If you only read one response to the New York Times’ ‘How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body’ piece…

…may I suggest that it be the one posted today by Eddie Stern?

Before we get to that, however, here’s a quick boilerplate for the roughly nine yoga practitioners out there who haven’t seen “How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body,” the New York Times Magazine piece by William J. Broad — published today in the hard copy edition, and Jan. 5 online. (By the time the magazine hit newsstands and porches today, this story was already old news in the yoga blogging world, because reactions have been fired off steadily since the online posting of the article. So steadily, in fact, that if you do a Google search for “How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body,” you get about 31,000 hits. If you narrow that field down by adding “Ashtanga,” you still get about 1,600 hits. And none of this takes into account all the comment threads ricocheting around Facebook over the past few days.)

Here’s a snippet of the original article, which is an excerpt from Broad’s soon-to-be-released book:

Not just students but celebrated teachers too, [profiled yoga teacher Glenn] Black said, injure themselves in droves because most have underlying physical weaknesses or problems that make serious injury all but inevitable. Instead of doing yoga, ‘they need to be doing a specific range of motions for articulation, for organ condition,’ he said, to strengthen weak parts of the body. ‘Yoga is for people in good physical condition. Or it can be used therapeutically. It’s controversial to say, but it really shouldn’t be used for a general class.’

Interesting responses include:

One response that seems to have particularly struck a chord with a range of ashtangis came from The Reluctant Ashtangi’s “Reading blogs can wreck your body.” The piece, which is well worth a read, says this in part:

Other things that Wreck Your Body:

– Hard Partying Wrecks Your Body (wassup, Charlie Sheen?!)

Food Wrecks Your Body

Tofu Wrecks Your Body (actually, this one just wrecks your brain, but what good is a body without a brain?)

Forward Head Posture Wrecks Your Body (with a nod oto the Alexander Method)

Alcohol Wrecks Your Body Or, as so eloquently expressed by The Smiths, “…past the pub that wrecks your body.” I’ll leave you on that glorious note. And, um, don’t dance or anything. That might wreck your body too.

 

The piece cooly ends with a YouTube clip of “The Queen is Dead.”

And then comes “How the NYT Can Wreck Yoga,” a post with the kind of clarity and flare that can only come from Eddie Stern, director of Ashtanga Yoga New York. Here’s a taste:

When there is a great potential for making money, quality is usually the first thing to be sacrificed. Fast food, anyone? It is unfortunate that this is exactly what we are facing now – yoga has been McDona-fied. It has been reduced from a practice that traditionally demanded dedication, discipline, sacrifice, humility, surrender, suffering, love, devotion, and rigorous self-investigation, to something that you can now learn to teach in a weekend. Or, more popularly, in a mere 200 hours you can become a bonafide, registered yoga instructor. 200 hours is spit. It is a joke. And it is a joke that is leading an entire tradition – that granted even in India was subject to ridicule – to an even greater harm. This is because we have an opportunity, in the West, to be leaders in the rising field of yoga, by bringing these transformative teachings to places where they will result in great good. Though it is true that this is already happening – in schools, prisons, hospitals, with veterans, and with everyday people who walk into a class off of the street – it is also true that a rotten apple can spoil the barrel, and this is what I fear is happening. And, it is a mighty big apple.

I miss the early days when I was first doing yoga in NYC, in the mid- to late 1980′s. The feeling of freshness, of being clean and free, of feeling that a whole, new world was opening in me. There were no products for sale, no fifty types of yoga mats, just a towel and some cut-off sweatpants to practice in, or a pair of white, cotton ‘yoga’ pants that I could buy on Bleecker St. for $5. I still feel that freshness when I practice, and I love that – but when I look around at what is happening with yoga in America, I can’t help but feel sad.

When I saw the title of Broad’s article, the first thing that came to mind was Ice Cube’s old hip-hop song ‘Check Yo’ Self’ (‘You better check yo’self before you wreck yo’self’) – pretty good advice for the over-enthusiastic in yoga or any physical endeavor. I was going to post it, but it is so inappropriate, and the issue of injuries is too serious an issue; I will not make light of anyone’s pain. But, searching out Ice Cube did lead me down the dark path of youtube, where two hours later, I found myself still trolling through videos that fill me with a happy nostalgia for the rawness of youth – of early punk rock, and the passion and energy that was being expressed through so many amazing songs.

Sanskrit means refined, and many of the yogis of India were extremely elegant, in a simplicity-filled way. The rishis, who became the world’s first yogis, purposely left society to meditate in the forests, turning their backs on the mundanity and suffering of the world. They discovered something that ultimately can be of great benefit to us all, if we use it wisely.  This is quite the opposite of the rawness of music that I grew up with, like the Clash or Sex Pistols – but, still, listening to White Man (in Hammersmith Palais) still fills me with the same feeling of freedom I felt when I first heard it when I was probably about 14.  And who can argue with this lyric: “The new groups/ are not concerned/ with what there is to be learned/ they put on suits/ they think it’s funny/ turning rebellion into money”. I always loved that line, and now it just makes me think of Lululemon.

I’d write more, but my throat is on fire (rough return from my travels abroad), and I need to try to go back to bed. Just as well — you’re better off anyway leaving this blog and heading over to read the rest of what Eddie Stern has to say and see which YouTube video he ended his post with.

© YogaRose.net and Rose Tantraphol, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to YogaRose.net with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

Hey, how did that gluten-free ginger molasses cookie get into my shopping cart?

After seven months of procrastinating, I finally went in today to get blood work determining if I’m sensitive to gluten. Based on my symptoms — feeling bloated much of the time, for one — my doctor thinks I might be.

I think I might be too, which is probably why I’ve avoided these tests for so long.

Don’t touch that
Over the past few years, the list of Things I Should Not Ingest seems to have grown quite long. First came an endoscopy determining that my acid reflux was intense enough to pay some serious attention. I was prescribed Nexium and told to cut out three things from my diet: coffee, caffeine and chocolate. I cut out none of the three, although I rarely drink any soda these days and my chocolate consumption is occasional. (I like my dark chocolate truffles around the holidays, but I don’t have chocolate stocked in the kitchen cabinets the way I used to.) Coffee is trickier, but I will say that as I have a more consistent morning Ashtanga practice, it’s been easier to get by without my morning cups of coffee.

Then, a couple years ago, I learned the hard way — from a terrible allergic reaction to a seafood meal that caused my fingertips and eyelids to turn bulbous, inflating like little balloons — that I am allergic to, of all things, sesame seeds and peanuts. (This dinner was consumed the night before a job interview; needless to say, walking in to talk to a hiring panel while looking out from under still-swollen eyelids, I did not get that job.) I’ll take these allergies any day over being allergic to seafood. But this does mean that despite my Thai heritage, I can’t enjoy that delicious Thai peanut sauce ever again. It means I can never again have hummus on a bagel, since the tahini that makes up hummus is a derivative of sesame seeds.

Now, what if I can’t have that bagel anymore either?

Survey says…
So I guess I’ll find out after Thanksgiving whether the tests say I need to cut out, or at least cut down on, gluten. It might almost be a relief, because if the tests say all is good on the celiac front, then I have to start to systematically determine what exactly is making me feel like ugh. The more time goes by, the more uncomfortable I seem to be getting. I spend much of the day feeling like my torso is working against me. I’m bloated, my digestive system is always so sensitive, and, with my acid reflux, I have heartburn from food and from work-related stress.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been buying things that look good despite the gluten-free label — I think it’s my way of preparing myself if the tests say I have to give up some of the dishes I love so much (carbs and I were meant to be together!). Yes, yes, those of you more enlightened than I am on the healthy food front are shaking your head about my prejudices. That’s the point, though — I am trying to decategorize the concept of gluten-free so that I can think of gluten-free and “tasty” in the same sentence. It’s a similar process I’ve been working through to prove to myself that vegan does not equal tastes-like-cardboard.

On my way home today, after starting the day by getting blood drawn, I stopped at Foods for Living, the local bastion of healthier food options, and picked up a few things. I found a few wheat- and gluten-free products that looked pretty appealing — a ginger molasses cookie, a box of quinoa macaroon cookies (I love quinoa and I like macaroon, so we’ll see how adding the two go) and brown rice hamburger buns.

Before sitting down to write this blog post, I opened up the wrapping for the ginger molasses cookie to try a bite. I ended up inhaling it.

© YogaRose.net and Rose Tantraphol, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to YogaRose.net with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.