Remember THIS article?
For those of you too lazy to click on the link, it is the article from the New York Times which talks about how yoga is doing more harm to us than good. In case you didn’t read the whole thing through this passage sums the jist of it up pretty well:
“… Yoga’s exploding popularity — the number of Americans doing yoga has risen from about 4 million in 2001 to what some estimate to be as many as 20 million in 2011 — means that there is now an abundance of studios where many teachers lack the deeper training necessary to recognize when students are headed toward injury. “Today many schools of yoga are just about pushing people,” Black said. “You can’t believe what’s going on — teachers jumping on people, pushing and pulling and saying, ‘You should be able to do this by now.’ It has to do with their egos.”
Those of you who know me, know that I am a pretty big fan of yoga, but this article nails the issue right on the head though- Just because a teacher has taken a weekend course to become certified does not mean you should trust them with your body!
Albeit that I love yoga, I have some qualms with the industry:
1. Chances are your teacher probably doesn’t have an extensive history in anatomy, and though they might excel at their own practice, they have no clue what is best for each student’s individual body type. Everyone’s bodies are different, and the same yoga “flow” will not suit everybody perfectly, and the wrong postures on the wrong body type can sometimes lead to injury (and I am speaking from experience here…).
2. There is not enough hands on correction! Especially in hot yoga studios, which are often packed shoulder to shoulder, there is no way that the teacher can give each individual the attention he/she needs to perform the postures correctly and safely, especially if they are beginners. Or, the teachers, if very new, perhaps lack the confidence to put their hands on their students’ bodies and correct them if they’re not quite in the right position.
3. The way yoga is marketed! This is something that Tony Gentilcore touched on in a few of his (highly entertaining) articles, namely, Tony Takes a Yoga Class, part 1 and part 2. Yoga is often marketed to women as a way to “detox”, “tone”, and lose weight. Sorry, but this is simply not the case. Rather, yoga’s primary benefits are improved mobility, reduced stress, better flexibility, improved mood and a better understanding of one’s body. These things are of particular importance for the dancer population.
4. Remember your university professor who was obviously a genius, but couldn’t teach a fish to swim? Yeah- There are yoga teachers out there like that, and it is S-C-A-R-Y!!!
I work part-time at a commercial gym which has it’s own hot yoga studio, and I’ve heard some pretty outlandish complaints about some of the hot yoga teachers. Now I could knock hot yoga, but I don’t want to put down a practice that has supposedly improved the quality of many peoples’ lives. The truth is, just because I don’t personally enjoy it or believe it to benefit me, doesn’t mean others don’t genuinely love it, benefit from it, and when it comes down to it- If it gets you off the couch and away from the ice-cream tub, it’s good for you. Period.
Anyway, I heard this horror story from a gym member the other day- Apparently the yoga teacher was atrocious. He talked too much, didn’t explain the poses properly, and then had the class do HEADSTANDS. Oh Boy…
Ok. First: Headstands are HARD. Most people need help doing them properly. In the hot yoga studio at this gym, the classes are packed and there’s NO WAY the teacher would have been able to go around helping everyone. Second: You should not do inversions in a hot room! Seriously. I do not understand what possessed this teacher to think it was a good idea to tell these people to try to stand on their heads in a 100 degree room. Face. Palm.
Ok now that THAT’S out of the way, a few more quick points about yoga:
1. I think yoga is awesome. It is a great way to discover how your body works. Not only that, but having a regular practice just makes you feel, well, happy! There’s something about just being present in the moment, feeling that awesome stretchy feeling of becoming more flexible, feeling your joints open up, and breathing deeply, that makes life more enjoyable.
2. Yoga is completely opposite of what dancers want to do. Turn IN?? Legs PARALLEL?? close your eyes? BREATHE?????? Seriously, dancers have the worst breathing habits. For these reasons, dancers should do more yoga. Doing too much of the same thing only leads to an imbalanced body.
3. Yoga, when done with a competent teacher (and I can not stress the importance of competency), is the best way to improve your mobility, and to do it while incorporating proper breathing patterns. Just do it, you’ll see what I mean.
4. I don’t know if I like what yoga is becoming in America. I mean, yoga COMPETITIONS? Kind of defeats the purpose if you ask me. But to each their own. Some could say the same about dancing I suppose… But for me, yoga is something to get inside my head, relax, let go of my daily worries and stress, and to focus on not judging the experience. A competition implies judgement. For some, dancing is a way of accomplishing the same enlightenment some yogis do; yet you can also do it to be the “best” at it. Whatever. But check out this video below, these competitive yogis can do some pretty
freaky impressive stuff!
5. So many people do yoga poses they just shouldn’t EVER do! Whether it’s ego, expectation, or lack of teacher intervention, I see a lot of people in yoga classes that I just know are going to injure themselves somewhere down the line. Also many of the poses that are probably safe for them to do, they do wrong and make them into dangerous poses! For example- Someone with chronic back pain should probably NOT do the wheel pose. People with atrocious posture and lacking adequate shoulder stability shouldn’t try to hold a headstand for any length of time. And this leads me to my all time favourite heart-breaking yoga pose
COBRA! ALMOST ALL OF YOU ARE DOING IT WRONG.
Ok, well I guess it depends on the style of yoga, because there are slight variances. But speaking as someone who had chronic back pain since age 14- I was doing cobra all wrong.
Here’s why- I was focusing on bending (or should I say crunching) my lower back, locking my elbows, not keeping my hips down on the floor, and not thinking about what my shoulders were doing. Hello back pain.
On the left: Good cobra. On the right: Not so good cobra.
Rather, in cobra, some good cues to give would be:
1. To only come up as far as you can without support from your hands. This ensure the individual is only using their functional range of motion, rather than pushing beyond what is safe. It also strengthens the hell out of your upper back.
2. Push your hips down into the floor by engaging your glutes. A measure to prevent lower back arching and encourage hip extension.
3. Lower shoulders down from ears, slide shoulder blades down the back, and pull the elbows in towards your sides. This reduces tension in the shoulders, inhibits good ol’ upper trapezius from wigging out, and once again, strengthens the upper back
4. Keep feet together as much as possible! This forces the use of the adductors and internal rotators of the hips (they are sleepy and need a wake-up).
5. Feel the sternum pulling up to the ceiling. Think of pulling yourself forward with your hands rather than pushing down into the floor with them.
6. Keep elbows slightly bent and tucked into your sides. Again, a measure to reduce the strain on the lower back, and to strengthen the arms a little bit while you’re at it. Also helps to keep the shoulders down from your ears.
7. BREATHE DAMNIT! Deeply. Through your nose.
Cobra is a lot harder this way. Also way less fun. And way less impressive looking… At first! However it is a lot better for your body so suck it up. Stop practicing things the wrong way.
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