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Yoga: Do Not Try This At Home

in YD News, Yogitorials
Kino Macgregor | via @kinoyoga on instagram

Kino MacGregor | via @kinoyoga on instagram

by Sara Kleinsmith

For those of you who adore all things yoga, you may have discovered one or two social media phenoms whose practice you admire and aspire to. One such popular icon is Kino MacGregor, a prominent Ashtangi whose rigorous practice is nearly Cirque Du Soleil-esque, as impressive as it is glittery. MacGregor recently suffered an injury, which happened mostly under the radar until it was chronicled by Matthew Remski on his blog. If you don’t know Matthew Remski, he is what one might call a yoga nerd (or…dork). Dedicated and passionate in writing about and researching injuries in yoga asana, Remski’s WAWADIA (What Are We Actually Doing In Asana) project has gained a healthy following from thoughtful yogis everywhere. It only makes sense that at some point, these two would cross paths. In his most recent blog entry, “Kino’s Hip: Reflections on Extreme Practice and Injury in Asana,” Remski details his conversations with MacGregor, in regards to her practice and most recent injury:

“MacGregor has periodically faced doctrinal and pragmatic critique from within her subculture head-on. But she also faces scientific pushback from the wider movement-studies field. Opposition to the assumed benefits of flexibility-focused and repetitive-motion exercise is growing – most loudly against the passive stretching that might not be part of the Ashtanga method per se, but which MacGregor and others promote as preparatory for the deeply contortionistic postures of its advanced series.”

This post of Remski’s has caused quite a stir in the yoga world. There are those commenting who say, “If she had been doing real yoga, she wouldn’t have been injured.” That’s one very interesting opinion in opposition to this athletic, well-documented, social media wiz’s practice. And then there are those who disagree, who are fully supportive, who find her work inspiring and her attitude and lifestyle infectiously positive.

Because of the reach of social media, and our ability to endlessly add opinions to the mix, judging by the responses it seems we in the yoga community have regressed to high school. Perhaps there are those of us, tumbling, smiling, and looking beautiful who are doing our best to inspire others. And maybe there are those of us who are questioning, skeptical, and cautious of taking things at face value, particularly as it applies to pseudoscience, biomechanics, and spirituality. Perhaps our Western yoga world is a community of cheerleaders and nerds. It wouldn’t be unfair to say that there’s a place for all of us, just as there was in high school. But it also is to be expected that there will be PASSIONATE disagreements on who is doing “yoga” and who isn’t.

The basic and most important information is this – it appears, based on our fervor and newness to this practice in the West, that we are ALL still students.

It’s important to remember that. Questioning and positivity are of equal value. Selling a lifestyle of yoga on the beach can literally lift someone’s spirits to the point of saving their life. Conversely, however, doing arm balances on a train track or high rise could be detrimental to someone else’s. The buzz killers out there, those who are being told they are, “Taking things too seriously” and “It’s all yoga” have a point. If this industry is to grow past the high school level into the 21st century, there will have to be some recognition of the value of all sides. If not, the struggle will continue, and cheerleaders and nerds will continue to sit at different tables in the cafeteria. What is so awesome about Matthew Remski, is that he engaged in a conversation. His desire is not in exposé, but understanding. His intention is in teaching, not in competition. I think he is doing our industry a world of good.

As for Ms. MacGregor, watch her videos if you haven’t had a chance. They are a beauty to behold, as is she. Her smile and lithe body are everything you’d think of when you think “Yoga,” but she is not that. She is not a spokesperson or guru. She is a woman. She is a human being with flaws and real LIVE bones, muscles, and ligaments that age and tear and give out. She doesn’t have the answers, and anyone who believes that any yoga teacher has answers is mistaken. Make a decision about who you want as your teacher. Be they a cheerleader or nerd, it should be someone who resonates with you. And when it comes to these extreme yoga videos, it should go without saying: DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME.

Kino MacGregor most likely won’t chronicle her injury at length, as it isn’t a part of her brand. I might, as it is part of mine. Be cautious when engaging in any physical activity, and be even more cautious when trying to emulate someone’s perceived sense of enlightenment or health. We are all just students. I’ll bet if most of us could give advice to our teenage selves we’d say things like, “Be yourself. Follow your own path.” The same is true now, in your life, in your yoga practice, in your public and private persona. Be who you are and remember Insta, Twitter, and Facebook are just commercials, some which carry heavy and seductive influences. Be gentle with yourselves. Try THAT at home.

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Sara Kleinsmith is a yoga teacher, writer, and anatomy geek in Austin, Texas. She has been featured in Yogi Times, Elite Daily, Elephant Journal, and Thought Catalog. She is thrilled to be added to the list of voices for YogaDork. To learn more about her work, go to www.sarakleinsmith.com

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If you’re interested in the continued conversation, sign up for the WAWADIA – What Are We Actually Doing in Asana?2-part Online Workshop with Author and Yoga Teacher Matthew Remski happening Thursdays, July 16th & 23rd – 7:30pm – 9:30pm EST.
(YD is an affiliate and by using this link you will help support our site as well. Thank you!)

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20 comments… add one

  • Anna

    Thank you for this article. As a yoga teacher, I have to constantly seek to learn more about my trade. For instance, I am always on the look out for new alignment cues to give because saying the same thing over and over won’t work for everyone. “Square the hips” in Vira I will ‘click’ with someone while not with another. But “Let your right glute meet your left hip” may. I have to practice what I teach. I suffered a lot of injury in yoga. But I learned a valuable lesson: My body is a vehicle for awakening and I should always treat it with care.
    Leave it to the Western culture to screw with yoga and make it a point of contention. I also have to be patient and allow the feathers to become unruffled; to allow the Universe to do its job and let the true practice of yoga come forth.
    Namaste~
    Anna aka ‘yogiwonkinobi’

  • John

    Leaving aside the usual “westerners destroy ancient exotic practice” nonsense (which Remski at least has the intelligence to avoid) it seems Remski has mastered the art of sly insinuation based on a total absence of fact. That’s taken several steps further in this article which claims the injury Kino happily and openly discussed in an interview with a well known yoga writer who planned to publish the interview wasn’t going to get publicity. Come on! I’m no Kino fan, but some basic intelligence, please!

  • For the record, MacGregor and I were in regular contact after the interview. I sent her a full draft for approval. She sent 3 minor corrections, which I made. Readers might be interested in her email comment: “Overall it’s an interesting article worthy of reflection and hopefully will spark a good dialogue.”

    What facts are absent?

  • John

    Thanks for taking time to reply.

    If you read this then my main comment is – you need a ruthless editor.

    For the detail of my accusation, when I get time I’ll fill it out with examples on your site – my experience with other writers and yogadork is that that is more likely to achieve something

  • Jennifer

    I am always weary of the fickle tide that builds up these teachers, loves them and then tears them down. Kino attracts students that want to learn from her just as others do. It seems like so many that rise to yogic teaching notoriety, suffer an inevitable backlash. John Friend, Katherine Budig, even Bikrim. Idk, It is all just seems like the same western behavior of creating a story. Who’s good enough?

  • Dwayne

    No real beef with the articles (above and Remski), but isn’t this a tempest in a teapot? I mean, really, can you expect anyone with reasonable athletic and/or yoga asana background to be *surprised* that an intense practitioner like Kino has an occasional injury? And a 4,000+-word essay on the injury, triggering numerous blog/comment follow-ups? Gee whiz…
    To some extent, I applaud Remski’s research into asana injury, but IMO it will always be severely limited in the absence of a detailed statistical study. As things stand, it’s all anecdotal: some yogis say “I know plenty of practitioners who got hurt”, others say “I know plenty who didn’t”, and there’s no rigorous evidence either way. Of course, those practioners with reasonable athletic/asana backgrounds can be expected to exercise common sense.

    I will say that yoga asana instruction is all over the place re. safe alignment. I took several classes with Ashtanga guru Richard Freeman, and he was meticulously clear about taking care to prevent the much-publicized femoral acetabular impingement. On the other hand, pretty much all other yoga instructors I know, including some who pride themselves on teaching much more “body-friendly” yoga than Ashtanga, teach alignment (square hips as opposed to “squaring”) that Richard would discourage as unsafe in poses like hanumanasana and parivrtta parsvakonasana.
    The more I read about this yoga stuff, the more I fall back on platitudes like “common sense” and “listen to your body”!

  • You’re totally right, Dwayne. It’s all anecdotal, until teachers — but mainly studios — begin to view solid data collection as being in their best ethical and financial interest. This is the anecdotal stage, which points towards actionable hypotheses, which folks more qualified than I can test.

  • James

    I agree with Dwayne. This article does smack of opportunism on Remski’s part. First, it isn’t really a “hip” injury. She strained her hamstring. A hip injury typically refers to an injury to the joint like a labral tear, fracture or dislocation. When athletes pull their hamstrings, commentators say they pulled a muscle, not injured their hip. But people in yoga are worried about their hips, especially after the NY times article a couple of years back, so why miss an opportunity, I guess. From my read of the long-winded article in question, the ER doctor didn’t even order an x-ray. Sounds like he was probably rolling his eyes wondering why Kino was in an emergency room in the first place (you know, where people go that have emergencies).

    Anyway, she strained a muscle that crosses the hip, namely, the hamstrings. Why not call it what it is? Why not write a 4,000 word article entitled “Kino’s hamstring strain”? Because calling it “Kino’s Hip” and having a picture of a dislocated hip joint gets folks to tune in. It’s click bait.

    Which makes me wonder how much exaggeration to expect with the “study” Remski is doing and how much of that will also play to people’s fears.

  • Your statement that the injury is just a strain to the hamstrings is not accurate according to what Kino’s medical doctors reported to her. Here is an excerpt from her interview with Remski.
    MacGregor’s physio is on staff at the Miami City Ballet. “She’s excellent,” MacGregor says. “She confirmed that my hamstring was pulled, but she didn’t think it was a serious tear. She said that my glutes were pulled. She checked my obturator and as much of the deep-six as she could, and she felt that they were all a little pulled. ( So not just the hamstrings but all of the deep muscles of the hip needed for stabilization of the joint were affected)
    And KINO goes ON TO SAY
    “But then she checked my sacroiliac joint and found that the whole right plate of the sacrum had shifted and my right hip was raised, and there was a lot of compression. I thought, ‘That’s what all the popping was.’”

    KINO HAS BEEN INJURED BEFORE ACCORDING TO HER.
    MacGregor has suffered yoga-related sacroiliac pain and injury in the past. It’s a common problem in the yoga world, and is widely believed to be exacerbated by seated and standing twisting postures.
    HERE is the news also about the hip joint capsule inflammation.
    “The therapist also said that there was probably inflammation around the joint capsule, and that maybe because of the impact, the head of the femur had jammed against the socket. She gave me a list of movements I should avoid”.
    Remski is gathering information as are many of us are who are involved with yoga injuries. You can say he is acting as an opportunist but the facts of her injury remain. Rather than pointing fingers at the messenger, please listen to the message.
    People are getting injured doing yoga and many of the injuries are severe enough to even require hip replacement surgery. Lasater, Bender, and Dunn are the last names of some of the famous ones. I personally know dozens more and the numbers are growing. People can say there is no hard scientific evidence that a yoga practice can cause severe hip joint damage. Well Also consider that it did not prevent it either. I feel a yoga practice should strengthen natural joint functions and not cause any laxity or compression that could lead to joint injury.
    There was an article written in EJ by Charlotte Bell warning yogis to be careful with their joints in 2013. She just had hip replacement surgery too and is in recovery now. She was brave to speak out. Her article is here at this link. http://www.elephantjournal.com/2013/09/yogis-be-careful-with-your-joints-charlotte-bell/

    So please James, read the whole story and get the facts.

  • Ashley

    “Be who you are and remember Insta, Twitter, and Facebook are just commercials, some which carry heavy and seductive influences.”
    This quote is awesome. It exemplifies everything I’ve felt about the self branding movement in yoga and its social media presence. I’ve been practicing for 13 years and teaching for two, with scoliosis and now kyphosis (I’m only 29) and while I too can get myself into some outrageous positions, there are plenty of things I should not do because of my structure. Does this make me less of a “success” than those people? No. And are they really listening to their bodies or are they just pushing to the edge? We will never know, but it’s dangerous to assume either way. I like to think of all yogis as colleagues rather than some above and some below, and everyone has something to learn and to give.
    Thanks, great work!

  • paul

    kino talked about her injury publicly, and even while in the emergency room, so it was not “under the radar”. this sort of insinuation, that there is subterfuge and shadow, runs the course of this article and the “hip” kino one, but what agenda (or perhaps ideology) is being forwarded is not clear to me. that kino does not make it part of her brand is also not clear (given the e-room snapchat and the interview remski led his reader through), though it seems she’ll not be dwelling on the minor injury her pt didn’t say “no āsana” to.. kleinsmith and others making their own injuries and traumas part of their own brands is probably better for their students, a way of reminding upfront that they aren’t perfection, but why those not doing so are especially worse i don’t see, unless it’s a part of presenting themselves as perfection, where any critique is met with only objection, denial, or shunning.

  • Hope

    “… her email comment: “Overall it’s an interesting article worthy of reflection and hopefully will spark a good dialogue.”

    Being one of her followers, this is exactly the VERY GRACEFUL response I would expect from Kino, as she truly seems to embody the principle of living her truth! To Remski, I say thanks. We are ALL students; and, anything which “sparks a good dialogue” is certainly of value!

    Meanwhile, reflection has come ….. Now, can the rest of us just humbly and intuitively practice “our own” yoga and safely move on?!?

  • Frankie

    Jeez, more and more of these “Western-style yoga teachers” are getting injured. Could they have been acting out of integrity to the true practice of Yoga, which is a spiritual one, NOT an athletic one?? After all these centuries of appropriating indigenous culture and perverting it for their own purposes, you’d think the Great Lesson would stick. Well, time will tell; the writing’s on the wall.

  • John

    You do know this whole “athletic practice” thing originated in India with Indians, don’t you?

    You know they “appropriated” “western” physical culture and philosophy for a chunk of it?

    You know Hindu writers a good way back (before anything we’d recognise as “athletic” yoga) were criticising yoga as a physical, not spiritual, practice?

    Not only is this sort of comment ignorant and historically inaccurate the idea that physical injuries are some sort of punishment for going against your ideas of what ” yoga” should be is the sort of magical thinking displayed by those people who announce bad weather is divine punishment for violating their personal lunatic value system

  • Intrigued

    “Her smile and lithe body are everything you’d think of when you think ‘Yoga’”
    Really? Speak for yourself, Ms. Kleinsmith. It’s bad enough if everything *you* think of when *you* think “yoga” is a smiling, thin, scantily clad, blonde woman. But it’s even worse that you would perpetuate that idea with your presumption that, naturally, everyone else thinks of the same thing. Maybe some think of BKS Iyengar, or of themselves, or of breathing. There is nothing wrong with her looking how she looks, but to suggest that she is necessarily, obviously our vision of everything that yoga is? I am very, very disappointed to see a throwaway line like that in an article on this website.

  • VQ2

    Gawd, how I miss bindyfry’s itty bitty brain basket.
    That’s some Ashtangi, who wrote that blog
    That is all.

  • Marvin

    Spoken like a true fat person.

  • It is so sad to hear of yet another yogi with hip injuries from asana practice and I appreciate this unbiased report and interview by Matthew Remski with Kino. It is s0 important that we keep communicating, discerning, discussing and evaluating yoga injuries in asana. Women get 80% of all hip surgeries in America and one of the main reasons is laxity or looseness of the joint. I am in communication with surgeons informing me that a majority of their hip surgery clients are yogis. Many yoga poses practiced by Kino and others take the hip, spine and knee joints far past normal ranges of motion and overtime, this laxity can be a huge liability. As women age, collagen production decreases which can cause ligaments and connective tissues to thin even more which means even less support. I am a yoga teacher, body worker and the creator of YogAlign. I have been studying the causes of yoga injuries and developing solutions for healing and ways to make asana safer for over 20 years. I began this inquiry after I badly injured one of my knees in Ashtanga practice. I have found that one of the main reasons for yoga injuries is that many poses create abnormal compression loads on joint structures and can cause compression and/or stretching of joint capsules and ligaments needed for stability. If any of you reading this has been injured, I began a survey in 2008 to collect data on yoga injuries and create a baseline as to how and why this is happening.
    http://yogainjuries.net/survey.html
    Be careful when doing yoga asana and consider dropping poses that compress the hip joint or stretch ligaments of the cervical, sacral/ lumbar or hip region.
    Ligaments are designed to limit the movement of our joints and they lack sensory innervation that can signal pain. In other words, one can feel no pain and still be causing cumulative damage that shows up after 5 to 10 years of practice. Please check out this article I wrote for Elephant Journal called When Flexibility becomes a liability. ww.elephantjournal.com/2013/07/when-flexibility-becomes-a-liability-michaelle-edwards/#idc-cover

  • Yoga is , and should, be primarily practiced as a path to spiritual enlightenment. Yoga is not an extreme sport, and doing such things won’t cultivate a deeper sense on inner peace and equanimity within.

  • You are right. yoga not safely to do home . so we want to join yoga classes . i am also do regular yoga but in “shiva tattva yoga Foundation”. this is a yoga training center . you also join .there are expert teachers provide training. thanku for this blog

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