Eddie Stern Blogs About the New York Times Article

Now THIS is more like an appropriate response to Broad’s New York Times article.  We agree with most of this and think this is the way to accurately structure arguments in order to maintain integrity. Now don’t get confused by our response from yesterday to our liking this article today.  This is the kind of intelligent debate that we want to see and think will benefit yoga.   But we were opposed to the irrational and emotional arguments that did not address those facts, but only defended the sanctity of yoga or the fear of it being demonized. The other issue here to be aware of is the disturbing amount of inexperienced yoga teachers relying on the superficial info they get in a 200 hour training to teach large classes.  We encourage teachers to continue their education, not just for the sake of their students, but for their own well being.

Well, we’re happy to see Eddie, an Ashtanga teacher in NYC, make such clear and well written arguments against much of the science used in the NY Time’s article. Of course, Kim and I still think that it is up to the reader to use discrimination whenever being presented with information.  But that being said, here are some of our favorite parts, but to read the entire thing click here:

Love this!
A more troublesome underlying cause that leads to injuries while doing yoga, I believe, is the value system that forms the basis of the yoga ‘industry’ in America, which is built largely on economic incentive…It has been reduced from a practice that traditionally demanded dedication, discipline, sacrifice, humility, surrender, love, devotion, and self-investigation – and yes, suffering through rigorous practice – to something that one can now learn to teach in a weekend. Or, more popularly, in a mere 200 hours you can become a bonafide, registered yoga instructor. 200 hours is spit. It is a joke. And it is a joke that is leading a tradition – one which, granted, has even in India been subject to ridicule – to an even greater harm.  We have an opportunity, in the West, to bring these transformative teachings to places where they will result in the greatest good. It is true that this is already happening – in schools, prisons, hospitals, with veterans, and as well with people who simply walk into a class off of the street – but it is also true that a rotten apple can spoil the barrel, and the yoga industry apple is a mighty big apple.

Good information about the neck and vertebrae.
Mr. Broad makes a glaring error in reporting the extent of side to side rotation in a normal cervical spine.  In stating range of motion for the neck, or cervical  spine, the author gives 75˚ extension, 40˚ flexion, 45˚ left lateral flexion (LLF), 45˚ right lateral flexion (RLF), and 50˚ in both right rotation and left rotation.  The normal range of motion for the cervical spine, according to most major references, including the AMA Guide to Impairment, is 70˚ ext, 50˚ flex, 45˚ LLF and RLF, and 80˚ L rotation and R rotation.  So the author is a bit generous in neck extension, a little short on normal flexion, correct in lateral flexion, but seriously erroneous in rotation.  

Since most of his arguments linking yoga to cerebrovascular incidents are based on an assumption of hyper rotation, he is seriously at odds with the medical literature.  For an “Intermediate student” to have  90˚ active rotation is only a small increase above normal, and no more than the passive rotation normally expected in a routine physical exam.

We’re not so sure we agree with this.
As far as shoulder stand, where the neck is truly hyperflexed, some sources indicate that motion of the chin to the sternum is, in fact, the maximum accepted ROM of 80-90 degrees.

Agreed that this is the max accepted ROM in passive flexion, BUT what about when you are bearing weight, as you clearly are in a shoulderstand? That is what we are not so sure about. We are not  against doing shoulderstand, but we generally teach it with a lot of blankets under the shoulders for support and students don’t stay in it for more than a couple of minutes, because we are not definite about the risks involved in holding this asana for long periods of time.