Is Ashtanga the most ‘dangerous’ yoga?

I happened upon a story from the Times of India that, at first, seemed like another report on studies of the potential injuries — let’s call it “dangers” — of yoga.

Speaking of yoga = asana, of course.

Here’s the lead:

A study titled ‘ Adverse Events Associated with Yoga: A systematic review of published case reports and Case Series’ published in the scientific journal Plos One has come up with the adverse events associated with yoga.

Pretty standard stuff. And so it goes on, reporting the study found that most of those “adverse events” were musculoskeletal. But then there was this paragraph:

In a small survey in 110 Finnish Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga practitioners, 62% of respondents reported at least one yoga-related musculoskeletal injury, mainly sprains and strains. About half of those reported full recovery, the other half partial recovery. Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is a physically demanding yoga style that uses standardized sequences of physical yoga postures with synchronized breathing , the report said . More recently, in a large national survey, 78.7% of about 2500 Australian yoga practitioners indicated that they had never been injured during yoga. A survey in more than 1300 mainly North American yoga teachers and therapists found that respondents considered injuries of the spine, shoulders, or joints the most common.

Now, I know it mentions the study of the Finnish Ashtangis is small, but the difference between their experience with injuries and the experience of the Australians is fairly stark. I know one can use math and statistics to prove just about any point, but those two studies suggest Ashtanga may be three times as likely to result in injury as yoga/asana in general. (Thinking 62% vs about 21%.)

And it’s hard for me not to think it points to Ashtanga’s propensity to injury, a subject we’ve covered here so much there’s a standing link in our link list to the right.

Posted by Steve


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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

3 thoughts on “Is Ashtanga the most ‘dangerous’ yoga?”

  1. This is a little confusing. Are the Finnish and Australian surveys part of the larger study, or were they conducted separately? This seems relevant, as one could imagine cultural distinctions in how respondents answered, not to mention that differently worded questions evoke divergent responses. The sample sizes are too small to be statistically significant, but this seems way off. I wonder if one group defined “injury” differently than the other? For example, I have been struggling with soreness in my lower back during practice for the last two weeks. But I don’t consider it an “injury” just a “normal” result of daily practice. Others might call it an injury, perhaps? In the end, this study, which i obviously have not read, doesn’t seem to be offering us much we didn’t aready know. Sometimes Ashtanga hurts but not enough to make us stop 🙂

    1. My sense — noting this isn’t scientific — is that these studies seem to track with anecdotal ideas of Ashtanga. That it comes with injuries. Yes, a small sample size. But I would find two small studies suggesting the opposite — that other yogas caused lots of injuries and Ashtanga caused few — to be pretty startling.


  2. There is physical injury for every physical activity. The amount of people killed on bicycles is staggering as well as the number of pedestrians killed by motor vehicles. Yoga is hardly base jumping or joining the marines. I’d like to see someone do a study on pro athletes that have a yoga practice and compare their injury rates to athletes that don’t have a practice. Another study could be done comparing regular people with a practice and those that don’t There is so much focus on injury rates in these “studies.” I agree with Jim soreness or a strain is hardly an injury injuries sideline you (in my books anyways). Who cares what scientists say about yoga i’ll take a pro athletes testimonial over quackery any day. Here are some interesting quotes I found on



    Barry Zito

    All Star Pitcher and he does yoga

    Blake McFarland
    I believe it has helped my game tremendously. It (yoga) gives me strength in muscles I have never used before. I seem way more fluid on the mound. Yoga showed me how to utilize the mind.”

    Carlos Alonso

    3rd Baseman: 2008 All So Cal & WSC 1st Team ’08 & ’07 — “My flexibility increased a tremendous amount. I think it was able to keep me heatlhy throughout the whole season. Yoga helps you have a quite time in your day where you can relax and focus.”

    Aaron Bauman
    “My flexibility has already improved dramatically and I am more confident on the field just knowing that I am far less prone to injury now then I was just a few months ago in the fall.” Brian Gregory, Catcher, Santa Barbara City College, Cal State Northridge —”I’m more focused than i have ever been. Working on breathing techniques was a huge part of me becoming more focused, it takes you to a quiet, self-controlled environment where you learn to control your actions.”


    Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

    20 years in pro basketball. (Many consider Abdul-Jabbar to be the greatest center, maybe the greatest player, in basketball history) — “There is no way I could have played as long as I did without yoga. My friends and teammates think I made a deal with the devil. But it was yoga that made my training complete,” he says.


    —“I’m the worst yoga student in the history of yoga,” says O’Neal. Still has a special mat being made for his gigantic frame and liked the heat and purifying effects of the practice. To read the article CLICK HERE .

    Antawn Jamis

    Although he first admits he thought of yoga as “feminine”, Antawn began to appreciate yoga when he noticed less wear and tear on his body from regular practice. Watch him talk about the benifits of yoga practice and do some yoga here on


    Kevin Garnett

    NBA superstar —“I’ve been doing yoga since 1995, and I practice my breathing and focusing exercises before every game.”

    LeBron James

    —“Yoga isn’t just about the body, it’s also about the mind, and it’s a technique that has really helped me,” James said. “You do have to focus because there’s some positions that can really hurt you at times if you aren’t focused and breathing right.” He says that yoga has really helped his back, and he finds the practice mentally challenging. Read more about what some of his favorite poses are HERE WATCH LEBRON TEACH KIDS YOGA HERE


    Eddie George

    Heisman Trophy winner, NFL running back—“Yoga has made my entire body more flexible, I’m stronger in my upper body, and I’m living proof that yoga prevents injuries”

    Dudley LaPorte

    4 Star Tight End; —What he loves about yoga: “The quality of the stretch… the level of mental concentration that is gained. These same skills that I used in yoga, breathing and being calm are the same things that I will apply to the football field during big time plays and situations.”
    Anthony Hartz

    Punter, 1st Team WSC 2007, Nominated All State, SBCC Record 81 yard punt —“Yoga helps loosen up my hips and makes my legs more flexible… I can get more reach … produces more hang time and distance on the ball. The breathing has helped my confidence. Breathing helps you calm down and relax since you don’t think about what is going on around you. You just focus on what you need to succeed.”

    Cross Country/ Track & Field :

    Weley Korpela:

    — “I did see changes in my strength, flexibility, and balance by a lot and I am surprised.


    J.L. Lewis

    PGA Tour —”Flexibility is the most important thing for a golfer. The yoga stretches made my swing longer-there’s no question about it. The added range of motion enabled me to get a better turn and power through the ball.”


    Sean Burke

    All-Star NHL goaltender —“In sports, you need balance, strength and flexibility, and yoga helps so much in each of those areas. It’s definitely been a huge part of my success.”

    Racquetball :

    Sean Larkin:
    “Many times I had thought that ‘that’s’ [yoga] for girls or girly men; not for real athletes. I had a lot to learn. Very quickly I became astutely aware that this was not just a stretching routine, THIS IS A FULL BLOWN WORKOUT- fit for athletes training at the highest level.”
    Tennis :
    Justin Gimelstob, ATP tennis player — “Yoga saved my career. I was facing back surgery, and tried yoga instead. Now my back is in great shape, plus the yoga is an unbelievable workout. I’m a total convert.”
    Triathletes :
    Deyl Kearin,
    “I love to challenge myself. I greatly increased my flexibility and have not had any of “Yoga has made my entire body more flexible, I’m stronger in my upper body, and I’m living proof that yoga prevents injuries.”

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