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Yoga hurts?

A science writer assembled some stories and statistics about injuries in yoga, which the editors of the New York Times published in the Times Magazine  last Sunday.  It was subsequently glossed on NBC Nightly News, and then picked up yesterday in the Globe.

Many luminaries of the yoga community responded during the week.  Below we’ve captured some highlights of what they said.

By the way, our own view is that not everything marching under the banner of “yoga” in our country today is good for you.  And despite its shortcomings, the NYT article serves us well by keeping this in view.

Ummm… could you check those numbers, please ?

Eva Norlyk Smith, the founder of YogaU.com points out in the Huffington Post that the injury rate for golf is 10-20 times higher than the reported injury rate for yoga. Be careful with that nine-iron, Tiger.

Baxter Bell, a respected MD and international yoga teacher, observes in Yoga Journal that while the number of yoga injuries increased as the author reported, the number of yoga practitioners also grew, but at a far greater rate.  The NYT author cited both increases but failed to make a critical inference. While the number of injuries grew, the injury rate actually dropped!

Statistics can be funny, as Bell points out.  Tut, tut, New York Times!

Just the facts, Ma’am

And Chris Beach, the President of the Iyengar National Association of the United States, reported one of the incorrect assertions in the article:

“Just one example: Broad calls Roger Cole a “reformer” who advocates reducing neck bending in Shoulder Stand by lifting the shoulders on a stack of blankets. But this teaching was devised by Mr. Iyengar – Cole is simply one of many of Mr. Iyengar’s teachers who work this way.”

A Salon.com author expressed this view:

“The biggest elisions were implied but never emphasized: the importance of good teaching and the wild divergence of practices under the umbrella of American yoga.”

We say right on to this, of course, as have our own teachers.

If you’re concerned about the safety of a pose, don’t do it!  And then talk to your teacher about your concerns, hear what they have to say, and make your own decision.  See this week’s article in our newsletter for more advice about avoiding injury in yoga.

And if you want to read more about the yoga community’s response to the article, Dancing Crow Yoga teacher Pat Donaher has a great summary in his blog.


  1. Sharon Sloman says:

    Thank you Dancing Crow! The NYT article was one-sided and did not reflect a balanced view of yoga. I discussed the article with my students and suggest all teachers do the same. If the article reflects the content of the book, don’t waste your $.

  2. Gary F (new to Dancing Crow) says:

    Great rebuttals folks. As with any form of movement expression there are right ways to do it and wrong ways. Injuries occur because we are sloppy or because we are not paying attention. Yoga has always been the most effective and gentle way of restoring the body and mind back to form. It is not a panacea. But neither is weight lifting, Zumba, Tai Chi or Pilates. Seems to me that the biggest complainers in the Globe article had the most lame excuses. They just didn’t want to do it. Fine. Take your ball and go home then. And finally… why is anyone surprised that the New York Times has reported this so poorly. Probably because over the last 25 years they have increasingly lost journalistic integrity.

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  3. Laura Anderson says:

    Here here! I couldn’t agree more, they warped the facts to make one of the best revolutions this country has ever seen into an inaccurately malignant movement. tsp tsp., for some of the best reporting in the country they really did NOT do our people justice.

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