Yoga and Injury


Yoga and Injury
Floating around the yoga blogosphere lately have been multiple references to an article in the New York Times  Magazine entitled, "How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body." Excellent responses can be found on Eddie Stern’s site (www.ayny.org) as well as from our friends at the Confluence Countdown).

As many of you know, I use yoga as an adjunct to my other fitness endeavors.  Yoga has made me a better personal trainer, better athlete, and, hopefully, a better person.  The emphasis on mindfulness during each movement gives the practitioner an opportunity to search for how the body is responding to the imposed demand.  Like with any form of physical exercise, ignoring the subtle signs of your physical being will result in eventual injury.  There is a mindset many people get into regarding what they “should” be able to do, rather than what they are capable of that day.  I dislike teaching group anything (including yoga) for that reason.  I find people are much more willing to stop something that could be potentially injurious in a one-on-one setting than in a group dynamic.  Something about the energy in a room, which can be a double-edged sword, results in a person trying something or pushing more than he or she should.  When I do teach Led, I get frustrated when I see a person is doing something biomechanically incorrect or out of the person’s physical ability.  I drop many hints (“if you find yourself collapsing in the right side, use the block,” “if you are rounding in your low-back, use a blanket or bend your knees,”) often to no avail.  Nobody wants to be singled out, and I frequently find myself next to the person who clearly doesn’t think any of my cueing is for him offering the correct modification, only to have him (or her) go back to performing the posture incorrectly as soon as I walk away. 

It is important to note that this doesn’t just happen in yoga.  I used to teach group strength training classes where the same behaviors would occur.  I think it is the teacher’s job to teach proper biomechanics, offer modifications for injury, and have a strong anatomical background so proper adjustments can be made to give the student the most beneficial, safest, physical experience possible in a class.  Ultimately, however, it is the responsibility of the student to know his body, understand his limitations, and listen to what the teacher is saying, even if “she couldn’t possibly be referring to me.”  It is also the responsibility of the student to know the teacher’s background and make sure the teacher is qualified to teach whatever class it is.  Eddie points out in his blog that the increase in yoga practitioners has led to an increase in (unqualified) yoga teachers.  The same thing is happening in the personal training and group fitness industry, resulting in instructors injuring people with unsafe sequencing/adjustments/workouts rather than helping people achieve an improved state of physical (and mental) well-being, but that is a topic for another post…

Yours in health and wellness,
Jenn