Be Skeptical, and Be Careful

Did you hear the latest?  Yoga can seriously injure you!  It's not as good for you as everyone says!! Beware!!!! 

Many of you may have come across the early January NYT article, "How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body."  Basically, it tells stories of ruptured disks, popped ribs, everything from milk injuries to permanent disabilities, all caused by practicing yoga.  It interviews yogis and other specialists who claim that certain poses could cause any number of debilitating conditions.  It claims that yoga should not be practiced in the masses, especially among us Westerners who aren't accustomed to cross-legged seating positions that are the norm in India.  The article basically scares people away from trying or continuing to practice yoga.


My initial reaction, quoted directly from the email response to the person who sent me the article:

Pshh. The same could be true of ANY form of exercise. 
If you're not in a condition to run, or you lift weights the wrong way or choose too heavy weights, 
you could easily injure yourself.

And my thoughts remain the same.  Any exercise video will tell you before beginning, "Consult your doctor before beginning any exercise routine," or something to that effect.  At the gym or studio where you take fitness classes (like yoga), you likely have to sign some form of disclaimer, deeming yourself fit to engage in the exercise.  There are measures in place to remind you that not everyone is capable of doing everything, and it's your responsibility to discuss with your doctor/trainer/physical therapist what you're safely able to do.

Even after heeding (or, too likely, ignoring) that precaution, you probably have a decent sense of your abilities and your limits.  If you've never done strength training before, you wouldn't go over to the bench, throw on fifty pounds each side, and see if you can lift it... would you?  The same goes for any type of exercise.  First, consult your doctor. Next, know your own body. And finally, ask your instructor.

In yoga, if you're new (or anything other than a yogi living in the mountains) and there is a pose you're not yet comfortable doing, sit back in "child's pose." Stand in "tree." Stick with the least advanced version of the move being performed.  Master "pigeon" before moving on to "king pigeon." Slowly work your  way up to inversions, like a shoulder stand, before attempting to turn your body upside down.

The article mentions instructors who make their class as hard as possible and leaves it to the students to modify accordingly.  That's ridiculous.  If s/he is going to be that demanding, the instructor should always make that very clear at the beginning of class, and offer some poses for newbies to defer to; otherwise, of course people will try to follow your lead, and potentially hurt themselves.  If you're ever in a class and have questions, don't quite understand how to do the pose, or want some basic poses to start with, ask your instructor.  That's what they're there for.  You are the student, you are the one paying, and you are the one seeking help from THEM.  It's their job to provide that for you.  There are modifications and different levels of each pose for a reason. Use them.

There has been a lot of backlash since this article from the yoga community, and for good reason.  Whitney at LiveRunLoveYoga gave a nice response, including video rebuttals from other yogis. Check that out here.  Like any extremist article, this one just didn't give a full picture, and the reaction has attacked it accordingly.  The title alone seems uncalled for, in my opinion.

But that's just me.  The point is: think for yourself.  Do your own research. Don't read and trust one source when learning about exercise.  Talk to professionals, talk to your doctor, and learn everything you can.

Be skeptical when receiving information.

And be careful when practicing yoga, just as you should with all fitness activities.

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