Saturday, January 7, 2012

Yoga Hurts

Ouch.  I’ll tell you what hurts.  Typing those two title words hurts. 
As a yoga business owner I devote many hours of my day to developing a suitable practice for my clients.  I also practice on the mat.  Rolling out my mat is sometimes what keeps me sane and balanced in my very busy world.  So, needless to say, this week’s focus on the dangers of yoga in the New York Times  stopped me dead in my Tadasana tracks.
Only temporarily.
I read the article quite a few times.  I tried to be appreciative of the information.  But again and again the injury examples caused me to raise an eyebrow.  They weren’t talking about someone practices yoga to gain strength, agility, balance, and emotional connectedness.  The article consistently referred to the extremists (who holds a pose for 50 minutes?), and the teachers who, driven by their ego, push their students past the point of safety. Mention was also made to the fact that urbanites can’t sit at a desk all day and then come to a class expecting to practice certain poses that can be considered advanced.  I’m sorry but ……Duh.
Another point not touched upon was the fact that any fitness activity (ignoring the observation that yoga is so much more than a fitness opportunity) is a risk.  Running, skiing, lifting weights……all have a risk of injury.  And yet, let’s take a moment and weigh the risk of injury of NOT exercising.
One other response:  there are thousands of articles (take a look here at one great one here) that promote the health (physical and mental) benefits of yoga.  There was no mention of that in The New York times.  And the number of reported yoga injuries considering the huge growth of the practice is still very minimal. 
I obviously did not love the article. Respectfully however I think it was a good reminder as a teacher to always emphasize the mindfulness of the practice, to observe ahimsa (non-violence to self, others, and through our intentions), and to just plain be observant in the class setting.  I may not be able to control a competitive personality that may want to push through a pose but I can thoughtfully encourage yogis to listen to the cues of their own bodies.  This article was a good reminder.

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