Is yoga bad for you? The Jan. 5 New York Times article, “How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body,” has sparked a flurry of debate among the yoga community on this topic.
So to answer the question posed by the NYT, Yes! Just like everything else in life, you can get hurt practicing yoga. These pieces of common sense will help you decide whether the downward dog will leave your body down in the dumps:
Ditch the class if…
* Your yoga class has more than 10 students and your instructor wears a headset with microphone. You most likely are not getting the attention you need in yoga – especially if you’re a newbie.
* You just joined a yoga class and they’re asking you to accomplish the Utthita Hasta Padangustasana (Extended Hand-To-Big-Toe Pose). Do not push your body, especially if you’re new to exercising. Some yogis spend their entire life perfecting the simplest of poses.
* Your instructor never comes over and corrects your form. Yoga is all about form. If your form is off, the chance of getting hurt increases. Check out Yoga Journal’s pose guide for direction, since your instructor doesn’t seem to care.
* You are in pain and you decide to “work through it.” Never do this! Always be aware of your body. If something hurts, let it rest.
Breath easy if…
* Your instructor explains the importance of every yoga position. You’re not doing Tadasana (Mountain Pose) for nothing. Every pose has meaning. In Tadasana, you are standing tall like a mountain, connecting Heaven and Earth.
* You are constantly reminded to breath deep. Breathing is a core value in yoga. It helps you control your body, clear your mind and de-stress.
* Your fellow students are at your level. Don’t try an advanced class if you are new to fitness or yoga, you will get hurt!
Besides the borderline offensive photos of Broadway actors in poor yoga positions, there is a lot to learn from the NYT article: Use common sense. Do some research on the yoga studio. Check your instructor’s credentials and be in touch with your body so you know when to back off from a pose.
Yoga Journal contributing Writer Baxter Bell, MD, said it best in a blog responding to the NYT article: “I have often suggested to the teachers I train that there should be a disclaimer at the first class a student takes. Something like this: ‘It is entirely possible that at some time during your practice of physical yoga, hatha yoga asana, you will experience an injury. Don’t be shocked or surprised by this. It is true of any physical endeavor. This may be due to your inexperience, attending a class that is beyond your present level of skill, underlying propensity for your body to become injured, inexperience of your teacher or many other factors. Part of your responsibility as a yoga practitioner, is to take the best care of yourself you can, ask questions when concerns arise, investigate the qualifications of your instructors, and so on.’”
Click here to read his whole blog.