Yoga Can Also Wreck Your Mind 21


January 12, 2012 at 24:00 The Devil says:

Scott! How ya been? What’s up?

January 13, 2012 at 00:00 Scott Miller says:

How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body

January 12, 2012 at 24:00 The Devil says:

Ha!

January 13, 2012 at 00:00 Scott Miller says:

You’ve read it?

January 12, 2012 at 24:00 The Devil says:

Do you really want to do this?

January 13, 2012 at 00:00 Scott Miller says:

I guess I must.

January 12, 2012 at 24:00 The Devil says:

Well, then, I’m here to oblige. Your problem is Mr. Black — that is — the other Mr. Black.

January 13, 2012 at 00:00 Scott Miller says:

I didn’t come here to attack anyone. Not even you.

January 12, 2012 at 24:00 The Devil says:

Sure you did. You think what he said is a problem because he does yoga to fix things that are wrong with him and teaches yoga to fix things that are wrong with people, focusing on the negative, and now, indirectly, you’re setting out to fix the problem he caused… and if it happens to fix him, too… well, that’s his problem…

January 13, 2012 at 00:00 Scott Miller says:

If I’m going to… fix a problem about people getting into yoga in order to fix a problem… I have to do the same thing he does?

January 12, 2012 at 24:00 The Devil says:

I don’t know. Here’s another thing I don’t know: What’s wrong with bringing attention to the fact that people can get seriously hurt doing yoga?

January 13, 2012 at 00:00 Scott Miller says:

Nothing. But from reading that article you’d think there’s been some kind of cover-up about it.

January 12, 2012 at 24:00 The Devil says:

Well, it’s not a big selling point.

January 13, 2012 at 00:00 Scott Miller says:

You’re wrong.

January 12, 2012 at 24:00 The Devil says:

I mean for the general public. I’ll grant you that the yoga world is filled with fear-mongering teachers who benefit from pushing the idea that people get hurt doing yoga. Most of them don’t even know that’s what they’re doing.

January 13, 2012 at 00:00 Scott Miller says:

Yes, but who else is trying to help people right now the way they – even Black, for all I know especially Black – are trying to do …

January 12, 2012 at 24:00 The Devil says:

“Stand on their own two feet, independent of institutional structures…”

January 13, 2012 at 00:00 Scott Miller says:

I know what you’ll say. The yoga world has its own institutional structures and they will do what institutions always do no matter what they claim.

January 12, 2012 at 24:00 The Devil says:

No. I was going to sympathize with what yoga teachers have taken on. You guys remind me of me before I saw the light. It was very stressful and I didn’t even have a body like yours. That stress is the thing wrecking your bodies, not yoga.

January 13, 2012 at 00:00 Scott Miller says:

Yes. Thank you. Stress is the issue. Modern life. No matter how well we practice yoga, life is wrecking our bodies, and things are more challenging now than they were just 20 years ago. So we do need to adjust. Folks who push it with all the really rigorous styles need to take it easier – but not give into fear.

January 12, 2012 at 24:00 The Devil says:

Without hatha yoga you die miserable deaths. That’s why yoga only works for people who are willing to die for it.

January 13, 2012 at 00:00 Scott Miller says:

Not fair!

January 12, 2012 at 24:00 The Devil says:

Me?

January 13, 2012 at 00:00 Scott Miller says:

When my teacher’s teacher said that – or something like it – he didn’t say we had to die for our practice. Yoga doesn’t have to wreck our body for it to work, but if you come to yoga the way Black did, to take care of himself physically, you are going to be pulled back to the same low level at some point.

January 12, 2012 at 24:00 The Devil says:

Well, doesn’t everyone know that you came to yoga for the right reasons only?

January 13, 2012 at 00:00 Scott Miller says:

I didn’t. Not exclusively.

January 12, 2012 at 24:00 The Devil says:

Shocking.

January 13, 2012 at 00:00 Scott Miller says:

I had chronic back pain. Yoga fixed me.

January 12, 2012 at 24:00 The Devil says:

You mean you fixed you, and you call it yoga.

January 13, 2012 at 00:00 Scott Miller says:

No, I mean what I said. But I also came to yoga with a spiritual understanding, and I wasn’t naïve. It didn’t surprise me when I saw yoga teachers doing very un-yogic things…

January 12, 2012 at 24:00 The Devil says:

What in the world could you possibly be talking about?

January 13, 2012 at 00:00 Scott Miller says:

I don’t want to talk about it.

January 12, 2012 at 24:00 The Devil says:

You’re disturbed because yoga not only wrecks people’s bodies, but it also wrecks their minds.

January 13, 2012 at 00:00 Scott Miller says:

No, I didn’t say that. The title of the post is a joke!

January 12, 2012 at 24:00 The Devil says:

Hilarious!

January 13, 2012 at 00:00 Scott Miller says:

The minds that were wrecked were already wrecked. I’ve seen yoga hold together some massively disturbed people until one day they were wrecked again…

January 12, 2012 at 24:00 The Devil says:

But you know yoga may wreck a few people’s bodies, whatever that means. Maybe once in awhile it’s not something that was going to happen anyway. But you’re also not just trying to stick up for yoga here. Yoga sticks up for itself. Like me, it’s tricky. If Black went too far, or made a mistake, it’ll make use of that.

January 13, 2012 at 00:00 Scott Miller says:

What confuses people is the obvious conflict between the undeniably good intention – the Ahimsa, the non-violence – and people wrecking their bodies. If someone willfully wrecks her body in the name of yoga it’s ridiculous. The Buddha said that 2,000 years ago. But we can’t live in fear and be practicing yoga. You want people to live in fear.

January 12, 2012 at 24:00 The Devil says:

If that’s what’s best for all of my children…

January 13, 2012 at 00:00 Scott Miller says:

You are fear itself and I know you like what Black said. You want us to be afraid of the fact that yoga can wreck bodies. So can jogging, weight-lifting, prescription drugs, surgery, religion, politics, work, or any other powerful intervention in life on Earth. If yoga – or bad yoga, pseudo-yoga, bad application of yoga-like techniques and ideas – couldn’t wreck your body, couldn’t destroy your whole life, then it wouldn’t be anything at all.

January 12, 2012 at 24:00 The Devil says:

You realize that now you really are sounding like me?

January 13, 2012 at 00:00 Scott Miller says:

No – that’s a lie. What I want to say is that usually teachers like Mr. Black, whether they know what they’re doing or not, are setting their own classes apart. They’re saying that, of all the yoga teachers around, they happen to be the safest and most honest and the most knowledgeable. All they have to do is say what Black said about yoga, but keep teaching. People don’t even recognize what he’s saying as a sales pitch. He probably doesn’t.

January 12, 2012 at 24:00 The Devil says:

At least he’s brave enough to speak his truth. He just wants what’s best for all of his… students, and non-students, too.

January 13, 2012 at 00:00 Scott Miller says:

I think he’s just like so many older Iyengar… damn… scratch that. I’m not going there.

January 12, 2012 at 24:00 The Devil says:

You were going to say that older Iyengar-based, or Viniyoga-based teachers get worn out trying to help people fix their bodies for decades, and then are vulnerable to getting negative like Black. Plus, he’s been making this kind of indirect sales pitch for so long, he doesn’t even realize he’s doing it… and because it works, it reinforces itself. But that’s not your problem with it. You don’t care if Mr. Black or any Mr. Black is being rewarded for doing his best as he sees it.

January 13, 2012 at 00:00 Scott Miller says:

Yes.

January 12, 2012 at 24:00 The Devil says:

Your biggest problem with it is that it’s elitist. You know yoga is for everyone. You know that the yoga you do has evolved as a democratic process, so everyone should be teaching it, not just the wise and knowledgeable, but everyone. Hatha yoga is for everyone because everyone who loves it can teach it, and fear is the only thing in its way.

January 13, 2012 at 00:00 Scott Miller says:

Yes.

January 12, 2012 at 24:00 The Devil says:

Good pitch! Which makes Black the opposite of you, since he’s not just saying “do safe yoga,” but “don’t do yoga at all.” So you need to destroy him. It’s natural, yin-and-yang, you know, balancing. Uniting even! Good with bad! Go with it.

January 13, 2012 at 00:00 Scott Miller says:

You want to pit yoga teacher against yoga teacher. Not the first time. You win big with all that.

January 12, 2012 at 24:00 The Devil says:

I just know what you believe: You should all be hatha yoga teachers. You know that’s the simple complicated truth, though I don’t think you want people to think that’s my idea.

January 13, 2012 at 00:00 Scott Miller says:

It comes from yoga itself.

January 12, 2012 at 24:00 The Devil says:

How much will it cost people to find that out from you, this thing that comes from yoga itself, not from you?

January 13, 2012 at 00:00 Scott Miller says:

Nothing.

January 12, 2012 at 24:00 The Devil says:

It’s not even a sales pitch since your point is that you’re all already teaching yoga so there’s no need to spend money on Teacher Training programs like yours?

January 13, 2012 at 00:00 Scott Miller says:

If I pretended to agree with you, you’d just say that was my pitch, and if I just stop here, you’ll say that just stopping here was my pitch, and…

January 12, 2012 at 24:00 The Devil says:

Take a breath.

January 13, 2012 at 00:00 Scott Miller says:

Okay.

January 12, 2012 at 24:00 The Devil says:

No, a real yogic breath. Inandout. No duality. Have you taken your temperature?

January 13, 2012 at 00:00 Scott Miller says:

Yes. Obviously you can tell I have a fever. First time I’ve been sick in years.

January 12, 2012 at 24:00 The Devil says:

I’m sure it’s all just a coincidence. Or Black’s fault.

January 13, 2012 at 00:00 Scott Miller says:

I didn’t say that. This is all just the fever talking…

January 12, 2012 at 24:00 The Devil says:

Feeling kind of wrecked?

January 13, 2012 at 00:00 Scott Miller says:

Yes…

January 12, 2012 at 24:00 The Devil says:

Bye now, and… go Clippers!

January 13, 2012 at 00:00 Scott Miller says:

Clippers? What? Wait, I’m not through with you…


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21 thoughts on “Yoga Can Also Wreck Your Mind

  • Laura Cueva-Miller

    Go Lakers! GO Pau Gasol. Thanks for making fun of the fear mongering and being a voice of reason (sort of) in the yoga world. Actually not just the yoga world.

  • Amy Wareham

    The article, Yoga Can Wreck Your Body, is based on a fallacious argument called the slippery slope. Here is a summary of the argument:

    Premise 1: Some people get seriously injured practicing yoga.
    Premise 2: Some people can’t avoid getting injured practicing yoga.
    Therefore, yoga is unsafe.

    The slippery slope fallacy is often used to scare people into either doing or not doing something, but it is invalid because the premises don’t necessarily lead to the conclusion. Premise 1 is true and this is often enough to convince people of the conclusion, but it is not logical evidence to that end. For God’s sake, people get hurt and even die having sex and no one is writing articles about how dangerous sex is!

    The second premise is debatable. Perhaps there are some people that, due to some unknown medical condition, will end up hurting themselves if they practice certain poses. However, poses and yoga are not necessarily the same thing and the body gives ample warning to people to back off. If this were not the case, the human species would not have survived as long as we have. In any case, fear of some unknown medical condition should not stop people from living their lives. Again, people have sex without worrying about underlying medical conditions that could make such an act deadly.

    There were numerous biological problems with the arguments presented, as well. For instance, people don’t tend to recover from strokes and, if they do, it takes years. If someone presents with unilateral numbness/lack of function and the symptoms are relieved in a few minutes to hours, this is not a stroke but more likely what is called a transient ischemic attack (TIA). However, a yoga-induced TIA ought to have many minutes of warning that would take the form of numbness and pain. Why would you stay in a pose if it felt absolutely miserable to you? If you do and hurt yourself, the problem is not the yoga but your own stubbornness.

    Additionally, it is important to note that the human brain is supplied by blood via multiple routes and the vertebral arteries mentioned in the article actually happen to be the smallest of the arteries heading to the brain. Also, the vertebral arteries, as their name suggests, run through a series of bony formamina which serve to protect them nearly as well as the spinal cord as they make their way to the skull. The human airway isn’t even as protected. In any case, the internal carotid artery is much bigger and more important. Finally, when the arteries meet within the skull, they form an extensive network of alternate routes for blood flow (called anastomes), which provide a way for blood to get to all parts of the brain should their normal route be blocked by either some internal obstruction or by pressure from the outside (during, say, a yoga pose). This is true of all areas within the body that are either very important or get moved around a lot and therefore obstructed often. No offense to the author of the article, but it would be good to learn science before writing about it since many people take articles, even news articles, seriously.

    • Diana Twiss

      I love you Amy. I can feel the steam coming off your arms and out of your ears as you express yourself. Can I be in your gang? I’d be happy to stand behind you and say, “Yeah! What she said, punk!”

      • Amy Wareham

        lol I love you too and of course you can be in my gang! We can’t let ignorance and fear take hold in this country any more than it already has!

        The bottom line is that if I had never discovered yoga, I would have died a hundred times over by now and so I really can’t dig the idea that some people shouldn’t practice. I do fully support teachers who choose to teach a gentle class because I believe those classes are beneficial, especially for those who are just discovering yoga. However, it is unreasonable for one yoga teacher to proclaim that their yoga is the only right or safe type of yoga or to decide for other people that they have no business even rolling out the mat. That is an incorrect approach and it strikes me as being egotistical.

    • Scott Miller Post author

      Oh, and now, given the “Clipper” reference in the original post, we can refer to it as “the Clippery slope.” The Clippers beat the Lakers last night, but their best player got hurt, which is just like what would happen to the old Clippers, so being a new Clipper fan is still a Clippery slope. Hm. The joke kind of loses its power through so much explanation, but I’m not expecting there to be too many basketball fans checking out this blog.

  • Wen Wagner

    “The minds that were wrecked were already wrecked. I’ve seen yoga hold together some massively disturbed people until one day they were wrecked again…”

    True dat. And conversely, when we come to yoga feeling secure and then through the process of opening up, the ground gets a little shaky, we want to bail out. Back doors can take many different forms; ego always looks for a way out when threatened.

    Regarding the article by Black, it’s only news to those who thot that Yoga was like stretching in bed (as opposed to an actual physical activity).

    BTW, there’s a site for recovering yogis. They mostly seem to gripe about their disillusionment (which seems like good news in the battle against unconsciousness) with the yoga establishment, but I think the underlying text is that they are also grappling with their own failed expectations. Sounds like good progress to me!
    Like Trungpa Rinpoche said: “Chaos should be considered extremely good news.”
    See:
    http://recoveringyogi.com/about/

    • Scott Miller Post author

      In an email with Wen Wagner about the link she has poster here, she also made the following insightful point:

      We are the ones who set ourselves up for the disillusionment. Again and again we see what we want to see. In a way, it’s not completely honest to just blame the organization and the managers. The buyers and the sellers are intimately linked through an interaction of desire.

      This is something we really do need to look at. Desire causes suffering. As yogis, where does that recognition get applied in our practice? It’s not addressed outside of Buddhist prescriptions related within the yoga world. And we know it’s an issue. Lots of yogis have issues with what’s happened in the yoga world in respect to commerce. I read a New York Times Magazine follow-up article today (sent to me by someone who will hopefully link the whole article here at some point), and one of the authors turned out to be an old Ashtanga acquaintance of mine named Eddie Stern. We were in India studying withe Pattabhi Jois at the same time, and we had a punk band. We were so punk we didn’t have any songs. We didn’t even have any instruments. All we did was name ourselves over and over. My favorite name was “The Bad Siddhis.” Siddhis is pronounced Seedees. It means powers. So I was struck by what Eddie wrote:

      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.

      Then I came across this video below – I have no idea if anyone will think it is as awesome as I do – but this girl is killing it. I love how every once in a while she cracks just a little smile; punk rock, a little bit humorous, as it was meant to be. You know, if we didn’t take ourselves all too seriously, maybe we would cause a lot less harm – to ourselves, and to each other.

      I’m not going to link the video here. As I mentioned, the whole thing will be linked in this comment stream hopefully. All I want to do is make a point of recognizing Eddie’s conflict. Unfortunately, he holds to the party line in respect to “using (yoga) wisely.” He knows that conflicts with his punk outlook. Screw “wise.” We need punk. We need everyone singing like the girl in the video, not taking ourselves too seriously. In my opinion, that’s how we can recognize that desire is suffering without letting the seriousness of the recognition work too hard on us. We can be wise within our punkness and let everyone be in the band because we’re not too uptight about how the music sounds all the time. Sometimes, yes, but in general we can just jam together.

  • Mary Pat

    For an interesting rebuttal of the NYT article, see the link below about how the yoga community responded.
    Plus, I am sending an added link for a radio streaming that is another response from the yoga community that was posted on KQED radio.

    Article: http://www.yogadork.com/news/is-the-new-york-times-wrecking-yoga-the-community-responds/

    Radio: http://www.kqed.org/a/forum/R201201121000

    As with everything on this journey through life, our practice of yoga should evolve as we age. Keep practicing, listen to your inner teacher, and it’s all about the breathing isn’t it?
    Namaste, y’all, MPG

    • CK MacLeod Post author

      The first link offers a rather comprehensive and detailed set of responses, including the one that Scott excerpted at length above, but few seem to be addressing except indirectly the second of Black’s two main statements. The first is that “yoga can wreck your body,” an assertion that most critics at least take seriously, even if they differ about what it actually means. The second, as paraphrased by the NYT author, gets to a different issue:

      Black has come to believe that “the vast majority of people” should give up yoga altogether. It’s simply too likely to cause harm.

      Since the vast majority of all people don’t practice yoga, he would appear to be referring to the vast majority of current yoga practitioners, or yoga people. It’s hard to imagine what applying his “belief” would mean. The vast majority of yoga people should just stop going to classes, stop doing asanas or anything remotely resembling asanas, stop breathing deeply, stop doing anything else they ever learned in or around a yoga class? Or do the vast majority of yoga people need to go to new yoga or anti-yoga classes in order to learn or un-learn one or another set of practices or un-practices? But wouldn’t this de-yogaization process be essentially yogic – however implemented – whether as a sudden sharp shock or as a great gradual yogic decompression, a series of practices (or anti-practices) offered up for the good of all who undertook them?

      The confusion and absurdity actually originate, it seems to me, in an untenably narrow and objectified, commodified, definition of “yoga” – what yoga is or isn’t as someone might say – joined to unexplored, possibly unconscious motivations, possibly some unfortunate combination of despair and self-interest, possibly something else altogether. Whatever the explanation, even if you grant to Black and his interpreter the best possible motivations, what they offer is more like a cry of pain or a blind lashing out than a thoughtful response to what may or may not be a serious problem with the way yoga is understood and practiced today.

      As for the last, why would anyone expect anything else – that Yoga Inc, Yoga 2012, All New Improved Yoga Buy It Now While It’s Hot – wouldn’t be subject to the same kinds of problems, and second-order distortions and disfigurements, that commodified art, commodified athletics, commodified religion, commodified love, are subject to?

      When we speak about “yoga,” we speak as though about an object – same problem as when we speak or pretend to speak about “God,” “Love,” “Being,” and so on. The “yoga’ that Black, Broad, and all of us are talking about is not yoga, but one or another inherently inadequate image of yoga. In normal conversation and discussion, that’s not usually a problem (though even then it can lead to problems). But when you move on to the level of cautionary and alarming public statements, involving “broad” and “black” attacks on a large number of people, their beliefs, and livelihoods, then a very high level of care is called for.

      It’s especially ironic in this instance, since the basis of the criticism is that yogic practices undertaken with insufficient care and rigor are dangerous. The narrow understanding of yoga corresponds to Black and Broad’s failure to apply the same standards to themselves in making these utterances that, in short, merely purport to be “about yoga,” but perhaps must be taken as being mostly about something else, even if what you might call the “yogic dialectic,” or what the Devil just calls “tricky,” takes them back up into itself all over again.

  • Scott Miller Post author

    Yes, it is all about the breathing. That’s why we’re all already teachers. Yoga has taught us to breathe and our breathing teaches everyone around us about yoga through an invisible pleasuring.
    In the article you linked, my old Ashtanga acquaintance, Eddie Stern, refers to what’s happening now as McYoga. I think that’s where he has really found an unhappy conflict with Yoga’s evolutionary progression. Yoga has been evolving toward greater accessibility and inclusiveness from the start. It is now for everyone. It is now something that everyone can teach. Just because everyone–not just the wise and physically gifted–can now teach yoga doesn’t make it McYoga. I understand his feelings. I have felt the same way. But we have to get over it and let the process work. Yes, it’s painful. Yes, it’s chaotic. But it’s also “good news.” Eddie is a wise man. He is physically gifted. It’s time for the wise and gifted to get over it. A new day is dawning and not just the 1% will be teaching yoga.

  • Just Another Clever Monkey

    Friends…
    Let us bow our heads in Jalandhara Bandha:

    Please allow my Asana Practice to survive, for my attachment to it is great.
    Smite those who would cast aspersions or heap doubt upon it.

    When injuries come I will deal.
    May those that result from ignoring the warning signs in favor of some desire be an opportunity to accept and forgive myself.
    May those that I had no way of predicting remind me that I am not, after all, in control and that the ground under my feet will quivereth and shake.

    Blessed be my pains for lo, they shall help me to recognize these small things,
    and in a larger sense to accept my staggering insecurity and heathen godlessness.

    Amen