I am still searching for answers on practicing yoga and the correlation (not causation) of F.A.I. and Labrum tears of the hip related specifically to the Vinyasa style of yoga. I was excited to see that Leslie Kaminoff, renown for his knowledge and his book, The Anatomy of Yoga, expressed his thoughts. Kaminoff's response: William J. Broad is not doing "Yoga".
What I love about Kaminoff's response is that he is speaking about YOGA - the whole of yoga, not just the physical aspects, the "workout". Kaminoff says, "Asana practice is a tool of yoga. Yoga is a much, much bigger tool than Asana practice."
Broad admits that his motivation for writing this series of articles on how yoga can hurt your body was because he hurt himself in an Asana class because he was distracted by a beautiful woman in front of him. He was not practicing YOGA! His latest article is here, Women's Flexibility is Liability (in Yoga)
The actual practice of yoga, of all aspects of yoga, has to do with bringing a certain consciousness to our actions. In which case, if we are practicing Asana, we should be able to bring that awareness to our bodies and thereby practice safely and within our limitations, while still challenging ourselves at the edges. Interestingly, this also fits within the Yama of Ahimsa (non-violence).
Kaminoff describes these three Niyamas as the "Prayer of Serenity" of Yoga:
Tapas (the fire, discipline, practice) = the things that we can change
If you are truly practicing Tapas, Svadhyaya and Ishvara pranidhana in an Asana class, then you ARE practicing Yoga.
That's not to say we don't injure ourselves. Of course the possibility exists. The possibility exists playing basketball, or in an aerobics class, or crossfit for crying out loud, or simply walking out your front door... darn-it, I broke my toe last year inside my own house, so now being home is a risk! I have also injured myself in yoga, and I am currently dealing with the exact injury Broad discusses in his most recent article - F.A.I. (Femoral Acetabular Impingement). But my injuries have come from a lack of awareness and connection - perhaps a regression in my practice of ahimsa, in my own body and practice and pushing beyond limits that I should rather accept as they are.
The difference though between yoga and other forms of fitness though is twofold:
It follows then, that if we are working on this level, we should be able to avoid injury.
Now, I fully realize that another important factor in this Asana practice involves the teacher - and a knowledgeable teacher should be able to mitigate the danger through careful cueing and guidance, to help the student cultivate a higher awareness in her body, her own challenges and her own limitations. The actuality is, not all teachers have that knowledge. Knowledge is a continuum, and gained through time, with careful study and experience. All teachers are well-intended, but on a different point along their personal journey. Practicing yoga in the form of a group exercise class holds its own set of risks. I cannot keep a room of 30 people nearly as safe as I can a group of 5, try though I do!
Tapas Svadhyaya, Ishvara pranidhana... these three principles should help us to find the introspection to learn to move beyond limitations but also to learn those limitations that we cannot move past. When we cultivate this, we can avoid injury (and non-harming, that is ahimsa).
The bottom line, one of the yoga sutras, which Kaminoff quotes, "all of the suffering you are about to experience can and should be avoided." How to avoid this? Through the mind-body connection that IS yoga.
Kristen is the creator of Indieflow Yoga and Yoga For A Cause. She lives and teaches in Denver, Colorado