One of the first principles of teaching anatomically sound asana is this:
Any yoga pose can harm; Any yoga pose can heal.
For example, Tadasana (Mountain Pose) can reinforce poor postural habits, or it can build strength. Headstand is likely to cause excess pressure on cervical vertebrae, but may also be a skillful way to develop core stability and a revolutionary to one’s sense of internal mastery or confidence.
Every single human being arrives to the mat with a different genetic and life imprint in our physical selves. Yoga teachers don’t know the full “stories” of their students bodies.
The “Any yoga pose can harm” statement may sound a lot like bubble-bursting. Scientifically speaking, it is not. As anatomy-informed instructors we simply must be able to hold these two truths at once.
In the context of a reality in which running may cause wear and tear on your knees or — as other studies show — may reinforce the health of your cartilage, we must acknowledge nuance.
Taking more and more poses off the table only narrows our spectrum of movement possibility.
When we are be willing to inquire deeply about how we practice, we learn, we grow.
When we decide that a pose is universally “good” or “bad” for all, or even “good / bad” for a certain condition, we miss out on the real truth.
The poses are neutral, our bodies are not.
Want to dive deep?
We run a 12-week Online Yoga Anatomy Mentorship that explores the nuance of what it means to practice and teach healthy yoga asana. Run by Dr. Ariele Foster, physical therapist and yoga teacher since 2001. Enrollment opens only twice a year.
Do you have a wacky story about injury in a Tadasana? Or how a pretzel-y “advanced” asana changed your life? We want to know in the comments below.
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