Here is an article that illistrates how yoga can get a bad name for “causing” injuries. When reading over this article I couldn’t help but notice everything that was said between the lines.
In the first illustration of injury the writer admits that entering an open class rather than a beginner would have made her feel like she had been demoted. After all she had done years of yoga before…. but not for “quite awhile”. This is a very real illustration of the ego stepping in and pushing the body from feeling to forcing. The body will remember the previous years of yoga only if you offer the yoga with ahimsa (none harming) will the body open and flower with this offering. Alas she did not offer yoga to the body in this manner. She pushed herself into an intermediate pose ,Plow, she also admits that her yoga practice had been in the past an addiction to the stretching feeling of the muscles releasing. Not only did she join in a practice that was not a beginners she pushed into a posture that she was not ready for. Did she use props such as blankets to insure the safe curve of the cervical spine? I think not since she developed a bulging disc in her neck. Thank goodness the Dr she went to said her disc could have been bulging before and that she had premature osteoarthritis (which she didn’t know she had). The more telling lines were ““But hyperextending your neck while putting weight on it most likely made it bulge even more, which pinched your nerve.” Plow and shouderstand are just that bearing weight on the shoulders not the neck!! Many people don’t want to use props because they feel it makes their practice beginner when it really is the advanced yogi that loves their bodies enough to create a stable, safe base to start their postures from. Mr B.K.S. Iyengar uses blankets for his shoulderstand/ plow practice even after 70 years or more of practice.
The truth is also in the article which I attach here: Overall, yoga has far more potential to heal than to hurt: Studies suggest it can help relieve chronic lower-back pain, depression and anxiety. And students tend to think of yoga as gentle and healing, even when done rigorously. But the fact is that the most basic of yoga poses—as with dance, gymnastics or any type of physical activity that requires strength and flexibility—call for a certain amount of skill and training to do properly. And when strength isn’t a necessity, proper alignment is; sometimes the most benign-seeming poses, or asanas, can cause injury if hands, arms or legs are placed incorrectly. Devotees are even more vulnerable if they go through poses more quickly than their body can handle or push themselves too hard in an effort to keep up with the teacher or compete with other students. “Yoga is marketed as such an innocuous thing,” says Loren Fishman, M.D., assistant clinical professor of rehabilitation medicine at Columbia University in New York City. “But without care, injuries can absolutely happen.”
The next injury example the injured person admits: “I was very competitive with myself,” she says. “I felt that if this is how the teacher presents a pose, then this is how I want to perform it.” Aaah that ego again. Fish posture is the counter pose for shoulderstand and is usually done for years supporting the body with the arms. However she went onto the more advanced posture with the weight supported by the neck and head. Just because the teacher offers the option does not mean your body is ready for it. If you haven’t had a regular practice of doing the basic posture (by regular I mean doing the posture 3 times a week in a home practice or in class ) why move forward to the more advanced posture and increase your chance of hurting yourself. The ego always wants more. So she tore her carotid artery in her neck. Any exercise done without awareness can cause injury and when you push to are just asking for injury. It is sad that something so wonderful as yoga was a part of this life changing injury for this person. No decapitationasana please!!!
Yoga was meant to be taught one on one, but when yoga was brought west we in the western world want things now. So yoga was brought into the classroom. This is where the teacher can only offer so much and the student needs to be mindful and aware of their own limitations. Having a teacher that is certified with a 200 hour or more certification helps but as with anything in this world a degree is only as good as the knowledge that is absorbed from the teachings. So even if a teacher instucts you to do something that doesn’t sound right or feel right pass on it and listen to your inner teacher it will never let you down.
Next up is the student that doesn’t share old injury information with the teacher. This student’s workout practice was weightlifting, kickboxing, and marathon running. She didn’t tell the teacher about an old rotator cuff injury she considered healed. Moving through the class with Sun Salutations (which I assume had the “yoga push-up” Chaturanga Dandasana in it) the student felt discomfort in Down Dog and kept stopping to “stretch” and with the mentality that all the others around her all of different sizes and shapes could do it so should she. She should just “play through the pain” as she had in other activities as this mind set had seemed to serve her well before so that is what she did. This was her very first yoga class and the instructor did not seem to notice her stopping to stretch or to check on her. It doesn’t say how many students were in the class but if it was a class of 25 or more I can tell you as an instructor it is hard to get to everyone. Again listen to the inner teacher. Re-injury to the rotator cuff left her hurt and not being able to do her other workouts. So was it the yoga or was it an accumulation of improper form in all of her other activities that the yoga class was the straw that broke the camels back? I know poor form and or too heavy weights in weight lifting can add strain and small tears to the rotator cuff and the repetitive motion of kickboxing especially with the punches and if she was using a bag to hit that adds all the more opportunity for injury there. So again yoga gets labeled with the fault of the injury. Share with the teacher your injuries so that they can keep an eye on you.
Heel sitting in the hands (putting too much weight in the wrists and not spreading it throughout the hands) is what brought about the painful ganglion cyst (a liquid-filled pouch) in one practioner. That is why you hear so often in yoga classes to spread the fingers putting more weight in the space between the “J” of the thumb and the index finger and to spread the weight into all the ball mounds of the fingers as well as the finger tips. I think though what is often overlooked when talking about the weight in the hands is the use of the legs. If enough energy is used in the legs in postures such as Down Dog the weight on the hands is so light, but you need to work the legs strongly. Pressing through the heel of the foot without locking the knees is what brings lightness to the hands.
So find a small class if you can, take private lessons and ask questions. That is what I would like the blog to do is help any and all that have questions. If I don’t have the answer I have my teachers with many, many years experience that I can ask and check with before I give an answer. Their knowledge is vast and many have studied with the true masters of yoga and many are masters themselves. They are kind and loving and want anyone on the path of yoga to have a happy, healthy, joyful journey.
Be mindful, ask questions and see you in class soon.
Love and Light to all. Namaste nancy