There is a current stir in the Yoga community over a recent New York Times article titled "How Yoga can Wreck Your Body".
It is written citing Glen Black's opinion of the risks and consequences the practice of Yoga can pose the practitioner. Black is a seasoned and traditional based Yoga teacher and perhaps has taken the opportunity to plug his own business interests by creating some hot controversial debates about what Yoga can and cannot do.
Can yoga hurt instead of heal you? Most definitely.
But the better question would be:
"Is the practice of Yoga really the culprit or the Ego tendency of the human condition the real contributing factor to possible injury or risk to health?
Yoga to some degree is misunderstood here in the west. It has become a different organism, living on a different turf and challenged by the western mindset of more is better, faster will get you farther and the "no pain no gain" gym philosophy.
The practice of asana or the physical postures of Yoga are usually what we think of when we hear the word yoga. But actually it is only one part of an entire holistic system of modalities and practices that when all considered, offer one of the most healing systems available to us.
However what do we end up doing in a yoga class?
Instead of listening to our bodies we want to get farther now, and not allow the body to communicate its process.
We want to do "power yoga" and hot yoga so we can sweat and burn calories, and not practice slowing down, using the breath to initiate the pose and become present to what the pose is telling us.
We want to get the "yoga body" and follow the hollywood stars to achieving a certain look of leanness. When we could be connecting to our bodies and realizing how amazing they already are, right now in this moment.
Yoga isn't about burning calories, or "getting advanced". It isn't about stretching further and getting it all right. There really isn't something to get done in Yoga.
It's about being in the moment and awakening to who and where you are right this moment.
That requires a great attention to staying present and in the moment on the mat. It requires listening to what your body is telling you. Yoga asks that we still the mind, through the conscious awareness of our life line - the breath and realize we are way beyond the mind chatter upstairs.
Yoga can hurt you if YOU allow the your ego to take over and convince you of its thoughts.
That you aren't "doing enough, sweating enough, flowing enough, standing on your head enough. The mind will try to take you away from where you are, to where it thinks it should be. Yoga helps us listen beyond that mind noise and hear the stronger, voice of truth within.
Let go of getting anywhere.
Listen to the sensations of your body on the mat. Never go beyond a comfortable stretch or tension, and breath into each and every pose. If you are feeling even slightly in pain, you are not respecting where you are at. Pain is not the response we want to feel when in the pose.
You do want to feel something releasing, and expanding, or lengthening in a way you normally don't. But you never want to feel pain.
Yoga teachers also can hurt you!
So be wary of who you allow as your teacher. There are yoga teachers that simply cannot let go of their own ego. They want to see their students progress and be the one who got them there.
They may think because they have been practicing 10, 20, 30 years that they "know yoga" or even more ego maniacal, they ARE Yoga. I once heard the owner of a very well known yoga studio in Toronto say that to her employee. Scary and completely an ego driven attitude.
The point of the practice is to gain awareness.
Awareness of our habits, our tendencies, what is going on in the body, and what the mind is doing. It is to "awaken" us to really becoming present and there for ourselves.
Yoga heals. Yoga isn't failing to heal our pain. We are failing to listen to the voice within and follow that lead.
If you allow the presence within to guide you, then healing happens. If you also develop a relationship with it so that you respect its most powerful voice, then you heal infinitely from that pure awakening.
In health always,