I’ve had this article up on my browser for the last week or so: Turns out yoga isn’t as good for your body as you thought. I’ve had a blog post brewing.
Because, this is my story too.
There are two issues here: pushing beyond limits, and the possible common “genetic defect” of hypermobility.
Number 1. We know it’s a thing. Our culture is notorious for being over the top on almost everything. It’s no wonder that American yoga culture has created a monster, in the form of Instagram; like everything else, it’s dangerous when not used properly. And before you call me out on my own yoga photos (like the one accompanying this post), I freely admit to the pleasure of an advanced asana captured on camera, usually involving cowgirl boots or a horse. But the rule is, it’s got to be a pose already in my practice. Issue number 1 could be a separate, very long post, and it’s already an ongoing discussion in the yoga world.
Moving on to issue number 2, hypermobility by me. Long story short, I have a history of lower back trouble that reared its ugly head during pregnancy. I’ve been immobilized and hospitalized more times than I care to admit. My already hypermobile back, which was rocking the Ashtanga second series full of demanding backbends before I got pregnant, protested loudly when pregnancy hormones sought to make me even more flexible. I repeatedly went beyond what was “normal and healthy” and thought I was making great strides.
Needless to say I’ve adjusted my yoga practice since then. I believe it’s a moving target – what worked for you at one point isn’t going to work for you at some point in the future. It’s a lesson in attachment. But the good news is, there is so much yoga out there, it’s not like you’re going to be left yoga-less. And adjusting your practice to meet your body’s changing needs is much better than not being able to do yoga at all, due to injury. Those amazing people in their 90s who are still practicing? You can bet they didn’t push past their limits on a daily basis when they were younger. I’m guessing that they were careful architects of a lifelong practice.
Cultivating strength to balance my flexibility has become my life’s work. You can find me at the gym working with a trainer multiple times a week, on the days that I have no guilt about not rolling out my yoga mat. Sthira Sukham Asanam – the connection to the earth (the asana) should be steady and joyful. There must be stability from strength, and freedom from flexibility. It’s a Yoga Sutra with a lifelong, practical application. And for me, much of the strength and stability is best found off the mat.
When I had my yoga studio in DC, my students would ask me if they should give up everything else and just do yoga. They always seemed surprised when I told them no. Variety may be the spice of life, but many people want to be told there is one magic bullet. And that it’s yoga.
“…these advanced practices come with a risk. Hypermobility causes pain and causes problems…So many people are hypermobile. They’re overstretching. They’re creating more inflammation and instability in their joints. They’re in pain, but the crazy thing is, they think more yoga is going to help them.”
No, you shouldn’t just do yoga. Big Sky Yoga Retreats is founded on combining yoga with outdoor pursuits like horses and hiking – and discovering how yoga helps you get more out of them. I believe that yoga helps you do anything better – but that doesn’t mean it’s without its own inherent risks. You have to constantly evolve and adjust your practice to make it meet the needs of your ever-changing (and let’s face it, aging) body.
The pièce de résistance of this article is the advice from Diane Bruni, founder of a Facebook group called the Yoga and Movement Research Community: “where yoga teachers and students from a variety of backgrounds are sharing what they’re learning about movement in the human body and where yoga is getting it wrong”.
“Do yoga once or twice a week, it’s plenty. Then do your other activities. Cycle, run, walk, go to the gym, swim, go to a dance class, move, do different things. And then your body will likely be less prone to injury doing any of those things. The majority of injuries happen because we do one thing too much.”
Amen! I want to shout that from the rooftops. Because why are we doing this yoga thing again…? Balance, people. It’s about balance.