YOGA AND ITS DANGERS
by Dr. Lawrence Wilson
© January 2016, L.D. Wilson Consultants, Inc.
All information in this article is for educational purposes only. It is not for the diagnosis, treatment, prescription or cure of any disease or health condition.
Yoga, which means union, is a traditional Oriental system of development. It began thousands of years ago as a way to achieve superior health and mental development. However, modern-day yoga is hurting people more than it is helping them.
As a result, I cannot recommend yoga at all for those seeking to develop themselves, except perhaps the most gentle restorative exercises or postures.
Many people ask why I would make such a harsh and blanket statement. The answer is that yoga causes subtle changes in the body that stop development. They are:
1. Hatha yoga moves subtle energy or etheric energy upwards and to the sides. This always interferes with development, in particular, but also with one’s health.
2. Yoga reverses the direction of spin of the third energy center. This tends to make a person more rigid and more stubborn. These qualities are not desirable, especially for development.
3. Yoga with inversion of the body can damage the neck. This occurs more often than one might imagine. Please, if you must do yoga, do not do any inverted posture, including the shoulder stand.
4. Yoga can cause soft tissue damage. If one stretches too much or bounces during yoga, there is often some soft tissue injury. This occurs, in part, because few Western bodies are strong enough to handle the stress that yoga can put on the ligaments, tendons and joints. Please be extra careful with this if you must do a little yoga.
5. Yoga philosophy, often taught along with the postures, can emphasize vegetarian diets and the wrong meditation. Other aspects of yoga philosophy that were formerly good, but are not today, include recommending the use of a lot of herbs, essential oils, homeopathy and some other natural products.
The meditation problem is serious because we find that only the pushing down exercise causes development. All other meditative exercises may be relaxing, or may develop other aspects of the body, but they do not cause development.
The result is that those who do yoga are hardened by it and weakened by it, even though one may feel a lot better. One also becomes a little more angry and rigid in a way that harms later spiritual development.
You may not notice these problems, but they occur in all cases of people who do yoga on a regular basis, even just once a week. This is why I discourage yoga in all cases, along with most pilates and other yoga spin-offs. The spinoffs are less harmful, however, especially if they do not resemble yoga very much.
The only yoga I can recommend is extremely gentle restorative yoga, as this does not seem to cause damage.
I enjoy yoga, so this article is difficult to write. However, it is necessary because man of our clients like yoga, yet it gets in their way. Here are the problems with it.
PROBLEMS WITH MOST PRESENT-DAY YOGA INSTRUCTION AND CLASSES
1. Upward-moving energy. Yoga postures and instruction often includes moving energy and breathing in an upward or sideways direction, instead of only downward. This will stop development and interfere with one’s health, as well.
For example, breathing upwards from the earth into the head is absolutely harmful. Likewise, moving energy from your center out your arm or even to an outstretched leg is harmful.
To read more about the movement of subtle energy, please read Downward Moving Energy And Healing on this site.
One reason for this problem today is an unusual one: the intensity of the earth’s magnetic field has diminished over the past 1000 years. Formerly, natural earth forces moved the energy downward. Today, however, these forces are weak, so one must be more careful to send energy downward at all times.
2. Damage to the third physical energy center of the body. Yoga spins this center faster, but in an incorrect way. This causes a person to become more stubborn, more judgmental and often angrier.
It reduces one’s health, even though one may appear to feel better and stronger. It is an ego strength, not a true strength. It may be called a toxic yang condition. It affects women more than men, perhaps because women generally have a weaker third center than men.
3. Neck injury from inverted postures. Please, if you must do some yoga, do not invert. This means do not do head stands, hand stands, or shoulder stands at all. You can cause serious damage to the neck with these postures.
4. Soft tissue injuries. Most people, both students and yoga teachers, suffer soft tissue injuries during yoga classes due to the tightness of their tendons, ligaments, joints and other body structures. Most of the time, this damage goes unnoticed until later in life when it may be difficult to reverse.
5. Yoga philosophy. This is often mixed in with hatha yoga classes. It often advocates a vegetarian diet, Eastern religions, and wide use of herbs, essential oils and other healing methods that we find less successful and less healthful today.
These are the main problems with yoga today.
OTHER CAUTIONS WITH YOGA
These are less important, but important to know about.
1. Not enough focus on rest and relaxation. Too many classes stress how many poses one can do in an hour, and how many classes a week one can take. The worst is “power yoga”, and some pilates classes that are even more vigorous.
“Hot yoga” is also popular, and often a cause of injuries because people believe they are relaxed, so they go faster and bounce more deeply in the poses, which is not good.
The best yoga classes focus on relaxation and ease. This is what people need the most, and it is the safest. Only the very relaxing yoga class is safe at all.
2. Poor teacher training. A lot of yoga teachers are not that well-trained. It does not matter if they were trained in America, Europe or India. It takes years of practice and training to be a good teacher, and few are willing to do this. A few of the worst teacher-related problems are:
A. Not learning the poses correctly. It takes years of working on one pose to really do some of them right. This means that the students do not even have a chance of doing the poses correctly.
B. Not walking around and looking around during the entire class, checking to see if the students are doing the poses correctly. This is critical because not doing poses correctly can cause the most tissue damage. Really watching all the students is difficult, if not impossible, if the class is larger than about 10 students, as are many yoga classes.
C. Not asking enough questions of every student about their health, bone strength, back problems, medications, diet, supplements and more.
This is important because some students should be restricted in what they do so as not to stress their bodies. This applies to anyone over the age of about 50, but also to younger students who have health problems.
3. Social, sexual and other distractions in yoga classes. There can be peer pressure to do more poses, and to do them deeper than one can comfortably tolerate. Other distractions that endanger students include trying to impress a sexy teacher or other students, “bouncing” in poses, showing off, and feeling guilty for stopping when you feel pain.
These may seem like minor problems, but they are distractions that can lead to injuries.
4. The yoga ‘identity’. Another common problem is a tendency to view doing yoga as a “new identity”. This idea is heavily promoted, as though you are a better person because you do or know yoga. This is nothing less than a type of cult. A cult occurs when one loses individual reasoning and judgment, in favor of a new group identity.
Part of this cult-like quality seen in some yoga participants is to think of hatha yoga as a “spiritual path”. This is not the truth, no matter what anyone says. It is a set of exercises designed to change or alter the body in certain ways. Efforts to make more of yoga than it is lead to overdoing, wrong intent, and other problems.
Certain personality types are more prone to these problems. They include anyone who is a hard driving, focused and/or a competitive achiever. Yoga classes are full of these people, as they come to relax. However, they compete in this with their friends and others, and it tends to defeat the whole idea of relaxing and gently moving the body in new ways.
5. Yoga addiction. This may sound odd, but I have encountered it on a number of occasions. Just as exercise can be addictive, yoga can be, as well, for certain personality types.
The nature of the addiction is similar to exercise addiction. That is, a person finds that he or she must continue to do a lot of yoga, or vigorous yoga every day or two, or he or she begins to feel depressed, exhausted, or develops other symptoms such as weight gain or aches and pains.
Because yoga is thought to be so beneficial, the person does not realize that it has become an addiction. In fact, the person needs energy and yoga “revs them up” and gives a certain energy, and relieves unpleasant symptoms, as well, such as aches and pains, or depression feelings. Soon the person is lying to themselves and others that yoga is wonderful, when in fact it has just become a way to avoid depression, fatigue or other symptoms.
SPECIAL PROBLEMS OF CERTAIN KINDS OF YOGA PRACTICES
Bikkrum yoga causes more injuries than most others. The reasons for this are not always clear, but may include:
Š The hot room stimulates the body in some ways, even though it relaxes it in other ways.
Š One thinks one is more flexible and relaxed due to the warmth, when it is not the case in many instances.
Š The yoga routine is often fast and vigorous to encourage sweating. This is the most dangerous kind of yoga class.
Only if one is very careful with bikkrum yoga, can it be a more healthful type of yoga. All the rules above must be strictly observed, especially relaxing during class all the time, and stopping if one feels any pain or discomfort.
Other types of yoga that cause more injuries are any that move fast, try to fit in a lot of poses, or do not rest a lot between poses.
The only type of yoga classes I would recommend are those called restorative yoga. Even in these classes, one must be careful and one must work with an older, experienced teacher, if possible, who walks around the room often checking everyone, and who is not caught up with doing the class himself or herself.
IS YOGA NEEDED AND HELPFUL TODAY?
The simple answer is no. It is not helpful at all for the type of mental and spiritual development discussed on this website. If it were needed, we would incorporate it. In fact, it gets in the way in all cases.
For exercise, take walks or hikes, bicycle on safe streets away from traffic and pedestrians, or swim gently now and then in a clean lake, ocean, river or hot spring, but not a pool full of chlorine and other chemicals. Treadmills, gentle weights and other spa equipment is okay, as is playing tennis or other sports, provided you rest often and do not become exhausted or injured.
If you love going to exercise classes, find a very gentle restorative yoga class or simply an exercise class, perhaps designed for seniors so it is extra gentle. That is all that is needed.
Also, as one feels better due to a nutritional balancing program, be especially careful of the great temptation to return to doing yoga the old way.