Yesterday a colleague, and by that I mean an academic one, posted the NY Times article to her Facebook wall, and we had some interesting discussion. Because I am not a yoga teacher, with limited experience of this one body, perhaps some partner work, a series of anatomy workshops, and always observation, I didn’t have much with which to weigh in. I did offer that I have never been pushed or injured in an Anusara class and that all of my teachers are very well trained, but also this observation, which mulches up out of my social critique.
What is interesting to me is the relative lack of knowledge some Western doctors have about yoga. I experienced this with the surgeon who repaired my umbilical hernia. He couldn’t answer a question about when it was safe to return to my practice without making a joke out of it. Can a true appraisal of risks and benefits be made solely from that standpoint?
I was really happy to see someone with experience weigh in, characteristically irreverently.
News flash: yoga poses can hurt you! So says the NY Times.
Well frigging duh.
Listen up, peeps. Yoga has always been about power. Always.
Yoga is not just about yoga poses. It is a technology designed for revelation: revelation of your true face, your true name, your true nature. For most people, unflinchingly and lovingly knowing yourself requires a great deal of power. Although we tend to mistrust power as corruptive, I learned from my teacher years ago that, if I want to do something good in this world, I damn well better be powerful.
Asanas (yoga poses) are powerful. The very word Hatha, as in Hatha Yoga–which describes every kind of yoga which requires a yoga mat–means “to strike”. Asanas are like scalpels. The strike of a scalpel can heal or harm. It is the application that determines whether the strike of a scalpel is salubrious or injurious. The same applies to asana.
To claim that yoga is so dangerous that all people should give it up, is in my opinion, sensationalist and irresponsible. Yes, yoga can injure. That’s why you should practice it with a really well trained teacher. That’s not NY Times newsworthy. It’s just common sense to be filed under duh.
Yoga can also heal. It’s a lot like medicine. Medicine should be prescribed by someone who knows how–a doctor with years of training and practice under her belt. Medicine can cause harm–even death–when taken incorrectly. Should my dad stop taking his heart medicine because it is just too dangerous?
People, please don’t chuck out all your prescriptions because if taken incorrectly they might kill you.
I missed Birney when she came through the area this year, and it’s a shame because her theme involved Hanuman, whose story is kind of inspiring for me (and yes, I do mean the Ramesh Menon Hanuman). But I was otherwise engaged in a series of anatomy workshops, which have helped me cope with and avoid injury! If I may add, “Well frigging duh.”