Is Yoga really bad for you?!

The daffodils are out, which is a reassuring sign that Spring is on its way! Mind you last week it was so cold I figured we may finally be having a winter after all, which was rather poor timing as we are without the coal fire as we wait for our wood burning stove to arrive, hopefully before the next cold snap!!

I read an interesting article in last week's style magazine for The Sunday Times, entitled "Do you feel pain? A new book claims that far from being good for you, Yoga can cause serious damage". Hmm.

The article goes on to say that more than any other activity, Yoga now divides the "fitness industry" into those who think it is essential for a supple and healthy body and those who think it is of little use at all and may even be dangerous.

Apparently in America, hospital surveys have shown that Yoga injuries soared by 136% between 2000 and 2007 and figures are said to be increasing as the number of students increases. It is argued that this is partly down to bad teaching and partly down to bad technique. It is further argued that Yoga is woefully unregulated and some people claim to be yoga instructors after a weekend course.

The teaching is a valid point. While I believe the ability to teach is a gift, it is still essential that people train properly and there is now a plethora of teaching courses available and I am not always convinced that they are all of the best standard of teaching, or more so, that they certify all attendees as yoga teachers even if they are not particularity proficient. Yoga teacher training courses have become an industry in themselves sadly.

As for injuries, I guess there is bound to be some correlation between the increase in the number of people who practice Yoga - apparently more than half a million people attend classes in Britain - and the increase in the number of injuries. Still it would be interesting to see a comparison with say football or running, you know how many people get injured from those "sports" each year.

ultimately the difference is that Yoga is not just another form of exercise. It is something much more than that. Yes it offers the potential to increase one's physical strength, stamina, flexibility and sense of balance, but it also offers the potential to increase one's mental strength, stamina, flexibility and sense of balance in life. Plus of course one should not forget that Yoga in its original form is a spiritual as well as a physical discipline. It helps one to become more conscious, more aware and better able to deal with the stresses of daily life.

I mean there are so many benefits - a regular practice boosts the immune system, reduces depression and prevents postural problems. In early January researchers at the university of Miami showed that practicing Yoga can help breast-cancer sufferers curb the fatigue that affects their quality of life; other studies show that it can improve osteoporosis and osteoarthritis, lower blood pressure and even enhance your sexual vitality!

Ultimately it is down to the individual and being in your body. It is up to the individual to listen to their own body, to know when something doesn't feel right, to stop and not push beyond one's limitations, to breathe consciously and with awareness. No one should ever feel that they have to do something that doesn't feel right for them. No teacher should ever push someone into a position that doesn't feel comfortable for them. It is all about taking responsibility for the self and finding a class that suits your level of fitness and physical limitations.

One final bit that made me chuckle more than anything trying to "sell" Pilates in favour of Yoga, a Pilate's teacher is quoted as saying, "Yoga takes you outside of the body through meditation. Pilates has you stay in your body by tuning your mind into your muscles". Now I am not saying that isn't true about Pilates, but I would say that it is not very true about Yoga.

I like what Cyndi Lee, the inspiring founder of Om Yoga Center in New York, says:- "A purist might say that you shouldn't put too much emphasis on the body, but ignoring it does not make sense either. You can't get enlightened out of the body. Being embodied is an essential part of Yoga - as is embodying your Yoga." It all comes down to the individual and what works for you. I believe it is unfair to say that Yoga is bad for people - it has been life changing for me, I can't put a price on how much it has shaped and continues to shape my life.

Again I couldn't say this better than Cyndi Lee says it:- "Yoga is a personal practice always. The effect of the practice -- awareness, friendliness, compassion - leak out into your life and create templates for all your relationships, but it always starts with your own body, breath and mind. It is about creating imprints, readjusting neurological patterning, creating positive habits".

So practice with awareness and self-compassion and enjoy, always enjoy!!!

Om shanti

Ross DespresComment