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Sunday, January 8, 2012

Is Yoga Dangerous?

I've seen a few posts over the past week or so raising concerns about the safety of yoga practices. I'm not a yoga practitioner, and I've really only experienced yoga in a few isolated gym class embarrassments. Here's a basic rundown, free of Chicken Little-esque screams about yoga equaling death:

  • Like most physical activities, performing yoga poses with poor form leads to injury. Duh.
  • The most injury-inducing yoga poses seem to be inversions (poses that flip the body upside-down, like the headstand or the plow pose) or poses requiring extreme spinal mobility (extreme ROM bridges, etc).
  • Hot yoga (Bikram, Forrest, Power, TriBalance, etc) can lead to tissue damage by making it easier to push past the body's natural stretch limits.
  • Many yogis (yoga practitioners) let their egos push them to dangerous zones that their bodies can't accommodate.
  • Yoga has been fundamentally changed from a meditative/spiritual practice with body poses to a body pose practice with meditation/spirituality - Western yoga practices are rarely anything like the esteemed traditions they owe heritage to.
So, yogis, feel free to carry on - but with a few caveats. You must respect your body's limits, you must seek to learn about yoga's long tradition, and you must keep your ego in check. And please avoid aversions and unnatural-feeling poses, especially when held for long periods of time.

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Sources:

NY Times: How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body
Scott Sonnon: That's Not Your Yoga!
Wikipedia: Hot Yoga

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