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Getting Injured in Yoga

kim gold
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Avoiding Yoga Injuries

In the yoga community, there can sometimes be a halo around yoga that states that yoga---done properly---can only be beneficial. This type of thinking goes: If you somehow got injured in a yoga class, then you were either: 1) doing the posture incorrectly or 2) not actually doing "yoga" because you weren't paying attention to your body and perhaps striving toward difficult poses before you were ready.

While there may be some truth to both statements above, I have a somewhat different take on yoga injuries. Mine is that our bodily human existence is marked by impermanence. We fight against this impermanence, because it is one of the most difficult things to accept. Our bodies have an expiration date, and for varying reasons due to genetics, lifestyle, circumstance, and a combination of all three, we get hurt. We get hurt climbing out of bed, walking down stairs, or even just sitting too much (being sedentary has its own dire health risks). Human existence is by nature risky, and yoga class is not a special bubble that protects from this reality.

The idea that if you just get into the proper "alignment" for a pose gives a false sense of security. While there are basic principles of sound body mechanics, every skeleton is structured differently. Every body has its own quirks, its own unique composition. One alignment cue does not fit all, and may help one student and injure another. Likewise, a student can be mindful, careful, and moving in tune with their body and an underlying condition years in the making can pop up and cause an injury.

This doesn't mean that teachers and students should not strive to do poses in a way that respects proper body mechanics, and cultivates mindfulness. This will certainly increase your chances of a safe and sustainable practice, and this is how we teach at our studio. However, we need to accept that yoga asana is not a special bubble that can only heal. It is an activity just like any other, subject to the fundamental impermanence of this plane of existence. Accepting that, and accepting the risk, is an important part of the practice and helps us to approach yoga asana with a more realistic mindset. We won't over-focus on asana, and move toward the more challenging aspect of the practice: working with the mind and its tendency toward clinging and aversion, and all the suffering that entails.