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Participation in yoga for fitness, flexibility, and relaxation has increased dramatically over the past decade. More than 15 million Americans practiced some form of yoga in 2009. According to the National Sporting Goods Association, yoga is one of the fastest growing athletic activities in the United States with increased participation of nearly 50 percent in the past three years.
Yoga encourages balance, strength, proper posture, improved breathing, control, and awareness of one’s body, and has potential mental benefits as well. With increased participation, injuries have also become more common. With a few simple guidelines, many of these injuries can be prevented or limited. Additionally, when working with an experienced instructor, yoga may be helpful for injury recovery from numerous orthopedic conditions such as common strains and sprains.
There are several types or disciplines of yoga. Not every form is friendly for beginners and some can be quite strenuous. Depending on your athleticism, fitness, flexibility, and conditioning as well as pre-existing medical conditions, you should choose a style that fits you well. You should also communicate your goals and needs with the instructor before embarking on a new program.
Injuries can be avoided by knowing your limitations. If you have pre-existing medical problems or extremity injuries, consult your physician or orthopedic surgeon prior to starting or renewing a yoga program. Discuss any pre-existing conditions with the yoga instructor before starting a class. They may want you to avoid certain poses or positions.
Typically, injuries occur when participants attempt a challenging pose or posture without having the initial capability, flexibility, or strength to perform that maneuver or when the pose is performed improperly. In yoga, it is better to do a portion of the maneuver perfectly than to push from poor alignment into a full pose.
With proper techniques and guidance, yoga can be extremely rewarding both physically and mentally. Following this straightforward advice, injuries are unusual and the disciplines can be quite beneficial for core and postural strength, balance, and flexibility..

Research has shown that a routine fitness program can help decrease the effects of aging. However, while many medical conditions can be minimized, or their effects diminished, an exercise program for mature athletes may also create other health issues. Always consult your physician when beginning a new exercise routine. Sedentary adults who begin intense training may increase their risk or exacerbate heart or cardiovascular conditions. Starting gradually and emphasizing a daily routine of exercise and flexibility will likely yield more long-lasting results.


Beware of doing too much too soon

Older athletes are more prone to overuse injuries. Due to decreased bone density, or osteoporosis, it is important to emphasize a gradual onset of higher impact activities such as running. Additionally, tendons and ligaments become stiffer with age and a muscle, tendons and/or ligament tear or irritation can occur quickly when overdoing an exercise. Focusing a portion of your fitness program on stretching and flexibility is also critical. Chronic and overuse injuries account for approximately 70 percent of injuries in veteran athletes age 60 and older, whereas only 41 percent of younger athletes, ages 21–25, are affected by these same injuries according to an article in the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgery(October 2005, 407-416).
If you have arthritis, you do not need to stop exercising. A routine with less impact may be warranted to help decrease the wear-and-tear on your joints. Keeping fit, strong, and maintaining weight will help you feel better. Joints benefit from motion. Balance can also be diminished by age. Falls, related to poor balance, account for a large percentage of injuries in the elderly each year. Your exercise routine can also improve balance and may help prevent these injuries. If you choose to participate in more adventurous activities during which the risk of falls or head injury is increased, wear a helmet and other sport — or activity — specific protective gear. Tailor your exercise routine with your physician or another fitness expert to focus on how to reach your goals while staying safe and remember to enjoy yourself..