How Yoga Heals, Destroy, and Excites the Internet
With the recent NY Times and Salon Blog article about yoga wrecking or not wrecking the body being circulated, I felt the responsibility of offering another point of view.
You can also get a large following by claiming ultimate health.
Though the fact that B.K.S. Iyengar at 93 years old, and still doing Wheel Pose should inspire any doubter of the power of Yoga practice.
Bikram Choudhury, founder of Bikram Yoga, often says ‘come to my torture chamber every day for 60 days, and I give you a new body.’ An article back in the 90’s even quoted him saying that his Yoga can cure anything.
And for thousands of practitioners it has.
In Bikram Yoga no one touches you with physical adjustments, so if you are injured it is because you are not listening to your body or to the teacher, who is telling you exactly and specifically how to get in and out of the Yoga pose.
While I have great respect for Bikram practice and the research behind it, I have been an Ashtanga Practitioner for the last 10 years.
Ashtanga Yoga, much like Bikram Yoga, has a set sequence of yoga poses that have been demonstrated to enhance the physical Body while focusing the Mind. That is the primary difference between Yoga and other forms of Exercise.
How has its success been demonstrated? By the thousands of practitioners who have benefited.
The poses that the NYTimes article suggested injure the body the most are not even part of the Bikram practice, as it is intended for beginners.
In Ashtanga, you are not given those poses until your body is ready.
Much like combining spices together to make a great meal, combining yoga poses together can either be nourishing, or destructive. Both Bikram and Ashtanga are recipes that are based on scientific research, as well as countless individuals whose lives are better. Yet for each body the practice is different, and thus no two bodies are the same in a yoga pose. Much like no two tomatoes are the same.
Making great soup takes years, and learning to make great soup trains the mind to be a great Master. There are great lessons to be learned in the modern Art world, as seen in both Kung Fu Panda 1 & 2.
Great chefs are not made in 2 months of teacher training. And the secret recipe is only appreciated after years of practice, not theory.
Joshua Rosenthal of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition has coined the term Primary Foods. Unlike food that is consumed through the mouth, which we consider as Secondary Food and is very Bio-Individual (again Joshua Rosenthal’s term – the food that is good for one person, could be poison to someone else), Primary Foods are the same for us all: Exercise, Career, Relationship, and Spirituality.
In short, exercise is more important to your health than going on a diet; having a career, a job that you enjoy is more critical than becoming a vegetarian, as is being in a relationship where you feel loved and sexually wanted, along with a sense of purpose and connection to something greater than yourself (call it God, Love, Energy, the term is inconsequential).
Exercise is a Primary Food, and Yoga is only one of many dishes on that menu.
We know why we love it so much. It rings with a promise of everlasting Youth.
Yes, if you exercise your life will improve, whether it is through Yoga or horse riding. Take Bill Dorris who lived to the age of 94, riding and roping until the day he died.
All exercise can be overdone, and what the NYTimes article pointed out is the consequences of extreme acts (like sitting for hours in an unnatural position). Just because it says Yoga does not mean that you will like it or benefit more from it.
If Yoga is your desire, then you should taste a few different classes. Some people, like the writer of the Salon article, prefer to vary their experience every day. Some find a more regulated practice better suited to their needs. Some enjoy hands on, yet some would rather never be touched.
The overwhelming variety of Yoga styles in America today is a testament to Joshua Rosenthal’s term Bio-Individuality – what is good for one, can be poison to another.
Gabriel Azoulay has been practicing since 1993 and is an E-RYT, a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, and member of the American Association for Drugless Practitioners. Having lived in India and Thailand with Masters of Yoga and Thai Massage, Gabriel weaves wellness, Yoga, and counseling to support his students and clients. His recent eBook is a collaboration with a Yoga student who hurt her knee, and through working with Gabriel’s ideas had helped correct the problem
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