Adventure Two: Yoga
The practice of yoga dates back centuries ago as a religious tradition of meditation. The yoga that we come to think of today is a revised form of these earlier principles. Most would agree that yoga as it was originally practiced is no longer practiced as such. Western yoga as we know it has become more focused on “asanas” or varying sustained postures as a form of exercise.
Along with exercise, many yoga practices also focus on meditation and breathing as a form of relaxation. There have been many research studies that have shown the benefits of yoga for its relaxation and meditative purposes.
For instance, a study in 2010 by the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine showed that regular yoga practice has shown to increase brain GABA levels more than walking and jogging. An increase in brain GABA levels has been shown to elevate mood and decrease anxiety. Because of some of these research articles, I have always encouraged my patients at Performance Spine and Sports Medicine
in Newtown (http://www.pssmnewtown.com) to engage in gentle yoga, of course within their limitations. However, yoga has come under the gun recently for possibly creating more harm than good.
The New York Times recently posted an article titled “How Yoga Can Wreck your Body” (Read the full article at: How Yoga Can Wreck your body). Being a physical therapist and a yoga enthusiast, this automatically intrigued me. The article tells the story of a yoga “guru” who spent years studying in India with yoga legends and was a teacher in New York. Eventually, the teacher had to have major spinal surgery due to what he believes was a result of years of doing yoga.
The author also tells some other unfortunate stories of people who have been thought to have sustained serious life threatening injuries from yoga. I appreciated the fact that this New York Times columnist pointed out some of the dangers of yoga and that it is not for everyone, but I think it tells a
story more about the danger of doing anything to the extreme.
There is no way of knowing whether or not this yoga teacher’s back injury was due to his yoga practice, and the article lacked strong research to support that all yoga is bad. In fear of people abandoning yoga altogether because of this article, I
decided to clear up some misconceptions from the article and provide some
general recommendations. Stay tuned for more “Adventures in Group Exercise
Class” when I explore the yoga class at my local gym and provide my
recommendations regarding yoga. Feel free to leave some comments regarding your thoughts on the New York Times article.