Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Yoga Cannot Wreck Your Body, ASSana Can.

Ok people. I know it's five pages long, but you must read the New York Times article "How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body".  The warnings are real, and the detail is gruesome - yoga postures driven by the ego is a recipe for disaster.

If you read through the online comments for the article, however, many fellow yoginis go on the defensive, blaming the practitioners themselves for the pain and suffering "yoga" may have caused.  And while practitioners need to be mindful, when swept away by pseudo-religious, "seems like they know what they're doing" teachers or studios - it's difficult to discriminate.  So, I wouldn't just blame the practitioner and be done with the discussion.

To be completely clear - yoga cannot wreck your body. Yoga means union or to yoke. (Yup, this link goes to Wikipedia ... it's clearly written and easy to understand.  Don't judge me for it!).  Moving on.

Yoga is an experience and is much, much more than the physical postures described in the article. While I commend the author and agree with mostly all the warnings - indeed you should never hang out in shoulder stand for five minutes on a wooden floor - I do not agree with Mr. Glenn Black that: “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.”

Perhaps certain styles of hatha yoga, where physical postures are taught as a means to detoxify, strengthen and lighten the body and mind, are not proper for many body types. Agreed, jumping on someone's back in 115 degree heat to get them "deeper" into the "experience" of yoga is absurd. As my teacher Tom Gillette jokes, "if you can't do a full split, you'll never reach enlightenment."

So while we need to warn people of ego-driven yoga styles that promote hurtful or extreme postures or in sanskrit called "asana", it is not wise to denounce yoga altogether. Yoga, as a practice, brings together a variety of technologies (some thousands of years old, others only a few decades really), that seek to heal the fractured mind - to bring peace and unity to one's life.

So please, if you're looking for a little enlightenment, don't do this:

or this

or this

or this

or this

But rather, connect to the earth through your sitting bones, rise up through the crown of the head, and close your eyes. Find your breath and steady the mind. Perhaps move and stretch your body appropriately, finding space, strength and ease. Slow down and step firmly into the present moment. Drop the story, stop blaming and get real. Practice non-violence, promote truth, and study your intentions. Cultivate compassion and chant OM. That's a yoga practice. And yes, yoga is for everyone.  

PS - thanks Tom for the pictures :)


  1. Hey Spaziano, yoga means paying attention to your choices from one moment to the next. Life becomes less of a struggle because you slowly learn to stop hassling yourself and putting up with people and situations that annoy you.

  2. Oh so true. We have an up hill battle here - where yoga is many times viewed as exercise. A means to an end rather than an experience in the now.


Thank you for commenting on The Daily Yoke! Be sure to subscribe to the site so you can receive posts as they happen.

Find your Ground on November 9th!

NEW Workshop Series, Deepen your Practice General Info: Are you looking to go deeper with your yoga practice?  Join me for a special si...