It’s all over the interweb. This article from the New York Times, How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body, has got the yogis talking to say the least. I thought the article was a little one-sided and harsh about the dangers of injuring yourself on the yoga mat, but I understand what it feels like to injur yourself and the frustration it brings. I’ve dealt with hip pain after cardio kickboxing, knee pain after a running stint, neck pain from life and yoga, low back pain from being a desk jockey. In many ways I think it’s just part of the human condition. Our bodies are amazing feats of genetic engineering, but they are fragile, they age, and will one day will completely degenerate back to the earth. Do we really think we won’t have issues with our bodies, that they aren’t fragile? I feel strongly that people need to be nicer to themselves in yoga, that it’s not an athletic competition, that you can gain strength and mobility without torturing yourself.
I enjoyed this quote from the article which makes a good point about how different it is to practice yoga today in the west: “Indian practitioners of yoga typically squatted and sat cross-legged in daily life, and yoga poses, or asanas, were an outgrowth of these postures. Now urbanites who sit in chairs all day walk into a studio a couple of times a week and strain to twist themselves into ever-more-difficult postures despite their lack of flexibility and other physical problems. Many come to yoga as a gentle alternative to vigorous sports or for rehabilitation for injuries.”
And I really appreciate a response to the article from Sadie Nardini, another yoga teacher. I love that she included some great questions to consider and also some resources for teachers and students to become better informed. Some good quotes from Sadie:
“Yoga injuries? OK, so a lot of yoga injuries don’t bring people to the ER, but neither do many cycling injuries, which chalk up around 580,000 emergency room visits a year, according to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission. I’m still waiting to see a “Can Cycling Wreck Your Body” story, one that would be more appropriate for more readers.”
“People can get hurt anytime they move, and sometimes even if they don’t. For example, other proven causes of injury, stroke, nerve damage, and death (involving many more cases than yoga, by the way) are: eating, having sex, running, walking, cycling, dancing, traveling, …”
And a quote that hits home and is nice reminder for me, a fairly green yoga teacher in all honesty: “From what I’ve seen, so many of our yoga instructors at every level could use a refresher course in the anatomy of yoga and movement, say, from a credible–and anatomically correct–expert. Not an expert in classical pose shapes, but in actual human anatomy and the anatomy of movement. In my opinion, there are way too many teachers out there with way too little anatomy experience.
I think Sadie sums it up nicely with this “I’d like to pose the question: Should you shy away from yoga because it could possibly, somehow tweak your body? My educated answer to you would be: Absolutely not.”