There’s been a lot of buzz after the Sunday Times article on yoga and injuries, "How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body." My own take on this is that this is pretty shoddy journalism. The writer should have looked no further than the New York Times own Science Times format for Q&A. Maybe a question like “Does yoga cause more injuries than similar exercise regimens?” would have been more appropriate? I suspect the answer would have been “no.”
In any case what’s the control here? No exercise at all, running, or lifting weights at the gym? All of these have both intended and unintended consequences on your physical well-being and injury status, especially as you get older. When I was a graduate student at MIT, I remember one of my professors invoking his own law to explain missteps in some scientific papers: “if you think you know the answer beforehand, you will undoubtedly find it.” He used this to explain why some scientists misinterpreted their results by either overly fitting data to some preconceived notion, or ignoring or explaining away other types of information that was inconsistent. Makes for a good story, but this is not good science. Not good reporting, either.
My own experience with yoga suggests a different perspective on this question. I started yoga when I turned 50 because I thought that it would be more age-appropriate and not lead to as many injuries. In my case (Caution! N=1), I never injured myself in nine years of practice. One reason was I had a good teacher (Baxter Bell), who did not push his students too far, and who also paid attention to preexisting injuries to tailor their practice. He was also well-trained and knew about anatomy and physiology. Not all yoga teachers have the appropriate training, so this is one of the most important first decisions in your practice: choose a good teacher. Finally, I did not push myself beyond what I thought was appropriate (if it hurts, back off a bit—you're not trying to prove anything to the teacher or other students).
|A Crow by Philip Amdal|
And speaking of shoddy journalism, Dr. Timothy McCall tells us that although he was quoted in the article, he was not actually interviewed by the author and that the quote from him was taken out of context, from an old article. To read his rebuttal and his advice about practicing headstand, see his website http://www.drmccall.com/ and read the article "How to Not Wreck Your Body Doing Yoga or, How I Really Feel about Headstand" on the home page.