"How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body" is the name of article published on 5 Jan 2012 in The New York Times, which article was adapted from author William J. Board's new book "The Science of Yoga: The Risks and Rewards" to be published this month.
The potential danger of yoga, especially for the no-pain-no-gain aggressive type of instructors and students, is not something new to the city of Hong Kong, where we witnessed a surge of yoga-gyms (with some quick closures) in recent years together with occasional reporting of injuries due to yoga-asana exercises.
What is alarming in the article is that such injuries affect many experienced instructors too!
In addition to conditions caused by an aggressive attitude, it was argued that yoga might not be suitable for many people. The following is from the article:
"But a growing body of medical evidence supports Black’s contention that, for many people, a number of commonly taught yoga poses are inherently risky. The first reports of yoga injuries appeared decades ago, published in some of the world’s most respected journals — among them, Neurology, The British Medical Journal and The Journal of the American Medical Association. The problems ranged from relatively mild injuries to permanent disabilities. In one case, a male college student, after more than a year of doing yoga, decided to intensify his practice. He would sit upright on his heels in a kneeling position known as vajrasana for hours a day, chanting for world peace. Soon he was experiencing difficulty walking, running and climbing stairs."
The article also mentioned a yoga teacher Glenn Black who offers courses for bodywork or rehabilitation following (a student's) yoga injuries. It is interesting to note that Black stressed on the followings:
1. He emphasized "paying attention" to your body (i.e. mindfulness)
2. His approach was almost free-form: he made (his students) hold poses for a long time but taught no inversions (i.e. potentially dangerous postures) and few classical postures.
3. He urged (his students) to pay attention to the thresholds of pain. “I make it as hard as possible,” he told the group. “It’s up to you to make it easy on yourself.”
It seems that afterall yoga can be enjoyable if good advice as the above can be taken. By the way, all of the above are also important criterion for doing proper zhan zhuang correctly, or at least being the way I'm doing the stuff!