http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/08/magazine/how-yoga-can-wreck-your-body.html?pagewanted=all. This (if that link works). "Yoga can Wreck your Body."
Real quickly, and primarily because there is a lot of Facebook babble on my feed about this piece.
Many yoga teachers have reposted this on FB, sure. Many students have replied with comments that fall into two broad stripes:
a) "thank you for teaching alignment, so many teachers don't!"
b) "thank you for focusing on the spiritual aspect rather than just asana!"
Now, the stereotype of ashtanga vinyasa (and other hard vinyasa practices) in the West is that alignment is overlooked and the "perfect pose" is preferred at any cost. Old ashtangis like Freeman and Doane are cited for their "interest in Iyengar yoga" as if ashtanga vinyasa is always taught without any regard for alignment AND as if Iyengar yoga is taught with safety while ashtanga vinyasa is not.
I'm told, by an Iyengar practitioner, that you hold postures for a long time. That can be as unsafe as rushing headlong from pose to pose. It's the Iyengar folks, remember, who like the long shoulderstand and headstand (and yes, I'm aware that SKPJ once said that you don't get benefits from headstand until you hold it for several minutes).
And this isn't about bashing "your yoga" or "my yoga" but about undoing stereotypes, which, as always, any journalism about American yoga tends to rely on.
What I do like about that article is this:
a) The line about "American yoga popularity is producing an abundance of yoga studios which have teachers who lack deep training." YES.
b) "People are rushing in, listening to the ego." YES.
The piece comes across, particularly in its title, as saying yoga is harmful, and only in those two sentences does it say, essentially, something much more accurate, which is that uninformed practice, egoistic practice, ignorant practice, and better, uninformed, egoistic, ignorant TEACHING, is harmful.
It's not the yoga, it's the idiocy.
And then the corollary is this likewise foolish binary that sets off "the spiritual aspects" and "careful alignment" from asana practice, as if all asana practice is both unspiritual and lacking in alignment, which I daresay is YET ANOTHER product of exactly the same American yoga that produces the criticism of these very qualities.
So American yoga journalism produces with both hands: from one hand you get "yoga heals whatever" (see any Yoga Journal cover for the healing-du-jour) and from the other hand you get "be careful, your yoga needs to be aligned and spiritual" (and again, see any Yoga Journal cover for the meditation-du-jour).
Have we no awareness of the eight-limbed approach?
Have we no knowledge, no (as I have harshly said before) DEPTH of the practice?
See we no links between movement and BREATHING?
See we no links between injuries and a "this sequence is really cool, I learned it from a magazine" approach?
Freeman said, this body is the piece of the cosmos through which we can learn anything.
Pattabhi Jois slaps a wall, THIS is God!
It should be obvious that just doing poses is like just doing any other exercise unprogrammatically. You'll probably get imbalance even if you do lose weight or whatever your big surface goal is.
But it should also be obvious that asana is a PROGRAM, and that's what American yoga journalism too often misses, and in fact much American YOGA (I would argue) also misses this point.
Safe and aligned yoga can still be nothing but exercise. "Spiritual" yoga can be nothing but seated "looking pretty" (as Sharath put it in conference on New Year's Day, a nugget I took from Kino's post about said conference).
I think that a truer blend of the spiritual and the asana is found in focused, aware movement. "You can do child's pose all day if that's your thing" says one FB comment. Physically, that's true, you CAN, but are you doing THE YOGA? And you'll reply, "Well 72 postures in 90 minutes isn't necessarily THE YOGA". Absolutely true. It is not WHAT is done, it is HOW is done.
This is why alignment/safety and spiritual/calm are not the answers. Those are WHAT answers, they say nothing about HOW the yoga is done, and this does not mean "HOW the posture is done," it means how THE YOGA is done, with what mind, with what breathing, with what presence that could be called spiritual?
The article's long discussion of how shoulderstand/headstand are harmful are WHAT discussions, asana discussions, "yer doing it wrong" as internet-ese would have it.
Doing THE YOGA, if we make it purely about asana, is about finding the point of FOCUS, not the point of pose perfection. THIS is what a skilled teacher should teach (and I've tried, and it's not easy).
Get in the zone and learn the ways that the Borders of the Zone flux and change.
From that, you modify the postures on a given day, or time of day.
This makes asana part of your life, and separation begins to blur.
This is how you learn what suits on a given day and what does not.
This is why a standard, repeated practice is useful.
And so on.