Saturday, January 28, 2012

Yoga Got Punched in the Face

When I first saw this article, “How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body,” I was totally peeved. Like pissed peeved. Seems that no matter what healthy choice someone makes, someone else is there to crap on it. In my stubborn way, I thought “I’m not giving this article any of my precious time. After all, I have an episode of Dance Moms to watch (don’t do it, it’s really bad) and the guinea pig’s nails need trimming” (yes, I do this regularly because my ten year old freaks out if I let them get too long so that they start to curl).

I did, however, change my mind about reading this article after visiting the PT this week. This was my first date with this particular PT. I now have a major girl crush, but we didn’t even get to first base. I told her that my piriformis (“left ass cheek” is what I wanted to say but I was trying to behave on our first date) was giving me trouble still. I told her that I every time I ramped up my speed or distance it got irritated. I told her that active release work with Matt had really helped, but I believed there was a root cause that kept my going back to left ass cheek pain, which is a country I hate to visit.

She did a full assessment, asked with what type of activities I have pain (running, driving, sitting at computer) and told me she thought it was related to my sciatic nerve, the nerve running from our lower back, through our asses and down our legs. Makes sense. This nerve can get compressed by the piriformis or can become irritated if we have disc issues in our lower backs.

She told me how to sit right in my car (erect like a penis) and in my office chair (erect again). I admitted that some yoga poses (forward fold especially) irritated the symptoms and she said that doing those moves was not helpful for my condition. WHAT? Yoga not helpful? But I thought yoga was a freaking cure all. If your child has pneumonia, take him to yoga. If you need to cure constipation, yoga is your thing. If you are addicted to meth, go to one session of yoga and you are better. Anyone who goes to yoga is suddenly enlightened and free of trouble and turmoil. It’s a place to experience healing, not harm.

P1080849

Me becoming enlightened

So, back to the article. Despite the provocative title, some things do make sense. The type of people practicing yoga has changed drastically. The original practitioners of yoga squatted down and sat cross legged all day. People like me, on the other hand, sit in chairs or behind steering wheels a lot of the day. When we come into our studio it’s a bit of a shock to our systems. The article contends that some yoga poses are just too risky for the masses. Most injuries related to yoga occur in the lower back, followed by the shoulder, the knee and the neck.

I believe that if yoga is giving me pain, it is MY fault, not yoga’s fault. Yoga is steeped in years and years of tradition and yoga instructors are always careful to tell you to listen to your body and not do anything that causes discomfort. I am sure there are instructors who are not this way and push students too hard. Yet in my seven years of taking yoga, I have never been taught by someone like that. At some point it is up to me to know the risks. The instructor is there as a guide, not a micromanager of the 20 people in his/her class.

The problem is that in our day and age people are so type-A and competitive, that they forget to listen to the warning signs. Yoga is place where scaling back and being conservative is sometimes the way to go. It is not a competition and ego has no place in the yoga studio. There are so many benefits to yoga including increased strength, balance, and flexibility, but it is a complex practice to be respected and studied.

As one criticism of this article pointed out, the title could have been “Running Wrecks Your Body” or “Basketball Wrecks Your Body” because every activity has inherent risks. Yet, yoga wrecking your body is just provocative enough to gain major attention.

I would NEVER say that people should stop practicing yoga. I don’t believe that. I will say that if you are compromised in certain areas, yoga may not be doing you any favors. Be sure to thoroughly research the poses you do and identify which are risky for your body type and condition.

No way am I giving up my yoga practice, but I will modify to better meet my needs. I have done some research and now know which poses are beneficial for my condition and which are not. As with many things, more is not better (not true for ice cream or massages).

If you practice yoga, what are your thoughts?

SUAR

46 comments:

  1. I like yoga a lot. but i did discover that my body does not appreciate running directly after a yoga class. From here on out, I'll stick to doing yoga on non running days!

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  2. I'd love to say we should just trust people to know their own bodies, especially in this respect, but it sounds like we need a lot of reminders to listen to our bodies before we can trust people to know them.

    Trying poses to see if they may work probably wouldn't be bad, but insisting on doing all poses to the fullest extent, even when they may not be beneficial, sounds like a very bad idea.

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  3. I completely agree with your thoughts. I have yoga poses that really irritate my hips and I feel off for a day or so. I am not a huge yogi but I love to do it for cross training and light days. In regards to running I can't do track work because it flairs up my ITB and with yoga I have to modify triangle poses because it messes my hips up. Do what feels good and right for you....

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  4. I have piriformis syndrome and the thing that 'cured' it for me is switching to minimalist shoes for running. If I run more than two miles in my traditional shoes, which I wear for gym classes still, it is back less than 48 hours later. Last Sunday I ran 20 in my Saucony Kilkennys...not a hint of trouble. I DID stretch it part way through the run though...just to let it know I remembered it was there. And I get active isolated stretching on both sides with every massage now.

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  5. Great post. This pregnancy, I was hell bent on both running and practicing pre-natal yoga until the day I gave birth.

    The baby sits just awkward enough to where running kick starts contractions (!!!) and yoga is downright uncomfortable. I think my running days are numbered, and I haven't touched my mat in weeks.

    As heartbreaking as it is, I just can't do this right now, and to try and force myself into it would be a hugely frustrating experience.

    However, when I'm not pregnant, yoga does nothing but wonders for me - but I'm also a stay at home, so sitting behind a desk/wheel/staring at a computer screen isn't really my M.O. Pretend you didn't read that last part.

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  6. Our asses may be related. :) It's funny you should post this because when I was having the most problems I kept trying to do more hip opening exercises, and while it felt somewhat good I think it was only aggravating things. Mine has been pretty good but just the last couple of days I've felt these little twinges. I think it is time for a visit to the chiro.

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  7. Yup, just like with running (or anything) people will get too type A about it.

    My sister in law overdid the yoga (which she has been doing for decades) and ruptured a disk. Not good.

    As you get older you need to notch back what you do...sometimes hard for people to face but the muscles do get stiffer and the disks dry out...gotta take care!

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  8. I'll be curious what comes out of your new PT visits. I too have struggled with left ass cheek pain for months. PT seemed to help for a day or two, but then I was right back to where I started. Next week I go to see a chiropractor for the first time (my doctor thinks there may be more to this than just piriformis syndrome). Keep us posted...I love this blog!

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  9. Listen, I just couldn't get past the Howard Hughes nails on that damn rodent. I always think I should do yoga, but I can't keep my mind from wandering everywhere and I can't relax because I'm worried I'll rip a huge fart.

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  10. I love yoga! I'm not a hard core twisting snake tree back flipper, but I do enjoy it. But, after hurting a foot playing soccer a couple of years ago the injury has started to get aggravated during certain poses (down-dog, for gods sake!). So, I just work around it. Just like you said, it's about listening to your body. I've learned, through yoga, that my body can do things and go places I never thought possible. Sometimes, those things include not doing down-dog, oh well. I can still do a wicked braserita(sp?), and usually don't even fart. Good enough for me :)

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  11. I had to give up yoga for the most part due to a genetic hip condition that yoga irritates and was pretty bummed too. Like you said, finding certain poses that are ok are still beneficial but many folks just aren't knowledgable enough to know which ones are and which ones aren't. I now spend most of my extra non-running times doing mat pilates which has been amazing and still gives me a bit of that yoga feeling. You should try it!

    Good luck to you and hope your left ass cheek heals up! :)

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  12. I was pretty dubious about yoga at first, and was terrible at it. Then it gradually started feeling better, and I've become a big fan. That said, I'm still in the "beginner" class still, after about 4 years, and still having fun.

    Yes it's possible to overdo yoga, just like it's possible to overdo anything else. Yes, you can injure yourself, or aggravate old injuries, just the same as doing anything else.

    Maybe our instructors are different, but what part of "this is not a competition" "respect your own body and it's limits" "ease into the pose gradually" "breathe" and other such things do these people not get? There are hundreds of yoga poses, some of them have to work for you. All of you have done yoga poses, whether you know it or not. Just standing is a yoga pose, one that can be done in a supermarket line without anyone else knowing.

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  13. I needed to read this for sure today.

    Maybe a class filled with warrior poses would not be the most awesome idea for a messed up hip flexor. I don't think it needs to be stretched... it needs to be rested.

    That article made me a little peeved too. Seems like anything done in excess or incorrectly will likely lead to injury.

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  14. Yoga is great about an hour after good maintenance runs. It was a savior for my IT band issues and a plantar facatis problem too. The article looks at it like a sport. If we look at all sports, yoga is probably the safest! Running, a passion of mine, is probably one of the most dangerous. My first marathon was devoted to Jenny who was hit by a car in front of my condo. She's never recovered.

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  15. Read this. It will make you feel better about that NYT article:
    http://www.theawl.com/2012/01/six-reasons-to-ignore-the-new-york-times-yoga-article

    :)

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  16. I enjoy yoga very much and am very non-flexible, despite my enjoyment. I had a yoga teacher try and "help" me deeper into a position, OUCH! Hamstring pull. I knew my body, but I think she thought "there's now ay she can't go deeper" but I couldn't. I was furious. No surprise, I haven't been back to her class.

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  17. Nice post. As a regular yogi I would say not all poses are for all people, on all days. Not everyone can protect their shoulder girdle, or refrain from overstretching by following their body's warning signs. I did learn a while back that tilting my car seat and desk chair slightly back alleviates some low back stress. I'd wonder what your girl crush would say to that. My yoga teacher also constantly reminds us this is not a competition, you aren't there to "get good at yoga" and some days - Less is More. I think you'd like her class! Guess you'll have to run RnR St Pete so you can meet her!

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  18. I like the yoga with fruit on the bottom - especially berries.

    Sometimes I go for plain and mix my own stuff in there.

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  19. I haven't read the article, because the inflammatory title kept me away. Like you, I have sciatic nerve issues, only on my right side. It happened playing rugby in college, and I've lived with it ever since. Usually yoga doesn't exacerbate the problem, but pregnancy plus sciatica seems to really push me over the edge. I'm careful to not do poses like cobbler, happy baby, or some forward bends if they tweak the spot.
    I think you are right that it's not that yoga is a culprit in and of itself; we as practitioners have to be aware of our own bodies and their limitations.

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  20. I've been toying with the idea of heading back to yoga. I do get concerned that what is true for you will be true for me... piriformis shit and sciatic crap, etc.

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  21. I can definitely see where yoga can cause problems, but it's not really the yoga. To my mind it's pride. Have you ever been in a class and they mention modifications? I have the hardest time believing that doing the modifications doesn't mean I am weak/something wrong with me.

    I have to remember that yoga is meant to make me feel good, not to be off balance or in pain.

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  22. I'm doing yoga three days a week right now, 75 minutes at a time.

    I say: listen to your body. Always. My body likes yoga, and one day- I will conquer Warrior 3. So freaking close.

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  23. I do not do Yoga, but I can embrassingly admit to watching Dance Moms.

    Those moms be trippin!

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  24. I generally agree with your assessment - yes, of course yoga can hurt you if you don't listen to your body. And so can any other kind of physical activity! I TOTALLY agree with what you said about Type-A competitiveness, especially in the class format.

    Yoga really helps me. I do flow Vinyasa and my teacher focuses on one goal each class (hip openers, back, core). I know what my body doesn't like (back focused class) and what I love (hip openers). My run the day after yoga class is always awesome.

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  25. yoga wrecks your body, no one should wear shoes anymore or eat bread, or even STRETCH bacause it's bad for you. And forget that tofu or soy-based product! No dairy either! Sit ups and pushups are BAD BAD BAD and sit on a ball at your desk, or better yet, have your hubby nail your desk to the damn wall so you can stand up all day long at your computer...everything is bad! Running especially! Cyclists are jerks and swimmers, well, they are all have soft-tissue muscle so you don't build any. ZUMBA anyone????

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  26. I am a Bikram lover. I think practicing in moderation and listening to your body is key to staying injury free. The article uses a guy who did damage to himself by spending HOURS sitting in a pose which is essentially Japanese style- who does that? No wonder he ended up injured! True yoga involves being in touch with your body- if you find a pose (or poses) aggravate your body- don't do them.

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  27. I've done yoga for years and I do believe that it is beneficial for your mind and body. I agree with you that not every yoga teacher knows your limits and therefore it's the students responsibilty to decide what is best for them. Many times in class I decided something was too much for me, and did something less than the class. I think that is one of the best things about yoga, you learn to listen to your body.

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  28. I like yoga, but I have found that despite feeling great and relaxed and stretched out after class, my piriformis hurts after when I am running as well (which leads to serious knee pain for me). It took a while for me to make the connection.

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  29. I have a yoga DVD so I fear with no one watching me I might be doing the pose wrong and hurt myself. I am usually sore the next day too. But I love it and feel all stretched out right afterwards!

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  30. I've loved yoga ever since the first time I did it...and pregnant at that.

    I can't speak for those awe-inspiring, gravity-defying yoga and totally contorted poses...but I'm pretty sure all the basic yoga stuff is just fine. I agree that listening to your body is key.

    I'm so glad you took the time to post your thoughts about this article, b/c I read it a few days ago and have been having a difficult time reconciling my impressions of yoga as a wonderful complement to my running and the article itself. Thanks.

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  31. I do a little yoga to stretch and "open the hips" ... Usually it lasts about 15 minutes. I do it in the comfort of my home, I don't push myself and kill myself. I did some stretches and I find it helped relieve my running muscles some. :)
    So, will you be doing some moves that are good for runners then? I would love to see it.

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  32. Yeah, people are competitive with yoga (I've seen myself do it at times). But even when I was practicing Ashtanga 4 times a week (90-100 mins each session to complete the 1st series), I never got injured like I have with running. I find yoga - of all the workouts - to be one of the safest, injury-wise.

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  33. WHat?! I am still stuck at MORE ice cream is NOT better?

    (just started some yoga classes at my Y...so far so good!)

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  34. OK...admittedly I have NOT read all the comments, but I would like to know exactly WHAT poses you will be either avoiding or modifying (and if modifying...in what way). Would sure be some helpful information to have on hand.

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  35. I think if running or ( any sport for that matter, tri?) is your main focus you need to take what your PT tells you and use those ground rules in yoga. I see the people doing Bikram 5x week and they only do bikram. There are many high hamstring tendonopathies from overstretching the hamstring insertion and THEN running on it. Without enough glute strength that is an accident waiting to happen, or it can just be overtraining.
    As for the piriformis, often its that the glute med is not working enough nor is the glute max and so the rotators decide THEY need to be the one extending your hip and remember the hip rotators are like your shoulder rotators, they are not meant to be doing massive movements, but supporting the bigger muscles.
    Long story short, take what your PT says as ground rules, and apply them to yoga. MAy mean you have to abstain or not go into the pose as much but if you want to run, its the answer

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  36. The big issue I took with the article is the all or nothing approach. I've thrown out my back rolling over in bed, but I'm not going to start campaigning against bed use.

    I do see a potential issue with lack of instruction in some yoga classes, specifically classes taught at gyms. Instructors are cueing headstands when I'm sure 99% of the class is not ready for it.

    More emphasis needs to be put on listening to one's body. If a particular pose causes issues, DON'T DO IT. Do a different pose.

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  37. I love yoga but am on/off with my practice. Right now I'm off because of time constraints.

    Those nails make me want to hurl! eeew!

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  38. Bring what u have to Yoga- injuries, bad mood, heavy heart, joy and if you truly practice yoga you will leave more open in every way. Pacing and restraint and honoring injury is as important in yoga as any other sport.

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  39. You may also want to look into your Quadratus lumborum muscle. Its actually part of your back but attaches to hips and for me I feel the pain (referred pain that is) in my butt... You may want to ask your PT to check..

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  40. After doing a hot yoga session I am suffering with the same pain in the butt it's been almost 4 months it gets better but I can feel it on every run I think I am ruined for life.Did a whole session of massage and chiropractic visit got adjusted but it's here to stay a real pain in the butt!!!

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  41. Yoga = Farts = Laughter.

    Tell that author to go F him/her self b/c if there is farting and laughter involved then there is no way its bad for you.

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  42. I was too distracted by that awesome purple top (and your buff arms) to pay attention to the words in this post.

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  43. I oncer went to Ashtanga Yoga class being taught by my friend and awesome instructor ... way back when in Italy you really could not find a Yoga studio anywhere ... since she did it only twice a week and there was lunch involved after practice I made it a point not to miss it ... One day I was out of it physically and emotionally ... hard time in my life ... I really did about one pose and a half during the whole hour and a half class and one of those was childs pose and the other was Shavasanah (spelling?) ... at the end of class she told me that is the best class I had ever had ... I said WHAT and she gently replied ... this is the first time you listened to your body and mind and allowed yourself not to be perfect ... I will never forget her or her words on that day ... and from that day that is the way I live my practice!

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  44. I can't read anything past the nails on that animal. How can you focus on anything else on the page?!!? I keep going back to them. They're captivating and horrifying all at the same time.

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  45. I found your website perfect for my needs. It contains wonderful and helpful posts. I have read most of them and learned a lot from them. You are doing some great work. Thank you for making such a nice website.

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  46. http://www.yogajournal.com/practice/167

    Try these.

    http://www.do-it-yourself-joint-pain-relief.com/

    And this - especially release the front of your back.

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