I haven’t been doing yoga for a very long time therefore I wasn’t even aware of the very traditional notion that yoga poses are supposed to be healing and yoga cannot harm you. I’ve always assumed that yoga would affect one as any other type of exercise would for better or worse. It turns out that it actually is the case. Reliable studies indicate that yoga is a physical exercise that could cause injuries in the way that any other type of exercise would when one does not pay attention to safety. It is neither more or less dangerous or safe than other physical practices, so there can be no such assumption regarding the inherent safety of yoga poses or practice.Continue reading
In yoga research, the most common research designs is to compare pre and post measures of a group of people completing a yoga programme. The second most favourite design is to compare a yoga group to an inactive group. Both these designs are unreliable. The first one usually fails to produce similar results, thereby causing serious issues for generalisation of those results. And the second one carries the potential to exaggerate the results in favour of yoga and ignore the fact that other types of exercise have similar benefits.Continue reading
I don’t think any particular movement or yoga pose is inherently dangerous, but I do think that certain movements or yoga poses can be dangerous if done carelessly and mindlessly. Each asana is a challenge to contort the body, and therefore the mind, and some more than others. I’ve been reading about the demonisation of salamba sarvangasana (shoulderstand) and salamba sirsasana (supported headstand) for a while now and I fail to understand the particular problem with these poses. Meanwhile, I don’t see anyone talking about the dangers of super deep back bends, arm balances, or nasty twists, not to mention handstands. If anything, I have to scroll through numerous handstand photographs on Instagram or Facebook! But no-one is writing blogs about how they stopped teaching chaturanga dandasana or phalankasana because the shoulders and wrists have to carry a lot of weight and might easily get injured, instead we talk about the ways to perform such poses safely. Although, one obvious reason for this maybe the relative importance the neck and the head compared with the wrists and the shoulders!Continue reading
Just yesterday, I watched online an Ashtanga Primary Series class with full vinyasas between poses and half vinyasas between right and left sides of a pose. A full vinyasa in the context of Ashtanga yoga is Sun Salutation A. A half vinyasa, a.k.a THE vinyasa in popular yoga jargon, is the transition as such: (plank)-chaturanga-urdva mukha savanasana-adho mukha savanasana.
This class lasted for two hours and everybody was really really tired at the end. In the normal practice, when we are not as ambitious, we do half vinyasas between poses and between sides of each pose.Continue reading
The first post of this series ends with the following sentence:
Once you have decided that the state of emergency and alarm is not something that you want to live with, there are things that you can to manage and take your stress reaction under control. This begins from within, because the only thing that we can ever truly control is how we react to a situation or a person, and how we behave and in turn how we feel about it. All other things in life are beyond our control to varying degrees.
This is a very useful way of seeing things, and potentially everything in life. It is neither too dismissive of the world around us, nor too engaging that we get lost in it. I think it encourages us to carefully identify that fine border between ourselves (which we can control) and the rest of the world (which we cannot control). If stress is unmanaged for too long, this border gets blurred, and then we lose sight of what we can and cannot control in our lives. The longer we live like this, the more difficult it gets to undo our confusion and straighten things out.Continue reading
In my classes I use stretching cues to get parts of the body going. I use it as a pseudonym for turning the students’ attention to their bodies or like in the first downward dog of the day, I tell them to move around a little and get the juices start flowing and body heat up and prepare for the practice ahead. Apart from that I have never found stretching particularly useful or meaningful, to be honest. I don’t stretch before my run or after it. I don’t think my muscles need to stretch to cool down or warm up. The funny thing is that I’ve always felt guilty about it. I ‘knew’ I had to do some stretches but I was resisting it. Turns out, my hunch (in this case!) wasn’t wrong.
You know by now that I am more the physical practice type of yoga person that the spiritual, mantra chanting type. Therefore, I read a lot about anatomy, exercise and biomechanics. There are articles, posts, etc. that make sense; that might make sense, that are clueless but full of assumptions of any kind. So, I read with great caution and scepticism. I tend to seek some empirical results quoted or cited. So, here are a few articles that can recommend about the issue of to stretch or not to stretch.
- Stretching Doesn’t Work (the Way You Think It Does): This article explains how human nervous system reacts to stretching and has links to webpages, article books by Katie Bowman and Jules Mitchell, both of whom I find very competent.
- Stretching Is Not Improving Your Ability To Perform: This one is a similar one about nervous system and the muscles work.
- Pandiculation – The Safe Alternative To Stretching: The last is an interesting one. It suggests an alternative to stretching. It makes sense to me as I used to teach (as a psychologists) a similar method to relax a tense part of the body in my stress and anxiety management trainings.
Above is a master of pandiculation performing her art. 🙂
As there are more studies conducted on biomechanics, movement, exercise and evolution. our understanding changes. And this is the beauty of relying on science instead of some personal experience: that one can replace an old method, technique with a brand new one instead of following some 2000 year old manual written by unknown person.
There is actually another blog post inside this one and that is about how so many people are trying to make yoga a ‘better’ exercise but still keeping the same assumptions but I have to think about it a little as I don’t like ranting for the sake of ranting.
*I couldn’t skip the opportunity for this title, especially given that it was Shakespeare Day yesterday. 🙂
After I posted the article on adho mukha svanasana, I came across a Facebook status update by Diane Bruni that she called The Hand Rant. In the rant Diane Bruni challenges the generally accepted alignment principles of the yoga hand. She first explains how she was taught to align her hands in Iyengar yoga, which is how we normally teach: press down all four corners of the hands and later argues that this may not really be the best alignment to protect the wrists. Bruni suggests, instead that one should release the knuckles and let them form the natural dome of the hand. Here is what she means:
As someone with very fragile wrists and generally very rigid joints, I am always aware of my hands and wrists during my practice. I get the occasional wrist pain in upward facing dog and other arm balances. The alignment of the hands when the hands are to bear weight, of course, has a lot to do with how the weight of the body is distributed. General tendency amongst new beginners is, to lift the hand off the floor and leave the wrist to carry the entire weight. This is no good for the wrists. So, we tell them to press the entire hand down. This i.e. turning the palm down also pronates the forearm and directs the weight from shoulders down through the wrist to the hands. Bruni’s suggestion makes sense because it leaves enough room for shock absorption when more weight is loaded upon the hand.Continue reading