“Blind respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.” – Albert Einstein
About two years ago I started to question the value of yoga as a exercise modality.
As you can imagine this was a bit of a problem for a yoga teacher.
I started to see not only injuries in the community but a plateau of results in my own body and that of my students. Then I started to learn from those outside of the yoga world about the problems due to repetitive strain and the lack of science showing any benefit from stretching. A lot of yoga is repetitive motion, the same poses done in the same way time after time. And can we agree a lot of yoga is passive stretching?
The other thing that came to my attention was missing ranges of motion in yoga. For example we push a lot (plank) but never really pull. We stretch our hamstrings but never really strengthen them. There are lots of examples of this.
I had an exchange with a colleague recently about the strict alignment of yoga postures and I questioned the popular yoga dictum (that I have said myself in the past) that one should not put your foot on your inner knee in tree pose. My position was that ligaments of the knee are not that fragile – if gently placing a foot on the inner knee blew out knee ligaments we would be in real trouble as fallible humans. Knee ligament injuries happen when there is force and speed involved (like a ski injury) but a gentle tree pose? Not likely.
The dogma of yoga has been (and still is in some circles) alignment will prevent injuries. That “practice and all is coming”. When we never question our own bias we never grow.
But lets not throw the baby out with the bath water.
Yoga practice has saved my life.
I learned to listen to my body.
I learned to trust my body.
I learned to love my body.
Yoga philosophy has taught me to be ok with who I am.
It has helped me get out of bed many days.
I want to marry the great aspects of yoga with the new science of biomechanics, exercise and pain management.
Where I used to believe the body was a machine I now believe its an eco system.
Where I used to believe the body was fragile I now believe its robust.
Where I used to believe alignment was most important I now believe movement preparation matters most.
Where I used to believe there was a optimal posture I now believe variability is key.
Yoga can do lots of things well. It is great for variable movement (in the right class!) It is great for stress relief (super important) It is great for body and self awareness (maybe the most important thing).
Join me this winter for yoga classes and workshops and be part of the new wave of yoga practice!