May 26, 2009

Yoga can really hurt you!

If you have been following our posts cautioning you against doing yoga wrongly, by now you might be finding them too defensive. If you are not properly briefed about yoga, you might also feel scared of doing yoga.

Let us clarify once again. When I say, yoga can hurt I am only reminding you that you can hurt yourself even when you bend to lift a small weight or turn to a side when your child calls you. It really happens to thousands of people everyday as the nerves/ligaments/pads in various joints are sometimes pulled/torn/misaligned/damaged with even a slight pressure. So, sometimes you can hurt yourself even though yoga might be only as much to blame as turning to a side. However, the chances of getting hurt are much higher here, because you are bending and twisting your body and taking breath in a different than usual manner.

Before we repeat our cautions, which will eliminate the chances of injury to a great extent, let us scare you a bit more. It has been reported in a MSNBC news item of 2007 that nearly 4,500 people ended up in the emergency room after yoga injuries in 2006. Scores of people have recounted to us their tales how even very meticulously done yoga had damaged their spines, wrists, nerves and bones and they had to be hospitalised to come back to normal.

We once found that a reputed yogi once held yoga classes in a university and asked the university to arrange a closing ceremony where students could show how effortlessly they could perform even difficult asanas. Some students got carried away by the public applaud when they started doing asanas, and they twisted themselves too much to impress the gathering. One of them developed back pain at a young age and we have reasons to believe that excessive twisting of the spine was the reason for that. You might find many dramatic examples of such injuries if you do a ‘google search’ on the net for injuries caused by yoga.

We have always been advising and let’s repeat here that (i) yoga must be done very moderately, (ii) all pains during/ following yoga procedures should be taken as a warning sign, (iii) only those asanas, pranayamas and other procedures should be performed as are suited to one’s age, sex and overall health condition, (iv) yoga must never be overdone and never be experimented upon mindlessly, and (v) yoga should generally be done as a set of procedures for overall health rather than particular procedures for a particular cure. We do not advocate yoga to common people as a religious rite or a spiritual tool. Yoga, we firmly believe, heals body, mind and spirit but that does not mean that yoga will cure all your ailments or give you mystic powers; heal it will if you follow its tenets. Think of yoga as a hammer – a very valuable tool for assembling beautiful furniture. Handle it wrongly and you can break the same furniture with it.

By the way, the news item that we referred to above says, the injuries have mostly been due to inexperienced teachers and/or overeager students. Haven’t we been cautioning against this?