It makes me sad when I hear people say that yoga poses are not functional movement and that they are dangerous. I believe that most yoga poses are highly functional and not dangerous at all. The trouble is most people push way too far into them, well past, what is truly available in their body. That isn’t the fault of the pose.
I remember an interview I did for the CBC, a national radio show, back in 2004 when my first book, Anatomy and Asana: Preventing Yoga Injuries was published. The interviewer asked me why so many people get injured in yoga. My response was that we are attempting to bring a western approach to an eastern-based meditative movement and breathing practice.
When asked for an example, I responded that the movements in yoga are called Asanas, which are to prepare a body to sit for longer times in stillness and meditation. Asana means “sitting comfortably and still.” Our western approach had turned Asana into a exercise for a workout, a sweat, a great butt and arms. Pushing to the edge and feeling sore the next day was a badge of honour. It paid little heed to awareness, and was much more about mind over matter.
It therefore doesn’t surprise me that 15 years later, our industry is in the place that it is. I hope that all this injury will make people realize that deep technique matters more than superficial poses. That the quiet sensations telling us to stop should actually be listened to and not be plowed over.
Nonetheless there remains confusion about what to actually do. At a recent Therapeutic Yoga Intensive, I had one very long term yoga teacher shudder in realization of how small her true range of motion and stability actually were. She was horrified as she said to me: “YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME; THIS IS WHAT MY BODY CAN DO?”
Then she started to piece it together: her levels of pain, strain, tension, the holding patterns and how it all relates. Her mind was blown wide open as she became aware of her reality, and the possibility of less pain, more function and feeling a whole lot better.
Sometimes gaining awareness can start out a being unsettling, and then something cool happens – The awareness gained opens the door to much less tension, pain, and strain; more ease, lightness, and stillness; more stability, mobility and strength. And, more Asana —of the kind that is sitting comfortably and still.
Have a great time exploring sensation, ease and more Asana.