A few days ago, an article was published in The New York Times Magazine about yoga. Surprising, right? Actually, for many people it’s been a total shock, and judging by the posts in my Facebook feed, the world of yoga as we know it may be coming to an end. Yes, dear friends, we’ve hit the yogapocalypse. The yopocalypse? No, I think the first one works better.
Titled “How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body,” it’s clear from the get-go that this article is out for blood. Yoga has been bad, and now it’s going to pay. Here’s what it boils down to (other than a rather uninteresting laundry list of injuries sustained while practicing or because of practicing yoga): some people are overzealous and do a lot of yoga, like this one guy who decided he would hold a certain pose for hours at a time while chanting for world peace. You know, like you do. Except yoga betrayed him! And many others! And people ended up getting hurt! Yoga is bad, people, because you can’t do it super intensely and not get hurt! Everything we’ve been taught about it is wrong! Everything is so terrible and the world is full of lies!
Except that it’s not, obviously. As usual, what we really have here is a case of the New York Times getting it wrong (there should be a branch of media dedicated entirely to reporting on how often this happens). For one thing, I’m not sure about y’all, but in my many years of practicing yoga I’ve never had anyone tell me that I should hold any pose for hours or push myself to a point where it feels uncomfortable. In fact, I’ve heard many instructors very clearly point out that if you are making it hard, you’re doing it wrong. For another, while it may be true that the number of yoga-related injuries being reported has increased in the past ten years, the number of practitioners has increased as well. Any increase in the number of people doing something is going to lead to a corresponding increase in the number of people getting hurt while doing it. What the article fails to tells us is how the proportion of injuries to practitioners has changed in the past decade.
Finally, what does any of this really have to do with yoga, anyway? The fact of the matter is that most things, when pushed to an extreme point, are going to end up being harmful in some way. Instead of pointing the finger at yoga, maybe we should just try taking it easy, and doing yoga the way we’re supposed to. I don’t know, though, that might require some kind of weird effort that no one wants to put forth. Because obviously it’s a lot easier to spend a good part of your day in shoulder stand than it is to vary your practice, take the time to listen to your body, and maybe not try rotating your head 360 degrees. This isn’t the Exorcist, after all.
Yoga is not the problem here, commonsense (or a lack thereof) is. Indeed, Glenn Black, whose interview for the article makes up most of its content, even admits to the fact that the problem is ego, not something that has to do with yoga. So why pin the blame where it doesn’t belong?