Could Injury Caused by Yoga really be the reason for the introduction of a NOS?

The following talk was delivered at an open meeting by Nick Elwell to which The British Wheel of yoga and Skills Active were invited but did not attend.

  1. The annual spend in America on “Yoga” in its various forms is greater than Burma’s Gross National Product!

Yoga is a multi billion pound business opportunity.

Like it or not, you are all part of that opportunity: that business.

Where money is involved people have a habit of being dishonest with others and themselves. Some will bend and twist the rules to gain a financial advantage.


  1. Yoga is a “Sport” and needs regulating the same as any other sport.

Yoga is not a sport – any more than growing up is a sport.

Upon reflection, it might be best to say that “Yoga Isn’t!”

It is not a sport.

It is not a religion.

It is not a way of life.

It is not compulsory.

But it is clearly omnipresent in your world if you wish it to be.

I would suggest that one cannot plan or make rules for Omnipotence.


  1. Every year, 15 US Citizens may die from a stroke whilst doing yoga!

Could this be true?

William Broad in the US has written a book on the dangers of yoga.

The book cites estimates that among the general public there are 1.5 vertebral artery strokes per year per 100,000 people. The author assumes that yoga practitioners would have the same 1.5 per 100,000 rate of such injuries as the general population. So, with 20 million practitioners in the U.S., the author calculates, 300 yoga practitioners per year suffer this type of stroke, and with the prevailing mortality rate, 5 percent of these would die.

Clearly a need for regulation!

Dr Timothy McCall has been looking into injury in yoga and notes that far from yoga causing strokes  – The bigger picture is that yoga’s documented effects of reducing stress and stress hormones, lowering blood pressure, reducing inflammation and the tendency of blood to clot, likely means the practice prevents far more strokes, heart attacks and other serious ailments than it causes.


  1. The Yoga Injuries Debate: How ‘Dangerous’ Is Yoga, really?

There have been injuries during yoga lessons and classes.

In an endeavor to establish how dangerous yoga is, I looked for comparable statistics – again in America because the numbers are larger.

One study shows an annual injury rate to Yoga practitioners of 3.5 people per 10,000 whilst weight lifters suffered at a rate of 15 per 10,000 and golfers suffered at a rate of 39 per 10,000.

I understand a study in the UK established that more injuries and deaths were reported by Fishermen than any other group of sports enthusiasts. Fishing remains an unregulated activity.

A large US Insurance agency advises that compared with other forms of exercise, yoga generates fewer and less costly insurance claims.  The yoga liability program averages about 10 claims per year with the average paid claim amount at $6,000.

In contrast, the company averages about 200 claims per year from their other fitness programs, with the average paid claim amount at $20,000.

The comment was made that most “injuries” seemed to be caused by the individual being a little over zealous and that the best the teacher could do was to urge caution.

However, let’s not get too self-congratulatory: The program’s largest yoga insurance claim was for more than $200,000


  1. The Yoga Injuries Debate: How do claims arise?

To answer this I have looked through our own records to compare with the US agency mentioned above.

Typical of the claims that we have received are:

a) Slips and trips – usually not actually related to the class but happening during the class

b) Complaints of over-zealous teachers pushing too hard

The average value of claims received is about £6,000 and, so far as we can see, much of this is actually legal fees rather than compensation.

No amount of regulatory interjection will prevent slips and trips nor protect against the No Win – No Fee Lawyers: the pariahs who will always be knocking on the door.


  1. The Yoga Injuries Debate: The Law is an Ass!

Any good lawyer and most bad ones will cite this at some point. There are times when I might agree – but generally, here in the UK the legal system does quite a good job of keeping us on the straight and narrow.

I am far from convinced that another layer of rules in the world of yoga will help any of the consumers for whom it is designed to protect. But that layer of rules would cost the same consumer financially whilst someone, somewhere might be doing rather well because of it.


  1. The Yoga Injuries Debate: Conclusion

In addition to Yogis and other groups, we provide insurance to Physios, Chiropractors and Osteopaths. In preparing for today’s event I sought advice and comment from this group.

In conclusion I can do no better than quote a response from a highly qualified Osteopath:

Hard to say whether any injury is caused by yoga but I have heard on a couple of occasions from patients saying that they had attended yoga and it seemed to aggravate their lower back,  including myself. Mine was due to hot yoga/bikram in particular which allows an individual to over stretch due to the 40 degree sauna heat of the studio! For me personally it was my lumbar (they are buggered anyway) and hamstring tendinitis which was originally caused by handstands! So not sure we could say it’s attributed to yoga but as a rule I don’t recommend yoga for back pain:)