Is Yoga Bad For You? A story from a random gym encounter.
When I was on holiday in Gran Canaria I had a really strange encounter with a man in the gym Ross and me were going to for that week. We were at the end of our workout and I was assisting Ross in some stretches. This is something we do at home anyway so it wasn’t unusual for us to be doing this together. We were minding our own business when a man approached us and said
“You need to stop that or you’re going to break him!” Ross and me kinda laughed and I told the guy that he didn't have to worry as we were together and that I was a yoga teacher.
His response was a little surprising as he said “Oh that’s worse”. We were still side eyeing each other at this point and not sure what to make of this dude rocking up to us with his chat. I was a little surprised with his comments and he continued to say “Yoga is bad for you”. At this point I told him that I would respectfully disagree with him and that perhaps he should look into some modern yoga teachers offerings. But he continued, “No, I am a doctor and I’ve written a book all about it”. In hindsight I wish I’d asked what kind of dr he was or the name of his book, as obviously I tried to google him with some random keywords but no such luck. As a counter argument I said to him that doing any one thing would be bad for us, only running, only cycling, only lifting weights, only sitting eating kettle chips and watching telly, lol, but you get the idea. I did say to him that moving the body in lots of different ways is really positive to keep the muscles & bones healthy. But he wasn’t having it.
After this he started going off in a bit of a weirder tangent talking about yoga is bad for the back and then mentioning the Karma Sutra and how if you took the men out of the pictures in that text it would look like women doing yoga. At this point he’d lost us and we were just kinda looking awkward and walking away from him.
But it got me thinking, is this a narrative that some people believe, that yoga is bad for you? I’ve never thought that way or felt that in any of my trainings or teachings. I’ve always felt that yoga was really good for the body, mind and soul. I am assuming he was specifically talking about yoga asana (poses) and not the wider aspects of yoga like meditation, pranayama, and the deeper philosophical aspects of the yoga world. And I’ve only ever had positive conversations about how a yoga practice has helped people. It has certainly helped me manage anxiety, build my confidence, find a really good relationship with my body, bring me a feeling of being humble with those things I find tricky, helped me find my purpose in life, broadened my knowledge and understanding of the human body, helped me build connections and friendships, it has inspired me, motivated me and challenged me all simultaneously, which (I feel) are all positive things.
I guess I can see from one angle that doing certain things might be bad for your body so for example doing a headstand if you’ve got neck injury would not be sensible at all, or standing on one leg with a sprained ankle would also aggravate that, but it general I am struggling to see how the yoga poses would be bad for anyone, let alone the breathing techniques or meditation. Perhaps he’s had a really negative experience somewhere along the line and that’s why he feels that way.
I enjoy many types of movement over my adult years to help me look after my body and yoga has been a constant for most of that time. Lately a meditation practice has really become useful for me and I feel great from moving my body or from quieting my mind.
In short I disagree with him, doing yoga is good for you from my experience and from chatting to those who come to my classes. If it’s not something you enjoy or feel benefit from then that’s fine too, there is space for all movement forms in this world. At the end of the day we have to do what feels best for our body, listening and being our own teacher. Finding what feels good is what it’s all about.
**Ironically, I did see the same guy on our last day in the gym and can you guess what he was doing…. A handstand, a scorpion handstand.I’m just gonna leave that there**