Sunday, January 08, 2012

This time it's an article called "How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body"

Every couple of months, the NYT runs a provocative piece about that crazy yoga everyone's doing these days.

(Actually, they mean crazy asana. Most practitioners these days seem to be doing bhoga, not yoga. But that's for another post).

The current article is accompanied by several wince-inducing photos of wacky actors doing poses incorrectly. It makes the heart and body hurt to see these pictures - particularly the ones of shoulderstand and plow with the head cocked to the side. OUCH! An experienced, well-trained teacher will tell you to never do this - even if you're an Broadway performer who just landed a high-exposure gig with the New York Times.

In fact, there are five secrets to not getting hurt while performing asana:

Cara Kali's Five Secrets to Safe Asana Practice

-Find an experienced, well-trained teacher - not someone who just received their so-called certification. (The teacher should exhibit the qualities of a yogi off the mat as well). Tell them about any pre-existing conditions.
-Listen to the teacher. Respect the practice.
-Listen to the body. If the teacher tells you to do something, and the body says no, or it hurts or feels wrong, listen to the body - not the teacher.
-Ignore the ego, which will turn the practice into a competition and push you into poses you're not ready for.
-Listen to the body after the pose. If it didn't like it, or there's persistent pain, ask the teacher how to modify it or don't do it again.

But I digress. Here's an excerpt of William J. Broad's article - which cites, primarily, an NYC-based Iyengar teacher and a few horror stories. It's adapted from an upcoming book:

Almost a year after I first met Glenn Black at his master class in Manhattan, I received an e-mail from him telling me that he had undergone spinal surgery. “It was a success,” he wrote. “Recovery is slow and painful. Call if you like.”

The injury, Black said, had its origins in four decades of extreme backbends and twists. He had developed spinal stenosis — a serious condition in which the openings between vertebrae begin to narrow, compressing spinal nerves and causing excruciating pain. Black said that he felt the tenderness start 20 years ago when he was coming out of such poses as the plow and the shoulder stand. Two years ago, the pain became extreme. One surgeon said that without treatment, he would eventually be unable to walk. The surgery took five hours, fusing together several lumbar vertebrae. He would eventually be fine but was under surgeon’s orders to reduce strain on his lower back. His range of motion would never be the same.

Black is one of the most careful yoga practitioners I know. When I first spoke to him, he said he had never injured himself doing yoga or, as far as he knew, been responsible for harming any of his students. I asked him if his recent injury could have been congenital or related to aging. No, he said. It was yoga. “You have to get a different perspective to see if what you’re doing is going to eventually be bad for you.”

Black recently took that message to a conference at the Omega Institute, his feelings on the subject deepened by his recent operation. But his warnings seemed to fall on deaf ears. “I was a little more emphatic than usual,” he recalled. “My message was that ‘Asana is not a panacea or a cure-all. In fact, if you do it with ego or obsession, you’ll end up causing problems.’ A lot of people don’t like to hear that.”

Place a grain of salt on the tongue and read the rest here.


  1. Thanks for this response. With respect to the nytimes, you can practically set your watch to some of their article trends. Yoga dangers are a reliable go-to topic, as is women’s roller derby.

  2. I know I suffer far more without yoga.
    I can't wait for your class to resume again tomorrow night. I am a mess.

  3. As the old DYC t-shirt said:

    No Yoga, No Peace
    Know Yoga, Know Peace

  4. Anonymous7:15 PM

    I found the article frustrating and annoyingly in the #1 spot when I read it a few days ago.

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

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