Warning: Yoga Is Dangerous

Robert Steven Williams’ injury in yoga class left him with a painful thigh and more than a little trepidation.

Last week in a yoga class I fell backwards off of a block attempting to do the posture “Crow.” I only fell four inches, but in that time my right leg collapsed on itself and twisted in such a way that it ripped tissue in my thigh. The pain was instant and powerful. I don’t know what was more shocking, the fact that it happened or that the pain was so intense.

I knew I was in trouble and my first thought was: get ice. I hobbled out of class, leaving my mat, water, wallet and keys. While I waited for the woman at the desk to get the ice, I broke out into a cold sweat.

Through the spasms of pain I was thinking about how I’d pay for this. My health insurance comes with an exorbitant deductible. Then I wondered how much damage I’d really done. How long would I be out for?

The ice finally came, and I sat for a half-hour really working the thigh. I could barely walk. There was no lifting of the leg forward or backward. I grabbed my belongings and headed home. I popped a triple dose of Aleve. I kept up the ice.

Then I started beating myself up. I’d been in a basic class. How the hell did I end up getting this injured? The answer was depressing because my ego was to blame.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about fear and my issues with this very pose: crow. Several of my instructors saw that article, and in class they commented that this was a common situation. They had ideas on how I might tackle this pose.

When crow came up in class, the instructors often gave me a nod or tried to provide assistance. This was always appreciated, but at the same time, it added pressure. I found myself pushing beyond my comfort zone, and that’s how I got myself into this mess.

The block is a good way to gain height to make it easier to land your knees on the back of your arms when doing crow. That night I held the pose for a second or so, but then lost it and fell backward on to the block. My feet didn’t land square.

I’m convinced that if I hadn’t written that article, I never would have pushed as hard, and I wouldn’t be injured now.

At least getting ice on the thigh immediately reduced the impact of the trauma. Six days later, I’m able to walk without much pain, but the twist or bend is still not there. I won’t be jogging for a while. The thigh is a big, deep muscle, and there’s not much you can do except ice and rest. I’ve been advised to take a month off.

This time will force me to reflect on how I got into this and how going forward I might do things differently. It could have been worse, and as long as I rest and heal properly, there will be no long-term issues or expensive doctor visits

Rest, however, is just as challenging for me as Crow, and, in some ways, it’s worse.

Photo erix!/Flickr

About Robert Steven Williams

Robert Steven Williams is a story teller, musician and entrepreneur.  His first novel, My Year as a Clown received the silver medal for popular fiction from the Independent Publisher Book Awards in 2013. His work has appeared in such publications as the Orange Coast Review, Billboard, USA Today and Poets & Writers. He was also a finalist in the Raymond Carver Short Story Contest and executive producer of the highly praised CBGB Comic Book series, co-authoring one of the stories. He also co-authored The World’s Largest Market for the American Management Association. You can find him on My Year as a ClownRobertStevenWilliams.comFacebookTwitter @RSWwriterTumblr,Pinterest, and Google+.


  1. Sometimes you just need to rest, and if you don’t decide to do it, the body decides for you… Don’t worry, you’re young enough that it will all get better. Just keep breathing through it…

  2. The most difficult part of Yoga, which I gave up years ago, is that if you are self-competitive and hard driving when doing something new, you’ll push to accomplish what seems hard for you but easy for others.
    I hurt myself doing downward dog many years ago. I have a bad neck and I made it much worse. However, when you’re a writer and sedentary, each activity that poses a challenge and relaxation and self congratulatory mirror winking because is so healthy for you, will surely bring you to injury at some point.
    I upped my treadmill speed past my leg span yesterday…Case in point. Groin pain. Better case in point—the body heals. Patience comes with very old age.

  3. Thanks for the note Kurt. You are probably right. I feel that I’m close, but I also realized that the night I got injured perhaps my mind wandered. Maybe I was thinking about the pressure, that I’d written about this pose and the instructor knew, and the introduction of the block was all for me. Whether this was true or not doesn’t matter, my mind was elsewhere instead of focused on the pose — and that’s why I may have lost my balance and got injured. Of course I may have simply lost my balance – it happens.

  4. Why don’t you avoid doing that pose? I started taking vinyasa yoga and there are a couple moves that I don’t even bother trying because I know I do not yet have the core strength to do them.

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