Neck injuries are probably the scariest area to harm – and it does take time to heal. Chapman says going into full wheel and resting on the top of the head before going up into the pose is a dangerous move, as much of the body weight is on the neck. Be cautious in headstand, plough and shoulder stand that you’re not putting too much weight on your neck. Also, in poses like camel and upward dog, you can fling your neck too far back without support. When putting pressure on your neck in an inversion, try to better distribute your weight, putting more of it on your arms. Prioritize neck safety over goals such as putting your feet to the floor in plough.
The good news is, yoga is one of the safest exercises out there. (Awan says he once heard that the injury rate is comparable to that of gardening.) But you still need to be aware in every class of any pain and be mindful of your body’s limits. Find the right class for your level, with an experienced teacher who thinks about safety just as must as testing your limits. Says Chapman: “It’s so important to get the right instruction.”