A recent NYTimes magazine article, 'How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body' describes the physical terrors awaiting all who head to the mat for a little asana practice. Popped ribs (what is that, anyway?), nerve damage (to a kid who sat in a kneeling position all day....every day), and even stroke....stroke??!!
Unfortunately, it appears to be nothing more than another over-blown, self-promoting manifesto in a string of articles published recently by 'wellness' or 'science' journalists peddling books or products. Spinning with one pound weights will send you to the ER with a broken back! Sugar is toxic and insulin is the devil hormone! Obesity is forever....yup, you're screwed. Really? No!! When did we get so damn gullible?
I practice yoga. I've been working at it for about 10 years. I'm not an instructor, but I do have some solid education and a few certifications that qualify me to comment on the safety of movement. Can you get hurt on the mat? You better believe it! I don't know what 'popped ribs' are (I actually don't think there is such a thing....), but you certainly can strain intercostals (the little muscles in between your ribs) or overstretch tendons by forcing your way into poses that you have no business being in. I mean, I could try to get my foot over my head, but I'm pretty damn sure it would do something really bad to my hips, shoulders, neck, well, all of the things. But come on, people, we have to take a bit of responsibility for our own actions, including not attempting things we are not ready for (remember 'Flow'?).
But, this isn't a post about yoga or even stretching for that matter (that will come....patience, people). It's about reading between the lines of the 'health journalists' that all feel the need to scream louder than one another for ratings or book deals. (I'm looking at you, Carrie Bradshaw....)
In '..Wreck' the author cited individual case studies from the 1970's and then states that "...the consumer product safety commission showed that the number of emergency room admissions related to yoga went from 13 in 2000....to 46 in 2002". The author also writes that 4 million people were practicing yoga in 2001. Ok, so even if the amount of practitioners stayed steady between 2000-2002, the percentage of injury went from 0.00000325% to 0.0000115%. Hmmm....clearly very unsafe.
According to the CDC 57,007 youth football players were admitted to the ER for concussion alone last year. But, there really aren't too many parents out there pulling their sons off the gridiron. In fact, popwarner football boasted that a record breaking 250,000 five to fourteen year olds were on the field in 2010. I'm not bashing football. I work with football players in the weight room all time time and I love the sport. We just need to keep these ridiculous yoga 'facts' in perspective.
The bottom line is, get out there and be active! Listen to your body. Set fitness goals that are within reach. And stop reading articles by screaming, generally unqualified, authors trying to scare you from practicing yoga, running on dirt paths, or exercising at all.
Your body needs to move! So find something that makes you want to keep pushing, and get on it!