We have all had that awful feeling that we just made a mistake. I can remember plenty of times when I first started practicing yoga, enduring an injury and then thinking afterwards, “I really wish I hadn’t done that!” I would like to think that now, as a seasoned yoga practitioner and teacher, I have put those days behind me (although truth be told, from time to time I still fall into the trap).
Advanced yoga posture practice requires preparation. Trying difficult postures ‘on the fly’ is ripe with disaster. Yoga is best served up as an exercise prescription for health first and foremost. This can only be accomplished by learning foundation techniques as a beginner yoga practitioner, and then as the body adapts to the stimulus of yoga basics more advanced postures can be learned.
Learning yoga in lesson format is really important for safety. Many articles have been written on the subject of injuries occurring in yoga classes and the William Broad book, ‘The Science of Yoga,’ offers revealing statistics that many yoga teachers don’t want you to be aware of. Many in the yoga world have deemed Broad’s book hyperbole.
Years ago at a Certified Professional Trainers Network Conference I had given the book to Dr. Trevor Cottrell who is a professor at Sheridan College having developed the Human Performance program. His current work has been described in the following quote from a Nov. 15 2013 YouTube post, “Trevor created a pioneering new degree in human performance at Sheridan that has become a model in the field. He also teaches future leaders in nutrition, health and athletics.” After reading the book he sent me a note of thanks and described Broad’s book as well researched and highly informative.
All things considered I would describe the backlash to Broad’s book by those in the yoga community to be a cover-up for a lack of ethical procedure in many yoga classes today. When I started taking yoga in 1982 the only classes I found to enroll in were sessions taught step-by-step. This left a profound impression upon me in creating the BIM Yoga System. It took 20 years of tinkering with the yoga system I advocate to ensure the practice has the safest possible procedures and structure.
Over many years I have witnessed how yoga has really changed with the gym culture and some of the yoga franchises that are primarily profit-based in their structure. This has driven yoga to become falsely known as an exercise form that has no risk and will magically heal the body of injuries, emotional imbalance and disease. Certainly yoga has the potential to aid in supporting recovery from these maladies but it is completely dependent on the appropriate exercise prescription, individual considerations and ethics you would expect in a medical setting.
It’s so easy for yoga practitioners to end up injured in a yoga class setting with a teacher showing off rather than teaching how to do yoga postures with individual considerations for each student in class. So the statement, “I really wish I hadn’t done that,” might be adjusted to, “I really wish my yoga instructor had taught me to do that properly.”
There are times, however, even when the yoga instructor has taught lessons offering options and modifications for each individual practitioner that students will still get hurt by over-trying or not paying enough attention to pain signals warning of impending injury. In those moments I can understand the regret. The important thing to realize is; it is still a teachable moment. I remember my parents used to call this “learning the hard way.”