NY Magazine article:
Over the years I have participated in a smattering of Yoga classes and individual lessons. That being said, I’m not a Yoga aficionado in any way (I’m not even that good!). However I believe that my biomechanics and exercise science expertise can objectively help me evaluate Yoga. There are some fantastic benefits of Yoga.
This ancient practice, when done correctly, can have a profound effect on the psyche and soma. It has been scientifically documented to have a positive benefit on one’s health by improving the cardiovascular system, breathing, meditation skills, muscular endurance and joint mobility. I think Yoga can play an integral part in one’s fitness endeavors as a good cross training tool. Like most things, too much of any one thing is not good. Depending on your health and fitness goals, Yoga may be appropriate for you but it is not for everyone.
Due to its resurgence in popularity and the many fly-by-night certifications available, a considerable amount of Yoga teachers are just plain bad and at worst, unsafe. I can hang a sign out my door and teach “Joachim’s Amazing Really Hard Chakra Aligning Yoga Class” and nobody can stop me. No one unifying body certifies or licenses these teachers (or trainers for that matter). As a fitness professional, I am keenly aware my instruction can cause injury, pain and/or in rare cases disfigurement (never happened). I am constantly weighing the cost and benefit of every exercise I prescribe against the intended goal. It is always easiest to control for problems when working individually with your teacher. In a classroom setting the potential for harm is increased exponentially.
Here are some quick rules to abide by when doing Yoga:
1- Find out your teacher’s background and know what it means.
2- Take a few individual lessons before you jump into a class.
3- Stay away from Bikram Yoga – can cause:
-tears of your soft tissue (heat facilitates flexibility and will allow your body to stretch past their healthy resting point)
4- Stay away from headstands (unless you are training to be a gymnast or circus performer).
-can contribute to glaucoma symptoms
-been shown to cause herniated cervical discs
5- Stay away from the Plow(if you don’t know what it is, chances are you haven’t done it)
-can contribute to neck pain and possible herniation
-can contribute to lower back pain
6- If it hurts don’t do it! Duh.
7- Don’t try to show off (if you are anything like me, that rarely ends well!)
8- Use the time to learn how to breathe and mediate correctly – we can all benefit from that!
9- Don’t stretch past the point of what you can control.
10- Integrate another form of exercise in your routine (weight training, running, mountain climbing, biking etc).
Doug Joachim – NYC