Does Yoga Hurt More Than it Heals? - Page 2
The trouble is, there are plenty of teachers out there who haven't learned this themselves. That's why it's essential to find those that have extensive training in both the physical and philosophical aspects of yoga. A good enough teacher will have at least 250-500 hours of teacher training, including an extensive course in anatomy and physiology, as well as eastern philosophy just to start with.
In addition, there are a wide variety of yoga styles to choose from, so it's worthwhile to investigate the core theories behind each one. Some, like Bikram, which is structured around specific criteria like performing a set number of poses each time, in the same order, leave little wiggle room.
Others, like Anusara (full disclosure: I did my own initial teacher training in Anusara) are built upon the "principles of alignment" a system that applies both stability and freedom to each specific pose. In my own personal experience, these principles help students visualize the anatomy of the movement in addition to doing it, and encourages students to adhere to their own individual "optimal blueprint,"--a built-in injury control device of sorts.
For example, by applying the principles of alignment to headstand, a pose that the Times piece suggests can wreck havoc by producing everything from neck compression, to degenerative arthritis of the cervical spine and retinal tears from eye pressure, the practitioner would work up to the pose, building muscular strength and learn "tricks" like setting a foundation in the four corners of the hands, before putting any weight on the neck. (In fact, ultimately the brunt of headstand should be taken by the forearms, not the head or neck).
If the forceful stance of the New York Times piece doesn't scare you away from yoga, the thought setting aside time to nurture spirit and soul may. Here in the West, we're still not accustomed to taking time to ourselves to journey inward. But historically, the turn of the calendar inspires taking stock of our lives and making changes.
A week into the new year, if you find yourself reacting to the Times piece by asking "should I or shouldn't I do yoga anymore," you may be contemplating the wrong question. Instead, you might want to consider why you've been doing it (or wanting to). Coming to the mat with an open mind and heart is the best way to begin a yoga practice. Modifying our understanding of yoga to accept that it's our thinking machinery that needs to be tweaked more than our bodies, can ironically, make yoga rewarding than ever--before you even move a muscle.