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How Ashtanga Can Wreck Your Ego

January 5, 2012

George Salazar of the cast of "Godspell." Why, I don't know. Via The New York Times.

The New York Times Magazine has an article today titled in typically provocative style, “How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body.” It’s really long, extremely anecdotal (recounting individual cases dating back to the early 1970s), and, as usual, heavily based in the writer’s individual experience. (And in one of those bizarre editorial moves that indicate desperation for zaz on the webpage, seems to be illustrated by the zany antics of the cast of Godspell.)

Anybody who reads this blog has no doubt been injured practicing. I’ll let you judge the essay’s purpose yourself, but it comes down to this:

A growing body of medical evidence supports [yoga teacher Glenn] Black’s contention that, for many people, a number of commonly taught yoga poses are inherently risky.

No kidding? I did not know that.

When I injured my knee last year, a colleague at work asked me how I did it. “I was doing a crazy yoga pose (kapotasana, actually, but “crazy” for short). “I’ve had the same surgery,” he said, “I was chasing my daughter’s pet rabbit in the back yard.”

When I explained what I do to my friend and physical therapist,  Tom Hendrickx, he said, “You don’t do yoga. You’re an amateur athlete.”

We don’t blink when someone says “I broke my leg skiing” or “I strained a hammie kicking a soccer ball around.” Why is it the media seem so shocked when a yogi pushes her body past its limits and, surprise, suffers an injury? When I asked Tom if he thought I should quit Ashtanga, he said, “I think you should do what you love. Just don’t be stupid.”

Exactly. All of William Broad’s stories in the article are studies in stupidity. My own is no exception. It wasn’t kapotasana that tore my meniscus. It was my ego. Broad seems to blame a “naïve” belief  “that yoga was a source only of healing and never harm.” Yoga, like all powerfully transformative philosophies, has an inherent paradox that each practitioner/student must work out: It’s self-interest that gets you to it, but the first lesson is the emptiness of self-interest. The instant your attention flags, your ego appears, and injury is inevitable. Simple as that. And as complicated as that.

Posted by Bobbie

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