Why yoga can be dangerous

The not-so-recent NYT article has caused alot of debate and storm amongst the yoga community both online and offline. My initial reactions were of shock first, then disbelief, followed by confusement, and relief after reading a few teachers’ and bloggers’ inputs on the issues. I’ve now finally matured on this subject and can finally talk about it, logically.

Yes, I believe yoga can be dangerous, IF done incorrectly, without proper coordination of breath of movement, and without awareness. Having been injured myself on multiple accounts from yoga, I can attest that yoga asanas do come with risk, as are all things we do in life. Nothing in life comes in a package with no risk, though some might contain more and others less. In fact, anything done without awareness is potential harm–car accidents happen because the drivers are not paying attention, we might accidentally cut ourselves while chopping vegetables in the kitchen because we are distracted by a conversation, or slip and fall in a puddle of water because we aren’t watching our steps–etc etc.

But my injuries have healed and have allowed me to go even deeper into my practice. They are now my greatest teachers, because they have taught me the mechanics of the wrist position in chaturangas, how the hamstring stretches without being overstretched, and how to extend the back instead of compressing in backbends. My injuries have taught me that awareness and breath cannot be lacking any second during the practice.

I’ve recently came across an article from CNN discussing the validity of yoga teachers nowadays. It stresses the importance of having a teacher to lower the risk of injuries, and it is best that the teachers has trained under the Yoga Alliance approved basic 200-Hr Teacher Training.

I disagree.

While the 200-Hr training is a good foundation, the teachers that graduate from the program vary in experience and expertise. Some of my friends who did TT had mentioned that a couple of students in their TT group actually came without much prior experience or background in yoga. They received their 200-hr certificates, but it makes me shudder to think that they might be teaching yoga classes now.

In Ashtanga, it is said that one should devote at least 10 years of practice before teaching. And even when teaching, one should continue practicing. There is never an “end” to learning in yoga. Everyday you experience something new, a new day might mean a new revelation.

Ultimately, yoga is a lifelong practice, it is a way of life. Be smart when practicing, learning, and teaching–that way you can reduce the risk of injuring yourself or your students.

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