Is There Danger in Yoga? …
Why So-Called “Simple” or “Basic” Yoga Postures
Might Be TOO MUCH for TOO MANY People!
Risks, Causes, Cures & Prevention
The Rise of Yoga Injury Prevention . . .
if WE have anything to say about it!
Having had experience with many different bodyworkers, David’s technique is certainly unique. There are levels of healing he achieves I’ve never seen before. This is clearly a result of a vast knowledge of anatomy and physiology combined with decades of hands-on experience.
Dr. John Bordiuk, M.D.
Nutritional & Metabolic Medicine
InnerBalance Med • Wellesley, Massachusetts
(Dr. Bordiuk was a yoga teacher before he went to medical school!)
It is obvious that yoga has been very beneficial to many people over the many decades it’s been practiced in America. More people would be well-served to experience and understand its benefits. Yet even some long-time yoga practitioners and instructors are unaware of how yoga actually works to bring certain physical as well as mental/emotional benefits, and how many so-called “medical” problems yoga can solve or prevent. That includes yoga injury prevention and healing.
This website will, of course, have a LOT to say about the positive aspects of yoga. …
However, we must remember the principle of
An Alarming Increase
Many people who are relatively young and injury free, with a minimal amount of accumulated stress and C.E.M.&.N.T., can get away with how yoga is taught in many classes; that being more aggressively and in some cases athletically. They do not usually THINK they need to worry about yoga injury prevention.
There are even reports of some yoga teachers nearly brutalizing their students. Some times this is done at a direct, physical level by pushing or forcing the student’s body deeper into a posture. For others, it’s psychological coercion being used to intimidate the student to force themselves deeper in a posture.
We call that “going over the edge” or even doing violence to the student, be it actual physical violence or only mental. Both can be damaging to the student.
It is an increasingly well-known fact that there’s been an alarming expansion in the number of injuries resulting from yoga. And those are only the ones reported. I have spoken with and read articles by several medical doctors, chiropractors, physical therapists and yoga teachers or authors who tell me they’ve seen a big increase in yoga related injuries. I know yoga center owners who closed down their Power Yoga classes because of the increasing insurance liability issues. (One of them was about a decade ago already! So this is not just a sudden, recent development of the last few years.)
I’ve even been contacted by long-time, senior yoga teachers who themselves, as well as other teachers they know, suffered from yoga-related injuries to the extent they “needed” various surgeries. … Or thought they did, anyway. So many of them, thinking there was no alternative, went ahead with those surgeries.
UPDATE: According to the YogAlign.com website (created by Michaelle Edwards, LMT, ERYT) several very prominent yoga teachers have suffered the need for single or double hip replacements. … I was also contacted by a past president of the Australian Yoga Association. He explained that he knew several other world-class yoga teachers who suffered similar injuries and resulting surgeries of hips, knees and spinal discs.
I find all that to be tragic. … And probably unnecessary.
So-called “Basic” Yoga Not So Basic
for MANY Beginners . . .
Now, of course its true that much of this comes from yoga beginners not doing things right. The question is, with so many approaches and styles, and so many variations from teachers of such styles, what’s “right”? And many of the postures taught as “beginning” or “1st Level” yoga I personally believe to be far too much for many people to do in the early stages of their learning and doing yoga, IF EVER.
And, as the market for yoga expands to people who are older or have more pre-existing injuries, or both — what some people might call therapeutic or medical yoga — the average newcomer to yoga is in way over their head, way over their edge, even if they do exactly what their yoga teacher tells them to do. And few of them really understand yoga injury prevention AT ALL!
And let’s face it: How many yoga teachers are even remotely trained in the wide-range of therapeutic challenges many first-time people show up to a class with? Even with Yoga Alliance’s 500 hours for Advanced “Certification” (and most “certified” teachers are only trained to 200 hours), it is unlikely they’ll have enough experience and knowledge to deal effectively with such challenges.
PLEASE SEE: Does Yoga Certification Protect The Public?
Or Guarantee Competence?
For another example, until they’ve loosened up and gotten sufficiently coordinated, Plow Pose or Shoulder Stand are just WAY too much for most older or more injured or stressed beginners, and maybe even should be considered as an intermediate pose, at least. (Plow & Shoulder Stand can put a LOT of pressure on the upper back and neck region.)
Even the “basic” Cobra, as it is ordinarily taught, presents significant troubles for many people. (It is often taught as a back strengthener, rather than a front of the body and abdominal relaxer & lengthener.
That’s okay for some people, but many if not most people, at least in the early stages, need to use yoga more for Relaxing, Lengthening & Balancing muscles, not so much for “strengthening.”) In fact, if you study The DSL Method of Let-Go Yoga, you’ll see evidence to show that the way most beginning poses are taught is not ideal for the changing demographics of many if not most new yoga students.
Sure, if you’re under 20 years old and never had significant injuries, you can get away with most anything. Everyone else, even if they’ve been sedentary couch potatoes or desk sitters for decades, need to “exercise” caution. (No pun intended, but hey, I’ll take it!)
For Example, in one of my courses, I show how much, if not most, Yoga in America today actually compresses the various joints and spinal discs, which is NOT a good thing! (Please see the article on Joint Compression: Was Ida Rolf Right?
It’s Happening To Yoga Teachers, Too!
In truth, many injuries occur in many people who’ve been long-time practitioners and teachers of yoga. Even some teachers of certain systems claiming to be “state-of-the-art” in protecting people from injury are getting injured! That includes systems claiming to be THE most structurally sound and alignment-conscious systems! (To keep the peace, for now, I’ll retain from naming names. But what these systems are is probably obvious. If I get enough positive requests, I will go more public with that information, however.)
I have a growing list of Clients who are Yoga Teachers, some of them teaching for many years, who’ve developed aches, pains, poor posture, loss of movement & various dysfunctions, preventing them from even demonstrating a yoga posture, let alone actually doing it seriously. In many cases, they have, when you press into their flesh with your fingers, what feel like wires & ropes, rocks & knots in their muscles — most of the time, from C.E.M.&.N.T., Too Much Muscle Tension. This is even though they are, paradoxically, very flexible.
There are several reasons for this . . .
Flexibility Is NOT (Usually) The Issue
So even though they have very “tight” muscles on one hand, they are very often anywhere from very to extremely flexible. More often than not, it is not “loss of flexibility” or actual “weakness” that’s their problem, it’s pain preventing them from going deeper into an asana. Yet since they are so flexible, they have trouble believing that chronically over-shortened and tense muscles are their problem. All of that presents a paradox to be addressed elsewhere on this website.
You can Start by reading about Chronic, Excess Muscle & Nerve Tension or C.E.M.&.N.T. on a different page.
Yes, many people have improvements, sometimes amazing improvements, in health, flexibility, strength, and so on with almost any particular approach to yoga. In many cases, ANYTHING that relaxes the body, reduces certain stresses, activates the nervous system more fully and rhythmically, and/or brings more consciousness to it, can trigger improvements, even if from certain points of view it is the “wrong” thing to do.
But a few — sometimes more than a few — get worse using the very same systems or approaches. Sometimes much worse, occasionally to the point of debilitation. Yet proponents of a yoga system being questioned will, rather than doubt their principles of action or alignment, sometimes say something like, “They weren’t using proper alignment precisely enough” or not “properly focused” in the right areas, or they were inattentive, or whatever.
Yoga Abuse … Force & Coercion
Then there is the whole issue of outright bad teaching. I have many times sat and listened to people who have witnessed, or have friends who have witnessed, so-called “masters” of yoga trying to force someone into a particular posture, injuring them, sometimes severely, in the process.
Sometimes they do it manually by physically pushing them deeper into the pose, or others just use verbal humiliation or other forms of psychological coercion. It’s almost like their yoga students should be treated like Marines or something! But the psychologically and/or emotionally induced damage can be as bad.
As I said, I won’t name names, as I don’t want to stir up any more trouble than necessary. But this DOES go on, far more than most people realize, with very well known personalities in yoga, all over the world, even in India.
(I often fear that my not “naming names” is a cop-out, but the yoga community greatly dislikes “negativity,” even if it’s The Truth. But to be fair, even the medical community resists saying negative stuff about other doctors and practitioners. … If you have a Comment or Suggestion about that, I’d love to hear it.)
This is all so ironic, because so many of these systems claim to be teaching a system from the allegedly “spiritual traditions” of India. Yet a primary tenet of Indian Yoga Philosophy is that of Ahimsa. Ahimsa is one of the Yamas & Niyamas, the yogic equivalent of the Ten Commandments in the West. It means, literally, Non-Violence.
Ahimsa means Non-Harming. And there is No Question in my mind, attempting to verbally coerce or physically force a student deeper into a posture, or into an alignment the tissues of the body and/or are resisting to any significant degree, IS VIOLENCE. It does not matter how “well intended” the teacher or coach might be, it is violence. And it does not matter how “advanced” the practitioner is, resistance is resistance.
PLEASE NOTE: There is a lot to the issues of Resistance. However that’s too complex to get into here. I go into it extensively in other articles and my e-book, The Simple Steps to Let-Go Yoga.
NO Forced Alignment … Even If It’s “Good” Alignment
As you will find out on this site, however, trying to put the body into so-called “Proper Alignment” can, for many people, be quite bad for them, even when the asana adjustments appear or feel to be minor and gentle. There are often very good reasons why one’s body will not easily go where You, or your Master Teacher, or your yoga book, think it should go. (Many yoga books and teachers seem to be WAY over optimistic, even excessive, about the flexibility levels of their readers.)
Sometimes, out-of-balance and chronically over-contracted muscles can prevent a body segment from going where you think it should, even if it is ultimately, and eventually, a Good Idea. Therefore, prematurely pushing into so-called “Correct Alignment” actually strains those muscles, or worse.
Too Deep, Too Fast, Too Much Intensity …
for Too Long
Now, I’m all for long, slow holds, and pleasurable, even occasionally intense, levels of sensation. But too many practitioners and teachers are addicted to the feeling of intensity that often accompanies being very deep into an asana. But …
… You have to open the door before you walk through it.
… And you can’t peel an onion from the inside out.
… So you have to start on the surface and work your way in, thin layer by thin layer of the muscle fibers.
~David Scott Lynn
There are very subtle neuromuscular, myofascial, and psycho-muscular reflexes constantly reacting to even very slight internal and external pressures. So slight, most of the time you can’t even feel them, and you can’t believe such subtle reflexes are causing so much trouble.
Understanding and working with these potential issues or barriers is what I will, in part, be focusing on in these web pages, especially in my e-books The Simple Steps To Let-Go Yoga, and the 12 Principles of Maximizing Results While Minimizing Injury in the Practice & Teaching of Yoga.
Hippocrates Said . . .
. . . The Hippocratic Oath of Medicine says, First, Do No Harm.
To that end, the number one purpose of this website is to help insure that Yoga Does NO Harm to new or long-term practitioners. Then we can move toward maximizing results. Fortunately, properly done, the very same principles I’ve developed (based in part on the teachings of Joel Kramer and via my private practice of BIO-structural bodywork) for Injury Prevention are also the same principles that maximize results.
The Next Article in the Yoga Injury Series is on JOINT COMPRESSION. Please see the article:
If you’ve already read those articles, please take a look at my:
Mind Map on the 12 Principles
of Maximizing Results While Minimizing Injury in Yoga
I will be uploading far more information on the topic of Yoga Injury in the coming days and weeks. I have to spend one more day at Harvard Medical Library doing fact checking to make sure all the information is accurate and up-to-date.
(By-the-way, If you take my FUNdamentals of Yoga Training — either via e-Course or a Live, In-Person Training — you’ll also get my 12 Principles of Maximizing Results While Minimizing Injury in Yoga.)
Thank You Very Much for Reading & Take Care,
David Scott Lynn (DSL)
DSL: Your Hi-Touch Up-Link to the Inner-Net
(Inner-Net: the Psycho-Neuro-Musculo-Fascial System)