It all started with the following article:
Where did they get the pics of the Inner Fire Yoga Studio students? I kid you. No one looks like that in our studio. How fun. I wish they would come to my class.
Problem number one with the article:
“Then, in 2007, while doing the extended-side-angle pose, a posture hailed as a cure for many diseases, my back gave way. With it went my belief, naïve in retrospect, that yoga was a source only of healing and never harm.”
While yoga poses have the powers of healing this person it seeking, coming to a general class is not going to help you out with any specific issues. Ruptured disk? Are you kidding me. This person needs private lessons for this issue and even a good structural yoga therapist. Yoga can only be healing to specific issues on a one on one basis. He even gets this response from the yoga teacher:
“Yoga is for people in good physical condition. Or it can be used therapeutically. It’s controversial to say, but it really shouldn’t be used for a general class.”
“To come to New York and do a class with people who have many problems and say, ‘O.K., we’re going to do this sequence of poses today’ — it just doesn’t work.”
AGREED Then there is a long lecture on ego. Yes, we get it. No place for ego in the yoga studio. Also I know the yoga teacher he is referring to about the hips, Beryl Bender Birch had a hip replacement. Big secret. She isn’t hiding it from anyone.
I love this case for someone with a debilitating injury:
“In one case, a male college student, after more than a year of doing yoga, decided to intensify his practice. He would sit upright on his heels in a kneeling position known as vajrasana for hours a day, chanting for world peace. Soon he was experiencing difficulty walking, running and climbing stairs.”
This is the fault of yoga or some teacher? This student sounds like an idiot. If he hadn’t done this, I just have the feeling he would be doing something else equally idiotic. I had a student once who wanted to sit in lotus so he spent four hours one day in a steam room in lotus. Of course he got injured. No one told him to do that. Idiot. WOW
Then there is the whole Iyengar controversey. Iyengar taught to lift the shoulders on three blankets. That IS how it should be practiced. It gives the neck the room it needs. All of the Iyengar people have responded to this.
If this statistic is correct it doesn’t surprise me:
“What were the most serious yoga-related injuries (disabling and/or of long duration) they had seen? — revealed that the largest number of injuries (231) centered on the lower back. The other main sites were, in declining order of prevalence: the shoulder (219), the knee (174) and the neck (110).”
Especially the low back. Deep forward bending can cause pain and disk issues if modifications aren’t given. And they should. Yoga students should be instructed to bend knees, use props, or avoid the deep bend. Also shoulders for people who practice a lot of flow or Ashtanga and the knees are generally vulnerable in most athletic endeavors. I have knee issues and I have learned how to use yoga to heal knees. So if you have knee problems just ask.
Here are some responses from some of the top yoga teachers:
John Friend, Anusara “Thanks to the New York Times for bringing up the potential risks involved doing such a transformative practice as hatha yoga. However, the hatha yoga practice can have amazing therapeutic and physical benefits when done with a positive attitude, good alignment, and balanced action.”
Eddie Stern, Ashtang “There are a couple of obvious reasons why there are so many injuries in yoga. First, perhaps, is overzealousness on the part of the student – this is a natural response for a particular type of person when it comes to any activity that has physicality associated with it – no matter what a teacher may caution.
The second is more troublesome, and that is the value system that forms the basis of the yoga ‘industry’ in America; a model that for all intents and purposes is based on economic incentive. Sounds cynical of me? As a five-billion-dollar-a-year product oriented industry, it would be hard to argue otherwise. America is good at jumping at opportunities – and when it comes to making the holy dollar, no cow is too sacred to be sacrificed in the West.”
Then there is a second article I would like to touch on:
This is just poor journalism. This woman goes to one class, with David Regelin, does an interview, and comes to this conclusion:
“David Regelin was a rising star in the yoga world, until he decided that he, and you, were doing everything wrong.”
Reading both articles it appears, as with most new students, that the writers are really entering an unknown domain and appear intimidated by yoga. Everyone is their first time. I wondered how they picked the teachers to practice with, Black and Regelin. I wonder how much they researched the different styles of yoga before choosing a class. Regelin has a LONG response, the best one I think, right here:
Among the highlights:
“In reality while I teach I make my way around the room to help and adjust as many people as I can, I get blocks/blankets etc. for those in need, while describing the geometry, natural form, and function of the given pose. The “red faced middle aged man” that I am supposedly telling “not to perform” is a dear student whom I know well, and that guy is definitely not coming to class to perform for anyone, he gets red sometimes because he works too hard, and he is in class because I give him personal attention whenever he shows up.”
“And I do think it is all too commonplace and easy for Vinyasa teachers to offer a fleeting workout experience with a fun music playlist. Students don’t know what they don’t know. I want my students to become skillful: skill defined not only as physical ability, but the mental capacity to make distinctions.”
Preaching to the choir David!
Then he speaks of his shift from teaching intense fitness styled yoga to a more introspective yoga:
“Handstand classes with music and long flowing sequences are par for the coarse now, and there is nothing wrong with them necessarily. I have simply moved on. It worked for me then, I was younger and I had a mere 200 hours of training, and hadn’t yet developed my teaching skills.”
“When I found Nevine I was a wounded soldier of Yoga. I pushed myself and injured myself so consistently that I had begun to wonder if yoga was actually beneficial and transformational, or if it was just an awesome sport. When I began to apply Nevine’s method of centering to my own practice all of that changed. I couldn’t keep it to myself, I couldn’t go on teaching as I had before, I am so much more capable now than I ever was and I used to work so much harder at it. Good form functions.
I changed the name of my class as an attempt to appeal to those who were searching for something mystical, revelatory, and profound within their Yoga experience. I was showing up to teach, turning down (not off) the music, and asking people to examine the pattern and relationship between the content of their consciousness and that of their own posture, instead of concerning themselves with what the people around them were doing.”
I featured David one time on my blog and here is a video of David:
So a HUGE shift for him. Obviously as a capable practitioner, he taught what he knew and people LOVE this stuff. IT is fun. BUT, he also shifted when this sort of practice was not serving his body, and his teaching shifted too.
Teachers do need to take responsbility for their students and keep shifting in their own experience. The teacher should be working on learning new skills constantly. I work as a teacher trainer for a 200 hour program and I tell the trainees to take workshops, keep researching, and stay on top of your anatomy. Students WILL get injured and it is your job to alleviate it. I hope sincerely that articles such as these do not harm the teachers pointed out in the yoga articles. I also hope it doesn’t give fodder to those that disdain the practice.
Be specific teachers and LISTEN to students. They WILL give you feedback and your job is to HELP them and find out what you can do. Your job is seva to the community. A service. Something you give of yourself.
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