That’s not your yoga!

January 6, 2012 – 6:27 am

Not your yoga

Yesterday, I posted a critique of contemporary yoga education, and the dangerous injuries it holds. One poster remarked that injuries are rare. Yoga injuries in the West are not rare by any means. The Yoga Journal reported that there was a 9% injury rate in yoga in 2007 (9,000 injuries out of every 100,000 practices.) To put this into comparison, martial art owned 7,600 injuries out of 100,000, 1.4% less injuries than the yoga statistic from the Yoga Journal. And to place this in context, American football, arguably the most injurious sport in history has a 14% injury rate. A 9% injury rate is not rare at all.

This is not an attack on YOGA. I teach yoga, for Pete’s sake; but teach it from a biomechanically incremental, and kinesiologically sensitive perspective. Physical yoga evolved contextually in a culture of people who primarily sat on the ground all day long meditating and with restrictive caloric intake. You cannot export the educational process of teaching yoga to that demographic, into the calorically overabundant, and chronically hyperdriven West, and expect only rare and isolated injuries. The entire educational approach to yoga must be retooled to fit the West.

For a decade I’ve been teaching that you never learn yoga, only YOUR yoga. In what state is your body (and mind!) when you begin? Is the slate clean? In most situations, I don’t even call it yoga anymore because people instantly think its something out there to become, rather than in them to experience. I named my approach “Compensatory Movement” as you seek to release the physical over-compensations of imbalanced, excessive or insufficient tension throughout the body to restore the natural integrity of the fascial matrix.

You can’t start most of yoga until you’ve prepared the body for the work. Most people cannot “do” yoga no matter how well they understand the instructions, or how effectively the teacher communicates. It’s not the pose until the body can enter it. Until then, strengthen deficits, restore lost mobility, establish joint stability, and create balance… Like ANY type of exercise, just because it’s yoga doesn’t mean it’s healthy for you to do. What is YOUR yoga today? Be that. Do it.

Scott Sonnon

  1. 3 Responses to “That’s not your yoga!”

  2. In this weeek’s NY Times Sunday Magazine:

    By Kevin Dougherty on Jan 6, 2012

  3. What? You can’t start at point A and miraculously/instantly get to point B? Who has time to work on transitions? I am only kidding.

    It is amazing how easy it is to overlook the incremental progressions that are unique to each of us. Thank you for putting out so many great systems/programs/products that are adaptable to each persons journey. Whether it is Prasara flows or simply the handle of a Clubbell. With each wave, I move an inch closer to my goals.

    Happy New Year!

    By Richard on Jan 6, 2012

  4. in response to the NYT article, the point isn’t to dismiss yoga as “bad” (which many will too readily do, i think)– any physical endeavor practiced/performed w/poor form (e.g. forces joints out of alignment or into suboptimal positions etc), namely when the body is “out of shape” and not conditioned for such demands, is a recipe for both acute injury or and/or, overtime, adding strength on top of dysfunction for eventual injury. paraphrasing the author, a notable take-away is that one needs to be in shape to do yoga, and not the other way around (the same thing has also been said of running, which people commonly turn to– and get injured from in droves– to get themselves in shape). also, if we look @ the Sanskrit root of yoga: union, or “yoking” of mind, body, spirit, this brings up another issue. i suspect that many injuries, not just isolated to yoga-related ones, happen b/c lack of this mind-body union; we’re often disconnected from our bodies when exercising (e.g. fixating on “need to burn off that jelly donut!” excessive “no pain, no gain” mentality etc.), which the author also touches upon, concluding his piece w/ “if you do it with ego or obsession, you’ll end up causing problems.”– again, this is true outside of yoga too.

    like scott said, we– yogis and practitioners of physical movement in general– need to be sensitive to our own “your yoga” or starting point, checking ego @ the door and incrementally progressing - the point of yoga isn’t the poses (yeah, so stop bein a ‘poser’ ;P).

    By Anna on Jan 6, 2012

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