Sunday, January 8, 2012

Is Yoga Bad For You?

A friend posted an article, How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body, on Facebook the other day, causing me to want to read it immediately.

Yoga wrecking your body? What?! I was perplexed. I had to figure out what was going on.

The article is based off of Glenn Beck, a yoga teacher who has been teaching for almost 40 years and who has an impressive background, having studied yoga at the B.K.S. Iyengar institute in India. After his many years of teaching he believes that most people should give yoga up. Yep, just give it on up.

To explain his rational behind this he states, "Today many schools of yoga are just about pushing people. You can't believe what's going on - teachers jumping on people, pushing and pulling, saying, 'You should be able to do this by now.' It has to do with their egos."

The answer to this problem, he believes, is that most people should just stay away from yoga. That only those in need of healing or those in great condition should practice.


I've only got about a decade under my belt, but here's my take on it: Everyone should do yoga, but everyone needs to be careful with what they do, how, and who they study with.

Sure, yoga can hurt you. You can also blow out a knee cap if you run, pull a muscle weight lifting, and sprain your ankle in kickboxing. Those injuries all depend on how hard you push yourself. They depend on how well you know your body.

That is the key - Knowing your body. Knowing your limits. Knowing when enough is enough.

I've heard of yoga teachers giving adjustments and hurting students. I'm sure it happens. He's right when he says it's about ego for a lot of people, teachers and students alike. Those people, however, are wrong to act that way. The very core of yoga is about having no ego. Having no thoughts, really, just being. The actual practice of yoga is about preparing the body for meditation. For silence from your own thoughts. It's also incredibly therapeutic and healing, when done properly.

I studied with a brilliant woman, Mary Bruce. Not only did she encompass everything that yoga is meant to, she taught us the difference between giving an adjustment and pushing someone. Between the soft side of the edge, and the edge itself. In yoga, you don't want to be on the edge.

Yoga is about stretching, growing, shifting, shall we say, your perception of what your body can do and why and how. It's about flowing with your breath, paying attention to your thoughts, eventually freeing your mind from those thoughts.

Yoga is not a competition.

It is not about how low you can go, how high you can stretch, how cool your clothes are, or how far you push yourself. It is not about pain. It's just not.

I used to teach a class where I had students in various age ranges. Each person needed something different. Some could do the more advanced poses, some couldn't, and that was fine. I always wanted them to know that was perfectly fine, excellent even. Honoring yourself was the most important piece. Rarely would I give an actual physical adjustment. I mostly tried to adjust with my words. I tried to refrain what I had said in various ways so they would know how the alignment should look, should feel, for them. I did a lot of demonstrating so they could see it, the difference between too much and not enough. I did it this way because this is how I was taught. Alignment of the body, to ensure you didn't hurt the body, but strengthened it, was key.

I still can't get my heels to touch the ground in Adho Mukha Svanasana, or downward-facing dog. Nope.  I'm better, but me and my hamstrings disagree on where they want to go and where I want them to go. So I let them decide. One day it'll happen. That's good enough for me.

Let your body decide what's good enough for it. Don't force anything. By forcing you are actually doing more damage than you would be if you let your body relax naturally into the pose.

If something hurts, stop. Ask the teacher if you're doing it right. Ask them to show you various ways to do it, if the one they were showing in class doesn't work for you.

Be sure to find a yoga teacher you like...and trust. Make sure they're there for the right reasons and that they have your best intentions at heart. A really excellent yoga teacher will ask you if they can adjust you before they do anything. They'll give various options for each asana, or pose. They will help you challenge yourself, but they will make sure you don't hurt yourself. They will remind you that yoga is a practice, a process, and that the the only perfection you should be striving for is to realize that you're already perfect.


What are your thoughts on the practice of yoga?

Related Post
Yoga 101


Mediocre Renaissance Man said...

In high school I made the mistake/had the pleasure of joining the debate team my freshman year. It was horrible/wonderful. I learned a lot of really interesting things about the world of debate, facts and politics. I now have a deeper loathing for politics than I ever did before, I have an appreciation for debate and arguments, and I no longer trust any facts.

Part of a good debaters job is to find "facts" supporting his argument, in addition to finding "facts" supporting the opposition's argument so that he can go find more facts that specifically shoot down the "facts" that support his opposition's arguments.

If done right, this results in you having all the facts to support your argument, plus being prepared enough to know exactly which facts your opponent will bring up to attempt shooting you down, but you'll have already found all of the counter-facts to shoot down the opponent's attempt at shooting you down.

It's a never-ending circle of crap being flung every which way.

I hate running, but the military insists that I do it. I have seen facts that say running extends your lifespan, and I have seen facts that say running shortens your lifespan and destroys your body. I have seen arguments for and against everything. But one thing they all have in common is a reference to extremes - a person who does not run at all versus a person who runs maniacally, doing those silly 100 mile runs and stuff.

All good things in moderation. That's what I say. Frankly, I'd never run if it weren't for the military. I'll likely quit when I can finally get out. But I'll still walk and do other things for my health in moderation. I may even take up Yoga. Shoot, I may even fly out with my wife to see you and have you get us started with some one-on-one instruction. Who knows what I'll do when I can finally stop running.

My point being this: "Facts" can be found or made up to support any point of view. They are manipulated, biased, twisted and presented out of context on purpose. For every guy you find that says yoga is the best thing ever, I can find at least one saying yoga is horrible and another saying the guy who said yoga is awesome was smoking weed at the time. That is the nature of debate.

Do what feels right. Do things that doctors generally agree are better for you than doing nothing. Do things that have evidence in your personal life of making a positive impact. And above all - do all things in moderation. Taking anything too far will result in negative effects.

THOSE are my thoughts on the practice of yoga, the practice of debate, and the world of "facts."

Mediocre Renaissance Man said...

And I think your thoughts are spot on too. ;)

Mediocre Renaissance Man said...

And gosh darned, dad gum, dang it all to heck - I had a major error in my first comment. I wish I could take it back. I want to take it ALL back.

My second paragraph's first sentence should read:

"Part of a good debater's job is to find..."

I left the apostrophe out. SHAME ON ME.

Chantelle Says said...

Let it be known that comment #1 is probably my most favorite of all comments - ever. I wish I could "favorite" that some how. I learned more about debating and facts from that than I ever did in school. I also LOL'd a lot.

I would love, love, love it if you flew out here. Stupid running! I protest on your behalf.

I miss the occasional apostrophe as well. It's all good, my friend, all good. :)

Mediocre Renaissance Man said...

My wife and I have a strong goal as a couple to do as much traveling as life will practically permit us to do at any given point. Right now we travel pretty rarely, but we expect things to pick up once we get past some hurdles we've identified.

Eventually, I'm sure we'll find ourselves in your neck of the woods with a hankering for some yoga, awesome barbecue sauce, and your great laughter. :)

Chantelle Says said...

I would "favorite" this one too. :) See you soon then, my friend!