William Broad published another piece in the New York Times yesterday on "The Perils of Yoga for Men." This time he's found evidence to suggest that men are at a much higher risk of injuring themselves through asana practice, and are leaving class with not only more injuries comparatively to women, but with more severe injuries, too.
Women say men push themselves too far, too fast. Men admit to liking the intensity but say the problem is pushy teachers who force them into advanced poses while urging them to ignore pain.
Here's a quick video from Glenn Black, who's been studying and teaching yoga for over 30 years, that explains the risk of asana injury more eloquently than I ever could:
But who's responsible for ensuring student safety in yoga class? Yoga studios and gyms typically require new members to sign a waiver of liability. New students state that they are healthy enough for yoga practice and have consulted their doctor to ensure this. But how many doctors know enough about yoga asanas and the hundreds of different kinds of yoga taught today to advise a patient adequately? In theory, yoga teachers are bound by ahimsa, but in practice, it's not fully expressed. Students still expect their teachers to ensure their safety, but many teachers don't even ask their students about medical conditions or contraindications before class starts. And what about all of the students who have a home practice with DVDs or streaming online videos? Who's keeping them safe?
In commercial yoga, there isn't a clear or generally accepted answer to this question. Doctor's have the Hippocratic Oath. Yoga Alliance has a code of conduct for RYTs. Yogi J Brown took a stab at creating a Yoga Student's Bill of Rights. But are any of those enough? Until commercial yoga finds a way to conduct ahimsa, and not just conduct risk management, it's important that students and practitioners take responsibility for their own yoga safety. To do this, they need tools and resources, but they also need to be made aware of the risks involved with an asana practice. Whether you agree with Broad or not, he deserves credit for leveraging his position at a major media institution to raise awareness about the potential for injury.
4) We're talking about the adequacy of yoga teacher training
Is a 200 hour training enough time to fully understand ahimsa, anatomy, contraindications, alignment, adjusting, assisting and develop a safe teaching style? The issue of undertrained teachers and the risk of inexperience leading to injured students is a key part of the debate over asana injuries. The experts who participated in YogaUOnline's Telesummit on Yoga Injuries believed lack of teacher experience to be the primary risk to yoga students and practitioners.