A few weeks ago, an article was published in the New York Times on how yoga can wreck your body. This article sure provoked a lot of controversy.
I feel the true meaning of yoga was not expressed in this article nor in some of the backlash responses to it.
Yoga is often translated as “to Unite” or “to bring together”. It is a practice that is meant to bring health and wellness to our minds and bodies. A practice that brings all of our individual aspects of our beings into one, making us whole. A practice that can bring us closer to our belief system and to the Divine, God, the Universe or whatever you want to call it.
It is true that many people unfortunately have hurt themselves practicing yoga, but it is also true that far more people have benefited from this practice.
It is easy to generalize and try to put everything into a little box. It is easier to say yoga can hurt your body than explain how exercise can hurt your your body when you don’t listen to it. In my opinion, most times a person’s ego and stubbornness in their practice causes the most physical damage. This not only applies to yoga but to anything else you do in life.
The thing is that when you move from a place of ego, competition and so on, regardless of what your body is telling you ,the result will always be some type of disconnection or disruption of your health. Either it is in the form of injury, stress, and/or dis-ease that leads to injuries in the body, mind and spirit. Only when we move to a place of self awareness, self love, compassion and being present in the moment, Yoga will help you heal your entire being.
Yoga to me is about becoming WHOLE – ONE and complete on and off the mat. It teaches us to listen to the messages the body is sending. We all need our EGO, that little voice in our head that wants us to be better, to get things done or go after what we want, but there is also the Ego that likes to compete, achieve, go beyond our limits and abilities. Learning to distinguish when the Ego is actually a tool that can help rather that hurt is the key.
Before we jump into generalizations and conclusions that can be mislead, we need to look at all the things that took place when someone hurts themselves in yoga. I suffer from back pain and yoga has helped me relieve some of the pain. When my back pain comes back due to other circumstances outside of yoga I am aware of what I can do or should not do in class or when I practice. I have learned how to modify for my body and take my ego aside so I don’t injure myself. This comes not only from me being a yoga teacher, but also comes from listening to my body. I learned to let go of my ego (the one that sometimes wants to push more, achieve more no matter what).
The saying “no pain no gain” that you hear often has never applied in any of my yoga classes nor in any of the classes I have taken from my fellow yoga teachers. In order to avoid injuries and to learn modifications that work for your individual needs, you should go to well trained and respected yoga teachers. Most importantly when you are in tune with your body you become your own best teacher. If something does not feel good or you are not sure about what you are doing, ask yourself if you should be doing that particular pose or practice style.
After all, that is what yoga teaches us, to become our own teachers.
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