Last week I walked into a studio I hadn't been to in at least a month, and one of my favorite yoga teachers in Boulder greeted me with a happy: "It's so good to see you!"
"Yeah," I said, "it's been a while -- I had an injury."
Plenty of people around here end up testing the waters of yoga due to injuries from their favorite sports. I started practicing yoga regularly after realizing how much better my crooked back felt after my very first class; ever since, yoga has been my feel-good go-to as a beat up cyclist, runner, skier, climber and desk jockey.
But when I told this favorite teacher of mine that I'd been out with an injury, what I hesitated to say was that it was a yoga injury.
For a while there, with yoga's benefits in the spotlight, it seemed taboo to talk about it as something that could cause injuries. But word is squeaking out: At the end of last year, the New York Times ran an (oft-shared) op-ed about the dangers yoga can pose for strong, inflexible dudes. This spring, Yoga Journal ran an extended Q&A with several famous teachers discussing injuries.
After many tone-deaf years, it's like we're starting hear what my strict Iyengar yoga teacher of four years used to snap at us when we didn't follow her instructions: "Don't do that, you'll hurt yourself."
I need to hear it. Because here's what I worry: Those of us athletes using yoga to unwind our tight, tweaky bodies have turned yoga itself into a sport. That's fine -- until it's not.
But shhh, don't tell anyone that I'm sweating and muscling my way into forearm balances instead of finding a balance between effort and ease that allows me to write haiku with one hand while my feet hover where my head normally goes. Or that I recently curved my spine into a position that my tight quads couldn't allow, resulting in a mid-back crick that kept me doing extra-safe yoga at home, where I wouldn't be tempted to compete with my fellow yogis or take my I-can-do-it!-exclamation-point attitude too far.
Please don't tell my old Iyengar teacher about that. She knows I know better -- that it's not a competition, that effort is good but injury is possible, that touching the sole of my foot to the top of my head isn't the point.
But doesn't it look divine?
-- Jenn Fields, firstname.lastname@example.org