Some of you know me from your days at Downward Dog Yoga, the studio I co-founded along with Ron Reid. Or you may have taken a class with me at 80 Gladstone Yoga and Movement, another studio I ran for three years after DWD.
It has been a year since I sold 80 Gladstone and for the first time in 20 years I am not running a studio or teaching traditional yoga. My current vantage point allows me to be an objective observer of the yoga scene.
There has been a shift in the yoga community in the past few years. Long time yoga professionals have begun to discuss well-kept secrets regarding the long-term effects of doing yoga poses.
Williams Broad’s book The Science of Yoga revealed the dark side of yoga and injuries. The WAWADIA (what are we actually doing in asana) event that took place at 80 Gladstone in Toronto, with Matthew Remski in 2013 was a reflection of the changing mood within the community.
That was the first time I spoke publicly about my yoga related injuries, the shocking disclosure has been reverberating through the community ever since. My story broke the ice and hundreds of people in Toronto alone have come forward with their own stories of injury and abuse.
Within the tangled mess of confused emotions our stories speak of truth. Many of us seek reconciliation with the practice we all have loved.
There was a time when being a yoga teacher was an exciting and exotic career. Now when people ask me what I “do,” I stumble for a description that fits my new paradigm. It used to be so easy.
IT WAS FUN WHILE IT LASTED
Senior yoga teachers rarely admit in public that as time passes less asana practice is necessary to maintain healthy flexibility and range of motion. When asked how often and how long they practice on their own they will often describe their daily lives as being their yoga practice, raising children, walking, doing chores, “its all yoga,” they say. What they’re really saying is they don’t do the practice they teach, other than a few demos while teaching.
The painful reality is that continued, persistent practice over years does not continue to improve one’s health. In fact, only doing yoga asana can lead to over-use injuries. This does not mean that what yoga classes teach is unhealthy or wrong. It simply means that too much of anything can turn into a bad thing.
Imagine if your only form of exercise was jogging, swimming, cycling or weight lifting for 90 minutes a day. You would likely get injured doing the thing you love the most. This is exactly what’s happening to yoga people everywhere.
I REMEMBER TELLING MY STUDENTS NOT TO GO TO THE GYM IF THEY WANTED TO GET GOOD AT YOGA (Oops, sorry. It was bad advice, but I believed it at the time.)
So, now what? Where do we go from here? That’s a question I posted on Facebook a short while back and was overwhelmed with comments from all over world. I started a Facebook group called it Yoga and Movement Research Community. Within a few months we had more than 4,000 members. Every day, 20-30 more people join the conversation.
I was shocked at the level of interest. There are yoga teachers and students all over the world coming to the same conclusions.
There seems to be a tipping point in one’s practice where flexibility morphs into instability. Either suddenly or gradually, the insidious signs of laxity in the joints can no longer be ignored. When the pain is bad enough we go to chiropractors, physiotherapists, and osteopaths, who tell us not to do yoga for a while and send us home with stabilizing corrective exercises.
The problem we face in the community is not an easy one to talk about. Many people are in denial in public. There’s too much at stake both personally and professionally.
But there’s hope. Teachers are coming forward with their personal stories of injury, rehab, and strategies for injury prevention. People with degrees in biomechanics are becoming the new yoga rock stars. They’ve got the information that could save us, and yoga teachers are prepared to pay for it.
Look at the studios that offer alternative classes and you’re looking at a studio owner who’s been dealing with personal injury. Some new classes being offered at studios include functional strength, functional movement, natural movement and primal flow.
DIVERSITY IS THE KEY TO LONGEVITY
It will take some time but the yoga landscape is beginning to change. The definition of yoga is expanding to include corrective rehab exercises that yoga teachers have learned from their physiotherapist or personal trainer. We’re seeing popular classes that focus on self-massage with dowels and balls.
All these new additions to yoga studio schedules are the result of trial and error and personal research in our own bodies. The yoga tradition is a living tradition passed down from one teacher to the next.
Our modern experience of research and science can guide our choices and will continue to inform us as yoga teachers. Traditions that have served us well in the past are being rewritten to better serve us in the future.
The cross pollination of information and tradition has just begun. How it transforms what we call yoga is unfolding one day at time.
WE ARE THE GUINEA PIGS, THE FIRST GENERATION OF WOMEN TO DO THESE POSES RELIGIOUSLY, IT IS OUR DUTY TO REPORT BACK TO THE NEW GENERATION OUR FINDINGS
I believe we’re on the brink of a radical shift. The time is now.
Do you want to be part of the shift?
I will be presenting a workshop at next year’s Yoga Conference called the ‘Emerging Trends in the Yoga Industry’.
Together we will sort out the myths, the science, the old and new traditions. Together we will create new ways to keep our bodies healthy, strong and vibrant.
The new yoga may not look anything like the old yoga. The shapes of poses may change. But the yoga we love lives within.
Do you want to be part of the shift? Do you want to find a new yoga? Join me at “Emerging Trends In The Yoga Industry.” at the Yoga Show.