Why You Shouldn’t Let the NY Times Wreck Your Yoga

Grossly simplified, William Broad of the New York Times, who last year made the charge that yoga could cause paralysis and death, is now blaming the practice for an increase in hip-replacements in not-so-old women.

So, William Broad is again being lambasted in
yoga circles – nice thoughtful posts too – for shoddy reporting, imprecise language and poor analysis of causal relationships, and
everyone is wondering where he takes yoga that they tell him to “push
through the pain.” Honestly, if your instructor uses that phrase, you might want to consider pushing open the door instead.

That said, I wonder if instructors say the opposite often enough. One
of my teachers always said “pain is nature’s way of telling you that you
are out of alignment with her.” Are students hearing that message enough? Adult beginners may not have a lot of experience discerning the difference between sensation and pain and students with a background in sports or dance might actually have a lot of experience ignoring pain.

New, unusual postures, stretching and hard working muscles often send us strong messages and it’s up to us to figure out if the activity is therapeutic and we should work through sensation or harmful and we should head the warning that is pain. 

In my prenatal class, I often talk
about being present with and breathing through intense sensation. But if what you are feeling in a posture in my class is pain, please stop and tell me
so we can address that or find an alternative for you.

For beginners, part of our message as yoga instructors must be to listen to your body and not try to duplicate anyone else’s pose. Naturally a beginner looks around at the rest of a class for cues on what shape to create with his or her body, but just because the person next to you can comfortably do a posture that doesn’t mean your discomfort should be ignored. A good instructor can look at your pose and make suggestions, so let your instructor know if something doesn’t feel right.

I particularly like Leslie Kaminoff’s take on the original article Broad used to launch his book. I particularly like Kaminoff’s explanation that you cannot take the asana out of the body. To paraphrase: there is no such thing as a down dog pose without the yogi in the posture, with all of that person’s physical uniqueness, and, therefore, every down dog is different.

Here’s a link to the Ashtanga Yoga New York post Kaminoff references in the video.