Swenson on NY Times article: ‘There are idiots in all fields’

It comes as no surprise that more reactions to the New York Times article on yoga causing injuries would manifest out of the Yoga Journal conference last weekend in San Francisco.

The one I want to highlight is David Swenson’s. It is at this link (along with a few other famous names, including Seane Corn, Ana Forrest and Roger Cole).

Here’s the part on Swenson:

David Swenson, a renowned Ashtanga yoga teacher based in Austin, Texas, was baffled by all the fuss over The Article. “For every one person who is injured doing yoga, there are 10,000 people whose lives are transformed by the practice,” he said. He compared it to medicine. Just because many people have been hurt by doctors doesn’t mean that medicine is bad, he said. “There are idiots in all fields,” he said. “People can be certified to practice yoga or medicine and still not be skilled at their job.”

My sense is that Swenson has hit on one of the two main lines of thought that the article has generated: the sketchiness of yoga certification. A certificate does not mean that a person is a good teacher; authorization (Mysore-based or other) is far from a final word about a teachers’ qualification. And on the flip side, lack of certification doesn’t mean a teacher is unqualified. (Eddie Stern, you will recall, had a similar reaction to quick teacher trainings.)

The other line of thought is that yoga practitioners have to be careful and check their ego. (Another item Eddie picked up.) And both run together (a confluence?). A student who is being careful or mindful ought to be able to tell if a teacher is “good” — in the sense of “good for that student.” If the teacher isn’t, find another. But never forget that the “problem” could be coming from inside and not from the teacher.

Simple, huh? Well, simple to say and remember, maybe harder to put into action.

Anyway, a final word: I still maintain that the Times article is important and that reactions in general haven’t been overblown. (A few individual ones have.) It doesn’t get much more “mainstream” in America than the Times — it still sets the agenda for the media. And so this story is and was bound to have “legs.”

Avoidance is not the answer. It’s up to yogis to benefit from the reaction to it and maybe help others benefit, too.

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

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