Instagram is fueling rise in injuries among yoga teachers who want perfect social media post, experts warn
Originating from ancient India more than 5,000 years ago, yoga is widely believed to be one of the first forms of exercise created by humans, bringing physical and psychological benefits to those who practice it.
But today’s Instagram-conscious instructors are falling victim to more injuries because they are rushing into attempting challenging poses that will look good on social media, experts have warned.
The desire to teach the sport “purely for aesthetic reasons” is leading to a worrying rise in the number of yoga teachers who are picking up injuries, particularly in the hips.
Benoy Mathew, a leading British physiotherapist who specialises in hips and knees, said the sport has become over commercialised, resulting in inexperienced people being attracted into teaching it for the wrong reasons and pushing themselves too far.
“When I first started seeing patients eight years ago, I would see around one yoga teacher every six months. But not I am seeing four to five every month,” he said.
“Social media has definitely contributed to this feeling of having to take it to the next level and that’s purely for aesthetic reasons. Just because you can get your head to touch the floor, you might manage to get an ego boost but it doesn’t necessarily mean you are going to have a huge health boost. You are just leaving yourself with more problems.”
Teaching the ancient practice, which is popular with celebrities including Victoria Beckham and the Duchess of Sussex, does not require any specific qualifications, according to the UK’s governing body of the sport.
Mr Mathew believes this is a contributing factor to the increase of injuries among instructors, as they are not all required to go through high quality training.
“There is a big variation in the experience of yoga instructors. Some people who teach the sport come from a fitness background with a lot of knowledge of the body, whereas others come from a purely aesthetic background. It has been over commercialised and I think that is what is causing a lot of the problems,” he said.
According to a study published in the British Medical Journal last year, 64 percent of injuries acquired doing yoga occur in the lower half of the body such as the hip, hamstring and knee.
Poppy Pickles, who teaches yoga in south east London, said that more people and teachers experience injuries because they rush into advanced poses which will look good on social media.
“We are much more impatient in the West and many people want to be able to do the poses they see on posters which will look good on their Instagram,” she said.
Ms Pickles, 38, who has been teaching for two years, said yoga teachers often experience nasty injuries because there is a “pressure” to prove that they are better than their students.
“The injuries I come across the most among fellow yoga teachers are shoulder and hamstring tears. Yoga injuries do happen to teachers, which can be quite embarrassing,” she said. “There are no boundaries or guidelines across the industry which stipulate what kind of training you need to have in order to teach. So it can definitely put a strain on people’s bodies.
“There’s pressure as a yoga teacher to show that you are better than your students. So people often throw themselves into these positions to demonstrate that you are capable of doing the moves.
“Most yoga teachers I know get injuries in their legs and lower backs for forcing themselves into positions.”
Wendy Haring from the British Wheel of Yoga - the UK’s governing body of the practice - admitted that hip injuries are a problem among yoga teachers.
“It’s something that I think we have known in the yoga circles for a long time. Hip injuries among teachers are certainly a problem in specific schools of yoga, because they make instructors hold poses for a long time and it is not modified for each individual.”