We’ll start this post with the closing line of William J. Broad’s latest New York Times piece about the safety/hazards of yoga: “Better to do yoga in moderation and listen carefully to your body. That temple, after all, is your best teacher.”
Bill Broad, not a stranger to controversy in the yoga world, nor backlashes sprinkled with words of praise followed by the mellowing out of a discerning, yet generally peaceful yoga community, is back with some more criminalizing evidence.
Smarter than before, this time Broad begins his article by stating that, hey, he practices yoga and thinks its generally good with all it’s nice benefits and stuff. So don’t go getting all mad at what he’s going to say, ok?
“In short, the benefits are many and commonplace while the serious dangers tend to be few and comparatively rare,” he prefaces, and we accept his peace offering. That said, Broad brings up some real issues that we ought to get hip to (bad pun).
As it turns out, many reported injuries that people attribute to yoga practice come from males, either because they go aggro and push themselves too hard, or they’re due to lack of flexibility, or a potent combo of both. But what Broad warns is that women, because of their typically more flexible bodies, may actually encounter more risk of tearing and injuring their hips.
So Bill got to doing some research, calling around to doctors and orthopedic surgeons (whom, in all fairness, are surgically biased). To whittle it down to a sentence, he found that people are getting surgery and hip replacements and a lot of these people happen to be women and happen to practice yoga.
One orthopedic surgeon he spoke with, Bryan T. Kelly, shared that 50 to 75 of his patients who danced or did yoga underwent operations at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan. And most of them were women. And so it seems that dance is also a threat to our hips’ livelihood because, like yoga, it makes our hips work extra hard.
“If that’s done without an understanding of the mechanical limitations of the joint, it can mean trouble,” Kelly said in an interview.
See: Lady Gaga. See also: running, walking, climbing stairs, sitting. We’d be extremely interested to see a comparative chart.
What we do like about this article is that it brings to light (even though it’s been pretty glaring already), that there is potential injury in yoga when we don’t pay attention to individual bodies, and frankly, when we as practitioners don’t listen to our own bodies.
Meanwhile, scientists and doctors are still studying and researching the real causes and contributing factors to hip issues like bone misalignments, excess body weight and subtle joint deformities that differ from person to person, as Broad notes. One of our favorite sentences in the article is this one: “Hip scientists are exploring such factors, but the variations make it hard to predict who is most likely at risk.” Because it admits to the lack of having a clear and cut answer to this problem.
Injuries in yoga is an ongoing discussion, and was even before Broad unleashed his The Science of Yoga: The Risks and the Rewards on all of us. As yoga grows exponentially, so do the amount of teachers (maybe not with sufficient training/various bodies experience?) and the amount of students looking to receive these promised gifts of improved flexibility and increased relaxation. But, being humans of the modern age, when everything is wanted and expected to happen NOW, we can be a bit hasty in trying to achieve said gifts, students and teachers included. (Remember that Bikram student who blamed his teachers for “breaking his back”?) Is it maybe that slowing down could be a key to finding the answer? Isn’t it one of the core lessons of yoga to listen to our bodies? Or maybe the real answer is that it’s different for everyone and there is no one defining answer. News flash: “Yoga”, bundled in all its varied styles and methods, is not a panacea.
We’ll close with a thank you to William Broad for taking the time to investigate this and present it with less sensational fanfare than preceding events, and with this quote from Dr. Jon Hyman, an orthopedic surgeon in Atlanta which seems to sum up what we find is the take away message:
“People need to be aware,” he said. “If they’re doing things like yoga and have pain in the hips, they shouldn’t blow it off.”
image via chronicbodypain.net
- Reactions and Rebuttals to William J Broad’s ‘Yoga Sex Cult’ NYT Article, ‘Misinformation’
- Complete and Exhaustive Guide: Yoga Community Responds to NYT ‘How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body’
- Dr. Timothy McCall Responds to Yoga Dangers Controversy, William J. Broad’s ‘Numerous mistakes and Exaggerations’