Monday, January 07, 2008


Apparently some people are getting hurt in yoga class.

From a piece Sunday's "Iowa City Press-Citizen":

Many people such as Miller suffer injuries from yoga, but instead of quitting they alter their practice. There are a variety of ways to explain the pain, such as matching the wrong technique to your body’s needs, as in Miller’s case. Others suggest the problem is rooted in inexperienced and overzealous teachers and participants jumping on the yoga bandwagon.

Recently, the Consumer Product Safety Commission reported that 14 million people practice yoga or tai chi in the U.S., which is up 136 percent since 2000. With that surge, there have been an eye-popping number of injuries. The commission reported that 13,000 Americans were treated in a doctor’s office or emergency room for yoga-related injuries over the past three years.....

.....The recent “yoga craze,” as Footner describes it, has cast a spotlight on this ancient practice and exposed yoga as a way to care for people’s bodies, which is a good thing, she said. But it also has opened the door for injuries due to ambitious but insufficiently trained instructors and participants.

“There are a lot of untrained people teaching yoga,” Footner said. “When they don’t know what they are doing, people can get hurt.”

But wait, there's more:

Tips for finding a good yoga instructor

 How many years have they studied yoga, before becoming a teacher? Where did they train to become a teacher?
 Do they practice daily outside of their class?
 Ask them about their continuing education.
 Ask them about their certification: How long did it take?
 Watch if they are paying attention to what you are doing. Are they moving around the room in order to observe and assist, or staying in one place?
 Did the teacher ask you about any injuries or physical conditions, such as recent surgeries, high blood pressure or pregnancy?
 Is the teacher demonstrating how to do a posture or expecting you to just follow along?

The question they neglected to include is Why did they decide to become a yoga teacher?

The best answer is, "My teacher asked me to."

Depending, of course, on who the teacher is.

The full piece is here.


  1. Based on your criteria, most of the beautiful teachers who have taught me should not be teaching at all. No one asked me to become a teacher, but I know that I have inspired and helped at least a few people over the years. Just ask the graduates of my Yoga for Breast Cancer Survivors class.

    The snobbishness that runs rampant throughout the astanga community fills me with sadness and dismay. I believe in my heart of hearts that this is NOT the way that SKPJ intended it - the "don't ask to be authorized" rule has come out of sheer numbers, nothing more, i believe.

    And i don't think i would want to be taught by someone with no formal training. It is NOT enough to be a beloved student of a well-known teacher. Not to me it isn't. I want a teacher with some training, thank you very much.

  2. 1. It's not *my* criteria. I don't write for that paper

    2. Why did you decide to teach yoga?

  3. What I meant was that my teachers would fail the criteria of being ASKED to teach by one's teacher. Isn't that the only one that matters in your view? Or am I missing something?

    I don't want to sound hostile, so I apologize if I do.

    Why did I want to teach? I wanted to teach because yoga gave me so much. It saved my life. Or nearly so. I discovered yoga when I was going through chemotherapy. Each time I practiced, I felt myself detoxing. Maybe it was my imagination. But it got me through. Sometimes, I would go to yoga class right from the hospital infusion room. Those were my Bikram days. Then there was Jivamukti. Then I studied teaching at Om, which I consider to be one of the BEST teacher training programs around, although one of the WORST studios to practice at. Finally, I discovered Ashtanga, and that is where I am at.

    I did the teacher training at my shala last year because strangely enough, my teacher asked me to. Maybe they just wanted my money? But I think that what is more true is that I attended one workshop session, and my teacher felt that I was really really into it and would enjoy the training. It turned out that I did nicely at it, and I taught led classes at my shala until I moved away this summer.

    But I digress. I taught because I NEEDED to give yoga to other people. It was a gift. I wanted to give it to others.

    I don't teach for money at the moment. I teach friends yoga when they ask me to. I do it out of love. Period.

    Why do you teach?

  4. "Criteria" is plural, hence my confusion.

    I agree that "because I had to" is also a valid reason for becoming a teacher. What concerns me is people who see teaching yoga as another career choice, like pilates instructor or personal trainer. Not that there's anything wrong with that. But perhaps "asana teacher" would be a more fitting designation. That's what I think I was for the first few years.

    I began teaching because my teacher, Eric Powell, asked me to.

  5. I was not at all just an asana teacher. I discussed the sutras, I discussed philosophy. But my students tended to come for the workout. Then I began teaching ashtanga, and there was NO philosophy or sutras at all. Just the asana. That is how I was taught to teach it, and that is how the students liked it as well.

    I took six month off from teaching when I moved from NYC to a rather unpopulated suburb up north, and now word is getting around that I teach, and I am getting asked to teach individuals who wish to get into the same physical shape that I am in. Doesn't matter to me, it's still yoga, and my students will STILL get the physical and spiritual benefit JUST by practicing asana. Who am I to try to give them more than what they ask me for?

    You say it concerns you that "asana" teachers call themselves "yoga" teachers, and since I fail to really see a distinction, it would be helpful to me, and I would appreciate it for my own edification, if you could explain what the distinction is, which gives rise to your concern...


  6. i see nothing wrong with being "just" an asana teacher. i could never pretend to have the vast knowledge to teach scriptures or philosophy.
    teaching yoga is a way of giving back. that's all it is for me.