Ego This, Ego That! The Great Yoga Debate

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Ego This, Ego That! The Great Yoga Debate

Yogies in blogasana got up off their mats in protest after reading the New York Times Magazine article that ran last Sunday, "How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body", which details the harms of this most popular of ancient trends. The New York Times writer, William Broad, who himself endured debilitating injuries in yoga, penned a five pager discussing the physical dangers of yoga.

For his article Broad interviewed researchers and yoga teachers. He opens the piece with, Glenn Black, a teacher who has come to specialize in treating yoga injuries. Yes yoga injuries! Too many headstands, tear a retina, have a stroke! Too many Trikonasana, pop a rib and replace your hips! Too many back bends, herniate a disk!

(Because life is full of contradictions, I'd like to point out that Broad is also the author of a book called the "Science of Yoga," which expounds the benefits of Yoga.)

Broad writes that the first modern books on yoga never mention the potential injures or safety precautions one must adhere to. Among others he cites B. K. S. Iyengar's 1965 book “Light on Yoga,” the veritable bible on Hatha Yoga. Iyengar is one of the modern masters who brought Hatha Yoga to the west and is often quoted and cited liberally by the yoga community at large.

Here he is in 1938 at the age of 20. I don't think there was a precautionary manual when he started practicing:

Once a German exchange student in graduate school said to me, "American's are like children." I asked what she meant? She explained "You need to be warned all the time about dangers that seem pretty obvious," she pointed to a sign on the back of a bus warning people to stay at a safe distance. I once  worked for a boss at a faux finishing company who's motto was "if it doesn't fit, force it." Needless to say the company dissolved into a cloud of (pot) smoke after just a few years in business.

Perhaps we've so lost touch with any intuition about our bodies and how to operate in this world that everything needs to come with a warning label, lest things ends in a lawsuit.

The NY Times article created such a shit-storm in the yoga community you'd think it was the end of shavasana in spandex!

NYT editors followed up with a discussion including six yoga experts: Suketu Mehta writes (and I paraphrase here) "you competitive Americans have turned Indian yoga into a 6 billion dollar a year competitive sport!" Recovering yogi, Joslyn Hamilton, a former 15 year practitioner says "at the end of the day its just a tool" (so don't act like one). My fav is Sarah Miller, who likens human involvement in Yoga to human involvement in Climate Change.



Comments [13]

patricia's picture

diluted teaching is the issue

There are people who do yoga and there are people who want to do cool, trendy things, right? How many times have I been in a class with someone who cannot do a proper standing pose, but will strain to do an advanced pose? These studios I stay away from, and I really do see the problem as one begining with the teachers. Awareness and breath should be the number priority of yoga teachers, not enabling ego-agrandizing stuff. Like "cool yoga moves". 

If people aren't taught the importance of breathing, how are injuries NOT going to happen?

Grace Moon's picture

*like*

*like*

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Joanne Robertson's picture

Rather more Yogies

than scary Zumba people Shock

 

Smile

Tosha's picture

I would agree with the quote

that Americans are like children lol...except i'd expand beyond the idea of having to be warned about the obvious...my Indian friend Mahesh (just put this on fB this week) was just saying Americans are total babies because they can't hold two contradictory thoughts without their minds exploding...so easy simplistic answers are always of great interest, heavy black and white thinking...the idea that something can be both good and not good is sooo upsetting to what he would call the baby-soul psyche...oh, i have to agree...oh god, Marcie I'm on my expat deal again lol

 

Marcie Bianco's picture

if you go, i'll go -- a

if you go, i'll go -- a paris? or beyond?!

Jess Glenny's picture

I agree

Tosha. But, sorry to disillusion you, this is not just an American issue, though I do agree that yoga is probably just a bit less commodified here in the UK. Still, we have been influenced by the US dumb-ass approach. My Spanish-French yoga teacher friend tells me that yoga culture in France is very different. On the other hand, some of the most intelligent and embodied yoga teachers are American. Richard Freeman springs to mind, but there are many senior yoga teachers in the US with decades of practice experience and a deep experiential knowledge of what they are teaching.

Grace Moon's picture

I took a workshop with Kofi

I took a workshop with Kofi Busia over a year ago. The classes consisted of like 5 poses over the course of an hour and a half. And they were pretty basic posses, yet it was totally ardous and deeply insightful. One good class can inspire one's practice for years.

 

tweet tweet @gracemoon

Jess Glenny's picture

There should be

a 'like' button on here!

Jess Glenny's picture

Speaking as someone who has been practising yoga for 30 years,

I have a lot to say about this, and am going to write about it on my own blog. You can have it to post here if you like ... BTW there are pretty competitive forms of yoga in the east too. It's India that created the phenomenon of the yoga competition.

Marcie Bianco's picture

send it to me via email and

send it to me via email and we'll post it properly (instead of just a comment)--k?

Jess Glenny's picture

Yes, will do -

hopefully will have time next week.

Grace Moon's picture

*like*

*like*

tweet tweet @gracemoon

Marcie Bianco's picture

Here is the ruse, as you

Here is the ruse, as you note: "Perhaps we've so lost touch with any intuition about our bodies and how to operate in this world...."

I think the value placed on intuition differs in the west v the east.... "intuition" is shirked by the west as "feminine" and anti-analytic. This is why Bergson was dismissed in the early 20th c and why 2nd wave feminists were laughed at, as well....