This week’s blog entry was written by guest author Jenny Zenner. Jenny is a graduate of Whole Life Yoga’s teacher training program. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I recently spoke on KUOW’s The Conversation with Ross Reynolds sharing my yoga injury story during William Broad’s appearance for his new book The Science of Yoga. His book and recent article “How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body“ have sparked a lot of discourse within the yoga community. As a journalist who suffered a significant injury in yoga, he’s played the publicity game well, getting the attention of many to challenge certain practices while shedding light on the true benefits available through yoga.
As someone who was dropped on their head like a pogo stick in an advanced teacher training workshop, I hope that the ripple is wide, reaching a multitude of teachers and students to improve safety on the mat. My injury occured in spite of my training. I was at a studio where I was hoping to impress the owner by taking the advanced workshop to get added to the teaching schedule. Instead of engaging my own philosophy, I followed the instructions given, doing challenging backbends, doing an additional workout the morning of the second day to “warm up” and changing partners for each pose over the course of the two days. So it was under these conditons of being sore and fatigued, trying to impress and getting assisted by a complete stranger that I attempted a posture I’d never done before. The strong but slight woman was at least 15 years my senior. In retrospect, she had no hope of being able to successfully support me, and I had no business attempting the posture. Crumpled on the floor after getting released from the failed assist, tears welled in my eyes as I regrouped on my hands and knees, embarrassed and shocked. The owner stood by, recommended I work on getting my hips over my shoulders next time, and proceeded with the class.
Fortunately I only sprained my neck and got a concussion, as the next levels of spinal chord severity are paralysis and death. I’m a safer teacher as a result. I don’t teach risky postures to strangers in group classes. I didn’t have the courage to challenge the workshop teacher even though I was a certified instructor myself. I can only wonder how many other students are embarking on risky postures taught out of tradition and pride. Alas in a recent class at a studio I was visiting, I heard a man in his 50’s gushing about a training he’d done over the weekend where they’d done Crow to Handstand, the very act that led to my concussion and sprained cervical spine, an injury that impacts me to this day 4 1/2 years since it happened. Looking at him, I wondered under what circumstances he found the need to do such an acrobatic posture. Thus I am compelled to continue the conversation by inviting fellow teachers, trainees and students to explore with me the risks of postures like headstand, plow, locust and transitions to wheel.
Join Tracy Weber and me for Prose+Pose™ at 7pm on June 21st at 5focus to question, defend, and learn. Tracy is the founder of Whole Life Yoga in the viniyoga tradition, grounded in the philosophy of tailoring practices to individuals with safety at the forefront. She will discuss what led her to viniyoga and the foundations of her teacher training program. I will lead a discussion on the sections of William Broad’s book addressing risky postures and opportunities for more rigorous training of yoga teachers.
Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle!