Yoga After Whiplash

Written by Heather C. Lancaster | 10/9/18

My practice was reaching new advancements. I had just started yoga teacher training at a local yoga studio and that's when it happened. I got into a collision with another car.

After what seemed like the longest day in history, dealing with paperwork, my car and the other driver (who was okay thankfully),  I went home. That's when it really hit me, and not just mentally either. For the first time that day, I truly felt like I was hit by a big brutal metal box.

I could feel it in my entire spine. I felt weak, sore, and extremely delicate. The first thing that struck me as my health started deteriorating …

“What about yoga?”

What About Yoga?

Research shows that doing yoga to lengthen, twist, and enhance the spine right after a car accident can result in extreme turmoil for the body. You can slip a disk, ruin the alignment of your spine, and contribute to further permanent injuries that would require constant attention for practically the remainder of your life.

Suffering from whiplash trickles down your entire spine. The impact from a car accident in and of itself will result in internal bruising or bleeding, joint pain, muscle ache, and inconsistent brain function.

Starting the day after the accident, I fully felt all of these symptoms, besides internal bleeding thankfully. What you came here to find out … is when it's safe to start practicing yoga again.

Photo by Jen Armstrong


Based on my own recent personal experience, I took the liberty of documenting what my body told me day-by-day. Please note that your body may be different and require less or more healing time. I recommend listening very carefully to every joint, muscle ache, and nerve to see when you're allowed to move again.  

Day of Car Accident: No yoga. Rest. Do not stretch. Do not twist. Do not lift anything over 5 lbs. Drink plenty of water. Sleep on your back with neck fully supported.

Day 1: No yoga. Best remedy was an Epsom Salt Bath! This will release a majority of the toxins from your muscles, reducing soreness and pain. Might be a little dizzy and feel lightheaded. Avoid caffeine.

Day 2: No yoga. Hot and cold compresses. Medicine for the spine might have to be taken into consideration. No stretching or twisting movements! No fast movements like looking a certain direction too fast. Get lots of sleep. You'll feel a lot more tired than usual.    

Day 3: Still no yoga, I know this is rough. Support your neck and spine as you sit and don't stand for long periods of time. Hot and cold compresses. Medicine. Might feel very fatigued still.

Day 4: Slow neck movements like looking from shoulder to shoulder, chin to chest (slowly), and even slowly taking the gaze up will help your Cervical Spine retain proper alignment. These physical therapy movements should be taken slowly and should only be done for a few minutes each.

Yoga Poses I tried on this day:

Seated Forward Fold, Seated Tree, Standing Forward Fold, Prayer Squat, and Ragdoll were all asanas that didn't develop too much soreness in the body the next day. Everything else hurt and so I listened closely to each movement that made my body say "Stop.”

Photo by Timothy Dykes

Tips to Save Your Practice:

  1. Avoid any twisting motions of the spine until week #3

  2. Epsom Salt Baths are life. At least once a week for a month.

  3. Drink more water than a fish, especially if you are pushing yourself to get back into your practice.

  4. Wait for at least a full 7 days off after your car accident before getting back to your mat. This could make or break your practice!!!

  5. Take a pillow to work for your back. Even a travel neck pillow to support your neck during the long hours. Recommend to not go to work for a few days if you can honestly.  

  6. Ice and Heating Pads every day for the first week are a must.

  7. Practice easy poses or a slow-moving flow at home first before getting back to a studio space.

  8. The first full day you feel fully healed and ready to go is the ONE DAY YOU SHOULD NOT PUSH YOURSELF. Trust me, this set me back another week just thinking I could do Triangle pose or Plow pose again. It was almost like returning to day #2 on the pain scale.

  9. Take things easy for about a month after your accident in order to let your spine fully heal. Easy might mean little to no inversions or backbends depending on the severity of your injury.

  10. After your first class back in the studio, take another Epsom Salt Bath and use a heating pad to tell your body "It's okay."

Sleep off the brain fog and fatigue.

12. Above all else, listen to your own personal body and what it tells you it needs.

* My car accident was driving a sedan at 40mph, rear-ending the back of another sedan. My airbag and seatbelt caught me and I definitely blacked out. I didn't know the severity of my whiplash injuries until the next day.

Please use my experience to justify the pointers given in this article, as your car accident may look completely different and require an entirely different approach. The best thing to do for anyone just out of a car accident though is to LISTEN to your body.*