How I got my Butt Back. A Surprising Yoga Injury Experience

Too much flexibility can lead to injury. Read this post to avoid a painful yoga injury, keep your butt muscles healthy, and keep your body free of pain from too much stretching.

yoga injury

You can get an injury doing yoga? Surprisingly yes. Here’s my story about a Yoga Injury that taught me all about the dangers of too much flexibility and how I got my butt back.

As a dancer, the yoga studio always felt like home to me. It was a place I found community, got in touch with my body, relaxed my mind, and pressed the re-set button. From the very first sun salute, I loved it. I started practicing yoga in college at a local studio and took my love of yoga with me when I moved to San Francisco. The city is home to some of the best yoga in the WORLD, with studios that can see over 200 people per class and cult followings for specific teachers. Naturally I fell right into the scene and made yoga classes a part of my regular routine.  I would take class 1-3 times per week and often include postures in the morning and evening. Forward folds and hip openers were my favorite. I loved it, it was one of the most challenging and rewarding physical disciplines I had experienced.  I got stronger, I felt great, and my practice improved.  I felt like I had come home.

But after several years of yoga-euphoria, something changed. First my practice plateaued.  And then it started to hurt.

Although my  mind and spirit loved yoga, my body began to whisper some objections. I started to have hip pain and contributed it to tight muscles from my love of running, spinning, and group fitness. So I stopped all other activity and did only yoga thinking it would help. Yoga is the “safe” form of exercise right? The opposite happened. It got worse. Little did I know my love of forward folds and hip openers had chronically overstretched my hamstring tendons and forced me to lose contact with the  whole gluteus family: max, med, and min.  As I continued to stretch, my balance became worse, my hip ached more, and all of the wear and tear caught up to me in my daily activities (even sitting was a pain in the BUTT).

For the longest time I didn’t want to be honest. I didn’t want to believe that my yoga practice was the culprit. I wasn’t ready to admit that I didn’t know how to fix it or how to practice any differently. But after 6 months I couldn’t do anything else, so learning and changing had to happen if I wanted to re-unite with the mat.

I finally chose to listen to my body and ask for help, I sent myself to a team physical therapists and a strength coach. In muscle “rehab” I learned all about over stretching and was surprised to learn how common it is a problem (especially for women, dancers, and flexible yoga folks). Physical therapists are seeing more patients with chronic hip, hamstring, and lower back problems. Excessive flexibility and weak stabilizing muscles are often the key factors leading to these injuries. I was still in dis-belief, I was never able to do the splits or any crazy pretzel postures, and had a hard time thinking of myself as “excessively flexible”. BUT I was overly flexible for MY body and years of “lengthening” through yoga and dance had weakened my muscles to the point of not functioning. It was like my hamstrings had become a rubber band that over time had lost elasticity. They were no longer responsive to the demands of movement, and their loose-ness caused me pain.

Now I want to be clear that there is nothing wrong with yoga.  It’s simply that yoga – like any repetitive physical activity  done over time – will dole out specific stimulation and specific wear and tear if it’s the only exercise that you do.  And every body is different, we all have weak links that must be addressed for better, pain free movement.  My yoga practice had created some weak links – If I wanted to really take care of my body, then I needed to make a change. And what my body needed more of was STRENGTH.

My rehab involved getting on the weight room floor and reuniting with my hips, glutes, hamstrings, and core. I  needed to restore the power in my muscles to stabilize my joints.  While yoga involves some bodyweight strength postures, it is not enough to balance out the muscles. To build real-world strength, you have to use real-world resistance.  I worked with a coach. I did squats. I deadlifted. I swung kettle bells.  My heart ached for yoga, but I worked to find my flow with the weights. The cross-training was what healed my injury and gave me the stability to eventually return to yoga without pain.

yoga injury

Working with weights has allowed me to build strength, bolster muscle awareness, and return to a pain free body. Now my goal is integrated movement, to work from a place of  equal amounts of flexibility and strength. I have learned that flexibility without strength is out of balance, and strength without flexibility is too.  Adding resistance training to my weekly routine has been a revelation. My body feels good. I have an ease of movement I’ve never had before. Best of all, I have reclaimed and retrained my BUTT muscle, which gives me the power to make everything better 🙂

yoga injury

strength training to avoid injury

Three years later I am happy to say I am able to do all the activities I love with ease, gratitude, and joy. I’ve returned to my yoga practice with a great deal of humility.  I use props, bend my knees, and do a lot of standing poses.  I no longer sink into every posture, I practice with my mind awake and my ears wide open.

yoga injury

Avoid painful yoga injury!

And wouldn’t you know: yoga still has some surprises up its sleeve. Even though I’m returning to essentially same practice I left, my body feels radically different.  Hamstrings are happy, low back is happy, and I continue to learn new things every day on the mat.

I wanted to share this story with you incase you are struggling with pain too. It took me 6 months to figure out why my hip hurt. I am thankful I had physical therapists, coaches, and teachers who helped enlighten me to my body’s unique structure. Everybody is different. Don’t ignore what you need or follow a cookie cutter approach – find OUT. Listen to your body and never stop learning how to take care of yourself. It’s an ongoing process but when you build body awareness, listen, and respect what you hear you can nurture your body for the rest of your life.

Are you a dancer, yogi, woman, or mover who has struggled with pain from being too bendy or needing stability? Leave your story as a comment below, Id love to hear from you. And please feel free to pass this post along to others, I know I would have LOVED having access to this information when I couldn’t figure out the cause of my pain. For more literature on Over-Stretching and Yoga Injury, check out these articles:

Moral of the story : LISTEN to your body and move with intention, respect, and love. After all, its the only body you’ve got. Take care of it and enjoy movement for the rest of your life.

With lots of love,

Caroline

DISCLAIMER: This post is my own personal experience and research on yoga and stretching related injuries. If you suspect you have an injury please seek advice and care from your doctor. Here to support you in living pain free in any way possible 🙂 Since writing this article I have received many emails and comments from others who have dealt with yoga injury or pain from too much stretching . I am here to support you in any way I can in finding pain free movement and taking care of your body. I hope my story serves you in living well and having healthy muscles.

Want to build a balanced body? Check out my book, Balanced Body Breakthrough and get your mind, body, and spirit in great shape so you can love your life.

Other Things To Check Out:

11 thoughts on “How I got my Butt Back. A Surprising Yoga Injury Experience

  • By Soodie - Reply

    Hi Caroline,

    I have had hip pain for quite some time. I always wondered if, and suspected that, I was overdoing something! Like you, I have not wanted to admit it might be yoga/over-stretching. It is great to hear your experience and how you addressed it.

    Thanks so much for sharing,
    Soodie

    • By carichic - Reply

      Soodie! Thank you for your comment. I highly recommend investing in yourself and working with physical therapists / coaches who you know and trust. It can be LIFE changing to have expert eyes help you learn about your unique body and how to take care of it. Let me know what I might be able to do to help support you! Much love your way <3

  • By JJ - Reply

    Caroline,
    I too had the same problem. I took up cycling and at the same time added yoga…thinking the stretching would balance out the tight hips from cyclilng. After some time I started to get hip pain and sciatica . I assumed it was cycling causing the pain and I took some time off the bike and stayed in the yoga room. The pain continued. I consulted the help of a PT and she commented that I was not activating my glutes…I really was unabe to connect with my glutes… all of my power was coming from my hip flexors! After working with her relearning how to activate the glutes. I went on a 60 mile ride…using my glutes to push the pedal and guess what after that ride – no pain! Recently I want back to yoga and after doing some forward folds, warrior ones and cobras ( which I think are not good poses for some of my particular spine/pelvis issues) the pain has returned. I’m still working with my PT and hope to add yoga back (with the right poses for me). Do you have any vidoes of you doing some glute strengthing exercises? Thanks for you post it was great to see that is was not only me experiencing this problem.

    • By carichic - Reply

      Thank you so much for your comment and for taking the time to share your story! I am here to support you in strengthening your flutes and living a powerful life always 🙂 Check out my youtube channel for some great bodyweight strength. This is a good start: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lbD7SwaSTEg . SO many videos on hips, flutes, and core to find on my channel. Let me know if you try them and what you think! Hope to share some squats in person with you soon 🙂

  • By Michaelle Edwards - Reply

    Hi Caroline, thanks for mentioning my article When Flexibility becomes a Liability. Yoga poses such as forward bends with the knees straight keep the glutes from firing. They stress the necessary ligament tension needed to keep the hip joint stable and there is no reason to do them. Alway bend over with your knees and hips flexed but not your spine. Please check out my book YogAlign which shows people how to practice yoga and be strong from the inner core. My students get beautiful aligned posture, freedom from pain, and stable joints. Yoga poses are based on linear right angle positions that do not honor the curves of the human body. Many people hang from their ligaments in poses like down dog and triangle. My practice is full of people with yoga injuries and some do not wake up in time like you did and need hip surgeries to repair the damage from lacking stability in the hips. please take my yoga injury survey at http://www.yogainjuries.com

  • By Preet - Reply

    Hi Caroline, thanks for sharing. I have been doing yoga for last couple of years and love it. But I have started getting injuries. To start with my left shoulder and now my left glutes. And I need to start muscular strength activity but not sure what should I start with? Any suggestions

    • By carichic - Reply

      Hello! Yes strength training is the secret to living without pain! Start by working with a coach or personal trainer. This will teach you the foundation you need to set you up to be strong and injury free for life! Email me at : carolinejordanfitness@gmail.com for more 🙂

  • By Whitney Dion - Reply

    Thank you so much for posting this. It truly has opened my eyes aka accept my current situation. 😉 I’ve had hip pain for the last year thinking it was from running, so I backed off that completely but of course kept up with my hot power yoga as I’d been doing 4-7 times a week for the last 3-4 years. As of recent, I’ve contracted the “yoga butt injury”. Injuries truly wake up our bodies & tell us to listen & the yoga butt injury really did just that. I’m in such fear of causing more tear that I am not sure which exercises to do & to definitely not do. I understand forward fold is a huge no go. I’ve read locust & backbends then icing after are great for strengthening but I’d like to do as you did & get active again. This rest is killing me…I’m afraid I’m going to gain some nasty lbs. I’ll check out your YouTube channel as you’ve mentioned above. Any other suggestions? In the mean time, THANK YOU FOR THIS POST!!!!!!!!!

    • By admin - Reply

      Whitney – Ive been there and feel your pain! You need to restore strength and stability to the muscles. A strength + PT exercise program designed for YOUR body will help you stay active and recover faster. Let me know if I can help you further through this! You can email me at carolinejordanfitness@gmail.com

  • By anna - Reply

    Hi Caroline!
    I used to be a gym junkie in my 20’s and 30’s and then five years ago a friend took me to a Bikram yoga class and I loved it and was hooked. So for the last five years I have just been practicing Bikram and Vinyasa yoga. But in the last year I have suffered with painful hip, and backside. So I went to an Osteopath who has helped me become almost pain free. And I became even more self aware of how my body works as a whole. At the last consultation with him he told me I had very flexible hamstrings and that I need to strengthen them up to protect my knee joints.
    Hence, I came across your hamstring strengthen video via a search on Google looking for exercises I could do at home and incorporate this with my yoga. And then I found your blog and your words, story resonated with me. Thank you for sharing.
    I also wanted to say a massive thank you for your video of strengthening the hamstrings (which I will start doing today!).
    I have now signed up for your blog and I look forward to reading more of your words/thoughts/tips/ideas. I love the way you write and I am so glad that Google steered me in your direction.
    Namaste Anna

    • By admin - Reply

      What a wonderful comment!! thank you for sharing your story and kind words with me Anna. Im happy Google connected us too and cant wait to share more goodness with you!

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