The Dark Side of Yoga and How to Bring It to Light
By Agatha Singer
For all the scientific evidence which seeks to establish the health benefits of yoga, it needs to be recognized that it is not all plain sailing. There is a downside to yoga practice and lifestyle, and being aware of the potential dangers is the key to avoiding them. These dangers are manifold and could include anything from groping instructors to personal injury, so learning about them in advance is the key to being able to enter your yoga classes with eyes wide open and be on your guard for any trouble.
Yoga Practice and Lifestyle: Risks to Be Aware Of
1. Bad, mean, and abusive instructors
Being a yoga instructor doesn’t mean that someone is a good person. In fact, it might not even mean that he or she is any good at yoga. The regulation in this industry is mostly non-existent, so it is possible to get a certificate and start teaching classes with only superficial learning.
Needless to say this has the potential to present issues for every student whom such an instructor comes into contact with. Not only would such a person be unable to teach you how to do asanas correctly, but they may also lack the necessary skills to prevent a student from sustaining injury.
A lack of yoga training and teaching skills is not the only problem that can be encountered when dealing with instructors. The Internet is filled with stories about sexual harassment and rape committed by teachers and trainers from a position of responsibility. And this includes reputed specialists who are considered to be among the best in the industry.
The fact of the matter is that an instructor does have to make physical contact with their hands at some points during practice. This touch is necessary to correct your posture and thus reduce the risk of injury. However, there is professional touch and there is ‘getting handsy’ and if you feel like your training is veering off into the latter category you have to take appropriate action to deal with this.
Some instructors of course are also downright mean bullies. Stories about how someone gets verbally abused or mocked during training are often heard. Sadly such people often prey on those who do not put up a fight and thereby manage to get away with this unacceptable behavior.
Finally, some instructors are prone to promoting their own lifestyle advice in a manner which would put a used car salesman to shame. It is not uncommon to meet an instructor who will be preaching about some special diet, lifestyle habits, or products that you definitely need to make the most out of your practice. And annoying as it might be, you can’t legally make them stop.
One of the biggest drawbacks with yoga is the high risk of injury. It is quite true that, in theory, yoga involves low-impact movements. However in practice it is quite complex and challenging, and sometimes one wrong move can have unintended consequences. It is therefore helpful to know what the most common yoga injuries are and how to prevent them. Inevitably though, without professional help and guidance it is not always possible to avoid injury regardless of how prepared you may be.
Older people are a particularly high-risk group for injuries, and with the increase in participation amongst seniors this has unsurprisingly become a more widespread problem. While yoga can bring many benefits to the elderly, the dangers are very real. According to statistics there are over 30,000 yoga-related injuries each year and the majority of them are experienced by people over 65. Perhaps surprisingly, the other group sustaining injuries in significant numbers is yoga instructors.
The biggest issue though isn’t the fact of injury itself, but that many injuries sustained through yoga cannot be completely healed. Thus there is always a certain risk of injury resulting in chronic pain for life.
How to Make Yoga Safe and Get the Most Benefits from Your Practice
Despite its ‘dark side’, the mind and body healing power of yoga practice cannot be understated. This is one spiritual practice that can help you recover after a negative experience or bad spell during your life and improve your wellbeing.
You also shouldn’t forget that some types of yoga are very intensive and can make you burn fat as well as any aerobic workout. They will make you sweat, and open up your pores, which is one of the most effective tools to enhance your natural beauty. The so-called yoga lifestyle incorporates a few more of these tools, such as clean diet and regular healthy sleep. Therefore, practicing yoga physically and spiritually can do wonders for your health and beauty.
However, to achieve all those benefits, you need to take specific steps to protect yourself from possible yoga-related pitfalls.
1. Research different types of yoga
Yoga is an extremely versatile practice. This means that it does not only have many forms, but also that those forms are very different in their nature. They range from slow and peaceful Yin Yoga that will suit anyone at any age and almost any fitness level to highly intense Kundalini and Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga.
Before you consider looking for a yoga class, you need to know exactly what different types of yoga are available. You then need to realistically assess your own level and perhaps even consult your doctor. Overall, you have to make sure that you understand all the jargon involved in discussing yoga practices and know which are safe for you. Most importantly, you need to learn enough to be able to understand if the instructor is pushing the wrong kind of practice.
2. Find a trustworthy instructor
Treat the search for a yoga instructor as you would that of a lawyer. This means checking their credentials and then researching the school which they got them from. Look also for testimonials from other students, and if possible for ways to contact these people to discuss exactly how the classes go. Ask not only about the ‘technical’ elements but also the atmosphere and ambiance of the class.
If possible, you should get a test run to see how you fit in and whether you enjoy it.
Remember the most important rule is that if the class or instructor make you feel uncomfortable in any way, you should leave. Never subject yourself to a yoga practice that doesn’t make you feel happy and safe.
3. Listen to your body
Even the best instructor cannot provide you with a cast-iron guarantee that you will not sustain an injury. Therefore it is important to become attuned to your body and find your limits so that you can feel when you begin pushing against your personal limitations.
Discuss these matters with your instructor to try to determine what the proper level of exertion is for you. You need to push, but not too much, and no-one but you can feel the difference between the two.
4. Forget about pride
Remember that yoga isn’t a competitive sport. Thus, pushing yourself too far because others in your class can do it is foolish. You need to go at your own pace and ignore any advice to do otherwise.
Your health, both physical and mental, must always be a priority. Yoga can help you improve it, but only if you take proper precautions. You should always listen to yourself closely and find a place where you truly enjoy practicing.
Bio: Agatha loves life, she is doing her best to appreciate every moment of it. She truly believes that being mindful can help everyone to achieve happiness. This is why she shares her thoughts, tips, and experiences on the subject. Agatha also runs a blog https://agsinger.com/, where she posts more of her thoughts on these and other subjects.