BY: Anu Lawrence
As the son of an experienced yoga teacher, this was not my first downward dog...But as I stared at the sweat drenched mat below me I found myself simultaneously puzzled and intrigued. How could so many of these otherwise healthy and accomplished yogis be in PAIN? Isn't yoga a tool for us to attain a healthy mental and emotional state through the purification ritual of regular exercise? Isn't that the same premise of The Egoscue Method-to achieve Health Through Motion? The movement is the medicine, right?
Boulder, Colorado is a hub for yoga (and running, and climbing, and hiking; you get the idea) in North America, with many accomplished and widely known teachers making their homes here or visiting regularly. Being a recent transplant, I have been intrigued to see what the buzz was about. I've visited numerous studios in town and have even completed on a yoga teacher- training program, in an effort to broaden my Egoscue knowledge with a deeper grasp of some of its foundational underpinnings. I figured that if anyone is doing yoga 'the right way,' this collection of experienced folks would be. Although the level of accomplishment I have seen in classes here has impressed me, I've also seen tons of students in positions that make a posture therapist's stomach churn.
So, why is yoga getting a bad rap in many circles and why do people get hurt? First off, today's classes involve as many of dozens of students to one teacher. This makes it impossible to catch every mistake students make and the teachers are rarely trained to spot and treat postural dysfunctions.
According to a recent New York Times article, people become injured
"...because most have underlying physical weaknesses or problems that make serious injury all but inevitable...they need to be doing a specific range of motions for articulation, for organ condition...to strengthen weak parts of the body."
Hmmm...does this sound like a prescription for some Egoscue to anyone else?
A few more observations arise about the reasons we get hurt and what we might do to avoid injury.
- Alignment: Students often gloss over learning the basics in pursuit of fancier poses. 'It doesn't matter that I'm built like Quasimodo, I'm still getting into that backbend.' Which brings us to...
- Ego: We place expectations on ourselves and become unwilling to budge. 'I WILL be as flexible as that pretzel of a person next to me.' So, we need more...
- Patience and perspective: As in 'Yes, this is my first time off the couch in a decade, but I want to look like/go out with that hot gal in the spandex right NOW, so I'm trying this headstand.'
- PS: 'Why the heck did Yoga hurt me?!'
Having experienced our own healing journeys and witnessed those of thousands of others, Egoscue practitioners can say with confidence that kinesthetic body awareness and the underlying alignment and attitudes we bring to a given activity have everything to do with our ability to sustain long-term health in any athletic endeavor.
In doing some of my own research and chatting extensively with some experienced yogis, what is apparent is that the Egoscue Method is closer to ancient yoga's origins than the modern version we see in most studios. One teacher; one student moving through the student's unique challenges and strengths together to restore optimal health- making increasingly difficult activities more accessible. We must build a solid and aligned foundation in order to move forward with strength, balance and flexibility.
Yoga is a wonderful practice, especially once our bodies are functional enough to benefit fully. So, remember to do your menu before that next set of sun salutations.
 Broad, William J. "How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body." New York Times Online.
Published Jan 5, 2012. < Click here>.