Yoga will wreck you, roundup

[Update: I am updating this post as I come across new fave responses.]

I’d be amiss in my duties as yoga blogger if I didn’t weigh in again on the recent NY Times article How yoga can wreck your body. The article, an excerpt from Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and NYT science writer William J. Broad‘s upcoming book, The Science of Yoga: The Risks and the Rewards, has received a lot of coverage from the interwebs, yogic and otherwise, because it says that “the yoga community long remained silent about [yoga’s] potential to inflict blinding pain…a growing body of medical evidence supports [the] contention that, for many people, a number of commonly taught yoga poses are inherently risky. ”

I wrote a response (“whatevs”) a few days ago. Also, dudes looking for pictures of girls in yoga pants–the most frequent visitors to this site–likely don’t care if said girls need spinal surgery when they’re 50. Still, in the interest of jumping on the bandwagon, I am doing a round up of my fave responses. Continue reading



Happy new year yoga lovers. I would like to ring in 2012 with this expose on yoga asana from the NYT: How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body. The article talks about 28 year olds having strokes, emergency room visits, spinal surgery and vertebrae getting fused. It says “…surveys by the Consumer Product Safety Commission showed that the number of emergency-room admissions related to yoga, after years of slow increases, was rising quickly. They went from 13 in 2000 to 20 in 2001. Then they more than doubled to 46 in 2002.”

Savage Chickens - Fantastic!

I’m all, “That sucks, but I’ll take my chances.” Odds of trauma seem small; evidence in article is anecdotal. I’ll continue to study with the best teachers I can find; focus on my alignment; avoid shoulderstand until I figure out what I’m doing; and close my eyes and try to refocus during class when my ego goes into overdrive (“I will get this backbend, damn that twinge that is probably nothing at all”).

If yoga does kill me, whatevs. I will die doing something I love.

20 minute relief from neck tension

Despite doing yoga for 10 years, and better posture, a stronger core, and
Trapezius Gray409.PNG looser hips, hamstrings, and shoulders, I still suffer from chronic neck and shoulder tension. [Don’t get me wrong: the yoga has provided enormous benefits for my other ailments, especially my back.]

Why do I still hold so much tension? I don’t know, but I am trying to figure it out. In the meantime, while I get at the long-term causes, I’ve discovered the glory of the tennis ball + acupressure on my trapezius muscles (“traps”). This releases the tightness in my neck and shoulders for a glorious few moments like nothing else ever has. My neck feels lighter, longer and my chest open. Different from a standard neck rub, I use static pressure, no kneading, on my knots until the tension drains away. I can reach the knots on my shoulder/upper back with my own hands, and do this when I’m out in the world, but I prefer the tennis balls because: 1) they allow my whole body (arms and chest) to relax open with gravity, and 2) I can reach otherwise inaccessible parts of my mid back and along my spine. Continue reading

What is yoga? Iyengar.

If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough. –attributed to Albert Einstein via the internet.

I don’t know if Einstein said this for reals, but it speaks to me. I can’t explain yoga, or the importance of asana in yoga, simply. Sad, and not for lack of effort. Therefore, in addition to looking within, I look to masters for their wisdom. In the below clip from 1976, BKS Iyengar drops some knowledge relevant to these two questions: What is yoga?, and Why Asana? I’ve transcribed the quotes below.

Based on my limited study of the Yoga Sutras, Iyengar’s definition of yoga is familiar. I get it intellectually, but I don’t get it in my bones. This is not his fault. His style isn’t simple, exactly, but it is clear and dramatic. His style also includes an amazing pair of tiny and bad-ass plaid yoga “pants”.

What is yoga? In order to experience…total freedom [in body, in mind, in the self itself], Indian sages and saints introduced…yoga. Yoga is a union with the body and the mind, mind with the soul so that man…lives in a state of peace and poise…Yoga is a means for freedom, and yoga is the end of freedom itself. Yoga means complete… sublimation of the ways of thought which move in various directions. …Man…when he stills the wandering mind…experiences the self which has no color, no form, no shape. In order to experience that self, yoga has various steps for physical, moral, intellectual, and spiritual discipline…

Why asana? In order to… conquer this inner oscillation of the self with the mind, we have to come to the concrete: the body, which is the temple… the vehicle of the spirit…As long as the body…is not kept healthy, clean, pure and holy, the mind is not released from the bondage…If this body is abused or negleted, we are neglecting the self, so we are neglecting our freedom…The body…has to be conquered so that the mind is completely freed from the attachment of the body and get itself attached to the self….The subtle body, which is the mind, cannot be known, cannot be seen, cannot be understood, so these asana are meant to conquer the known, so that the known dissolves in the unknown.

Puppy handstand

This counts as yoga, right? Watch the young-un nearly master Adho Mukha Vrksasana, downward facing tree.

UPDATE: The old video was taken down, but this old guy is more impressive. He’s peeing AND handstanding.

Yoga Journal contest

The yoga interweb is a-flutter with Yoga Journal’s cover model contest. The magazine will pluck one entrant out of obscurity and launch her into the big leagues with the September 2011 cover of Yoga Journal. I gather that recently there has been some upset that Yoga Journal  (YJ) has moved away from its roots, becoming more commercial, featuring on the magazine’s pages too many beautiful naked people in impossible poses. (For example, one of the founders of YJ wrote an open letter to the editors, described here, critical of sexy adverts.) My guess is that, amid the grumbling, YJ decided to stage this contest.

I can’t speak intelligently about the YJ controversy, as I haven’t read Yoga Journal in a while. I once had a subscription to YJ and would look forward each month’s issue like a kid at Christmas. However, one month I really read the book reviews section, and upon processing the words and their meanings for what may have been the first time, I got offended by the endlessly bland reviews. Take a view! as my former boss would say.

Yes, attractive people do grace the cover.

Anyway, the talent search is essentially a popularity contest. Of the 2566 entrants, the 5 people with the most reader votes will be finalists. Then editorial staff at YJ will choose the winner. Right now entrants are lobbying hard, via facebook, via email, via blogs, to get the most votes. My first reaction finds this selection process somewhat disappointing, as I had fantasies of an unknown yogi, having practiced without ego for 20 years in a dark room at home, winning the contest. Alas, this is not to be, as the winner will be among those that can get the e-votes out.

Oh well. I have enjoyed looking through the entries, showing all manner of poses, styles, and people (though they are mainly young women in tight clothing. I ain’t no perv, just calling it like I see it). See below for my faves. I am a sucker for any photo with an animal.

My favorites from the YJ contest