%), and trochanteric bursopathy was observed in 1 (1.1%). In the axial group, exacerbation of pain in degenerative joint disease (46 patients [51.7%]) and facet arthropathy (n=34 [38.2%]) were observed. Radiculopathy was seen in 5 patients (5.6%). Within the bony injury category, kyphoscoliosis was seen on imaging in 15 patients (16.9%). Spondylolisthesis was present in 15 patients (16.9%). Anterior wedging was seen in 16 (18.0%), and compression fractures were present in 13 (14.6%). The poses that were most commonly identified as causing the injuries involved hyperflexion and hyperextension of the spine. We correlated the kinesiologic effect of such exercises on specific musculoskeletal structures.


Yoga potentially has many benefits, but care must be taken when performing positions with extreme spinal flexion and extension. Patients with osteopenia or osteoporosis may have higher risk of compression fractures or deformities and would benefit from avoiding extreme spinal flexion. Physicians should consider this risk when discussing yoga as exercise.

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