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Yoga is definitely not safe


kim on 12:21 pm January 9th, 2012 / 4 Comments »

I am working on the most compassionate response to the New York Times article from January 5, but it’s difficult.

This is an embarrassment to journalism. It’s not even news: It’s a personal piece written by a man who has practiced yoga an undefined number of times, who based on his individual experience has sought out others’ views to validate his own. Reading the article was like watching Fox News Channel.

The goal of yoga postures is to address “underlying physical weaknesses or problems that make serious injury all but inevitable.” To use the body, or NOT to use the body in this life, is to face what we come in with. Our genetic code + our parents’ way of being + early-childhood experiences + myriad other unknown influences = injury and problems. Sitting on the couch and crossing the street can be equally hazardous. Therefore, to engage in a yoga asana practice is necessarily to take on — and for some of us to take “head” on, as headstand is ominously referenced by William — the risk of living in the body.

William uses as his main source a guy who “acknowledges that he has no formal training for determining which poses are good for a student.” Does this mean Glenn Black is not a formally trained yoga teacher? If I didn’t run a yoga studio, I would have stopped reading here.

While it’s totally true that we are shaped in modern day by the chair, and not by squatting, it is a blatant misunderstanding of what the rest of us are doing in yoga class to say that “urbanites … strain and twist themselves into ever-more-difficult postures.” Some do. And many don’t. Our journalist goes on to quote the untrained teacher saying, “many schools … are just about pushing people.” Some people need to be pushed, and that’s what they sign up for when they take class. Being pushed can help you lose 1o pounds. It will help you tone your abs (Hey 1045 am 1/7 Boundless Yoga class — like I said! :) ) in ways you won’t do on your own. It can help you feel part of a larger effort, in which everyone around you is working hard to be better.

This leads me to the main weirdness of this article by a guy who is just too worried. “The yoga community” that “long remained silent about its potential to inflict blinding pain” (is he serious with the inflicting and the blinding pain.) has in fact done just the opposite. Texts far more ancient than Black’s surgery-inducing practice warn all over the place against the dangers of yoga. It’s a serious practice, and it can f* you up if you don’t respect your teacher, and if you don’t respect yourself and pay attention — just as Black points out, and William thankfully includes early on the article.

The yoga community I am part of includes teachers who have studied for many years. Some have been injured, and just as many have not. The injuries arise for two reasons: 1) The too-trusting student is in a class with an untrained teacher who is not paying attention. This means the teacher is giving instruction to a faceless, nameless group of people that live in his/her head — s/he is really teaching to no one but himself or herself, to satisfy his/her own ego. The student trusts this person to be paying attention and “goes too far.” The student does not have enough confidence or knowledge, or OMG just inner wisdom, NOT to move toward the injury. This is a sucky reality of parts of the yoga market. Today. And yesterday. And forever, because people always want more than what they have. As people, too, teachers are fallible BUT. It is up to the teacher to take on the sacred responsibility of “paying attention” more than anyone else in the classroom, and to teach her/his students to pay attention. This can only come with training. Formal training for chrissake.

The 2) way that students might injure themselves in a yoga class is in fact if they are doing yoga in someone else’s body: a body they wish they had, one they used to have, one they will never have. They are doing yoga inside the body of the ego, which does not consist of the bones, muscle and gristle (or for that matter, the OOH SO SCARY NECK WHERE STROKES START!). Ignoring the message of the breath, which is designed to be the lie detector for the brain, they keep going, over years and years (like Glenn Black and William Broad), when their body continues to tell them to stop, or to slow down, or just to do something different. This student will injure himself/herself no matter what teacher is in front of them.

The bottom line is yoga saves lives. It is helping to save the planet. The teeny percentage of people injuring themselves in yoga are doing so because they are using the body, AND they are trying to do so in a healthier way. What could not be published in a newspaper that has fewer readers than there are yoga practitioners is that injuries can actually be OK. They are sometimes just part of the practice.

What should have been published in this article is that injuries are totally avoidable. If you align your movement with your breath, and you allow yourself to learn from a well-trained teacher, you will always use yoga to transform into being happier, healthier, and better balanced. Yoga teaches you to listen to your body, and the body never lies.



This entry was posted on Monday, January 9th, 2012 at 12:21 pm and is filed under . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

4 Responses to “Yoga is definitely not safe”

  1. This is also a great response to the NY times article —

    “Six Reasons To Ignore The ‘New York Times’ Yoga Article”

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