For all its unique joys and benefits, yoga is not unlike most other physical activities or sports: it carries with it significant risks if not practiced carefully. William Broad’s 2012 book, The Science of Yoga, explores the practice of yoga from a science- and research-based point of view, and includes a substantial–and controversial–portion on “How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body” (an excerpt of which was printed in the New York Times last January). Last Thursday, the New York Times Magazine ran an article reflecting on the reception of the aforementioned portion, stirring up controversy anew. In my reading of the book, the reflection, and readers’ comments, I am reminded just how important it is to a) find a teacher your trust and feel comfortable with, and b) listen to your body. Yoga can help us take our bodies to places we never expected, and often don’t quite understand–but above all, I believe yoga should help us to be become better listeners, respecting and responding to where our bodies, minds, and breath are, and what they are capable of. Read the full reflection (and leave your own comments) here!
During my yoga teacher training at Yoga Tree last year, one of our teachers, Harvey Deutsch, told us: “Yoga is everything, and everything is yoga.” Although this could easily have come across as flippant and dismissive, a way of justifying laziness in the yoga studio, it was meant to open our minds to the enormous range of yoga styles and students. It was to reminded us that to some practitioners, yoga was about sweating away their water weight in a hot room; to others, it was a profoundly spiritual journey; for others still, it was a community of people, a peaceful and healthy way to spend one’s time. When I read the recent New York Times piece on yoga in prisons, A Series of Poses for Fitness, Inside and Out, I thought back to Harvey’s words, and reaffirmed my own belief that at the same time yoga draws people closer together, it is also incredibly personal. In many ways, it does not matter where the practice takes place, what poses or breathing exercises are taught, or who the teacher is; the student will make his practice whatever he needs it to be. In the preliminary studies on yoga programs in prisons, they have been found to reduce anxiety and depression, as well as recidivism–all at an impressively low cost. In response to a growing number of kids’ yoga programs, Fox News recently asked the question, “is yoga contributing to the wussification of America?” Perhaps, Fox News, you should ask your question to the “wussy” inmates at Richmond City Jail, then report back to us.