If you want to be ticked at a newspaper article about yoga, here’s a good one

I’m hopeful after this post we will leave the New York Times controversy behind.

But an article is out today that is worth noting, for two reasons:

1. It mentions Eddie Stern’s Ashtanga Yoga New York and his response to the Times article. So there’s some nice publicity — albeit in Great Britain — for AYNY.

2. It ought to make it clear that the Times article really wasn’t all that bad.

The Times piece, while too reliant on anecdotes, a bit too hyperbolic (but that’s the nature of news coverage) and with a few facts wrong, was still pretty balanced, I think. It wasn’t fully over the top.

The U.K.’s Guardian’s coverage of the controversy, on the other hand, is.

This will give you the gist:

“I’m shocked. Yoga transformed my life and I love going to practise – it’s made me healthier and much calmer and my body feels more alive,” said Susan Davies, 28, a software designer, as she walked near Central Park on the way to her twice-weekly class. “I’m more balanced and yet more assertive and efficient at work – my friends who do yoga say the same.”

Paula Tulsi, who runs the Manhattan practice Reflections Yoga, said: “The controversy is massive. People in the circles I run in are going crazy, because lots of people who were going to try yoga – the people you can bring in and heal – are going to be afraid now and they’ll think yoga’s bad. That’s so tragic and angering.”

“I thought it was insulting to the yoga community,” said massage therapist Eddie Rodriguez, who runs the Maio Physical Therapy practice in New York. But Rodriguez did point out that many yoga classes are too crowded and most people aren’t aware that many instructors are barely trained – even though they may look the part. “I encourage my clients to try yoga. But get a recommendation by word of mouth, don’t just go to a studio because it’s got a free offer, it’s on the gym schedule or it’s nearby and has classes at convenient times. It’s definitely a case of buyer beware,” he said.

And in New York, at least, tales of yoga disasters are not difficult to find. Arts administrator Elizabeth Bennett, 45, slipped a disc in her neck after being “bullied” into a headstand at a New York yoga studio. “When I hesitated, he called me a wimp. There are too many teachers who push unwitting students too far to serve their own egos,” she said.


David Patane sees up to 10 clients a year with a current or past yoga injury at his Physique corrective exercise, movement and lifestyle coaching business in Manhattan. He said the computer age has given so many people slouched postures and expanded waistlines that they are inviting injury if they jump up from their chairs and unthinkingly start twisting themselves, on demand, into poses that hyper-extend the often already weakened neck and lumbar spine.

“A neck pushed forward one inch in front of the plumb line of correct alignment – common with slumped posture – is already putting seven pounds of stress on the cervical spinal column,” he said. When these people flipped into a shoulder stand, or bent their legs back over their heads in “plough pose”, there was a greater risk of injury, he said.

Megan Branch, 22, an executive assistant at a web company, strained her back last year simply by doing the “superman'”, where you lie on your front and raise your legs and arms simultaneously, because she was in a class that was so crowded with up to 70 people that she had to lie at an odd angle so the next student did not have his feet in her face.

“I felt something snap in my back and then I went limp,” she said. She recovered by resting and stretching carefully, but her back now feels less stable.


“I decided I was going to get really into it, and for about six months I went four or five times a week and was feeling and looking really good.” But one day, descending the stairs from her fifth storey apartment, her knee buckled. “It was like a little ‘pop’ and didn’t feel good.”

She continued going to yoga for a few days, but the knee got worse until it would collapse without warning. A scan revealed a bad tear in the meniscal cartilage, the knee joint’s shock absorbers, requiring surgery.

“The surgeon asked me what I’d been doing and I said I was really healthy and active, doing yoga up to five times a week and he said, ‘That’s it!’.”

He said he saw lots of yoga injuries and hers probably stemmed from “pigeon pose”, where the knee is folded inwards at an angle under the body. After keyhole surgery, Harris was on crutches and bumped into her favourite yoga instructor and one of the studio administrators.

“The instructor was, like, ‘Oh my God, what happened?’ I told her my surgeon said I was doing too much yoga and she just walked away.”

The administrator then told her the studio owner said if you got injured doing yoga it was because you had “bad karma”.

“I’m anti-yoga now,” she says.

That, my friends, is a story that only describes all the bad things yoga can do to your body, with the added bit of “nasty, mean yogis” thrown in the mix.

I sure hope it isn’t bad karma to post this.

All right. Pledge to only mention this again if it really, really rises to a high level of importance.

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

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