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.
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
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.
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