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Yoga boom sparks injury worries

By CNN's Shantelle Stein

Celebrity endorsements have helped fuel yoga's popularity.
Celebrity endorsements have helped fuel yoga's popularity.

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LONDON, England (CNN) -- The ancient Indian practice of yoga is booming in today's Western societies, sparking fears that ill-qualified teachers could be causing more harm than good.

While nobody doubts the correct practice of yoga can provide many physical and mental health benefits, its popularity is creating a shortage of appropriately qualified teachers.

"Anyone can set up a yoga and pilates class and they don't have to have any prior qualification. That's why it's really important to ask about a teacher's qualification before they start a class," Emma Copeland, from Britain's Consumer Association tells CNN.

"We'd say several years is a good measure. If someone has just gone on a weekend course or a short course to teach pilates or yoga, it is not enough."

A consumer report out this month in Britain's "Health Which? Magazine" claims that yoga and pilates taught incorrectly can pose serious health risks.

Some are now calling for the regulation of both exercise programs

That would mean ensuring that all instructors go through proper, recognized training before being able to teach.

There are an estimated 20 million people in the United States and half a million people in Britain practising yoga.

And in a quick-fix society, where the pressure is on to see the results, experts say there may be certain yogic postures that can result in injury.

"The importance is staying in shape and being physically fit -- and in a well rounded way --and yoga is an aspect that can help," chirpractor Anthony Jakubowski says.

"However, because of the great incidence of lower back pain our society, the sufferers will look at yoga as a help ... but what will happen is they will get worse."

The emergence of yoga as a boom industry in the West has been spurred by celebrity endorsements from the likes of pop stars such as Madonna and former Spice girl Geri Halliwell.

Hard to regulate

But yoga has been around for several thousand years, emerging first in India. The word "yoga" translates as "to balance".

There are numerous forms of yoga -- hatha, ashthanga, lyengar, and bikram -- some of which are more rigorous and demanding than others.

Yoga has been practised in India for thousands of years.
Yoga has been practised in India for thousands of years.

Hatha yoga is the generic name for the practise of yoga postures.

It is these variations which make the industry extremely difficult to regulate.

But there are those that argue that it's yoga's ancient lineage which helps preserve its integrity.

"Yoga is actually regulated. It is regulated through the tradition," director of the Sivanada Yoga Center, Frank Schneider, says.

"The purity of the teacher ensures that the student is taught in the proper way and through the sincerity of the student the teachings are again propogated in the right spirit."

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