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January 9, 2012

Mindfulness Is Harder Than Any Yoga Pose. ~ Lisa Daugherty

A response to How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body – NYTimes.com.

When I first read the title of the above article I thought, “Hmmm…provocative.” I began to imagine what it might say. I then took note of the photos accompanying the piece and thought, “This is odd.”

First of all, I’d like to thank William J. Broad, the author of the article and senior writer at the NYT as I am certain that he has helped all of us who practice yoga to be more mindful. And for that, I am deeply grateful. Anything that inspires practitioners of the yoga, to pay more attention, and to practice deeper levels of concentration and awareness, in my opinion, is a good thing.

However, I cannot help but to be suspicious of the purity of Mr. Broad’s intentions or the intentions of the editors of the NYT to publish such a well-balanced piece of quality journalism.

The truth: I found the article to be sensationalistic.

I did a teeny tiny bit of research on Mr. Broad and found that he has had much success in his career. He has received many awards and has authored 7 books. I found that this particular NYT article was simply an excerpt from his upcoming book called: The Science of Yoga –the Risks and the Rewards. He has won an Emmy for a documentary based on his best-selling book called: Germs. He also received a DuPont award for his work called: “Nuclear Jihad – Can Terrorists Get the Bomb?” So, when it comes to this article about yoga, I can’t help but to wonder if there is fear behind the words he wrote.

From my experience, exposure to the type of investigation and reporting Mr. Broad has been doing could cause damage to your psyche – planting a seed of fear in the mind that colors and confuses all things. For I can feel in my own mind, a shift towards fearfulness and suspicion, when I have overexposed myself to violent and disturbing media images and scenarios.

In my opinion, the title of this article, combined with the accompanying photos, has the potential to spark a flicker of fear into the hearts of those who were considering trying a yoga class…

– for much of the information presented in the article was done so without the context of mindfulness and common sense.

Mindfulness and common sense demand that we take responsibility for “me.” No one else can do that for “me.” No one else can train my thoughts to become more expansive or more in tune with all that goes on around me and within me. No one, except me, can express my thoughts and actions so that they adhere to logical patterns and common sense. Anyone’s yoga practice, grounded and based in a foundation of mindfulness and sound common sense, flowers and flourishes – in ways that involve not just the body, but the mind and the spirit.

Yoga cultivates mindfulness, if taught and practiced in the truest sense. Common sense, well…I think we all learned that in kindergarten. I can’t teach you common sense. You gotta pay attention to any signals of pain or exhaustion or dizziness or imbalance in your own practice. These signals act as messengers and must not be ignored. I like to say, “deal with the issue before it becomes an ISSUE.” The yoga must be practiced with fierce gentleness and humility – for there are many who have practiced before you, and many who will practice after you are gone.

Finally, back to the title, “How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body.” Really? I would rather read an article published by the NYT titled, “How War Can Wreck Your World.” In the midst of all the suffering in the world and the important issues we need to be remedying, picking on YOGA seems an odd choice to me.

Again, thank you NYT for publishing a sobering wake-up call. A call to take responsibility for all that we do, to always, always remember that we matter – that what we do, matters. It has importance. It has significance. It affects our selves. It affects other people. It affects our planet.

How we behave, the choices we make – they matter.

I have enjoyed practicing and teaching yoga for over a decade.  The seeds of the practice were initially sown into my heart and mind during my time living in the Sonoran desert of Tucson, Arizona, under the watchful guidance of Darren Rhodes at Yoga Oasis.  I took this strong foundation with me as I moved across the miles to the center of the country, Zionsville, Indiana in 2002. I am first and foremost, a mother to four fun daughters – and I write about our sometimes profound, sometimes profane attempts to create and maintain a family yoga practice at my blog. I also can be found playing a djembe and singing my heart out in the heartland. 

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