OK so if you haven't already heard, Yoga can wreck your body!
Journalist and yoga student, William Broad made this controversial announcement recently in the New York times and since this bomb shell hit on January 5th, yoga practitioners the world over have been questioning their practice.
Yes, me too! Shocking I know because I am so secure!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The gist of the story is that this guy Broad some years ago, found he could alleviate the pain of a disc rupture in his lower back with a series of yoga postures which he practiced frequently until one day his back gave way in extended side angle pose. This one blip made him question his entire practice and the merits of yoga as a restorative practice on the whole.
He was pretty quick to turn on his trusted friend yoga who had helped him through the pain in his back for so many years!
The story continues with Broad seeking out renowned New York yoga teacher Glen Black to give him the skinny on whether yoga was damaging for the body. This guy seemed to be intent on proving that yoga, which has become so incredibly popular the world over not only for its physical benefits but also for the mental, emotional and spiritual journey that a practitioner travels, was very very bad for you indeed!
I am happy to say that the answer that really comes from Mr. Black is that lack of awareness is what damages the body, not yoga!
Take that Broad!
Were you working to your own personal edge in your side angle or were you looking at the bloke next to you thinking "If he can get there then I am sure if I push myself I can too"? Were you being led by your ego rather than letting go of its leash and being honest about your true capabilities? Were you just about surviving in your pose rather than backing off to a point where you were happy and comfortable and most importantly able to breathe?!
Now Glen Black is hugely knowledgeable and his message is "I make it as hard as possible. It's up to you to make it easy on yourself".
You have to, as Black says, "pay attention to your thresholds of pain". Its no good puffing and panting and shaking and shuddering and grimacing yourself into a posture only to find that you are in pain. As he says, that's not yoga. That's a bunch of physical exercises thrown together without any thought about the way in which you are approaching them.
Lets face it, anything can wreck your body if you allow it to: rugby, dancing, alcohol, food, pregnancy, the sun.
The list is endless.
But we have choices. We have in all of us the ability to either nurture ourselves and listen to all the messages our body sends us every minute of every day, or we can think ourselves invincible and push ourselves to the limit in every way.
Whatever you choose to do, you have to be willing to live with the results and consequences.
You cannot hold anyone else responsible for the outcome but usually if you are being aware and mindful as well as kind to your body and mind you won't have much to complain about!
So my job as a yoga teacher is to keep on reminding you of that. I tell all my students in every class that everything is an invitation, you don't have to come on the ride!
It is also my job to be as informed as possible not only about yoga but about my students. I don't claim to know it all, I don't even think Glen Black knows it all (William Broad may well do!) however I am committed to knowledge of my field and to the safety of my very lovely and very precious students!
Yoga makes you aware of your strengths as well as your weaknesses, it allows you to get to know yourself inside and out and realise your true potential, if you let it!
So don't become one of cynical Mr. Broad's statistics.
Next time you step into the yoga room, promise yourself that you will listen, be honest and most of all, breathe!