About Contraindications & Alternatives

Lesson Overview

In this lesson, we introduce the vital subject of contraindications, cautions, and choosing pose alternatives.

Objective

Learn the importance of knowing and utilizing contraindications and cautions and understand how to wisely choose alternatives.

Description

Define contraindications and explain how they are different from cautions. Using the condition of sacroiliac (SI) joint pain, give an example of a contraindicated pose and a pose that is advised to be practiced with caution. Understand why knowing contraindications for key conditions may not be enough information to guide a student who has a particular condition. Provide considerations for choosing alternatives.

Introduction

Please Use with Care

  • Please take care to avoid implying that yoga teachers are qualified to give medical advice.
  • We’ve done our best to scour dozens of expert sources to bring you reliable information but, of course, we can’t guarantee that every possible consideration is provided here.

Please use your own training, experience and common sense when working with students.

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Contraindications vs. Cautions

The Basics

  1. To be contraindicated suggests that a particular technique should not be utilized. Contraindicated poses are those to be completely avoid when a condition is present.
  2. As differentiated from contraindications, there are cautions for practicing some poses when experiencing particular conditions. Cautions are considerations and issues to watch for so as to optimally practice a pose safely and effectively.
  3. In some cases, a full pose isn’t advised for a particular condition, but a variation is suitable. In such a case the pose would not be contraindicated; rather, it would have a cautionary note.
  4. For example, when practicing with sacroiliac (SI) joint pain, Janu Sirsasana (Head to Knee Pose) is contraindicated because no matter which variations are practiced, it will tend to aggravate the condition. In the case of Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose), however, there is a suggested way to practice the pose when experiencing SI joint issues. Therefore, it is not contraindicated, but has cautions.

Teaching Implications

  1. Thus, contraindications do not “tell the whole story” of how to safely practice with a condition. Rather, they are the baseline for reducing the greatest risk.
  2. Next, it’s necessary to be aware of pose cautions such as in the example above regarding practicing Downward Facing Dog when experiencing SI joint issues.

Teaching Guidelines

Alternatives

When a pose is contraindicated, teachers will ideally be prepared to give students a thoughtful alternative. When choosing an alternative, consider

  1. The heart / purpose of the pose.
  2. Its role in the sequence at that particular place.
  3. Why the pose is not appropriate for this student at this time.

Be Prepared

  • It’s practically impossible to remember contraindications for every possible condition a student may be experiencing. Therefore, it’s advisable to always have a contraindications index with you.