Daily Archives: August 8, 2009

Yoga Ouch! Whose fault is it?

posted by ebean

Sarah Miller of Elephant Journal recently began the discussion about “whose fault is it?” when a student is injured in a yoga class.  A reader comments:

“I was injured after a well-meaning teacher decided to push my sacrum when I was in downward dog – took me three painful weeks to recover – my advice to any teacher is to always ask before touching or physically correcting and to always request students to listen to their bodies and to create space within themselves, especially when pushing the envelope.”

The Elephantbeans response:

It is impossible to avoid injury because guess what?  We are mortal.  We can break, tear, bleed, fall, die, etc.   Miraculously, we get up everyday and face a scary world that could mortally wound us at any given second.  Nothing is truly safe.  Reading a book?  You could get a paper cut that gets infected and then you die.  Eating a peanut butter sandwich?  You could get e. coli poisoning and die.  You get the picture.  We manage to forget the danger in the world around us as we unconsciously navigate day to day situations.  However, instead of hiding under our beds (that might crush us!), over time we realize that certain actions minimize injury and that the risk of injury in most things is not as prominent as the benefit of the thing.

So when it comes to yoga, as in everything else, there is a bit of risk.  As with any situation, first you must decide if the risk of injury is worth doing the action.  If it is, then you must minimize the risk involved.

1.  It is the student’s responsibility to do the research and find a teacher that really knows what they are doing in general and with your body in particular.
-Speak to the teacher before every class about any injuries or bodily concerns.
-Commit to one or two teachers.  They will know your body and how to handle it.  A huge part of being in a yoga class is being able to let go and trust.  Doing the research and committing to those individuals will allow you to be present in class rather than in fear of injury.

2. It is the teacher’s responsibility to pursue ongoing training to ensure that they will have the smallest possible chance of hurting someone.
-Figure out what you are teaching.
-Be honest with yourself about your motivations.
-Know your limitations.

3.  A teacher asking students each time before making physical adjustments is silly.  While this request makes sense out of context, in the classroom it is not practical for the following reasons:
-It disturbs other students.
-It disturbs the flow of the class.
-It assumes that the student actually has a command of human anatomy and the teaching of yoga.

We are human and accidents happen.  This is just the risk you take.