A few weeks ago, an article was published in the New York Times on how yoga can wreck your body. This article sure provoked a lot of controversy.
I feel the true meaning of yoga was not expressed in this article, nor in some of the backlash to it.
Yoga is often translated as “to Unite” or “to bring together”. It is a practice that is meant to bring health and wellness to our minds and bodies. It is a practice that brings all of our individual aspects of our beings into one, making us whole. A practice that can bring us closer to our belief system and to the Divine, God, the Universe or whatever you want to call it.
It is true that many people unfortunately have hurt themselves practicing yoga, but it is also true that far more people have benefited from this practice.
It is easy to generalize and try to put everything into a little box. It is easier to say yoga can hurt the body than explain how exercise can hurt the body when we don’t listen to it. In my opinion, most times a person’s ego and stubbornness in their practice causes the most physical damage. This not only applies to yoga, but to anything else we do in life.The thing is that when we move from a place of ego, competition and so on, regardless of what the body says, then the result will always be some type of disconnection or disruption of health either in the form of injury, stress, and/or dis-ease. Only when we move to a place of self-awareness, self-love, compassion and being present in the moment, will Yoga help heal the entire being.
Yoga, to me, is about becoming Whole: One and complete on and off the mat. It teaches us to listen to the messages the body is sending. We all need our Ego, that little voice in our heads that wants us to be better, to get things done or to go after what we want, but there is also the Ego that likes to compete, achieve, go beyond our limits and abilities. Learning to distinguish when the Ego is actually a tool that can help rather that hurt is the key.
Before we jump into generalizations and conclusions that can be misleading, we need to look at all the things that take place when someone hurts themselves in yoga. I suffer from back pain, and yoga has helped me relieve some of the pain. When my back pain comes back due to other circumstances outside of yoga, I am aware of what I can do or should not do in class or when I practice. I have learned how to modify for my body and take my ego aside so I don’t injure myself. This comes not only from me being a yoga teacher, but it also comes from listening to my body. I learned to let go of my ego (the one that sometimes wants to push more, achieve more no matter what).
The saying “no pain no gain” that we often hear has never applied in any of my yoga classes, nor in any of the classes I have taken from my fellow yoga teachers. In order to avoid injuries and to learn modifications that work for our individual needs, we should go to well-trained and respected yoga teachers. Most importantly when we are in tune with our bodies, we become our own best teachers. If something does not feel good or we are not sure about what we are doing, we must ask ourselves if we should be doing that particular pose or practice style.
After all, that is what yoga teaches us: to become our own teachers.
Adri Kyser E-RYT 500 is a Prana Flow yoga teacher and Power Pilates instructor. Adri’s classes are fun, dynamic and inspiring. During her classes, she invites you to surrender and let go of inhibitions allowing you to find your natural and innate flow. For more information please visit here website.
This article was prepared by Sheri McCord, supporting the Elephant Yoga Editorial Staff.