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The Sun-Times - Heber Springs, AR
  • Will yoga wreck your body?

  • The yoga world is on fire— stirred up by Manhattan yoga teacher, Glenn Black, who was interviewed by the New York Times following the publishing of his book, The Science of Yoga: The Risks and Rewards, to be released on February 7th.

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  • The yoga world is on fire— stirred up by Manhattan yoga teacher, Glenn Black, who was interviewed by the New York Times following the publishing of his book, The Science of Yoga: The Risks and Rewards, to be released on February 7th.   The cover of the New York Times featured contortionists in goofy costumes, doing crazy poses that bore little or no resemblance to yoga and blared with the statement “Yoga can wreck your body”.  
    The article, which was also reported on national news on NBC, whispers to us in horror: ‘Black has come to believe that ‘the vast majority of people’ should give up yoga altogether. It’s simply too likely to cause harm.”
    As one who is in the tenth year of practicing yoga four times per week, I can tell you there are more efficient ways to wreck your body than yoga.   The above article in the NY Times brought so many rebuttals I couldn’t read them all.  One was entitled, “Ego can wreck your yoga”.  When you try to outdo someone else or even keep their pace you can injure yourself.  Yoga is not a competitive sport and in fact, it is not a sport at all.  It is personal between you and your body.  
    I hurt my knee with yoga once doing a high lunge.  I felt that sharp twinge in my knee which is the warning sign that you are damaging a joint.  Instead of pulling out of the pose, as I’d been instructed, I let my ego take over.  It took two months to heal that injury and even then I didn’t miss my yoga class.  I just backed out of poses before I got to the point of the sharp twinge.  From then on, I listened to my body instead of being concerned about what others in the class are doing.  Yoga didn’t hurt my knee, I did.  Yoga helped it heal, when I did it right.
    If you are not listening to your body, you can wreck it with any kind of exercise; jogging, aerobics, baseball, basketball, certainly football, and even walking with feet in wrong position can, in time, wreck parts of your body.   Bike riding can wreck your body if you slam into a tree.
    In yoga you learn to differentiate between the discomfort of a healthful stretch and the sharp twinge of injury. No pain, no gain is not the way of yoga.
    If you want to wreck your body, be competitive in everything you do.  Compare yourself with others and you are sure to wreck your body and your self-esteem as well.  I have long believed that the most destructive thing you can do is compare yourself with others, in any area of life.  You will either feel inferior or superior and you are neither.  Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses and that is okay.   Yoga helps you learn to be authentic –be yourself and accept yourself as you are.
    Page 2 of 2 - Some of the statements made in the NY Times article are simply false and most of the article is misleading.     A phrase like “the yoga community long remained silent about its potential to inflict blinding pain” implies a worldwide conspiracy of yogis who want to hurt people.  This is totally laughable and untrue.  Yoga teachers say, countless times, that you should not do anything that hurts.  Difficult poses are served up with warnings and easier variations.  Can you say this of most groups that involve physical activity?  Mindfulness is the key to practicing safely.  
    Why do I endorse yoga so enthusiastically?  Because at the age of 76, I am more flexible, and stronger, thanks to yoga, than I have ever been in my life.  A couple years ago, twice I slipped on ice and my feet fairly flew out from under me.  I went sailing through the air landing on concrete.
    I did not suffer as much as a bruise.  I didn’t realize why I had come away from such falls without injury until I read an article in the Yoga Journal that said doing yoga would prevent injury from falls.  It also prevents falls because of improved balance.  
    We are fortunate here in Heber Springs to have several options for practicing yoga, including SilverSneakers yoga at the community center.  
    I would encourage anyone who has thought about beginning to practice yoga to say “Yes!” and go for it.  Your mind, body, and soul will be most happy that you did.   The bottom line, as with most things, is to follow your intuition, don’t get competitive about it.  That’s when your ego is getting in the way.
    But if you really want to wreck your body, give up exercise and sit in a recliner watching TV all the time—snacking on junk food.  If you are diligent with this, you can probably wreck your brain as well as the rest of your body.   
    (Janice Norris lives in Heber Springs, has a B.S. in home economics from Murray State University, taught home economics, owned and operated health food stores in Illinois and Heber Springs, has taught numerous health and nutrition classes, and wrote a weekly newspaper column in Illinois for 15 years. She can be reached at janicenorris34@yahoo.com)

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