Extreme Yoga.

Via Waylon Lewis
on Apr 6, 2010
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extreme yoga

Can that be good for you?!

We’ve all seen the Pretzels Gone Wild poses…some of them look, well, extreme. They don’t look natural. My question is, even with proper alignment and practicing for years and good breathing and focus…are some of these poses really good for our bodies?

Yeah, that’s it.

Photo: Heather Mortan (Tripura Harasana pose)


yoga poses


About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now elephantjournal.com & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. elephantjournal.com | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, is now available.


30 Responses to “Extreme Yoga.”

  1. funksmith says:

    Her leg looks broken. No, it does not look good for you.

  2. yogikate says:

    i have been practicing yoga for over 10 years and my body will never be able to some of those crazy party poses. i don't think i ever will and i won't push my body to either.

  3. caro says:

    Good question. I'm guessing one might say that a pose like the bottom one has some benefit in terms of marma points or organ massage. Maybe? Thinking of Janu Sirsasana C from the Ashtanga primary series, for example, which is less ouchy-looking but still impossible (for me), where I've heard that the heel stimulates a pressure point. Other than that, no idea. Maybe someone who can actually do this stuff will comment 🙂

  4. […] Extreme Yoga: Can that be good for you? | elephant journal. Posted in Just wow on Apr 6th, 2010, 3:44 am by eric    […]

  5. […] Extreme Yoga: Can that be good for you? | elephant journal. Posted in Just wow on Apr 6th, 2010, 3:44 am by eric    […]

  6. The Deacon says:

    I can some of the extreme yoga and the days I don't practice I feel groggy and my digestion is sluggish….. I have gone onto my mat feeling down right yucky….and come out feeling fit as a fiddle…..and I can usually manage the "extreme" yoga asana's. When done with proper breath anything just might be possible.

  7. There are so many yoga poses that have clear benefit to the body and mind. In my opinion our job is to strengthen and stretch MUSCLE. Joints, tendons and ligaments need to be respected not stressed. I worry that the bottom pose can learned without compromising tendons and ligaments. An advanced student might be able to do the pose but I'd like to see the preparatory process. The back bend looks like discs are being compressed. There is a pinching instead of a smoothness to the bend. I call these kind of poses circus yoga.

  8. If you can lick your own twat or stick your foot inside yourself, thats great for you, but not for your body.

  9. That bending backward pose makes me feel sorry for her spine.

  10. Greg says:

    At my age I imagine such poses would be the door to the next life. A "corpse pose" so-to-speak.

  11. Linda says:

    the ability of anyone to do any yoga pose is our bone structure, how we are put together. yes, flexibility (i.e., our connective tissue, not muscle) plays a role, but the ultimate limit to a pose is whether a bone is hitting against another bone. no one will be able to move past that no matter how hard you try.

  12. linda says:

    p.s. I'm 50+ and I can do what she's doing in the second photo. does that make me an "advanced" yogini? no, it only means my bone structure is such that I can do that. nothing more, nothing less.

  13. stevenmoses says:

    if anyone here is familiar with the Alexander Technique…

    in my opinion the safety of these extreme poses depends entirely on 'use'. use of the self in the AT refers to a coordinated patterning of physical habits that maintains the primary control (balance of the head and pelvis) which moves toward lightness and ease of movement. we're looking to counteract gravity and compression of the spine with direction. injuries occur from misuse, not range. I am sure that many people develop certain injuries by going into extreme poses, but I would be willing to bet that just as many people develop injuries through far less extreme poses. again, it is not a question of range, but rather of physical use. if our use of the self is compromised, we're in trouble.
    as far as benefits, I think they're the same as the less extreme variation. some bodies do need that extra range in order to receive said benefits. the issues here I suppose have to be ego related. there is a fine line between a healthy challenge that is appropriate to ones genetic makeup and narcissistic impulses. another term we use in the AT is 'end-gaining'. you see a pose you want to do and you approach it from a top-down perspective, you try to produce the shape without consideration of proper direction, proper use. I imagine a class of people blindfolded being 'directed' through the practice, experiencing postures as opposed to mimicking them.
    all of this said, I'm finding it so important in my own practice to not drop my direction while attempting an extreme pose and to keep a sense of humor while I'm there. I'm trying to forgo expectations while at the same time realizing that I'm my own biggest obstacle. the body is capable of so so much, but only if we tell it that it is so.

  14. Betherann says:

    My body says "ouch!" at the thought of some of the pretzel-icious yoga poses I've seen. I'm okay with not doing them, though, even if other folks feel the need to pursue such super-bendiness.

  15. don't forget, linda, that we can change our bodies, change our bones, change our DNA, change our diets, change our lifes, change our ages. mastering each asana takes time, patience, practice, and meditation. by working with different poses consistently, you will change your bone structure, flexibility, and muscle structure. all those things are how they are now because of the history of your body and the history of our collective body, and they are not set in stone. what we do now will affect the future. 🙂 love love love!

  16. says who? flexibility, strength, balance, focus, and relaxation are the foundations to each yoga pose, they are also the keys to health, long-life, happiness, enlightenment, and a rocking sex life!

  17. ryan nadlonek says:

    good, don't push, but eventually you will do all the poses whether you like it or not!

  18. what looks extreme to the beginner is actually very comfortable to the advanced practitioner who's body has been prepped for such poses through thousands of hours on the mat going one step at a time. to me, it appears that neither of these women are pushing themselves into discomfort. their faces are relaxed, no wrinkles on the forehead, no grimaces on their mouths. seems fine to me. shit, i touch my toes and people around me flinch. i sit in full lotus and people think i'm the buddha. my good posture forces those around me to examine their own posture. and none of this i do from a place of ego or on purpose, its just what i do. stretch, breathe, work on being as aligned as possible. eventually, the "extreme" is normal life.

  19. KaliTellinItLikeItIs says:

    Ah, linguistics.

    We'd need to first agree on what the word "extreme" means before we can really discuss "extreme yoga". Is a pose extreme because it looks that way? Isn't that just a judgment, based on what we see? Is it xtreme because the assumption is Chrisandra is using her ego to willfully deny or disregard the limitations of her body and what's healthy or good?

    Who's to say? There's a lot of judgment going around about whether someone's pretzel pose fetish has meaning or purpose or is egoistic indulgence, but the truth is we'll never really know, because we can't tell what THAT person's experience is. The first stage of meditation is dharana, and the other stages rest on that: pure concentration and focus. Don't assume an "extreme pose" isn't holding a transcendental state of dhyana. (Also don't assume that because you can do that crazy stuff, it is a sign of envolution or enlightenment–it could just be bone structure!)

  20. No, it can't be good for you.

    The goal of yoga is not looking good but looking inside and feeling good.

    Alexa Fleckenstein M.D., physician, author.

  21. As educated yogis, it is a disservice to promote imagery like ( or do these kinds of poses in our classes with beginning or intermediate students) this since it is discouraging and potentially dangerous as well. Yoga is not a competition to see who can bend their ligaments the farthest. Nor is it a Cirque Du Soleil audition. Being able to do these kinds of poses does not make one a more compassionate person. Yoga is a set of lifestyle practices that help us to find self-realization.

  22. elephantjournal says:

    Amen on both counts.

  23. elephantjournal says:

    I quite agree. Showing off is contrary to the point of yoga. That said, of course, yoga practitioners can do these poses without showing off…they can do them simply, straightforwardly, even privately…as a part of their path.

  24. Irisblooming says:

    Your comment definitely made me laugh out load! still lol….too funny!

  25. Grab a yoga mat and go! This is what I'm thinking about right now…

  26. Angela Eiszele says:

    As a yoga teacher, I agree with what Jasmine said. Initially yoga will be discovered by the individual,then the second phase takes place which is the internal and external changes and growth. The third phase is for demonstration only..which to me is when we get a chance to 'show off' what is achievable. I have also heard along the grape vine that once yoga reaches its extreme (contortion) there can be many problems that develope internally leading to a shorter lifespan….not sure if this is true though!

  27. MMA Guy says:

    Your never to old to start your Martial Arts Training, nonetheless you do have to remember at our age our body takes longer to recoup.

  28. Jason Gan says:

    Many of these poses have to do with hipwork, and it will take years to open the hips. Only those who start young can stretch those hips to the full maximum range. Hanumansasana works towards stretching the hamstrings. Doing too much running or squatting will contract the hamstrings, so any slow, progressive work towards the goal of stretching the hamstrings is good. Again, it can take years to be able to stretch fully.

  29. Karen Eliot says:

    Interesting to see this now — my stepmother (who has a severe form of RA) has warned me away from yoga due to effects on joints and ligaments. (She recommended chi gong instead.) I feel pretty certain this was based on a lot of research, and am curious what others have to say about that — she’s not the type to have been put off by people who didn’t properly work up to things.

  30. […] And, is “extreme yoga” an oxymoron? Yes. […]