I personally do not think the conclusion of this study is accurate. The poster child for pioneer yoga teachers in North America, Diane Bruni, and many other teachers and practitioners have been injured when much younger in their practice. Their injuries and challenges motivated their deep commitment to start a yoga revolution to improve the practice of modern yoga as it is still developing. The current flaws are nobody’s fault. Among other things, they are part of the evolution of an eastern practice in a western world.
Injuries don t always make it to the emergency room and older yogis are more likely to report to the emergency room than younger folks who may feel invincible and trust their injuries will heal quickly. Also, I personally know loads of young teachers and practitioners who would not last without serious injury if they were not going to their chiropractor and massage therapist periodically. Lastly, yoga injuries do not always manifest while on the mat. When the body is not used in line with its whole-body intelligence, it promotes excess tension and injuries can happen anytime, anywhere!
In fact, yoga injuries are often caused by misuse of our body off the mat as seen in the pictures below. As a yogi, you may think that you can fix your “Daily Body” by engaging with your “Yoga Body” on the mat. The truth is that you only have one body and it is crucial to learn how to better handle your body in daily activities if you do not want to promote excess tension and injury down the road. Ignoring slouching in daily life hurts your yoga practice. And tensing your back to sit or stand straight on or off the mat contributes to your irresistible need to slouch. Just know that there is a more organic way to do this as you well did when you were children. And the ability to do so is still in you, available 24/7. You simply need to learn how to activate it!
In the meantime, let’s not close our eyes to the danger still present in the way many practice yoga today. Yoga is not the problem of course, how it has been taught since the 19th century and how we use our body practicing yoga is. How we bring harmful habits from daily life to the mat is. How our physical sensations rule our practice is as well given that yoga warns us to not trust sensations alone. Besides, it is not because we can do something to an extreme that it is good for all our body parts.
We need to develop discrimination! And with it, yoga injuries can decline steadily!
We must face the underlying roots of these injuries so yogis can practice yoga the wise way (regardless of their body type, age, fitness level or yoga style), and keep injuries at bay.
It is a given that younger people bodies are more resilient and can handle more misuse. But is that a reason to assume their practice is flawless and safe?
Studies are helpful up to a certain point. Yet studies proving opposite points can easily be found if we look carefully. So we must use our spirit of discrimination when we read the conclusion of studies. We must learn to connect with our whole-body intelligence in a way so it can be activated on demand and offer guidance for what is right for us, individually, in each moment. And questioning outside information no matter where it comes from is part of yoga!
Cecile Raynor has been teaching the Alexander Technique for over 25 years out of which came her Body Intelligence Activation Process™ (B.I.A. Process) to assist yogis in enhancing their practice towards best performance with optimal safety. She is also a Thai Yoga Massage Therapist and a Reiki Practitioner. Faculty at Akasha Yoga Teacher Training, she runs a 12 months Mastermind for Yoga Teachers with a Vision, and a 90 Day Live Online Program for trainees, new teachers and committed yoga practitioners interested in using their body more efficiently on and off the mat in a way not taught in regular training courses. She is also the author of a June 2018 publication called THE WISE WAY TO YOGA which is available on Amazon or from Cecile if you are local to Boston!