Thursday, April 24 2014 3:47 PM EDT2014-04-24 19:47:30 GMT
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But for former yoga enthusiast Michael Conti, a once-active lifestyle of traveling with his wife and hiking with his son is over. He says he now lives his life in pain, and he blames yoga.
"I thought maybe I tweaked my knee or something, and then it turned out to be much more serious than just a meniscus problem," Conti said. "It turned out to be nerve damage."
After reading "The Science of Yoga: The Risks and the Rewards," Conti wrote to its author, William Broad.
"That letter became a turning point," Broad said. "I slapped myself on the forehead. I can remember doing this and thinking, ‘Wow. Most of the letters I'm getting about serious injuries have been from guys.'"
Broad began investigating federal data on emergency room visits for yoga-related injuries. Although men only made up 16 percent of his study, they accounted for 20 percent of the strains, 24 percent of the dislocations, 30 percent of the fractures, and a whopping 71 percent of nerve damage injuries linked to yoga.
By contrast, women only accounted for the vast majority of fainting episodes.
Sports Specialist Dr. Tanya Hagan says in general, there could be a few reasons for this.
"Men, with their increased muscle mass and decreased flexibility, are pushing those joints beyond their appropriate physiologic limits," Hagan said.
So should men stop doing yoga, or stretch differently?
Dr. Hagan says no, but they may need to cut back on the competition.
"Women see it as relaxation and a release," she said. "Men are often coming to it with a competitive edge, with, ‘I can push it harder.'"
Jonathan Creamer has a website, Yoga for Men, and is a yoga instructor. He points out that people shouldn't expect to be able to walk into a studio and pose perfectly.
"People don't get that," Creamer said. "They see the magazine covers, they see the pretty postures, and they think they need to be doing that."
Studies show most yoga injuries occur in class, rather than at home. Broad tells us men tend to pit their strength against their inflexibility and injure themselves. He believes some men need to be reminded that ‘gritting your teeth and pushing through' isn't yoga.