(Yoga asana traffic lights by designer Li Ming Hsing)

Ann Swanson, MS, LMT, C-IAYT, adapted these recommendations from “Yoga as a holistic treatment for chronic illnesses: Minimizing adverse events and safety concerns,” by yoga researcher Shirley Telles and colleagues.

For yoga practitioners
…without health conditions

  • Be motivated to learn yoga!
  • Practice under the supervision of a reliable, trained yoga instructor.
  • View yoga instructors with respect and healthy boundaries but not as a “guru.”
  • Mention any relevant conditions/injuries or surgeries to the yoga instructor, but remember that it’s up to you to avoid going beyond your physical abilities.
  • Approach yoga without competitiveness, which helps with the above!

For yoga practitioners
…with diagnosed health conditions

  • Work with a skilled specialist like a certified yoga therapist, who has extensive training. Give your yoga therapist a detailed description of your medical condition.
  • Be clear about your goals (e.g., to alleviate specific symptoms, manage a chronic condition).
  • Have realistic expectations; don’t expect miraculous cures.
  • Do not intensify your practice without talking to your yoga therapist. Likewise, if you find you need to modify the recommendations you received, discuss the changes with them.
  • Let your yoga therapist know if you notice any changes in symptoms or your medication is altered by your doctor.

For yoga teachers

  • Be motivated to teach yoga!
  • Develop your expertise in yoga practice, theory, and traditional texts.
  • Understand the contraindications of yoga practices for safety.
  • Communicate clearly about practice methods and contraindications.
  • Have basic knowledge of physiology, functional anatomy, and biomechanics.
  • Know the basics of first aid (and CPR is recommended).
  • Be able to accurately report adverse events to others, including medical practitioners if necessary.

For yoga therapists

  • Take detailed client case histories.
  • Assess clients thoroughly through a yogic lens in accordance with your training.
  • Be cautious when working with clients who are weak, at risk of falls, or are otherwise “high risk.”
  • Complete appropriate therapeutic yoga training (to be a certified yoga therapist, C-IAYT, training is 800 hours).
  • Know first aid and CPR.
  • Have an emergency action plan, including appropriate contact information. Know clients’ medical histories, and be able to report on conditions accurately.

For doctors & clinicians

Those who treat patients with an injury or other discomfort believed to be arising from yoga should ask for clear details about the yoga practice performed, its duration, method, and frequency, perhaps supplementing this information with diagrams or source materials.

Yoga practitioners: You are not being “disloyal” to your yoga teacher/school by giving this information!