The Dangers of Yoga
From time to time, I’d hear somebody asking me for opinion on a good yoga pose.
Me: “Good yoga pose for what?”
Girl: “For Instagram. I haven’t posted any yoga photos in a while”
Yoga is not a fad.
It is a discipline, a whole different mindset. It is a lifestyle. A commitment.
In the early 2000s, Yoga became more famous in the Western culture. As more people are becoming yoga students in India, same goes for teachers. Slowly but surely, the effects of a yoga practice is more than enough to change lives of people and this alone is like a miracle that needs to be shared. This is why more teachers from the West are emerging.
With each person passing down the lineage of learnings from a Yoga teacher, they add flavor to their teachings by adding their own personality. And, as Yoga really makes you feel ecstatic, the currency desired is an exchange that is acceptable. You can either monetize teachers, or support them in a way that they welcome.
However, as with anything, adding money to the picture would mean that Yoga will become a business. I’m not entirely against it, but that means also having to entice more students to join the practice. How exactly is this done is entirely dependent on the teacher.
The poses are not just poses.
There are eight limbs to a Yoga practice. Asanas is just one.
Unfortunately, the many asanas in a yoga practice are the only ones that are tangible enough to be seen, and touched and sensed in a body. How would you convey the conversion from a noisy monkey mind to a serene mind? How would you convey the change in a yogi who is now experiencing mindfulness? How can anyone convey peace?
There is only the word of mouth, and a photo. A photo. In the social media dominated world, a photo is stronger than word of mouth.
“I can do handtands like this can say more than, I found peace in this.”
But there are dangers.
Who said so? Does anyone actually tell anything about dangers of practising yoga?
I once came to my doctor, complaining about my heel (just a few months after getting knee therapy).
Dr: What’s happening to your heel?
Me: I find it difficult to put pressure on this particular heel. I can walk, but my gait is changed and sometimes it’s painful.
Dr: What have you been doing lately?
Me: Walking long distances, jump rope and yoga.
Dr: Could it be caused by yoga? Can you describe to me what you’ve been doing in yoga?
I looked at him quizzically, asking him with my eyes: “Yoga? How many cases has he seen that were actually caused by yoga, enough for him to ask that question?
Of course, my pain wasn’t from yoga. I have been mindful enough not to hurt myself. Keyword: “not to hurt yourself”
How can yoga hurt you?
In a proper yoga practice, you begin to separate the time you start your practice with a chant and mindful breathing to bring energy back to your center. The reason for this is that our body emits energy. When we aren’t centered, we put our energy onto different aspects of our day—work, thoughts, digestion, physical activity, etc. Our energy becomes scattered because we are in many places all at once.
It will then be followed by slow mindful movements that are equivalent to warming up. However, the actual poses themselves, executed mindfully while paying attention to the breath would be enough to prepare the body for more challenging poses. Read: Sun Salutations always opens a practice, or some variation of it.
Sun Salutations can warm up the entire body in just 5 rounds of Sun Salutation A. During the first round, the body can still be stiff. The next succeeding rounds, you may notice more mobility and as you finish the fifth round, the body is warm and ready for other asanas.
Let’s do splits!
Can you do splits as soon as you get up from bed? The answer is almost always no.. unless you’re a ballerina by profession and you’ve been doing splits for the past 10 years.
Did you know that aside from hamstrings, you need to have strong core, activated glutes (min and max), open hips, relaxed psoas and strong quads? How can you achieve something this complex without consciously working on all of these body parts?
If you push your body to do splits without all of these body parts being warm and having the right buildup, then you can possibly tear muscles in the process. Torn muscles doesn’t just mean resting up and recovering fine later on. Weakness and imbalances in the muscles also affect your joints. Remember that the muscles hold the joints together, along with tendons and ligaments. Imbalances anywhere in the body affect the entire structure.
A torn hamstring can mean less support for the knee, thereby affecting gait and could cause unequal pressure on the hips, which in turn could lead to pain in the hips and groins which could, over time, lead to the need for hip replacement or knee replacement. But this is just in the lower body..
What if, you saw this yogi doing a headstand and tell yourself, “oh, I could do that” and without the proper upper body strength, you’d be dumping your weight onto your head and thereby weakening your cervical spine which could lead to degeneration and pain that might traverse your entire back and cause brain related pain/damage? What if the head position wasn’t centered and your were more on your forehead? How does that cut the blood flow along the spine and to your brain?
There are so many dangers of simply doing an asana for the sake of a photo, for the sake of social media. If you don’t practice yoga on a daily basis, or have not been studying yoga, please back away from doing any asana.
Always consult a teacher, study text and practice a holistic approach to yoga. Yoga is not the Asana. Asana is not the Yoga practice.
Without mindfulness, a pose you just wanted to do is a pose for a photo (and who knows if it caused you physical damage already just by going after an Instagram-my snap).
What I mean to say..
If you’ve skipped the text above, at least get this takeaway. Do you like a pose? Then start a yoga practice. One day, you’ll get to do that pose safely and you’d be proud of yourself. Don’t risk the dangers of doing an asana just for aesthetic/social media reasons.
If you should try a pose, use props to supplement the asana to achieve it with ease and safety in mind.
Range is of the ego, Form is of the soul
In the end, you will understand, the pose is not the goal, but the journey to the pose.