November 6, 2013

Can Yogis Be Flexible in Our Minds, Too? ~ Michaelle Edwards

Can we consider evolving the practice of yoga poses to align with nature’s design?

There are no straight lines in nature.

The reasons why so many people suffer from chronic pain and joint deterioration are poor posture, movement and breathing habits.

Some reasons for misalignment are chair sitting and compartmentalized exercises. We spend a good deal of our life in chairs, but a lot of yoga poses appear to put the body in the same right-angle shape. Repeated practice of poses that take your body out of natural alignment can stretch the ligaments that hold our joints stable.

Because nature does not lie, I don’t think there is any correct way to do straight-legged forward bends. Humans are designed to bend their knees when leaning forward.

We can actually do a practice that can quickly change our posture habits—without doing any intense stretches, compressing twists or toe-touching forward folds.

The epidemic of SI (sacroiliac) joint pain and even hip replacements in people that practice yoga frequently cannot be ignored. We need to take a serious look at yoga pose biomechanics, so that more people don’t end up hurting themselves in the process of trying to find inner peace.

Yoga practice is not etched in stone; we need to be flexible in our thinking and allow it to evolve so these injuries no longer happen.

What can I say to those who don’t believe me? To the many people who have practiced and taught these poses for years: I honor your work, but please take what I’m saying seriously.

It is time to reconsider your practice.

As William Broad’s article clearly presented, my findings are not unique—the medical community worldwide is beginning to recognize and organize around this reality.

It’s like any new discovery, it takes time for something to be noticed, more time before it becomes recognized as being pervasive—and still more time before it becomes common knowledge and use. And that’s exactly what is happening here.

In my own lifetime of practice, I got injured, which is why I was drawn to the idea of figuring out how to practice yoga for its benefits—without injuring myself. Using my experience in bodywork-based healing, I found ways to do that and in working one-on-one with clients in the same manner I discovered that these different approaches worked and in many cases had immediate and life-changing results.

After 20 years of doing this, more and more people are coming to me to solve these same pain issues, I decided to write a practical, instructional book to provide the yoga community with this information and resource.

Because people have been drawn to yoga as an alternative to other forms of exercise specifically for its healthy attributes, it’s hard to comprehend the concept that yoga could actually hurt you.

The unfortunate reaction may be for some people to run away from yoga, and I’m extremely aware of and concerned about that. My message is not to stop doing yoga—it’s simply be aware of these risks so you don’t hurt yourself doing it.

Despite the myriad people supporting me, which is itself pretty amazing, some people are having visceral reactions to this information. All I can say is: read my book before you judge.

If you are willing to listen: change your posture—it may change your life.

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Assistant Ed: Michelle Margaret/Ed: Bryonie Wise

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Michaelle Edwards

Michaelle Edwards is a licensed massage therapist, yoga teacher, musician and postural therapist living in Kauai. She owns and operates the Kauai Yoga School and stays active surfing, swimming, running and playing music. She invented a new painless way to do yoga, fitness, self-massage and stretching called YogAlign that incorporates natural spine alignment and breath work to create good posture from the inside out. She feels that we do not have a health care crisis as much as a self-care crisis, and she is devoted to giving people the tools to heal themselves. As an author, Michaelle has a new book/DVD combo called YogAlign: Pain-free Yoga from your Inner Core available at her website.