The buzz in the yoga world this week comes courtesy of The New York Times, which published an article by science writer William J. Broad entitled "How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body." While this article looks at some extreme cases of yoga-induced injuries, it can serve as a reminder to always listen to your own body, especially if you are new to yoga or returning after a break.
"How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body" appeared in The New York Times online late last week, in the Sunday Magazine yesterday, and continues to ripple across the yoga community. The message of Broad's article, which is excerpted from his upcoming book "The Science of Yoga," is supported by many, though just as many are critical of its delivery and use of anecdotal evidence. Yes, yoga can be hazardous to your health. Since this practice is often touted as a panacea, it's not a bad idea to stop and point that out occasionally... Read more
Finding a good teacher tops this list of ways to avoid injury in yoga class. The most experienced teachers are not going to push you beyond your limits (and if they do, feel free to ignore them). Since it's hard to get individualized attention in large group classes, a private class may be the safest option if you have preexisting injuries or complicating conditions.
Cobra pose is one that's always evolving for me. A few years ago, I learned this undulation technique, which changed the pose completely. I still love to use it to deepen the backbend. Then, one of my teachers recently started suggesting that, in addition to rooting the pelvis down to the floor, the abdomen should be toned so that the navel actually draws in. I'm still playing with this one, but when I get it, it brings a new lift to my upper body. While we're here, let me say a word about the position of the head and neck in this pose. Cobra is singled out as a possible cause of neck injury and even stroke in the above-mentioned Times article. Broad quotes B.K.S. Iyengar instructing that the head should be brought as far back as possible in this pose. But that's not how most people, including myself, instruct the pose these days. The neck, which does tend to be vulnerable, can be kept in a much more neutral position, with the gaze straight ahead or even downward. Taking the neck out of the equation allows for more focus on the back. It may not be the most classic version of the pose, but it is a safer option.