Yoga can cause pain, strain to athletes

How a competitive mindset can lead to major injuries

ORLANDO, Fla. - Triathletes, marathoners and exercise fanatics all flock to yoga for relaxation and pain relief. 

But recent research shows that many, especially men, are ending up with muscle strain and injury from the yoga. 

David Harrington is one of them.

Active is an understatement when describing Harrington.  His friends even joke that he is superhuman.

Harrington is an accomplished runner whose completed countless marathons, half-marathons, a triathlon and even plays softball.  On top of all of his running, he does strength training at a gym and began going to yoga classes regularly about six months ago.

"I was very misinformed when it came to yoga," said Harrington, "I thought it was just a hot room with a bunch of people who just kind of stretched."

His lack of knowledge going into the practice coupled with a competitive edge could be the cause of a recent injury.

Harrington said he pulled his hamstring after going about his movements a little haphazardly.  The injury was minor enough that it healed with rest and recovery, but it kept him from running for a few weeks. 

"Triathletes and marathoners are really good at hiding their competitiveness.  They are used to being under pressure and appearing calm," said Theresa Curameng who owns and instructs yoga at College Park Yoga with her husband Calvin.

She said it is her job to recognize when clients are being forceful and not focusing on their breath.

"You can damage your ligaments.  You can damage your joints beyond repair," said Curameng.

A recent study conducted by William Broad, who authored the book "The Science of Yoga" found that nationwide it is mostly men who are injuring themselves on the yoga mat.

Broad said after writing his book he started getting letters from people who had suffered injuries and most of them were men.

"I slapped myself on the forehead,  I can remember doing this and thinking, wow. Most of the letters I'm getting about serious injuries have been from guys," he said.

Broad obtained federal emergency room data for injuries related to yoga.  Although men only made up 16 percent of his study they accounted for 71 percent of the nerve damage injuries linked to yoga.

Men also made up 20 percent of the strains, 24 percent of the dislocations and 30 percent of fractures related to yoga.

Curameng is no stranger to men participating in yoga, after all her husband introduced her to the practice nearly two decades ago.

But she said, she finds women to be much more competitive and susceptible to injury in her experience.

"A lot of guys do this for stress relief. It's almost easier for me to train them than women who come in here with a hard drive," she said.

In fact, women were not even part of the yoga scene until very recently. 

Curameng said yoga was designed for ancient warriors to go into battle and women weren't even allowed to take part in the practice.

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