Virtual Satsang

Resources for the community of seekers

7 Reasons why safety is an issue within Yoga

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Inspired by William Broad’s recent NY Times article, here are some reasons why safety is a growing problem in the yoga community.

Many yoga teachers are undertrained: To put it bluntly, 200-hours of training isn’t enough. If you map that to a 40-hour week, that’s 5 weeks worth of training. Five weeks may be enough to teach English in a foreign country, but many modern yoga classes involve poses that can cause serious injury. I suggest to friends that they seek experienced teachers with 500-hours of training. Ideally 200-hour teacher training should be followed by a year of apprenticeship, assisting a senior teacher.

Yoga classes have gotten too big: Towards the end of his life, the esteemed teacher Krishnamacharya mainly taught individual and small classes. In a large class a teacher just can’t scan the room fast enough to catch every unsafe alignment. I currently have primarily a home practice that I supplement with regular, one-on-one sessions with my (very experienced) teacher. Because individual sessions can be expensive, the other option is to find a small class in your local studio. Unfortunately small classes tend be held during inconvenient time slots (which is the main reason they are small to begin with).

Mass media hypes Celebrity teachers: Not all famous yoga personalities are great teachers. Many become famous for reasons other than their teaching skills or knowledge of safety. In addition their classes tend to be extremely large and fast-paced.

Large, fast-paced classes bring out competitive juices: With music blasting and the teacher yelling instructions, it’s not uncommon to scan the room and compare yourself with other students. “Hey that person can bend far, I can do that too!”

Many standard poses are actually not as safe as you think: In previous posts I highlighted the headstand (sirsasana) and the seated forward fold (Paschimottanasana). In Broad’s recent NY Times article, he has stories of yoga teachers who’ve gotten injured while executing seemingly standard poses.

Strict vegan diet and intense yoga practice: I admit this is pure speculation on my part, but somewhat based on anecdata. Many of the busiest yoga teachers are also strict vegans (or vegetarians). If you’re practice puts you at the level of serious athletes, then you have to make sure you have the diet to sustain your level of physical activity. As a group, Vegans probably need to be more conscious that they’re getting enough nutrients.

Not enough yoga practitioners study history and anatomy: In some circles, there might be too much emphasis on the idealized/spiritual roots of modern asana practice, and not enough on recent academic research into the origins of modern yoga. The result is a physical practice that downplays science and empirical data. Fortunately there is also a growing number of experienced teachers who have assembled materials on yoga anatomy and gentle assists. Consult my reading list for possible resources.

Related posts:

  • Headstand isn’t for everybody
  • Paschimottanasana shouldn’t be taught to beginners
  • Finding the right Yoga Teacher
  • Jade rides the current obsession with Celebrity Yoga Teachers
  • Yoga Reading List
  • Update (1/13/2012): Yoga teacher Glen Black, who was quoted extensively in Broad’s NY Times article, elaborates further in this excellent Huffpost interview.


    Written by virtualsatsang

    January 10, 2012 at 5:19 pm

    Posted in History, Yoga

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    4 Responses

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    1. […] from a DVD or an online class), who’s going to check on you then? As I mentioned in my previous post Krishnamcharya preferred to teach one-on-one or very small […]

    2. Yoga, a kind of physical, spiritual, and mental exercise, has been around follow because the ancient era around the globe.

      Yoga Lessons

      March 23, 2012 at 4:43 am

    3. Right here is the perfect website for anyone who really wants to understand this topic. You realize so much its almost hard to argue with you (not that I personally will need to…HaHa). You certainly put a fresh spin on a subject which has been discussed for decades. Wonderful stuff, just wonderful!

      Yoga Video Guide

      May 1, 2012 at 6:53 am

    4. very useful stuff, on the whole I imagine this is worthy of a bookmark, thanks a lot


      May 29, 2012 at 8:10 pm

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