April 10, 2014

There Are No Dangerous Yoga Poses: Rock On Wild Thing! ~ Chrys Kub

Cailen doing Wild Thing (Camatkarasana)

This is a response to a blog written recently about how the pose “Wild Thing” is dangerous for the shoulder and shouldn’t be taught.

I thought about what this blogger discussed and read the many varied responses to his call out.

There was jargon thrown around about protracting shoulder blades and external rotation this and that, and as a physical therapist and long time yoga instructor and educator, I certainly understand the jargon. However, our yoga students don’t understand the fancy language and they don’t really care to!

Let me propose this thought: any yoga pose is dangerous if not taught with attention to the individual student.

How do we do this in a huge yoga class of 100 students, or even 20 to 30 students? Well, it’s definitely not easy, but in most teacher trainings we hopefully learn how to progress students toward their poses, with appropriate warm up and sequencing.

Of course, when we work towards a challenging pose such as wild thing, we can offer alternatives and variations which are safe for various bodies.

We are all different in our muscular-skeletal capacities, our ages, our egos and it is up to the teacher to address these areas.

By “address them”, I mean how we speak to our students during the class—(perhaps letting go of the boot camp, competitive jargon?)—and allowing them permission to practice their own yoga.

Address them by sequencing towards the more challenging poses so the body feels ready, or the student has a place to go as an alternative. We as instructors want to be sure our students continue to learn not only our foundational philosophical practices, Sanskrit, pranayama and meditation, but also anatomy and kinesiology, so we can teach from a place of intelligence and discrimination.

If we are unsure of the safety of a pose, perhaps we shouldn’t teach it.

There are thousands of yoga poses out there, and as teachers we have the responsibility to teach our students without blindly following traditions or sequences that we don’t understand.

Let’s all start to realize that yoga is an ancient practice full of traditions—of course—but we are working with modern bodies.

But, if we have students who have developed an advanced practice and can practice such poses as “Wild Thing” without injury, is it our place to say, “Don’t—it’s dangerous?”

In the end, we can only provide them with tools to create awareness, so they can decide where to go in their asana practice.

I personally have been practicing Wild Thing for years and love the freedom it brings, and I have not once felt like I had “shredded my shoulder.”

Let’s take a step back before we throw out certain poses as dangerous. Yoga is for everybody, we just have to learn together how to teach in a safe and welcoming way.

Let the comments begin!


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Apprentice Editor: Bronwyn Petry/Editor: Rachel Nussbaum

Photos: elephant media archives

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Chrys Kub