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How yoga can wreck your body
January 6, 2012 1:28 PM   Subscribe

Yoga can wreck your body. Who knew?
posted by Listener (81 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Physical activity can wreck your body.
More at six.


Seriously though. Physical activity can wreck your body. No matter what you do you'll need to work to your appropriate level of conditioning and flexibility, pamper your joints, and get properly warmed up before starting. That should be obvious.
posted by Stagger Lee at 1:32 PM on January 6, 2012 [6 favorites]


On a cold Saturday in early 2009, Glenn Black, a yoga teacher of nearly four decades

This article was two letters away from being waaaaay more interesting.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 1:34 PM on January 6, 2012 [60 favorites]


Holy cow pose.
posted by Chipmazing at 1:36 PM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


This article was two letters away from being waaaaay more interesting.

Glenn or Glennda?
posted by Celsius1414 at 1:38 PM on January 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Everything in moderation.
posted by 2bucksplus at 1:41 PM on January 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yuck. I hate headlines like these. They never put in the "if." "Yoga can wreck your body if...." Now people will say, oh, I heard it's really dangerous to do yoga.
posted by anniecat at 1:43 PM on January 6, 2012 [10 favorites]


Right that does it, I'm going to get the Ugnaughts to encase me in carbonite. It's the only way to be sure my body won't be wrecked by something.
posted by zomg at 1:44 PM on January 6, 2012


Hardly surprising. Stretching your limbs until they're thirty feet long can't be good for your joints, and all that breathing fire would pretty much have to give you emphysema.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 1:44 PM on January 6, 2012 [19 favorites]


I do straight up Iyengar, and in his book almost everything that's not pose description in it is warning about being sure you're strong enough to do these poses. I thought that was pretty obvious... you're getting stronger not because of harder and harder poses but because even the poses in a standard sun salutation are inherently unstable.
posted by cmoj at 1:44 PM on January 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Caution is necessary when using advanced techniques. OR: play with fire, get burned?
posted by curious nu at 1:44 PM on January 6, 2012




Yuck. I hate headlines like these. They never put in the "if." "Yoga can wreck your body if...." Now people will say, oh, I heard it's really dangerous to do yoga.



Yeah but they missed a great opportunity, they could have titled the article:

"Yoga will destroy your body!"
posted by Stagger Lee at 1:46 PM on January 6, 2012


Now people will say, oh, I heard it's really dangerous to do yoga.

This will go perfectly with "oh, I heard it's really dangerous to use free weights". Can't wait for the fitness industry to "solve" this "problem" with the Bowflex YogaMaster 3000 (with patented Asanapulley System™), coming soon to a gym near you!
posted by vorfeed at 1:52 PM on January 6, 2012 [8 favorites]


The Globe and Mail headline was a slightly more leading: "Is yoga ruining your body?"

Which contained the chestnut:
"Admittedly, yoga attracts some of the worst people on the planet"
posted by dobie at 1:54 PM on January 6, 2012 [13 favorites]


I was actually discussing this article this morning with my physical therapist. Her opinion was that she sees injuries from every sport conceivable and it's not the sport's fault, it's people following trainers who push them too far, don't understand proper technique, or don't pay attention.

Or, well, folks injure themselves by forcing themselves to do stuff that they shouldn't. She was more up in arms about the uneducated trainers because then she spends months helping folks rehab from injuries they shouldn't have had.
posted by lyra4 at 1:56 PM on January 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


"Admittedly, yoga attracts some of the worst people on the planet"

well, so does Metafilter. But something keeps me coming back
posted by philip-random at 1:56 PM on January 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


Ok, on the one hand, I agree that everything can wreck your body and that the point here shouldn't be "yoga is bad!" but "yoga, like everything else, can be dangerous if you do it unsafely." It's a pretty sensationalistic article.

But I also think that yoga is becoming super mainstream, and that probably means that more people are going to end up wrecking their body by doing it. You're going to get more people using DVDs instead of actually going to classes, more fly-by-night classes taught by unqualified people, more people wanting to do the cool-looking stuff right away because they're just following a trend. It's probably not a bad idea to point out that you can mess up your body doing yoga and that you should make sure that you're doing it in a safe and responsible way.

(I've actually avoided yoga because I'm really inflexible. I can't do downward-facing dog, for instance, and I tried a bunch of times before I realized that my wrists weren't supposed to hurt like that. I hope to start doing yoga at some point, but I'm going to have to wait until I can afford to take classes with a teacher who I can trust to be able to help me modify things appropriately.)
posted by craichead at 1:57 PM on January 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


She was more up in arms about the uneducated trainers because then she spends months helping folks rehab from injuries they shouldn't have had.

My physio's answer when I asked her what she thought about yoga: "Well, it's good for my business."
posted by philip-random at 1:57 PM on January 6, 2012 [11 favorites]


I did Iyengar for a couple years. My tendons were almost always sore afterwards, and I was in pretty decent shape. Not much flexibility, but perhaps too much muscle to ever do the poses right. Placing specific joints into geometric positions that cause mechanical stress will do that after a while, I guess, though I ended up leaving after the teacher, Joan White, started lecturing about ridding one of thoughts of sex. Yoga can wreck the mind, as much as the body.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:59 PM on January 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


the new york times has a gift for taking something obviously true and making it sound wrong.
posted by facetious at 2:00 PM on January 6, 2012 [5 favorites]


never been this close ... almost (no nudity, but definitely NSFW)
posted by zippy at 2:02 PM on January 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Being a fatass who never stretches more muscles than those required to pick up the beer bottle can wreck your body.
posted by jefficator at 2:03 PM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Being a fatass who never stretches more muscles than those required to pick up the beer bottle can wreck your body.
False dichotomy, much?
posted by craichead at 2:05 PM on January 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


On a cold Saturday in early 2009, Glenn Black, a yoga teacher of nearly four decades...

no regrets, coyote: This article was two letters away from being waaaaay more interesting.”

Yep.

On a cold Saturday in early 3009, Glenn Black, a Yoda teacher of nearly four decades...
posted by koeselitz at 2:07 PM on January 6, 2012 [7 favorites]


Anyway, yeah. The whole point of Yoga is to wreck your body in order to purify your soul and destroy its dependence and connection to the flesh. It's not really supposed to be a big healthy thing.
posted by koeselitz at 2:08 PM on January 6, 2012 [6 favorites]


Downward facing shitty NY Times editor looking to "mix things up" by purposely sensationalizing something that goes against common wisdom.

"You know that thing that everyone's doing because it's healthy? WHAT IF IT'S TOTALLY WRONG?"

"But it's not wrong. Well, not in the way you're thinking."

"Who cares?"

"But it's not accurate."

"Whatever, Captain Ethics. I need a new BMW."

"Fine."

"Oh, and find some idiots from some hipsters-break-all-the-barriers revival of a 1970s musical. Get them down to photo."

"Right away, your lordship."

"What the fuck did you just call me? Hey, I went to COLUMBIA, dickwad."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:17 PM on January 6, 2012 [9 favorites]


Anyway, yeah. The whole point of Yoga is to wreck your body in order to purify your soul and destroy its dependence and connection to the flesh. It's not really supposed to be a big healthy thing.
That's probably true. It would be awesome if someone would invent "healthy stretching and posing exercise" so that we could differentiate it from the spiritual practice. But there's no reason that people shouldn't non-spiritually do stretchy poses to increase strength and flexibility.
posted by craichead at 2:20 PM on January 6, 2012


The whole point of Yoga is to wreck your body in order to purify your soul and destroy its dependence and connection to the flesh. It's not really supposed to be a big healthy thing.

Um, what? I know that yoga started off as, and in many places still is, a spiritual practice but I've never heard this. Where are you getting this from?
posted by asnider at 2:20 PM on January 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


Not much flexibility, but perhaps too much muscle to ever do the poses right.

I don't actually think this is possible. I've seen photos of exceptionally ripped people in all types of poses.
posted by neuromodulator at 2:23 PM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, it's a loose way to say it, asnider, but it seems to come down to the same thing, I think. The point of yoga is moksha – the realization of the unreality of the self (and particularly the body.) Health is not the point of yoga; the point of yoga is to realize that health is an unreality.
posted by koeselitz at 2:26 PM on January 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


I always find it amazing that people don't seem to grasp that too much of anything is generally bad for you. As someone tells Russell Brand in Get Him To The Greek, "you can make anything heroin".
posted by hepta at 2:26 PM on January 6, 2012


Health is not the point of yoga; the point of yoga is to realize that health is an unreality.

Sort of, but it's supposed to do it by making the body healthy because when it's not, the mind becomes distracted and anxious, and obsessed with discomfort coming from the body. IOW it's a means but not a goal.

This article is interesting, though. They mention Sivananda as someone who argued Yoga is safe, but they fail to note that his consistent theme is in direct opposition to the "try harder, harder, harder" approach, in fact, he viewed it as a classic beginner's mistake, although I can't find an exact quote..
posted by rainy at 2:38 PM on January 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


I don't really see the point of inversions, to be honest. The one time I tried even a mild one it was painful, with the blood rushing to my head and all. Why do shoulder stands at all?
posted by adamdschneider at 2:41 PM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, sure. People hurt themselves by excess zeal in all kinds of exercise or sports. That's why you should do martial arts in a proper class, not just start kicking your buddies' heads on weekends, for example.

Here's a thought: the future is OLD PEOPLE. A lot of boomers and Gen X, as we age, will be still working out really hard, sometimes too hard, at yoga, rock-climbing gyms, running, etc. If I were a doctor, I'd go into geriatric sports medicine, and buy a big boat.
posted by thelonius at 2:49 PM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


It would be awesome if someone would invent "healthy stretching and posing exercise" so that we could differentiate it from the spiritual practice. But there's no reason that people shouldn't non-spiritually do stretchy poses to increase strength and flexibility.

Yes That would be nifty
posted by sien at 2:51 PM on January 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


At this stage in the game, I wonder why the NYT doesn't just make Surprise! Everything We Tell You About Health Is Wrong into a daily 12- page section.
posted by bicyclefish at 2:54 PM on January 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


I was actually discussing this article this morning with my physical therapist. Her opinion was that she sees injuries from every sport conceivable and it's not the sport's fault...

The problem is that yoga is not just like any other sport. It's widely promoted as a spiritual practice, and there's a very common belief that spiritual things can only ever be good, so people place an enormous amount of trust in them.

One other relevant concept is Tapas: "spiritual suffering, mortification or austerity."
posted by AlsoMike at 2:54 PM on January 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yes That would be nifty
I love mat Pilates, but I don't think it's exactly the same. The emphasis is really on core strength, rather than flexibility.
posted by craichead at 2:56 PM on January 6, 2012


It kind of annoys me when the salient facts are buried in 12 pages of narrative. Its kind of like .. they just want me to have to read the whole article just to find out something simple.
posted by memebake at 2:57 PM on January 6, 2012


I saw the headline as: "You can wreck your body. Who knew?"

And I was all, "Pick me! Pick me! I know!"

But I was thinking more bourbon and bacon than I was thinking "yoga."

I'm much more of a picnic basket Yogi than the flexy hipster kind.
posted by chavenet at 3:01 PM on January 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


Also, getting encased in carbonite can wreck your body.
posted by flabdablet at 3:05 PM on January 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


My favorite yoga teacher used to give me grief about weight lifting, until he needed back surgery.
posted by Ideefixe at 3:36 PM on January 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


What surprises me is that this article focuses on Iyengar yoga. which is known for his use of props to support you in asanas which you can't get yourself into naturally. it can take YEARS to get into specific asanas, to be able to hold them without the props. when you start out in lower level classes, you're taugh specifically where and how to use the props. once you gain an understanding of and a trust with your study/teacher, you will know on your own about the use of props.

It may take me years to fully put myself into standard virasana. my knees and feet scream in pain the closer my butt gets to the floor. so i use the props to put me right at the edge of pain/stretching. and that edge will move so slowly that some days I wonder if I should just give up on virasana altogether. but then I know that so many standing asanas will never be balanced because my feet aren't the solid foundation they need to be to balance on. If i pushed myself past the point of pain in virasana to achieve it, i'm certain I'd need knee replacement in weeks. the study shows you that all is connected and that you have to know yourself to advance.

I've progressed well in the 3 years I have been studying Iyengar. I've taken classes with a few different teachers, though all of those teachers have studied under a senior teacher who has studied with Iyengar himself for over 30 years. In order to become a certified Iyengar teacher, you need to study under a senior teacher. achieving that level of study takes a lifetime. i love my teacher, but her senior teacher has something that you gain from watching your students for such a length of time. she knows what each student is doing at all times, and knows if they are in pain. they exert this control almost mercilessly to push you right to the edge, within proper form so that you're not putting yourself at risk. there is much study of even the proper sequencing (Light on Yoga contains an entire section of them) of your asanas in a class/individual practice. you need to understand there are heating poses and cooling ones, and just mixing them all up will produce undesired consequences, both physical and mental. you don't just pin an engine to redline when you start it up in on a 2 degree day. you warm it up before you push it to its limits, allowing the components to reach their optimum conditions.

Asanas have been evolved over the centuries so as to excercise every muscle, nerve, and gland in the body. They secure a fine physique, which is strong and elastic without being muscle bound and they keep the body free from disease. They reduce fatigue and soothe the nerves. But their real importance lies in the way they train and discipline the mind. -Light on Yoga

and right at the beginning of the Yogasanas, it reads:

Without firm foundations a house cannot stand. Without the practice of the principles of yama and niyama, which lay down fir the foundations for building character, there cannot be an integrated personality. Practice of asanas without the backing of yama and niyama is mere acrobatics.

i've heard this before, that yoga wrecks the body. part of it comes from ego, from pushing yourself into a pose you shouldn't be in. and also ego in the form of poor teaching, forcing students to conform to the class and poses they're not ready for, or poor sequencing, or just laziness. like anything else, you need to know your limits. exceeding them can result in undesired consequences. this is true for many things. They also seem to explain in this article that a lot of these injuries can come from sudden movements or pressure where it shouldn't be. you need to know yourself and know when to stop yourself if you feel something you shouldn't.

from the article:

"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."

and only one real mention of props, showing that they do what they're intended to:

"The patient had been in excellent health, practicing yoga every morning for a year and a half. His routine included spinal twists in which he rotated his head far to the left and far to the right. Then he would do a shoulder stand with his neck “maximally flexed against the bare floor,” just as Iyengar had instructed, remaining in the inversion for about five minutes. A series of bruises ran down the man’s lower neck, which, the team wrote in The Archives of Neurology, “resulted from repeated contact with the hard floor surface on which he did yoga exercises.” These were a sign of neck trauma. Diagnostic tests revealed blockages of the left vertebral artery between the c2 and c3 vertebrae; the blood vessel there had suffered “total or nearly complete occlusion” — in other words, no blood could get through to the brain."

"One of the most vocal reformers is Roger Cole, an Iyengar teacher with degrees in psychology from Stanford and the University of California, San Francisco. Cole has written extensively for Yoga Journal and speaks on yoga safety to the American College of Sports Medicine. In one column, Cole discussed the practice of reducing neck bending in a shoulder stand by lifting the shoulders on a stack of folded blankets and letting the head fall below it. The modification eases the angle between the head and the torso, from 90 degrees to perhaps 110 degrees. Cole ticked off the dangers of doing an unmodified shoulder stand: muscle strains, overstretched ligaments and cervical-disk injuries."

A misconception I was guilty of, as are many others, is that Yoga is the poses. Yoga is a complete study of which the asanas are just a part. Are you going to succeed at writing a book if you don't know how to spell?

Man injures self performing physical activity incorrectly. Film at 11.
posted by ninjew at 3:36 PM on January 6, 2012 [11 favorites]


Oh, fer crying out loud.
posted by kyrademon at 3:38 PM on January 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


On a cold Saturday in early 2009, Glenn Black, a yoga teacher of nearly four decades

This article was two letters away from being waaaaay more interesting.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 1:34 PM on 1/6
[26 favorites −] Favorite added! [!]


Not a bad idea for the next phase of the 9/12 movement actually. I'll bring it up at the next meeting ( fellow traveler Michael Savage has a PhD in New Age medicine from Berkeley and is an expert herbalist and homeopath so lots of potential synergy there with Guru Glenn.)
posted by Bwithh at 3:47 PM on January 6, 2012


Right that does it, I'm going to get the Ugnaughts to encase me in carbonite. It's the only way to be sure my body won't be wrecked by something.

If you survive the freezing process, that is.
posted by The Tensor at 4:10 PM on January 6, 2012


There's a surprising amount of herf-derf in this thread. The difference between other physical injuries and yoga injuries is that yoga has been presented as a tremendous force of healing lately. To an outsider, it seems obvious that twisting your body around like that could hurt something, but part of the growth of yoga has been telling people that doing this can be healthful. It's a pull back towards common sense away from the suspension that yoga masters have suggested.

The article notes that Glenn Black (ignoring the obvious joke opportunities provided by his name, which he's got to hear every day from new students) was one of the most careful yoga practitioners the author of the article knew. and he had to go in for yoga-related back surgery eventually.

The Oh, fer crying out loud article above seems to be somewhat disingenuous. The NYT article doesn't suggest that people entirely give up yoga, but that its dangers are not fully understood, and people should approach it without, as Black says, ego. Black appears to be just the sort of very-well-trained teacher that Birney says you should train under. He was injured by yoga. He tells stories about masters being injured.

The article mentions people doing even simple poses suffering from arterial dislocations and ending up with brain damage. These may not be common occurrences, but they are worth knowing about.
posted by JHarris at 4:12 PM on January 6, 2012 [15 favorites]


This doesn't surprise me. Gymnasts destroy their bodies doing a lot of similar extreme stretching and contortions. I had to cut back on yoga because I'm very flexible and tend to push things to far. I wouldn't realize it at the time, but the next day I'd be in pain.
posted by whoaali at 4:18 PM on January 6, 2012


One other relevant concept is Tapas: "spiritual suffering, mortification or austerity."

What, because the individual servings are so tiny you can't get full from just one plate?
posted by infinitywaltz at 4:24 PM on January 6, 2012 [6 favorites]


The Oh, fer crying out loud article above seems to be somewhat disingenuous. The NYT article doesn't suggest that people entirely give up yoga, but that its dangers are not fully understood, and people should approach it without, as Black says, ego. Black appears to be just the sort of very-well-trained teacher that Birney says you should train under. He was injured by yoga. He tells stories about masters being injured.

Sure, but Birney's article ends with:

"Advanced asana practicioners are–among other things–elite athletes. Elite athletes sometimes get injured.

When I do advanced asana I do it with all the skill I have acquired to keep myself safe. Alignment yoga is smart yoga. Not only can lining up in a specific way generate a huge shift of consciousness–it’s like looking both ways before crossing the street. It prevents most injury.

But even with good awareness of alignment, injury is possible. There is nothing that I know of that prevents 100% of injuries 100% of the time. The world is far less certain than that. Over the years, I’ve been injured a few times doing asana but I have also been healed. The healing has by far outweighed the injury."

She is quite aware that being well-trained does not prevent masters from ever, ever getting injured. As she points out, that's not the way athletics works -- other comparable athletes (runners, weightlifters, gymnasts, martial artists, sports athletes) also face the same risk. No matter how well-trained and careful you are, there's a point beyond which further progress becomes much more difficult and therefore more dangerous.

That said, I agree that the difference between other physical injuries and yoga injuries is that yoga has been presented as a tremendous force of healing lately... but that's not much different from running in the 1970s or Crossfit today. Maybe people do need to be reminded that yoga isn't just a magical sack of instant miracles, but IMHO that's more of a problem with the way we approach fitness rather than a problem specific to yoga.
posted by vorfeed at 4:48 PM on January 6, 2012


Yoga is supposed to be much less likely to lead to injury not because it's spiritual or something like that, but for these two reasons: 1. all movements are slow and deliberate 2. full attention is concentrated on the body and in particular on the part you're stretching.
posted by rainy at 4:51 PM on January 6, 2012


Generally anything that promotes increased mobility in the spine, neck, elbows or knees (rather than in the wrists, shoulders, hips and ankles) is going to be a source of persistent injury. Anyone with enough anatomical understanding to operate a GI Joe figure should be able to intuit this simple guideline. I'm not familiar with yoga in any of its myriad forms to cast any general criticisms, but I would like to think that the key difference between actual yoga and junk-disguised-as-yoga is whether it obeys these basic, scientifically understood facts of the musculoskeletal system.

Certainly though, the "STRETCH ALL THE THINGS!! FOR HEALTH!!" myth that seems to abound these days, whatever name it is marketed by, needs to die. Stretching every muscle in your body is categorically not health-promoting. This would be just another form of ignorant toil, no different than the bro-science in men's magazines that sends teenage males off to do 52 sets of bicep curls to the point of elbow tendinitis.

Athletes such as gymnasts may "destroy" their bodies through pursuit of their sport, but they do so for clearly defined reasons, with full knowledge of the risks and no conflating of the goal of maximal sport fitness with the very separate goals of physical, mental and spiritual health. Yoga, as popularly understood, does tend to conflate these two concerns, and thus disguises (or at least offsets) its risks by employing a lot of very spurious health claims. Nobody ever said becoming a world class gymnast results in satori and nigh-immortality, but a lot of yoga marketing does make such claims, if only implicitly, thanks to the patina of pseudo-religious bullshit it drags around with it for the sake of, I can only assume, some unique marketability.
posted by Kandarp Von Bontee at 5:20 PM on January 6, 2012 [7 favorites]


That said, I agree that the difference between other physical injuries and yoga injuries is that yoga has been presented as a tremendous force of healing lately... but that's not much different from running in the 1970s or Crossfit today. Maybe people do need to be reminded that yoga isn't just a magical sack of instant miracles, but IMHO that's more of a problem with the way we approach fitness rather than a problem specific to yoga.

I couldn't agree more. The fact that yoga is explicitly spiritual is only marginally different from other forms of exercise which are implicitly spiritual -- if you don't follow, go to a bookstore and check out the collection of salvation-through-running books.

Big fan of both running and yoga, just not Lululemon-style athletes.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 5:22 PM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


However, plentiful recent research now shows that stretching as we know it — the kind of typical stretching that the average person does at the gym, or even the kind of stretching that most athletes do — is mostly a waste of time for most commonly identified goals. For instance, articles published in recent years, reviewing hundreds of studies, have concluded that there isn’t much evidence that any widely practice form of stretching prevents injury or muscle soreness — arguably the single most common goal of stretching. Adding significantly to the credibility of those reviews, a major year 2000 clinical study of many hundreds of soldiers showed no sign of benefit from and even some risks to stretching.

http://saveyourself.ca/articles/stretching.php

posted by sebastienbailard at 5:29 PM on January 6, 2012


Who knew?

We knew.
posted by zabuni at 5:38 PM on January 6, 2012


Look, yoga pants are the best fucking thing that has happened in the past 20 years. My generation had loose-fitting jeans, flannel shirts and Doc Martins. Young people today have no idea how much things have changed for the better.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:10 PM on January 6, 2012 [7 favorites]


Careful there, most people seem to think yoga pants are harmless but, quite to the contrary, serious injuries were caused by yoga pants.

You can.. slip on them and fall, or tie them around your legs and stumble down and crack your head open, or you can even hang yourself if you tie them just so around your neck. Dangerous, vile things these - and look so innocent.
posted by rainy at 6:42 PM on January 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Geez. I read the first line of that article this way:

On a cold Saturday in early 2009, Glenn Beck, a yoga teacher of nearly four decades, whose devoted clientele includes a number of celebrities and prominent gurus, was giving a master class at Sankalpah Yoga in Manhattan.

and reality exploded.
posted by twoleftfeet at 6:51 PM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Careful there, most people seem to think yoga pants are harmless but, quite to the contrary, serious injuries were caused by yoga pants.

They have caused a few car accidents
posted by KokuRyu at 6:55 PM on January 6, 2012 [7 favorites]


Any kind of physical activity carries risk, but not as much as no activity. Yoga is about the least risky activity you could do. Have modern peoples really lost so much touch with their own bodies that they can't figure out when they are pushing their bodily limits in something as slow as yoga? I understand why 45 year olds blow a tendon playing basketball or skiing, because there's no time to think before you react.

I also love my yoga pants, and would wear them every fucking day if the dress code allowed.
posted by Ella Fynoe at 9:10 PM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


So, here's why I love yoga.

Everyone agrees that warming up, focusing, stretching are important to a long successful career in any physical activity. I've been a part of a few teams in college and high school, and each of those guys started each practice with a half ass'ed stretching routine that we always chatted through. When you're an adolescent male all you want to do is kick or run or hit really hard.

But in yoga the GOAL and whole Point of everything you do is balance starting in the core, focus, stretch, engaging every muscle and being conscious of it. There's no lolly-gagging through the core work and absent mindedly stretching. That's the whole point of putting yourself on the mat for 45-60, and even a simple minded dude can figure that out.
posted by midmarch snowman at 10:52 PM on January 6, 2012


Everyone has their exercise religion. Well not everyone, but it sure seems like anyone who exercises (even for only 5 minutes a year) has one. Anyway I'm pretty sure that people who yoga are, on the whole, healthier than people who are sedentary. That's just part of my exercise religion. Not that I'm a believer in yoga, just a believer in exercise (even if I occasionally disparage the yoga-ists). Exercise is probably alot like medicine; it works but so do placebos.

Someone said it like this once: You either end up at the orthopedic surgeon's office, or the cardiologist's. That was one of the axioms of his exercise religion.
posted by Barry B. Palindromer at 11:01 PM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I haven't done yoga in almost ten years, but I studied very hard in the 90s with an Iyengar teacher. He spent so much time teaching us to be careful with our bodies. In 5 years, for example, I never saw a single person do a shoulder stand without the modification mentioned in the article (blankets and foam blocks). It was all very slow and thoughtful. He himself had studied yoga for over 20 years, and despite teaching for 10, still studied with a more senior teacher. It was all Very Serious.

I get the feeling that things have changed a lot since then, as yoga has become more popular. A lot of those studios seem like yoga-mills to me, and I wonder what kind of training the teachers have. I can't imagine trusting my joints and vertebrae to an aerobics instructor with a yogic veneer.
posted by looli at 12:35 AM on January 7, 2012


Loved my/your reaction to this article. I think the point sort of behind the rather lengthy narrative was: don't do poses you can't handle. Don't do poses that put you in a great deal of pain. Warm up properly. Don't stretch or rotate more than you can handle. Just go into child's pose instead if you have problems.

Which is what all of my instructors have said emphatically, along with a healthy dose of: this is not a competition. You are not competing with your fellow yogis and yoginis. You really aren't even competing with yourself. Don't do what you can't or shouldn't do because of pride or ego.

But again and again you hear people talking like "I need to take it to the next level" or "I want to get to X point by Y time." And you look around in class and see people who are competing with one another on who can meditate better or whatever.

Anyway, the instructors' advice has been gold for me, as a naturally unathletic and nervous-about-comparison person.
posted by lackutrol at 1:00 AM on January 7, 2012


Oh, and "hot yoga" and all inversions strike me as insane. I have gotten over my fear of breaking my neck in shoulder stand through careful instruction and the use of blankets (of course! like any non-crazy person!), but rarely do I even attempt headstand.
posted by lackutrol at 1:06 AM on January 7, 2012


Agree with JHarris and looli. There seems to be a proliferation of yoga mills these days and a lot of what they call "yoga," I would prefer to do in a weight room or aerobics studio. There also seems to be a prevailing attitude that you can't hurt yourself in a yoga class - that it's more "gentle" than other forms of exercise. One principle that seems to be consistently lacking in today's classes is the "counterpose," where you do a posture that is in some way the opposite of the one you just did, in order to bring your body back into balance. Now, as I write that, it sounds like woo to me, but when I did it it certainly seemed to make sense on a physical level.

The trainers I've had in weight rooms emphasized proper technique much more than some of these "yoga" teachers do today. Yoga + American type-A thinking can injure you just as badly, perhaps even more so, than running marathons or doing deadlifts.

Based on yoga classes I've considered good, I believe that the teacher should monitor the class and give instructions/watch students to try to prevent it from happening: instead, it seems like some teachers encourage the type-A behavior or simply aren't paying attention. And people notoriously lack common sense when it comes to pushing themselves too hard - hence the need for a responsible teacher. Not just anyone can or should teach a yoga class but it seems that these days, that's what is happening.
posted by Currer Belfry at 5:23 AM on January 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


started lecturing about ridding one of thoughts of sex.

My favorite part of Iyengar's book is where he cautions that once you're doing very advanced poses you should be sure to find a good yogi or risk, "spontaneous ejaculation and loss of manhood."
posted by cmoj at 7:17 AM on January 7, 2012


I run that risk doing so many things.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 7:27 AM on January 7, 2012


I've done Taiji for years and I've always been hesitant about taking up yoga for just this reason. One of the nice things about Taiji is that as you get older, you do the same moves, but in a less extreme manner. So if I bend down and sweep the ground in 'Snake goes down to the water' now, I don't bend my knees as much so it's less stressful.
posted by BillW at 8:07 AM on January 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


As a weekend yogi I believe we can all use a periodic reminder of the hazards of overdosing. I thought the article was conservative, if one-sided. If I was going for page hits I would have included one of the following items:

I. Nasal passage flossing or even beyond. If you don't know about this an accessible entry point is in the documentary on the comics guy R. Crumb. His brother is an extreme yogi--bed of nails, &c--and in one of the scenes of the movie he takes a 50' length of 1.5" wide cotton cloth and shoves it down his esophagus in some kind of fucked up cleansing ritual;

II. Tantric sex and withholding of semen;

III. Crowley's thing on extended asanas where you hold one posture for long time intervals well into painful. One time I was in an OTO group meditation where we did a twenty minute asana and some dumbass did lotus. After 20 minutes she was stuck and in excruciating pain and terrified.

My guide is James Hewitt Complete Yoga Book, but I skip the nasal passage flossing bits.
posted by bukvich at 8:18 AM on January 7, 2012


Meditation can wreck your body too.

Never did learn to sit comfortably on a floor cushion for more than half an hour at a time. These days, I'm willing to accept that I just don't have the right kind of hips.
posted by flabdablet at 9:11 AM on January 7, 2012


One time I was in an OTO group meditation where we did a twenty minute asana and some dumbass did lotus. After 20 minutes she was stuck and in excruciating pain and terrified.

Is that really that extreme, though? I've done full lotus for well longer than that (probably maxing out at 45 minutes or so) and never had any kind of problems, and I didn't have much training beyond building up by about five or 10 minutes a week.
posted by infinitywaltz at 9:40 AM on January 7, 2012


Woo! I am a tree! Yeah!
posted by homunculus at 10:47 AM on January 7, 2012


infinitywaltz I am a weekend yogi not a real yogi. 45 minutes of full lotus is an order of magnitude higher than what I think of as realistic for me. Amongst the millions of practitioners I would guess you are at least two standard deviations beyond the mean.
posted by bukvich at 11:00 AM on January 7, 2012


45 minutes of full lotus is an order of magnitude higher than what I think of as realistic for me. Amongst the millions of practitioners I would guess you are at least two standard deviations beyond the mean.

I've done about 45 minutes of full lotus, as well. It's just a matter of daily practice and increasing the time slowly. I doubt most people would have trouble with 45 or 60 minutes if they practiced daily and pushed it up by, let's say, 1 minute per week. I've practiced in a much more haphazard way and didn't have much trouble with it, I imagine a more measured approach would be that much easier still.
posted by rainy at 11:34 AM on January 7, 2012


rainy I am curious what you do other than the 45 minutes full lotus.

It seems way off of what I do, which is about three minutes each on about twenty different asanas. I don't recall anywhere in the Hewitt book where he advocates for a long interval in one position. In even the least strenuous postures I am hurting bad after 15 or 20 minutes. Crowley specifically states it's the pain that brings the benefit but I am not really interested in pain.

I also do not run through side stitches or shin splints. I would much rather just stop.
posted by bukvich at 11:53 AM on January 7, 2012


From my reading of many yoga books, padmasana/lotus (and half-lotus) are quite different than other asanas. Specifically, lotus and half-lotus are used for meditation, and that makes sense to me since lotus is the most stable and comfortable seating posture once you get used to it. It also makes it less likely to stop meditation accidentally since you're locked in a seating position. I also like to sit in padmasana when reading books.

Other asanas are meant to be physical exercises and I don't think their timing is meant to be increased beyond a few minutes, so I haven't tried to.

Sivananda treats sirsasana (headstand) as a special case. According to him, it's the most important and beneficial asana (sarvangasana is 2nd most important and sukhasana is 3rd), and he advises its practice until you can hold it for 30 minutes, but I haven't been able to do it for longer than 15 minutes (a few years ago, now I can only do maybe 5 minutes). It's worth noting that Sivananda is also very explicit about stopping any asana if you experience discomfort. He said that both asanas and meditation should be done with an enjoyable, cheerful attitude.
posted by rainy at 12:11 PM on January 7, 2012


Sorry - the 3rd is not sukhasana but the one where you sit down and fold over your legs, holding feet with your hands. No idea what's it called.
posted by rainy at 12:14 PM on January 7, 2012


Amongst the millions of practitioners I would guess you are at least two standard deviations beyond the mean.

Well, good for me, I guess! It's kind of surprising, because I'm not very flexible at all, except in my shoulders, which are too flexible and tend to dislocate.

I should clarify that I use lotus and half-lotus for meditation, and don't practice hatha yoga at all, as such.
posted by infinitywaltz at 12:19 PM on January 7, 2012


I'm not flexible either for poses like splits, moderately flexible for poses like uttanasana, but padmasana was always really easy for me, from the beginning - I was able to do it right away, if only for a few seconds.
posted by rainy at 12:31 PM on January 7, 2012


Flabdablet, that's interesting. Now I'm really glad I never bothered with those 10-day meditation things despite urging by others.
posted by Listener at 1:16 PM on January 7, 2012


I've seen too many vertebral artery strokes and dissections from hyperextension of the neck to be blasé about *anything* (yoga, deep tissue massage, chiropractic, headbanging) that twists and contorts or traumatises the upper cervical vertebrae. But in pretty much every case with someone under 40 (and in most of those for people over 40) when you see an angiogram of the posterior circulation of the brain and neck you realise this happened to people with very sub-optimal circulation (or they have some kind of connective tissue disorder such as Marfan's or EDS). They were born, or sometimes developed, extremely twisty or sclerosed vertebral arteries or they failed to develop or sclerosed off their collaterals. The sad part is that without several thousand dollars of imaging there's no way to identify someone in advance who is at risk from these kind of activities, and even then as a screening tool the imaging is too risky and lacks sufficient specificity.
posted by meehawl at 8:41 PM on January 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


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