Don’t bend until you break

SAMANTHA SELINGER-MORRIS

For yoga lovers, and yoga haters, it was the headline that ricocheted around the world. ”How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body” declared The New York Times in January, followed by five pages of warnings about which injuries you could sustain if you practised a discipline that has been touted for decades as a cure for everything from high blood pressure to a sluggish sex life.

The damage includes, according to the science writer William Boyd, everything from the minor (shoulder strains) to the major (stroke, chronic back pain), and is the result of a variety of factors. They range from insufficiently trained yoga teachers who regularly push students beyond their abilities to classes that are too big, prohibiting teachers from effectively monitoring students, and inherently risky poses such as head stands.

The backlash was swift. One New York yoga group hit back with its own article (”How The New York Times Can Wreck Yoga”) and The Hindu American Association – along with countless yoga teachers and students – labelled the article a beat-up.

Of course, they said, practising risky poses when you have an existing injury will hurt you. Or,

as one writer from the online magazine Spaweekly put it: ”Why

not publish an article titled ‘How Running Can Wreck Your Knees’, or ‘How Moving a Refrigerator can Crush Your Toes, Break Your Back

and Rip Your Rotator Cuff’?”

It is the dark side of an activity long touted for its new-age benefits, says a Camperdown yoga teacher, Sophie Langley.

”Because it can be such a healing thing to do, I think that perhaps [that aspect of yoga] is talked about much more [than the injuries],” says Langley, who has suffered hip pain during yoga practice, although she is unsure whether moves such as back bends caused the problem or simply brought her attention to it. ”That means that [people] come expecting that it will be this magical thing.”

The fallout from this lack of understanding about the risks of practising yoga is something a Melbourne physiotherapist, Rebecca Wade, sees in her practice regularly.

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