By guest author Nanditha Ram, author of Blissful Mom, Blissful Baby
I recently read an article in The New York Times about the dangers of yoga entitled How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body.
Let me play devil’s advocate for a second and say, “yes, it can”. Indeed, anything taken to the extreme, has the seeds of the opposite sown in it. And so it is with yoga too. Too much of a good thing…
Still, the very idea that yoga is dangerous is preposterous.
That said, the way in which we practice an age old science can contribute to it being a boon or a bane, so the responsibility lies on the practitioner and the teacher.
I have been practicing yoga regularly for nearly two decades now and have taught for almost as long and I have neither experienced an injury myself nor have I had any one of my students report a yoga injury.
Now let’s get down to basics. What is yoga?
It is a way of life at best and a tool for wellness at worst, depending on what one wants out of it. So this leaves one with the question:
How much responsibility is one willing to take for one’s own body?
Any tool has to be used correctly in order to get the desired result. If not, there are consequences to be faced. Either way, this calls for introspective awareness on the part of the user. No point blaming the tool when things go awry.
Yoga has become a distorted fitness program with the idea that anyone who ever so much as got on that mat must be flexible, fighting fit and sexy. This is a big impediment to the practice and teaching of yoga.
Classical yoga is never taught in a way that makes the body feel bruised or abused.
It is a gentle, deep acting wellness path that paves the way for one’s evolution as a human being. In fact, the term “yoga injury” is so alien to authentic yoga teachings, that the fact that it has found a place in common parlance is disconcerting to say the least.
Every asana or in fact every yoga practice, is contraindicated for certain states of body and mind. This is the warning sign that practitioners are not meant to ignore.
Yoga is an esoteric science and a sacred art from an ancient civilization. It has now become a multi-billion dollar commodity worldwide and what is more, anybody who teaches yoga gets the title “yogi”.
I think yoga injuries come from forgetting to be present.
So if you have what you think is a yoga injury, then stop abusing your body and start practicing yoga. It is not about striking the perfect pose or getting it perfectly right – because that could end up being a royal pain in the asana. It is about getting into your own skin and feeling well in it.
Yoga is not an endurance test or a test of your ego. It is about letting go, breathing easy, accepting, and embracing the moment as it is. Never hold an asana for longer than the body says it can. Listen to the body, for it will tell you what it needs and more importantly, what it doesn’t need.
My much-loved and very wise yoga teacher used to say that yoga is the art of listening. He also taught us that the practice of yoga was 50% breath observation and 50% common sense!
And finally, here is a note to the aspiring yoga practitioner: Do yourself a favour and don’t learn yoga from books, and for heaven’s sake, evaluate your teacher like your life depends on it, because just maybe, it does.
About Nanditha Ram:
Nanditha Ram is a yoga teacher and has trained for several years in India under astute masters. She is a consumer awareness and health writer, and a qualified holistic therapist. She currently teaches yoga in Karori, Wellington and is the mum of two gorgeous children who started their yoga practice in the womb. Nanditha likes the crazy and the quirky aspects of human nature and loves that yoga brings out everybody’s best wild self.