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Jessica Smith is a dating coach who empowers men and women to find the love they are looking for through self-fulfillment and confidence in all aspects of their lives. From professional athletes to executives, she has taught hundreds of clients around the world through her acclaimed yoga retreats and signature Authentic Dating Strategy Programs. 6. 7KSMany view yoga girls as mystical beings with their mala beads around their neck, their crystals in one hand and sage in the other. Sure these are all yoga girl stereotypes, and there’s a pinch of. . Get social with us and be the first to know about new articles, special discounts on your favorite gear and much, much more. At Sankalpah Yoga, the room was packed roughly half the students were said to be teachers themselves.

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Black walked around the room, joking and talking. “Is this yoga? ” he asked as we sweated through a pose that seemed to demand superhuman endurance. “It is if you’re paying attention. ” His approach was almost free-form: he made us hold poses for a long time but taught no inversions and few classical postures. Throughout the class, he urged us to pay attention to the thresholds of pain. “I make it as hard as possible, ” he told the group. “It’s up to you to make it easy on yourself. ” He drove his point home with a cautionary tale. In India, he recalled, a yogi came to study at Iyengar’s school and threw himself into a spinal twist. Black said he watched in disbelief as three of the man’s ribs gave way — pop, pop, pop. After class, I asked Black about his approach to teaching yoga — the emphasis on holding only a few simple poses, the absence of common inversions like headstands and shoulder stands. He gave me the kind of answer you’d expect from any yoga teacher: that awareness is more important than rushing through a series of postures just to say you’d done them. But then he said something more radical. Black has come to believe that “the vast majority of people” should give up yoga altogether.

It’s simply too likely to cause harm. Not just students but celebrated teachers too, Black said, injure themselves in droves because most have underlying physical weaknesses or problems that make serious injury all but inevitable. Instead of doing yoga, “they need to be doing a specific range of motions for articulation, for organ condition, ” he said, to strengthen weak parts of the body. “Yoga is for people in good physical condition. Or it can be used therapeutically. It’s controversial to say, but it really shouldn’t be used for a general class. ”Black seemingly reconciles the dangers of yoga with his own teaching of it by working hard at knowing when a student “shouldn’t do something — the shoulder stand, the headstand or putting any weight on the cervical vertebrae. ” Though he studied with Shmuel Tatz, a legendary Manhattan-based physical therapist who devised a method of massage and alignment for actors and dancers, he acknowledges that he has no formal training for determining which poses are good for a student and which may be problematic. What he does have, he says, is “a ton of experience. ”“To come to New York and do a class with people who have many problems and say, ‘O. K. , we’re going to do this sequence of poses today’ — it just doesn’t work. ”When yoga teachers come to him for bodywork after suffering major traumas, Black tells them, “Don’t do yoga. ”“They look at me like I’m crazy, ” he goes on to say. “And I know if they continue, they won’t be able to take it. ” I asked him about the worst injuries he’d seen. He spoke of well-known yoga teachers doing such basic poses as downward-facing dog, in which the body forms an inverted V, so strenuously that they tore Achilles tendons.

How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body The New York Times

“It’s ego, ” he said. “The whole point of yoga is to get rid of ego. ” I asked if she still taught. “Oh, yeah, ” Black replied. “There are other yoga teachers that have such bad backs they have to lie down to teach. I’d be so embarrassed. ”But a growing body of medical evidence supports Black’s contention that, for many people, a number of commonly taught yoga poses are inherently risky. The first reports of yoga injuries appeared decades ago, published in some of the world’s most respected journals — among them, Neurology, The British Medical Journal and The Journal of the American Medical Association. The problems ranged from relatively mild injuries to permanent disabilities. In one case, a male college student, after more than a year of doing yoga, decided to intensify his practice. He would sit upright on his heels in a kneeling position known as vajrasana for hours a day, chanting for world peace. Soon he was experiencing difficulty walking, running and climbing stairs. Sitting in vajrasana deprived the branch that runs below the knee of oxygen, deadening the nerve. Once the student gave up the pose, he improved rapidly. Clinicians recorded a number of similar cases and the condition even got its own name: “yoga foot drop. ”More troubling reports followed.

In 6977 a prominent Oxford neurophysiologist, W. Ritchie Russell, in The British Medical Journal arguing that, while rare, some yoga postures threatened to cause strokes even in relatively young, healthy people. Normally, the neck can stretch backward 75 degrees, forward 95 degrees and sideways 95 degrees, and it can rotate on its axis about 55 degrees. Yoga practitioners typically move the vertebrae much farther. An intermediate student can easily turn his or her neck 95 degrees — nearly twice the normal rotation. Hyperflexion of the neck was encouraged by experienced practitioners. Iyengar emphasized that in cobra pose, the head should arch “as far back as possible” and insisted that in the shoulder stand, in which the chin is tucked deep in the chest, the trunk and head forming a right angle, “the body should be in one straight line, perpendicular to the floor. ” He called the pose, said to stimulate the thyroid, “one of the greatest boons conferred on humanity by our ancient sages. ”Russell also worried that when strokes hit yoga practitioners, doctors might fail to trace their cause. ”Her doctors found that the woman’s left vertebral artery, which runs between the first two cervical vertebrae, had narrowed considerably and that the arteries feeding her cerebellum had undergone severe displacement. Given the lack of advanced imaging technologies at the time, an exploratory operation was conducted to get a clearer sense of her injuries. The surgeons who opened her skull found that the left hemisphere of her cerebellum suffered a major failure of blood supply that resulted in much dead tissue and that the site was seeped in secondary hemorrhages. The patient began an intensive program of rehabilitation. Two years later, she was able to walk, Nagler reported, “with [a] broad-based gait. ” But her left arm continued to wander and her left eye continued to show Horner’s syndrome. Nagler concluded that such injuries appeared to be rare but served as a warning about the hazards of “forceful hyperextension of the neck. ” He urged caution in recommending such postures, particularly to individuals of middle age.

Two months after his attack, and after much physical therapy, the man was able to walk with a cane. But, the team reported, he “continued to have pronounced difficulty performing fine movements with his left hand. ” Hanus and his colleagues concluded that the young man’s condition represented a new kind of danger. Healthy individuals could seriously damage their vertebral arteries, they warned, “by neck movements that exceed physiological tolerance. ” In its report, the Northwestern team cited not only Nagler’s account of his female patient but also Russell’s early warning. These cases may seem exceedingly rare, but surveys by the Consumer Product Safety Commission showed that the number of emergency-room admissions related to yoga, after years of slow increases, was rising quickly. They went from 68 in 7555 to 75 in 7556. Then they more than doubled to 96 in 7557. These surveys rely on sampling rather than exhaustive reporting — they reveal trends rather than totals — but the spike was nonetheless statistically significant. Only a fraction of the injured visit hospital emergency rooms. Many of those suffering from less serious yoga injuries go to family doctors, chiropractors and various kinds of therapists. Around this time, stories of yoga-induced injuries began to appear in the media. The Times reported that health professionals found that the penetrating heat of Bikram yoga, for example, could raise the risk of overstretching, muscle damage and torn cartilage. One specialist noted that ligaments — the tough bands of fiber that connect bones or cartilage at a joint — failed to regain their shape once stretched out, raising the risk of strains, sprains and dislocations. In 7559, a New York City team based at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons published an ambitious worldwide survey of yoga teachers, therapists and doctors. The answers to the survey’s central question — What were the most serious yoga-related injuries (disabling and/or of long duration) they had seen? Then came stroke.

The respondents noted four cases in which yoga’s extreme bending and contortions resulted in some degree of brain damage. The numbers weren’t alarming but the acknowledgment of risk — nearly four decades after Russell first issued his warning — pointed to a decided shift in the perception of the dangers yoga posed. In recent years, reformers in the yoga community have begun to address the issue of yoga-induced damage. , Carol Krucoff — a yoga instructor and therapist who works at the Integrative Medicine center at Duke University in North Carolina — revealed her own struggles.

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