Does Poor Alignment in Yoga Class Cause Injuries?

I’ve taken lots of yoga classes in my life with lots of different teachers and, yes, I have injured myself a number of times. Do I have a clear, general answer as to why? No, not really.

This got me thinking about alignment and the role of the teacher.

Over this span of time that is my yoga practice (how’s that for vague? A lady never reveals her age … or something like that), I’ve noticed some fundamental differences in teaching styles. To name two things thing I have noticed, well, the first would be the amount of verbal cues given in class and and the second would be differing philosophies on alignment.

Some teachers give very minimal instruction in class leaving lots of room for you to explore your body (after all you know it best) in a more intuitive way while other teachers put a strong emphasis on a “correct” alignment in poses in order to receive maximum benefit and avoid injury (sounds good – who wants an injury, right?). Some teachers believe everyone can do a posture the same way, based on certain and specific alignment principles and others declare that every body is different and there is a unique and perfect position for everyone.

Is this confusing to anyone else?

And it seems important to ask … can having incorrect alignment in a yoga pose cause injury? I in no way blame my teachers for any injuries I’ve experienced (nope, I take full responsibility for them) but for the yoga novice it seems this distinction might be important. Heck, perhaps even for more seasoned practitioners it could make a difference (injury vs. no injury, a lifelong practice vs. discouragement).

So, in my exploration of this topic I came across an article written my friend Lucas Rockwood, a yoga teacher in Thailand & Spain, about yoga class injuries:

Yoga teachers often blame injuries on bad alignment or “pushing too hard,” but since you’ll never meet any serious yoga student who hasn’t had a least a couple injuries, I just call it “part of life…” to be avoided, whenever possible.

Don’t get me wrong, you should always practice safely, but it’s gotten to the point where some teachers won’t even let you lie on the floor without perfectly supporting your neck and putting fluffy pillows under your legs.

That’s not yoga. That’s therapy. It has its place, but it’s overkill for most able-bodied people the same way it’s overkill to wear a helmet while walking down the street. More …

Lots of good info in the full article (Lucas knows his stuff!). Click here to continue reading.

Thanks for stopping by. As always, feel free to share any thoughts or reactions in the comments below.

To your safe and healthy yoga journey,



3 thoughts on “Does Poor Alignment in Yoga Class Cause Injuries?

  1. YogaforCynics says:

    I have a couple of teachers who are anusara trained and emphasize correct alignment a lot, and others who don’t as much (as well as the occasional kundalini class where it’s barely mentioned at all), and I find it’s a good balance–so that the alignment is emphasized in my practice, but not all the time. All in all, every time I’ve hurt myself it’s been because I was ignoring what teachers told me, though it’s been less a matter of alignment (I keep accidentally writing “enlightenment” instead of “alignment”…significant?) than of pushing myself too hard…though, it could be argued that pushing too hard when poorly aligned doubles your chance of injury….

    • Lindsay Fields says:

      True … and most beginner classes do go over basic alignment concepts. Once you have that understanding and 10-20 classes under your belt, you can explore other classes and a more intuitive practice.

      I have learned a lot from my injuries – humility and patience for example. Also, like Lucas says, even healing. I had a nasty hip injury (from childbirth – how’s that for guilt-tripping my kid?) and I literally had to open it back up (an ouch! both physical and emotional) after years in order to heal it.

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