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.”
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?