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Yoga Injuries and Battered Egos, ‘How Yoga Wrecks the Body’ via The New York Times

in Business of Yoga, Thanks for the tip, YD News

Let us start by saying articles like this one in The New York Times entitled ‘How Yoga Wrecks the Body’ always amuse us. Why? Because if you did anything, like walking on the street, unconsciously, there’s a risk of being runover by a truck, tripping and breaking a hip or biting your lip chewing gum.

Just looking at the photo attached with the article (it’s members of the cast of ‘Godspell’ the musical, btw) and we want to yell, no! stop it! Who is your teacher anyway?! More on that in a second.

Then again, if we naively accept that yoga (as in asana) is all-healing and that you don’t have to be conscious while practicing, just relenting your body to the powers or the power-driven teachers that be, then we’re setting ourselves up for a world of pain.

But as more people flock to yoga class for various reasons, the chances for risk and reported injuries rise. And with it the question arises: When an injury happens in yoga class, whose fault is it? The short answer is: it depends. Then there’s the hubbub lately over the quantity and quality of yoga teachers on the scene today, and their training or lack thereof.

But according to veteran yoga teacher Glenn Black, many of the problems and injuries in yoga class have a lot to do with ego, on both sides.

Many come to yoga as a gentle alternative to vigorous sports or for rehabilitation for injuries. But yoga’s exploding popularity — the number of Americans doing yoga has risen from about 4 million in 2001 to what some estimate to be as many as 20 million in 2011 — means that there is now an abundance of studios where many teachers lack the deeper training necessary to recognize when students are headed toward injury. “Today many schools of yoga are just about pushing people,” Black said. “You can’t believe what’s going on — teachers jumping on people, pushing and pulling and saying, ‘You should be able to do this by now.’ It has to do with their egos.”

We could go on. OK we will. Teachers, you can stop leading us into visvamitrasana, A) without sufficient warm-up and B) just because you could stretch your legs overhead since birth and have abnormally elastic hamstrings and can whip that thing out on the subway platform. And then tell us to flutter and melt things.

Black also adds the factor of over-aggressive yogis:

“…‘Asana is not a panacea or a cure-all. In fact, if you do it with ego or obsession, you’ll end up causing problems.’ A lot of people don’t like to hear that.”

“…but..I…just…have…to…get…the…binnnnd…”

We’re going to add one more factor, because we’re troublemakers like that. Just yesterday one of those deal emails landed in our inbox. It touted a crazy cheap steal on a month of unlimited classes called Mindbody Bootcamp and Circuit Power Yoga, which “combines the extreme calorie burning of a full-body workout with the rejuvenating benefits of yoga.” Poorly trained teachers are an issue, over zealous yogis can be troublesome, but classes that promote the “benefits of yoga” while simultaneously promising anything “extreme” are part of the problem, not the solution.

Our advice? Listen to your body. And read more things like this. Also, don’t you know less is more? What are you really trying to achieve? (ask yourself nicely)

We encourage you to check out the entire article in the New York Times Magazine, which is adapted from William J. Broad’s book “The Science of Yoga: The Risks and Rewards” out next month.

Take it easy, eh?

——

Earlier

31 comments… add one

  • Feists

    You should know your own body and what it is and is not capable of doing on any given day. You are in charge of your own body, not the teacher or the person on the mat next to you. This is your yoga journey not theirs.

  • Stewart Lawrence

    You’re talking about advanced practititioners. If you’re new to yoga, you need to be able to place some measure of trust in the teacher. If the teacher’s a raging narcissist, largely preening for their own benefit – and if she’s under 30 that’s almost a given – then you’re potentially in trouble. I am an advanced pravtititioner but I have several friends who were injured because they did poses that really don’t even exist – and in fact, the teachers were veterans. This si areal issue. And you’re completely wrong – it IS their journey, into emotional maturity and a wiser pedagogy, and the fact that you blithely dismiss that is scary. Most often the teacher is the real student.

  • Great commentary, YogaDork. I especially like this phrase: “… classes that promote the ‘benefits of yoga’ while simultaneously promising anything “extreme” are part of the problem, not the solution.” The “no pain, no gain” mantra that seems almost hard wired into our culture is largely responsible for yoga injuries. That, coupled with humongous classes and barely trained teachers is a recipe for a world of hurt. Asana is meant to bring the body to equilibrium so that the mind can become quiet. “Extreme” practice is the opposite of this.

    IMO, the root of the problem with yoga in the West is that asana has been severed from the rest of the system. When it’s practiced simply as a physical exercise, we will turn it into a competition, another avenue to practice the striving we do in all other areas of our lives. If we decided to practice just one of the yamas—ahimsa—in conjunction with our asana practice, the incidence of injury might decrease significantly. Ahimsa applies not just to our actions toward others; it starts with our relationship to ourselves.

  • JeffreyD

    Yes, but, part of the point of the article was Black was an extremely careful, well-trained veteran teacher who made a point of listening to his body, and still had to get major surgery done to correct the damages from yoga. Obviously a sample size of one, but it’s hardly the only tale of somebody getting hurt from yoga.

    Laughing at the article, and a defensive reaction like blaming it all on “power yogas” who aren’t as serious yogis as we are, is like we’re in some weird yoga cult or something. If this sort of thing can happen, we should all want to know all we can about it.

  • Stewart Lawrence

    No kididng. It’s amazing how obvious this is to the men in yogas, but to the women, ah, it’s all a misguided conspiracy, or one-sided broadside. Thanks, Brother.

  • I think it’s yogi hubris more than anything. When individuals come to an asana class purely for a workout, they are setting themselves up for injury. The most advanced yogi knows their limits and honors them.

    Namaste,
    Cailen

  • totally agree with Black and with Charlotte. have seen too many teachers lie on peoples’ backs in D. Dog or push their heels down because that’s the way is “should” be done. really?

    had an interesting conversation with my astrologer the other day who believes that the uberaddiction to the physical and the external is what will keep us from evolving…us being the collective us. and frankly, I think it will get a lot worse before it gets any better.

  • I think the biggest consistent problem is (as with *so* many situations) laziness. Yes, I especially mean those “power” addicts who put their ego before “deep work”. They may physically work like crazy and label themselves as the “Opposite of Lazy”, but when someone doesn’t have the emotional stamina and self-discipline to humbly/consistently/sensibly work to levels of “discomfort but not pain” while following well thought-out sequences sincerely (without “skipping to favourites”, stopping and starting, or straining to superficially impress rather than internally progress – to boost their ego, etc), then they are allowing their mind to be erratic, and are being emotionally lazy. I call them the “don’t teach me, just push me” brigade – a subset of the “don’t cure the cause, just give me a pill for the symptoms” demographic. That mentality always ends up backfiring, and – just to state the obvious – it is the antithesis of this science-of-the-mind called yoga (…Yogaś citta-vritti-nirodhaḥ…).

    The problem is bad enough when many beginning students are like that, because so many of those who start (with an experienced teacher who teaches them sincerely) eventually end up facing an uncomfortable truth about the need to improve their state of mind, which is too overwhelming for them, so they give up – blaming everyone but themselves. It really becomes dangerous though during times like now when yoga is so “trendy” and even many of the *teachers* maintain such attitudes and perspectives (due to getting on the bandwagon quickly rather than prioritising their own journey through yoga as a student first). It is physically (and emotionally) dangerous for students, and it has a dangerous impact on the reputation of yoga in general. Especially as an Astanga Vinyasa teacher I really wish no-one had coined the term “power yoga” – I have spent the last ten years having to convince many of my new students to drop the “power yoga” mentality when they start, and having to be on high alert in the meantime so they don’t do crazy things to themselves. It’s tiring. Of course the practise requires enormous amounts of work and energy, it just doesn’t require flash-in-the-pan spectacle – that just causes injuries and a bad atmosphere in the studio.

    Ironically, even looking at it purely physically, the only students I ever see going on to being capable of doing “impressive” things at higher levels were the ones who stopped trying to impress anyone, and often applied the “less is more” truism to their practise, but *kept going*. There is no magic pill, there is only sensible, sustained practise – which is oh so un-trendy – that is why so few people these days master it.

  • rbw

    wellllll, this is a tad difficult to write as a number of years ago i went to omega, did a course with mr. black and unless his style of teaching has changed.. i’m shocked.

    i remember thinking i was in bootcamp, and his main objective was by the end of the week to “have everyone get their head and heels to the floor in downward dog”….EVERYONE!!

    not my teaching style but different styles for different people works for me.

    i tell my students; “never compromise the pose to satisfy the ego” (not even if your head or heels don’t reach the floor)

    don’t do yoga?…really….? but yoga is such a gift…
    as a student, find the right yoga for you,
    (perhaps it’s a more gentle yoga) find the right qualified teacher for you, check your ego at the door…and have fun! unless you have severe heath issues, i say DO YOGA!

  • Sarah

    As someone who has gone through a severe injury from yoga (a hamstring tear a few months ago-although I think there were some pre-existing issues that would have probably have led me to it no matter what I did), this issue is definitely near and dear to me.

    After doing a pose I’ve done hundreds of times, my poor muscles just gave way. Months of no yoga and physical therapy later (people make sure you rehab your injuries correctly), I’m finally back to my asana practice. While it has, and continues to be a healing process, I am actually grateful and humbled by the experience. I am much more aware of my alignment, and making sure that I don’t let my ego get in my way of my practice. I am going through teacher training next month and as a teacher, I will take this experience to my students to hopefully prevent them from injuring themselves, and make them more aware of what their bodies can achieve in each moment.

  • hazel

    I’ve had my share in pain & minor injuries in some asanas. Yes, it’s ego – that I look better in asanas – that I go way, way beyond my limits. Partly cos the teacher pushes me so hard and I take it as a challenge.

    Lesson learned. I do take it easy from then on.

    Namaste.
    Hazel

  • Thank you YogaDork for a great commentary. There is without a doubt an important discussion to be had about the implications for the yoga teaching profession of the growing number of people flocking to yoga. In particular the influx of aging baby boomers is creating new demands on yoga teachers, which the original education standards were not designed to meet.
    At the same time, however, articles like William Broad’s NYT article doesn’t really help further the discussion. The article goes out of it’s way to cherry pick facts backing up the writer’s case, and never even mentions the hundreds and hundreds of studies documenting the health benefits of yoga. If yoga injuries were so common, surely this fact would have been picked up by those studies a long time ago.

    The factual basis of the article comes across as very shaky at best, at worst, as lacking integrity. Here are just some examples:
    - Most of the injury cases Broad refers to date back to the 1970s, when yoga was practiced with far more austerity than is the case in today’s yoga studios. Similarly, the tough-assed approach to teaching yoga, which appears to be Black’s trademark, is something few of today’s yoga teachers will relate to;
    -Broad notes the number of emergency room reported yoga injuries more than doubled from 13 in 2000 to 46 in 2002. However, since this was in a period where the number of practitioners increased dramatically, the statistic is meaningless without giving the percentage increase;
    -He fails to compare yoga injuries with other sports and fitness injuries (ignoring for the time being that yoga is not just a fitness approach). According to the same source as Broad uses, the Consumer Products Safety Commission, the number of hospital
    emergency room-treated injuries to boomers (at the time, persons 35 to 54) increased from just under 276,000 in 1991 to
    more than 365,000 sports injuries in 1998;
    - William Broad implies that Black developed stenosis of the spine because he practiced yoga. Stenosis is an age-related condition, and Broad never provides any rational why yoga, and not age, would be the cause of the condition (which of course, can be triggered by numerous other factors as well).

    And on and on it goes. As I said, this is not to downplay the important discussion about the new demands put on yoga teachers by an aging population flocking to yoga studios. But doing a hack job, which borders on sensationalism, doesn’t really help anyone. Except, of course, the author, who is obviously out to pitch his soon-to-be-released new book.

    - Yours in yoga, Eva Norlyk Smith, Mg. Editor, YogaUOnline.com

  • Elizabeth

    I respect Ms. Smith’s comments above, and look forward to reading the book to see if any of her concerns (re sampling and use of statistics, etc) are addressed. The main point of hte article seems to be this though: yoga has been touted as purely healing and teachers and the yoga community have utterly failed to educate Joe-Yogi-On-The-Street that yoga can cause injuries too.

    Yoga teachers simply MUST educate themselves about the risks involved in physical practice. Students rely on their teachers. It is very hard for some newbies to understand what it means to “listen to your body,” much less practice it, when you’ve been out of touch with it for awhile. So that as a mere warning does not cut it. Teachers are responsible for designing safe sequences for their students, and for throwing out their plans when the students who show up are not ready for it or the sequence is unsuitable.

    IMLHO, it is too easy to become a yoga teacher. Yoga Alliance set the bar very low with 200 hours and minimal hours in anatomy and kinesiology, and some programs (even those that are “YA registered”) do not even teach that much. I have been in classes in 2011 where shoulderstand was taught in Iyengar’s 90 degree model (I just ignored the teacher’s dangerous instructions and did it my way, but since I had no blankets I modified heavily), and where “horse stance”/”goddess pose” was used extensively while more than half the students around me had their knees caving inward (not tracking over the ankles).

    Yes, sharing yoga is super, but it’s not all about rainbows and unicorns; being a yoga teacher means taking responsibility for the safety of your students. If you cannot identify the specific parts of the body that may be injured or overworked in a given pose, you should not teach those pose. If you cannot identify modifications to make a pose safe for someone with a common injury or health condition, you should either not teach the pose or give that person another pose that is safe for them.

  • I agree with YD’s comments regarding ego – but I think the whole issue of over-exertion goes much deeper i.e. our beliefs about the nature of the universe. I offer a few excerpts from my blog on the issue…

    “For many years my approach to health and fitness was defined by no pain, no gain. Eating only salads and nuts made me feel virtuous, and running five miles made me feel as if I’d suffered enough.

    Today, I’ve dropped the punitive approach. No longer set on pummeling my body into compliance, I seek to practice, whenever I can, whenever I remember, a mindfulness of simply letting it “be.”

    I see this as the observance of what the great yogi sage Patanjali called Ishavara pranidhana , literally, surrender to the Lord. Of all yogic practices Patanjali views it as penultimate – because if you can successfully surrender to the divine power of the universe, you basically don’t have to do anything else.

    But as a teacher, I admit, I’ve found surrender is a tough sell. It flies in the face of our belief that health is something to be fought for, a daily battle waged against the inevitable and encroaching forces of entropy and decay. We’ve been raised to believe the universe is a cold hard place that doesn’t give a fiddle about our personal well-being. So we take our vitamins, slather on sunscreen and haul our butts to the gym.

    I see ‘surrender’ as a chance to practice the ultimate in cognitive reframing. A chance to relinquish my view of a universe designed to grind me down, and surrender to a universe dedicated to building me up. It means surrendering clenched jaws and over straining muscles and turning my focus towards the sweet spot where the energy flows. But ultimately, its about falling backwards and believing the universe is there to catch you.”

    to read the full post go to :
    http://bodydivineyoga.wordpress.com/2011/08/22/relax-the-universe-is-friendly/

  • mary sacoff

    I think the most profound point made in the article is about the normal range of rotation and flexion in the neck and how almost every student surpasses this in every practice.

    Think about it. Seated twisting poses seem so benign free that they are often done in the warm up phase of your practice. But if you are thirty or older you have some degree of stenosis in the neck and if you rotate or flex your neck beyond the normal range you are at risk of causing severe damage to your cervical spine.

    I had no idea I had arthritis in the neck. If I had, I would haven’t been twisting and turning my neck.

    Now I have nerve compression in three vertebrae and need surgery to correct it. Twelve weeks in a neck brace, no driving and unimaginable pain. I wasn’t showing off or not listening to my body — my neck never hur. This is an insidious injury.

    Instructors need to be aware of the aging neck anatomy and modify their sequences IMHO.

  • I’ve been teaching for 15 years. I teach what I call “power yoga” because it is a strong practice, but modified for each body as we go through the sequence. So, there’s no “force” and whatever. And, I’ve never studied with GB as quoted in the article.

    But here is my experience: the cause of injury is either poor teaching or poor “student-ing” or a combination of both. As he points out, it’s really about the egos — the ego of the teacher (pushing a student too far, not knowing their stuff and acting like they do, or some combination there of) or the ego of the student (wanting to go farther than s/he should, or simply not listening to good instruction or any instruction for that matter). And most commonly, it’s these two combined.

    It is possibly to keep students from becoming injured by both teaching proper form as well as teaching students to be mindful of their egos — the chatter of their minds and the stories that mind is telling in and around asana, yoga practices in general (meditation, etc). In short, teaching mindfulness as part of the practice.

  • Jane Frances

    Great comments Eva Smith. I, too, thought it was faulty research to be citing medical studies from the 1970s (or the one student who sat in the same position for hours and hours, such an extreme example). Still, reading the article made me panic a bit, especially since previously, I had felt lower back pain when coming out of shoulder stand. Even though, that pain has gone away, perhaps I wasn’t aligning correctly when I first started, reading about Black’s back injury gave me a scare. Happy to come onto Yogadork for an alternative viewpoint.

    I also think it’s worthwhile that anyone whom physically pushes themselves is susceptible to injury. Think of how many athletes or those with demanding physical jobs suffer from injuries scaling from minor to intensely serious. Although yoga is certainly not a purely physical practice, anything done to excess whether it’s a single stretch or a lifetime of intense practice can cause damage.

  • Some or most of the comments are fairly good and it shows that they are well trained in their job. I post here some of my views for the readers of this post also.

    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

  • @Sudrania … RE: “(4) Later on, a little pain, for little gain, is a good rule”

    Very Sorry to disagree, but of your 9 points or rules, I cannot in any way justify or allow for #4. After about 40 years in this kind of work, I see no good reasons to allow “a little pain,” and many bad reasons for allowing it. Especially if one understands the physiology of what happens when pain is allowed into the process.

    Intensity of Sensation is, of course, okay. But not pain. Granted, the line between the two is gray and sometimes wide, but I have found that the worse condition people are in, the farther away from pain they stay, the better. And those with NO pathology, whom are very fit, are also better off getting no where near pain.

    I’ve been doing hands-on bodywork based on yogic principles, and postural yoga therapy, professionally for 30 some years now, and I get great results with people whom have extreme conditions. Pain is never necessary, or desirable.

  • @David Lynn,
    Thank you for your kind response. I have no hesitation to agree with you. I should have used a different word in place of pain. I myself was feeling a little awkward in using this word pain, but in heat of moment it was used for want of better instant word. It should have been a little bit of “stress” than pain. Pain and stress or stretch are completely different. I stand corrected. Thank you for a good point.

  • Other good caution may be to avoid the more difficult poses in the beginning unless one is going for advanced practice. Any pose that cause weariness, must be cautiously advanced.

    God bless

  • Great commentary!

  • Thank you. Best wishes.

  • Is there any idealism in anything? I don’t know! If one is bent upon at looking only into the faults, it is not difficult to do so. The problem is that we are conditioning to see only the half empty, so it be. There cannot be set answers to every arguments.
    God bless

  • michael

    I recently took a Bikram Hot yoga class and was at first overwhelmed by the intensity of the heat. it was 105 degrees with the humidity of 40 degrees. Afterwards I felt relaxed and a bit sore but eager to try it again because the heat helps to relax your muscles and you sweat like crazy. Has anyone else tried this kind of yoga and what is your opinion?

  • michael, thank you, I believe implicitely to respond to your very nice question. This is a good question and I think, both as a trained physician as well as a Yoga counsellor, I might reply it.

    You must differentiate between natural and artificial ambience; at the same time take into consideration our body physiological response.

    The artificial environmental heat in Yoga studio will not give you much benefit to last because your entire body system is staying passive with lack of the strain of the physical exercise. The heat and sweating generated by a say, jogging or gentle running a mile or playing any physical game say, like tennis, badminton, football, rugby etc and the sweating and heating of body is completely different sort.

    For such an environment, you don’t visit a Yoga studio. This is why, I have been commenting repeatedly that please don’t confuse Yoga with Asanas! Yoga is a holistic form of exercise to cleanse your entire “body-mind-soul” complex. Hence it must not be again confused with neither a gym nor a religion. Both aspects will be wrong.

    Indoor heating the body with artificial heating or cooling may in fact be more harmful, with lack of exercise and absence of physical strain on the body systems which shakes up our entire systems including the skeleto-muscular system. Bikram Yoga is a misnomer like a trade mark. I am not sure, how much Bikram team is trained in the sports medicine but the ancient sages had far more knowledge of the body physiology than our modern trainers or counsellors. Unfortunately the business side has blinded and defamed it to a harmful point.
    God bless

  • Dr R K S Rathore

    I fully endorse the view of Dr Sudrania and would like to add that Yoga in real sense is the Union of Body, Mind & Soul which according to Maharshi Patanjali is- Yogascittavrittinirodah[1:2]; Tada drastuh svarupe vasthanaum [1:3] (i. e. Yoga is bringing to complete cessation of functional modifications of mind. Then the seer will be re-established in its own form.)
    The absoluteness in yoga is achieved by YAM, NIYAM, ASANA, PRANAYAM, PRATYAHAR, DHARNA, DHYAN & SAMADHI. So why to attach so much importance only on Asana ?

  • michael one more important point I forgot to mention. You mentioned something like relaxation in that environment. I don’t want to sound like a critic of someone but you must diffentiate between relaxation and heat exhaution out of dehydration, giving you a false sense of elation. I am not saying that it is but may be a reason. Hence take my word as a cutionary note to keep of the harm’s way.

    Thank you Dr Rathore for your sweet words. I hope that the visitors here enjoy the Yogas in its right perspective knowing what to look for and the value for their investments.

    I write the series on Yogas under the caption: “Is Yoga Science or Religion” These are all free and everybody can access them on blog or on Google or Yahoo to read and enjoy. May God bless all.

  • @Michael … One big problem with Hot Yoga is that the heat produces a molecular change in the actual muscle cells of the body by way of Pure Physics. Meaning, when any material substance heats up, the molecules move faster, and the space they occupy increases. When they cool down, the opposite happens. This can be easily observed in telephone wires. In the summer, they hang very low, in a downward arc, because the wires have literally lengthened out from the increased heat. In winter time, when they cool down, thereby reducing molecular activity, the wires are shorter, therefore more straight across. (Engineers have to account for this when they design power transmission systems, or the when the wires shrink in winter, they’ll pull the towers down or rip the wires, or both. Just like your muscles put pressures on other tissues of your body if they get excessively tight.)

    Muscles are the same. When you get them “warmed up,” they are “looser” and lengthened out (like telephone wires in summer) making the body FEEL more limber and flexible. Yet this is not the same as an actual psycho-neuro-musculo-fascial relaxation, which is what real yogic asana are all about, if you ask me.

    Bear in mind that TRUE and DEEP musculo-fascial relaxation has little to do with the mythical idea of “elasticity” in muscles and fascia, but far more so in learning to “turn off” the nerve charge from the central nervous system and brain to the muscles. Real relaxation or muscular DE-contraction does NOT come from “warming up” the muscles nor fascia. … That is a complete illusion.

    In fact, in so-called “hot yoga,” because heat-induced pseudo-relaxation of the muscles allows for a more superficial sense of “lengthened & limber muscles ” and apparent resilience, the muscles can become strained without even knowing it. Heat is — good or bad — very good at covering up many important signals from the nervous system to the conscious mind and brain.

    It is not until they “cool down” that people feel the negative results. And if they’re very and consistently active, it might be days or weeks or more before they feel such reactions, when they take a break from their constant physical activity.

    So any time you let heat, even if it’s a hot shower or a long walk, loosen up your muscles before you stretch, you deprive yourself of vital internal information about the true, fundamental state of your psycho-neuro-musculo-fascial system, AND, the superficial, molecular loosening of the muscles makes it easy to over-stretch and even injure muscle fibers without even knowing it.

    That, of course, assumes that your primary objective is deeper self-awreness and meditative connections between mind and body. If all you want is to be able to touch your toes more easily, well, then, Bikram might be the way to go. Just make sure you know a good muscle therapist, just in case you over do it sometime without knowing it.

  • Dr R K S Rathore

    My submission is that Yogasana (i. e. movement of body parts without jerk) keeps fit the Physical Body. Pranayama keeps fit the Subtle body and meditation keeps fit the Causal body. If we follow the principles of yoga without distorting it, it leads oneself to the self realization.
    AUM Shanti! Shanti! Shanti!

  • TracyH

    This article began by saying:
    “Let us start by saying articles like this one in The New York Times entitled ‘How Yoga Wrecks the Body’ always amuse us. Why? Because if you did anything, like walking on the street, unconsciously, there’s a risk of being runover by a truck, tripping and breaking a hip or biting your lip chewing gum.”
    However, the article it references does not, in fact, say anything about doing yoga “unconsciously”, nor, as far as I can tell, does it imply such. I’m disappointed that the YD writer is misleading the YD readers like this.
    The third paragraph seems to be in the same vein.
    I’m a great fan of doing all sorts of things mindfully, and it seems that the writer of this article did not start out that way. Please keep it in mind.
    Thank you.
    Sincerely,
    Tracy H.

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