I just watched a video of a “yoga teacher” thumping from headstand to wheel, then lurching back to headstand. Sensible comments question safety. “Yoga teacher” asserts that done in “correct alignment” this is quite safe. She’ll even be posting an explanation of this alignment soon in Yoga Journal (a publication that states you must have a guru to progress in yoga).
Of course, she’s wrong. And this isn’t unique to her.
She’s just doing what is much too common in the yoga community now: pushing and struggling against her body and her mind to get into poses. This needs to go away from yoga. Yoga shouldn’t hurt. It should only help.
But it’s hurting. Yoga teachers and long-time practicers are de-stablizing their joints and compromising vulnerable parts of the spine – leading to chronic pain and a pileup of shoulder, hip, and knee replacements in the yoga community. If we want yoga to stand alongside Western medicine as a widely useful and legitimate path to health, we need to begin with this simple Do No Harm principle. Western medicine has peer review to route out harmful practices. Yoga needs a similar system if we’re all going to reach beyond the yoga community into the people community. It’s not all good. But together we can support each other to make it much better – an extremely useful path to healthy and happy.
On a physical level – basing safety on “rules of alignment” learned from a guru – or from “yoga anatomy” courses lead by people who have never excelled academically or professionally – isn’t working. William Broad is right. People are injuring themselves by pushing, forcing, and lurching into their pose goals.
On a psychological level, the harm is worse. Pushing and struggling to be in a body that isn’t your own, in a shape that isn’t your own, following rules that aren’t your own, is harmful. Practicing in your yoga this urgent need to be somewhere you’re not – rather than getting to know right where you are – is harmful.
This is crazy, it’s not yoga, and we can change it. The idea that certain poses are advanced – making poses the goal – is just plain silly. The only “advanced” in yoga is a calm mind and happy life. You don’t get there by pushing pose goals. You don’t get there by practicing frustration with your self.
Everything there is begins here, right where you are. Drop the pose goals, the contortion, the performance. Let the stress go, and get into you. You’re going to feel great. You’re going to inspire people. It’s an inside-out job.
About Strala Yoga Training
Strala combines the movement and healing wisdom of tai chi with the form vocabularies of yoga, tai chi, qigong, and Traditional Chinese and Japanese Medicine, to help people release stress, move easily through challenge, and live radiantly inspiring lives.
It begins with a mindset, that says our best way to get where we’re going is to feel good along the way. It also works miracles for whole health, helping us to find ease in our bodies and minds, and create the right conditions both for healing and optimal performance.
In our Strala Yoga Training Courses, you learn to shape your destiny on every level that counts, from your psychology, chemistry and neurology, to your chromosomes and even gene expression. The unique set of skills you develop – for connecting with yourself and others, unblocking your energy, healing what needs healing and accomplishing challenge with ease – uncovers your ability to create the life you want, and be an inspiring leader to the people around you.