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Om to Ouch: Injuries Increase, Is it Crummy Teachers? Does Yoga Need Regulation?

in In Class, YD News

And here comes the bad news: BEWARE yoga can hurt you! While any physical activity, like say walking for example, can sometimes put you at risk of hurting yourself, yoga has the special added bonus of some semi-awkward poses and an onslaught of enthusiastic yoga teachers who may or may not be thoroughly trained and who may or may not instruct you into some compromising positions. Does this mean we need regulation? Can you really trust your yoga teacher? Will we ever feel safe again?? The CBS news team is hot on the case, and reports that “a lack of regulation in the yoga industry could be putting you at risk” and zeros in on random online certification programs for the low low price of $69.99. BOOM you’re a yoga teacher! Congratulations!

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the number of yoga injuries rose from more than 3,700 in 2004 to more than 4,400 in 2006.

“It is the wild west when it comes to yoga certification. There are no national, state regulatory agencies that cover yoga instructors,” says Marc Rabinoff, personal trainer expert man. “Ludicrous and dangerous” he continues in response to the online certification, terrifying us all.

While the licensing battle over government regulated teacher training has been fought and won in states like NY and VA, is there still an outstanding issue of what and how those teachers are trained? But wait, we thought yoga already had a standards and practices body. Don’t studios and yoga teachers pay dues to something known as the Yoga Alliance so they can be “registered”? Hm. What DO they do over there at YA?

The NYTimes did an article on this last month (also called ‘When Yoga Hurts’) where they interviewed specialists on the influx of the overstretched and/or under-guided yoga students who turn up at the doctor complaining of aches and pains post “stretching and breathing”. So why the hurts?

“Yoga is a good thing, so you tend to push further than you would in a sport where you are actually more attuned to injury and afraid of injuries,” said Dr. Michelle Carlson, an orthopedic surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan who specializes in arms and hands. She said she recently “saw four women in a row in my office with hand injuries from yoga.”

OK, but why?

“The most common form of injury is the overzealous student,” said Dr. Loren Fishman, a spine specialist, yoga teacher and medical director of Manhattan Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. “The second most common reason for injury is poor alignment, and that is usually crummy teaching.”

Crummy teachers and hyperactive students. Do we need regulation for these troublemakers? Better meditate on that. And make it snappy.


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5 comments… add one
  • Jason

    Fear mongering by the media….there are many sports out there with a ton of injuries and a loosely regulated trainer / teacher programs. They fitness expert look like he needs to get a little more fitness time in himself…What kind of certification does he have to be a yoga expert?…lol

  • L

    I’d like to see the # of injuries in proportion to the # of people doing yoga in those stats, just out of curiosity. I am a yoga student and teacher, and I am constantly trying to express to people to listen to their bodies, to know their limits and to know when to back off from a pose. But some students will still push through, no matter what you as a teacher say. There is a certain amount of responsibility that the teacher should take to prevent injuries, but there is also a certain amount of responsibility that the students must take on as well. I doubt that all of those injuries listed in the video were a result of poor teaching alone.

  • One of my favourite things to share with students: Most — not all, but most — yoga injuries occur when coming *out* of a pose. What does this mean? I have been in many many many classes where teachers offer a great amount of details and assists to get into a posture, and then perhaps deeper into a posture. Their exit cue? “Release the pose”. The exit injury can also occur if a student has gone too deeply and ‘collapses’ because they don’t have enough strength or balance to maintain a posture.

    I encourage every beginner yogi to learn about mula bandha and engage your core when you come out of every posture. If you protect your core, you can avoid many injuries.

    It’s funny that supposedly people are more attuned in “other sports” (unlike the sport of yoga?)… when yoga practice is intrinsically bringing attunement to the subtleties of the body. I don’t think it’s the nature of yoga that creates these vulnerabilities, rather it’s the way we practice and teach.

    Goal-oriented yoga, where it is assumed every student wishes to — and every *body* is able to — achieve the “highest” forms, feeds the tendency for our beloved type As to ignore their own limits. After all, achieving lotus pose will make me a better person/yogi/meditator/human than half-lotus pose, right? I think it is important to have more dialogue amongst teachers — and cross-disciplinary dialogue, among ashtangis and iyengarites, and kripalu and anusara teachers, etc. And it would be great if students were encouraged to practice strength and power yogas as well as restorative yogas. To find balance. That they challenge themselves not just in the way they think they need (bigger biceps). This taps into the deeper question, that the yoga dorkess delves into often regarding this North American version of yoga: where and how is the spiritual challenge of yoga as we deal increasingly with a consumer culture that wants what it expects?

    I’m not sure we can be certified in training to assist the ego, without becoming licensed therapists in addition to our certification. People injure themselves running because they push too hard, same with yoga. More people are running. Many never get any instruction in running, but there’s no one else to blame for those shin splints and blown knees. I guess the American cult of ir(responsibility) strikes again.

  • Ifeel sorry for these misinformed problems accruing in the so called Yoga exercises. Let us be first clear that Yoga is not synonymous for Asanas, which is the third limb of Patanjali’s Ashatanga Yoga Sutras. I am sure that the Yoga teachers and students alike, understand this basic difference.

    Having said that, coming to Yoga implying Asanas, that is why, Patanjali stressed on the Yamas and Niyamas before getting on the Asanas and Pranayamas. It is important. Because it is a holistic exercise, not just for mere bending and stretching but the exercise for mind and soul as well.

    It is this lack of awareness, that some students are talking of ego in this programme. Ego in either party is prohibited at any point in the whole programme. It is covered in Yamas and Niyamas. Hence I have said that it is not a fast food service type of catering to the demands of a fashion shop type business.

    Having said it, both the teacher and student must realise its wholesome purpose. I am aware of the controversies and rumours spread against the practice of Yoga.

    We cannot get away with two things or facts. Yogas originated in India from times immemorial and it has nothing to do with Hinduism as religion at all. This sense of guilt must be defiled from the mind. It is unfortunate that some competing religious houses are trying to spread hate rumours. I have no comments on it except that it is unfortunate.

    Practicing Asanas with Pranayama besides the preceding limbs of Patanjali Yoga Sutra, it will energise you perfectly that is unbelievable.
    Only those who have practiced it, would know the value of my statement.

    Lastly, like any other physical exercise, one should know their own limit. It is bound to vary with individuals undeniably. If you are in doubt, please discuss it with your instructor prior to actually starting it. If still in doubt, consider taking an expert medical advice.

    Once you start it, a good teacher would always instruct to take it easy and will never push. “No pain, no gain” is correct but not in the initial stages. First tuning is essential. Having done that, a little extra, I repeat it, a little extra strain is required to loosen the strained muscles and joints to clear their rot. Without that, the whole aim of exercise will be defeated.

    Hence the rules are: (1) Start slow but steady over the period of weeks (2) Individual requirements must be taken care of (3) No copycating others is a good rule (4) Later on, a little pain, for little gain, is a good rule (5) If in doubt, don’t than do, should be the rule to avoid harm (6) Coordination of breathing sync with the various phases of Asanas must not be violated or else it may lead to depletion of the vital energy than energising defeating the whole purpose. (7) Over enthusiasm and haste must be avoided. (8) Exhaution and dehydration should be avoided (9) Either empty stomach or at least about three to four hours of a moderate meal is the best way. Overeating prior to any Yoga must be avoided.

    These are some of the rules that can help the beginners to avoid injuries in these practices. Do not forget that the injuries in any physical exercise is bound to happen if it is unaccustomed and over enthusiastic and unsupervised especially in the beginning. A care at every stage works like a stitch in time saves nine.

    I hope you all enjoy your Yogas. You may visit my articles on net as well as on my blog. God bless

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