IT SOUNDS like a bit of a stretch, but yoga may not be all it’s cracked up to be.

While many will rattle off the benefits of this ancient practice – such as calming, healing, strengthening and enhancing moods – it seems yoga can have a dark and unhealthy side as well.

Those taking part in the exercise have come off second best with some people, especially men, suffering fractures, dislocations and in extreme cases even shattered backs.

According to William J Broad, New York Times reporter and author of The Science of Yoga: The Risks and the Rewards, it doesn’t stop there.

“Women are well known to be more flexible than men,” he wrote. “Macho guys, yoga teachers told me, too often used their muscles to force themselves into challenging poses and got hurt.”

But Mr Broad goes on to argue that women’s added flexibility could prove to be their undoing with extreme bends resulting in serious wear and tear on the hips.

One yoga teacher in Hawaii told him that “chronic stress could develop into agonising pain and, in some cases, the need for urgent hip repairs”.

He then called some of America’s top surgeons who revealed hundreds of women were turning up at offices across the US with unbearable pain and needing expensive surgery to repair hip damage.

Jon Hyman, an orthopedic surgeon in Atlanta, told him yoga had a relatively high incidence of injury and those who came to see him hadn’t been injured doing Zumba or tai chi.

The news is unlikely to deter celebrity followers, including Madonna, who credits yoga for helping her maintain a body many years her junior.

Australian Medical Association president Steve Hambleton said he wasn’t aware of any rise or concerns regarding hip injuries among yoga devotees here.

He said like any exercise, yoga was fine in moderation and that stretching shouldn’t involve tearing or injury.
Dr Hambleton said yoga was supposed to be relaxing, not injury inducing, and urged followers not to overdo it.