Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Dangerous Yoga

There's an alarming trend I've noticed on Instagram : Fucking Insane Yoga Poses. These poses are often featured on the accounts with thousands of followers, maybe from instructors, sometimes on a lovely beach somewhere, often with instructions on how to achieve them. They are ridiculous, completely advanced, and not even remotely necessary.


I have a huge problem with most of these poses, because they come from accounts fucking full of these poses. Most of these accounts are from advanced yoga practioners, who often host challenges that involve the most advanced levels of any give pose, and they never post modifications. Sometimes, they write about modifications, but if any of these accounts ever posted tree pose with their foot comfortably at the floor, I would die...probably they would too.


Many moons ago, the New York Times published a long article about the dangers of yoga. I wish it had been written now, with Instagram in mind. There was backlash to that post, because it definitely illustrates a small population of yogis...or hobby yoga practioners, sitting in chairs all day before heading into a class a few times a week to try whatever the instructor throws at them. But the article makes a good can become a race to the biggest, baddest pose, and I think these Instagram accounts are showing that. The original article was so controversial that the Huffington post, published a a response to dangerous yoga that I think really highlights just what beginners should focus on; the basics!


However, Instagram continues to grow in popularity, featuring athletes of all shapes and sizes, and no one is really safe from the dangerous yoga poses. These photos are posted like anything else on Instagram; with minimal back story or information. The subject in question might make an off-hand comment about how the pose in question took them a year. Oftentimes, this comment is followed by something like, "just work at it." But the subjects ignore their own extreme flexibility. I see hyper-extended joints all the time, especially in back bends. They ignore that the poses aren't necessary...not just for beginners but also for the advanced. The truth is, headstands, shoulderstands, and many complicated inversions aren't necessary for any person to achieve, ever. Just like it's completely unnecessary to straighten your legs in downward dog, it's never necessary to achieve any of the poses in this post.


Unfortunately, these Instagram accounts are all about followers. Runners Love Yoga won't sell as many DVDs if she has fewer followers and those amazingly photographic poses like Firefly are going to help her gain those followers. That's the problem with yoga on Instagram, it's all about poses to prove you're awesome and showing off to gain followers with absolutely no repercussions.


After all, these yogis don't see when your knee is over your foot in Warrior and they don't know that you just had a baby or are coming off of a six-month hiatus in running due to a hip injury. Even if they wanted to address modifications in the pose, they couldn't possibly cover every single person of the thousands who are viewing their images. They could, however, show more basic poses instead of the most complicated variations of every pose. It's a beautiful but dangerous ideal perpetuated on Instagram and it bums me out. I wish we were less obsessed with the glamorous and were more interested in moderation and education.


  1. First off, Glenn Black sounds like an awesome dude.

    This is really great information. I get the idea if you listen to your body and don't push yourself to discomfort that you'll be okay.

    Some of those poses look really pretty to photograph, and maybe they're even fun on some level. I wish these Instagram instructors would mention SOMETHING about injury, or avoidance of it. I also would have thought that was included in training, knowing the muscles, tendons, bones the pose effects.

    Thanks for this! Will be sharing!

    1. Actually, you make an excellent point worthy of another blog post...things to know about your yoga teacher. I've done a lot of research into the process of becoming a yoga teacher (and be working on certification if I had the funds), and I was somewhat surprised by what I learned.