Like any activity, it takes time and experience to build up your strength and skill when engaging in your yoga practice. Beginners are particularly at risk for injuries, largely due to improper alignment and form.
Here are a few of the most common yoga injuries and tips for avoiding them during your practice.
Over-stretching can cause tears and pulls, often in your hamstrings, quads, or groin. The best way to avoid these injuries is to listen to your body and to support your practice, especially in the beginning, with blocks and straps. For example, if you’re moving into dancer pose for the first time, use a strap to pull your leg upward, without sacrificing the correct body alignment.
The key to protecting your shoulders from common yoga injuries is to avoid shrugging and keep your shoulders away from your ears. As you move from pose to pose, pay attention to the instinct to pull your chin down when you move your shoulders up, as this causes tension in your shoulders and upper back. Visualize rolling your shoulders down your back, and keep your head level. This is true in poses like upward facing dog, as well as poses that require you to raising your arms, such as tree or chair pose.
Improper alignment can cause a lot of different injuries during yoga, especially when you're just getting started. The back is especially at risk when trying to follow a flow or get into poses without strengthening your core. A lot of this comes with practice, but to save your back from debilitating injuries during your practice, it's important to bend from your hips by moving forward and leading with your heart and chest. This can be from standing or seated positions. Don't, for example, reach your arms as far forward as you can to touch your toes, unless you can do so without shrugging your shoulders.
Similarly, be conscious of your body during twists. Try not to twist deeply if it's not coming from a strong core. Focus on balance and core strength first, and how far you can twist or turn second. Another way to support your back in these poses is to use blocks to relieve pressure from your back, or to sit on a blanket to keep your spine in proper alignment.
The best way to avoid injuries during yoga is to listen to your body, and to practice in a studio or with someone who knows what they're doing. Having a teacher show you how to keep your body in alignment and make subtle tweaks to poses will significantly enhance your practice. They can also show you how to properly use gear like blocks and straps to get a deep, effective stretch without overextending your muscles.