With other news during the past week taking up our bandwidth, we’ve let slide all the hubbub over Kino MacGregor’s injuring herself while adjusting a student.
The big piece on it, which I’ll assume you’ve seen, is by regular yoga writer Matthew Remski. Link is here, and a little taste (be warned; it is long, very, very long):
I’ve interviewed more than a hundred yoga practitioners about pain and injury. The acute injuries are dramatic: a hamstring tears in the moment of a harsh adjustment, or a rotator cuff rips upon the impact of leaping into an arm-balance that uses the upper arm as a brace. But there are usually pre-existing weaknesses or stresses that forecast these events, which means that sports medicine doctors and orthopedic surgeons are typically conservative when it comes to pinpointing exact moments and causes.
Even harder to definitively source are the repetitive stress injuries that creep in below the radar. I’ve interviewed several women who have sustained labral tears, for example, which first present as niggling pinches in the groin and either slowly or quickly progress to shattering pain. Many of these subjects continued to practice as their pain increased, unaware that they may be deepening a tear. Some practiced with modification, some without, but most continued with a firm belief that whatever the pain was, practice would heal it.
Then there are injuries like MacGregor’s, which are yoga-related, but don’t literally occur on the mat. MacGregor was initially firm via email. “This isn’t a yoga injury that came from my practice. It came from the impact of a student falling into me while I was assisting her.”
We’ve discussed Ashtanga and injuries pretty often before. Injury is inevitable, although mostly avoidable. But Ashtanga is a pretty extreme form of asana, and as with anything extreme, there will be consequences.
Kino’s injury has gotten more than its share of attention, of course, because she’s omnipresent on social media — often via photos or videos of her doing some of the practice’s most extreme poses. There are lots of valid topics to discuss, and they’ve been pretty well gone through in the comments on the article: the value of injury; what’s “real yoga”; how much is too much asana. For me, I think the most useful is to think about how our ego and our drive to get the next pose or perfect this particular pose really runs counter to what we’re supposed to be doing in a yoga practice. At the same time, we need that drive to do the practice; it’s the great mischief of practice and life: you require your ego to get rid of yourself. You have to want to not want to not want.
That said, I’d certainly have to argue that the Instragram-ization of yoga enables our egos in not the best of ways. Having heard stories from the first Western Ashtanga students, I’m not really sure that anyone today is particularly more driven or, to use this word loosely, more crazy than David Williams or Tim Miller, etc. were “back in the day.” Those folks charged through the Series pretty quickly. They wanted more poses, just like people do today. Perhaps the main difference is just how many people one can encounter who are driving themselves ahead, and doing so so publicly. And how it is that this drive is being packaged for public consumption.
Posted by Steve