How Ego Can Wreck Your Yoga.

Via on Jan 12, 2012
Canon in 2D

*Other articles on this topic: How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body? A Response, How Yoga Can Lead to Pure Happiness, On the Cover of The New York Times: How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body, This Just In: Yoga Can Wreck Your Body!

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As one of the fastest growing industries, yoga finds itself in a new pose, the spotlight.

Whether caught virtually with no underwear on in the exposing New York Times Magazine article, “How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body,” or given grief for only wearing underwear with Equinox Fitness’ provocative viral yoga video, “The Contortionist,” people are talking about yoga.

For a field whose purpose is meant to be unifying (the word yoga literally meaning to yoke or bind), all this controversy feels antithetical and sensationalistic. Yoga is meant to heal and center, not wound and divide.

The latest controversy to grace the yoga world is the New York Times article, “How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body,” by William J. Broad. Right from the title, yoga is convicted. And what’s more, Broad’s article seems to indict the whole of yoga, which begs the question, what is yoga?

Yes, injuries can happen when the wrong person practices a particular pose, but last time I checked, yoga was about stilling one’s mind, not standing on one’s head.

Asana, the physical postures of yoga, are just a tiny portion of the practice, yet we continually forget in the West that yoga is not a workout. The physical poses by themselves are empty. Yoga is our approach to the poses.

Having had many injuries from my physical practice, most recently tearing both my hamstrings, I can say without question that yoga did not wreck my body, I did.

Had I truly been practicing my yoga, I would have been more present with what I was doing. Instead, like most people, I let my ego get the best of me and pushed my body beyond its limitations. To vilify the whole of yoga for injuries most people inflict upon themselves in asana is preposterous. Yoga does not harm, our egos do.

Broad notes a few scary cases, yet most of the incidents and research cited in the article are from the mid 1970’s. The 70’s were only the beginning of the information age. Like technology, the physical alignment of yoga postures has evolved over time.

Tony Roberts

Looking back at old copies of B.K.S Iyengar’s “Light on Yoga,” modern yoga teachers cringe when they look at the alignment. And Iyengar Yoga is best known for safe and detailed alignment.

As the years go on and we learn more about the science of yoga, the postures continually change to become safer and more accessible to differing body types. Broad discusses a case of a gentleman having his cervical spine crushed in shoulder stand, because he was practicing it on a bare floor “just as Iyengar instructed.”

Today, Iyengar teachers insist that shoulder stand be practiced on blankets, which heightens the cervical curve. Or if a student is unable to support themselves in the center of the room, practice on a chair or against the wall.

There was no mention of the advancements yoga has made throughout the past 40 years. Perhaps, because touting yoga as a medieval form of fitness sells more magazines.

And unless the author was trying to rack up more evidence, those “Godspell” actors in the article pictures should not be turning their heads in shoulder stand, even for an instant!

The reality is that anything done to an extreme can be harmful. Chocolate and wine in small doses provide antioxidants linked to cancer prevention. Yet when consumed in excess, they can lead to tighter jeans and one hell of a hangover.

whatnot

Yoga can and is often overdone. Hot Yoga, Intense Yoga, Intense Hot Yoga — the Western world has turned a practice of stillness into an extreme sport. Classes are getting increasingly harder. Class levels on yoga studio schedules are becoming obsolete with Level 2 classes looking more like Level 5. As a result, the asana classes available these days are well beyond most people’s physical ability.

It is now equally the responsibility of the teacher to teach to the bodies in the room and feel confident in telling someone they should not do a particular pose, as much as it is the student’s responsibility to know when not try something.

While there are risky aspects to yoga and a few fluke cases, to assail the entire industry with such a blanketing and harsh statement as “how yoga can wreck your body” is melodramatic. This article was intended to sell papers and being a six billion-dollar grossing industry proves that yoga indeed sells.

Let us be clear on what is reality versus gossip or a means to grab headlines. It is not yoga that wrecks the body, but the approach of the people practicing the yoga.

 

About Sarah Ezrin

Sarah Ezrin , E-RYT-500, is an energetic and humorous yoga teacher and writer based in Los Angeles. With a profound love of travel, Sarah runs around the world teaching and doing yoga. For Sarah, yoga is not about the tricks or the postures; it is about connecting to one’s center and living from your greatest truth. She believes that life is short and that it should be spent laughing, with the people and animals we love, and doing the things we most enjoy, like yoga! For more information on Sarah please visit: here.

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18 Responses to “How Ego Can Wreck Your Yoga.”

  1. mary beth says:

    GREAT article. love this.

  2. Jennifer says:

    Agree wholeheartedly! And while the NYT raises some valid concerns…the article seemed intentionally sensationalistic.Nice reply mama!!!

  3. Allyson says:

    amen sister!!

  4. ManifestYogaJen says:

    Bravo!

  5. Kim Waters says:

    I couldn't agree more! Anything done without awareness and attention can be harmful.

  6. Cousin Johnny says:

    True dat. Nice.

  7. karlsaliter says:

    Nice article Sarah. And let's leave the "in excess" undefined,
    because I'm guarding a fierce chocolate habit here.

  8. [...] How Ego Can Wreck Your Yoga. ~ Sarah Ezrin [...]

  9. Shawna Turner shawna says:

    "The physical poses by themselves are empty. Yoga is our approach to the poses."

    Word. Great post!

  10. jonathan says:

    Excellent! Excellent! Excellent!

  11. [...] articles on this topic: How Ego Can Wreck Your Body, Yoga Can Wreck Your Body? A Response, How Yoga Can Lead to Pure Happiness, On the Cover of The New [...]

  12. Ashley Tibbetts says:

    I like what this author has to say, but I do not believe that I injured my knees doing yoga because of my ego. I injured them because I was taught to do certain poses incorrectly. This has nothing to do about one's ego, and everything to do with a bad teacher.

  13. Sarah Ezrin says:

    Ashley- I TOTALLY agree that teachers are responsible as well as the students. I mention that in article too :) i'm SO sorry to hear about your knee and wish you a speedy recovery! I also hope you've found teachers who are able to teach you the proper alignment and hopefully heal the injury. Take care!

  14. [...] of my favorites came in a post on Elephantjournal.com, where yoga teacher Sarah Ezrin wrote that yoga doesn’t do the harm. “Having had many [...]

  15. [...] the hidden, deeper real meaning which is the aim and goal of all practices. The same holds true for Yoga. All practices are to be viewed in this light. [...]

  16. [...] to our own development. Just as we can cultivate positivity, we can also attract negativity and self-destruct. By believing and most importantly trusting that things will work out, they often [...]

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