5 Potentially Dangerous Yoga Poses

Slender young woman doing yoga exercise. Isolated over white background.
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As a yoga teacher of some 18 years in Los Angeles, I’ve seen it all …truuuuuuuuust me! I’ve seen and practiced with some of the best teachers in the world, and I’ve witnessed some of the worst. And because of this, I realize that a yoga teacher has a massive responsibility to take care of their students. This means that the top priority should be (sadly isn’t always), for a yoga instructor to prevent his/her students from getting injured. There are also 5 potentially dangerous yoga poses….stay with me on this one! And while we typically think of the crazy pretzel-style balancing and twisty poses as the ones that could be dangerous, it’s actually the more commonly-taught ones, that can cause the biggest problems. The reason is that we think we can do it because everyone else can. Not true!!!

My wonderful physical therapist said that his business has doubled since the advent of “hot” yoga because students are pushing their bodies to do what isn’t “functional”. And I’ve certainly pulled back from getting too bendy on my mat because each time I push it even a tiny bit to far, I get injured. The truth is that the kind of yoga that is commonly taught today, was originally designed for young, male athletes – Not forty or fifty-something women! So, my biggest caution is to go VERY SLOW. Never attempt a pose that could be in the least bit risky for you. And above all else, find a really experienced yoga teacher. Also a yoga teacher who teaches in a style that speaks to where you are right now. Don’t try to get bendy with the cute you- tuber-esque girls (I’ve been there), because teen and even twenty year-old bods can are naturally a lot more stretchy than most over forty year-olds, moreover they bounce back quickly when injured. But it’s not just an age thing. I’ve met plenty of mature women who have amazing practices. In many ways, it’s more about being realistic about your capabilities no matter your age.

This is why I love Christine Burke as a yoga teacher. She is gentle, insightful, and the real deal. Her book, The Yoga Healer has just won “Best Yoga Book” by Spirit & Soul Magazine. She teaches intelligently, and prescribes a specific practice for whatever health issue you might have. This is why I’ve asked Christine to become part of my posse. Christine will be teaching at my Gorgeous For Good weekend wellness intensive event in Los Angeles in June, and at Hello Gorgeous Retreat in Palm Springs in October – Yaaaaay. I hope to see you come to one of these to learn how to re-set your health and wellness.

So let’s hit those 5 yoga poses that could be dangerous if practiced and/or taught incorrectly. And as a side note, I don’t go near 3 of these poses because I’ve sustained significant injuries from all them.

  1. Camel Pose: This is a back bend, which looks pretty simple, but if practiced incorrectly, will put out your back and your neck – yikes. The good news is that you can easily practice a modified version, by keeping your hands on your low back, and your chin tucked in. But this is best practiced under the instruction of a skilled teacher.
  2. Upward Bow (aka Bridge pose) This is the pose that looks so delicious. When I see Christine practice it, I’m itching to join her because I know how good it feels to practice a deep back bend like this. But you have to have very open hips and shoulders. Moreover, if you have low back or neck issues, I would avoid it. It really can be dangerous. I’ve seen torn rotator cuff and other pretty upsetting situations result from this pose being either practiced incorrectly, or by a student who shouldn’t be attempting it in the first place.
  3. Pigeon: Oooooof – this pose feels so good as a hip-opener, but it can damage a knee joint pretty badly. If your hips are tight, you’re basically putting a lot of pressure on your knees. Tight hips directly affect knees.  I recommend practicing thread-the-needle on your back as a safe alternative.






4. Headstand: Avoid at all costs if you have any kind of neck or shoulder issues. And if you don’t, I recommend practicing headstand under the supervision of a very experienced yoga teacher. I practice Dolphin pose instead (see my video with Christina)

5. Plough: Yikes – this is definitely a potentially dangerous pose because you could be putting a lot of pressure on your neck. Christine explained to me that you can get just as good a result as a sitting forward bend because it’s basically the same pose without the pressure on your neck and shoulders.

Okay, now that I’ve been through the 5 poses that I consider to pose the greatest risk for you, I highly recommend having a look at the video that I just created with Christine. In this video she teaches safe modifications for each pose. It’s a must-see.

Also, have you downloaded my FREE 3 ebook bundle yet? Lots of great info to get you started on your path to optimal wellness.

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Sophie Uliano is New York Times best-selling author and leading expert in the field of natural health and beauty, who takes a down-to-earth approach to beauty focusing on what's truly healthy. Join my masterclass to get started.