You may have seen an article on the BBC News Website this week, Yoga teachers ‘risking serious hip problems’.
I was sent the article by a yoga teacher friend and read it with interest. Yoga teaching does mean that our bodies may be subject to more movement than those with a desk-based job, but should we be worried?
There were several points that concerned me in the article, as they may be misleading and I feel need clarification.
In the article, Mr Matthews, a physiotherapist, explains how yoga teacher hip injuries arise, “the problem lies in people repeatedly pushing their bodies into ‘prescribed’ positions, when their physiology prevents it”.
While there are some styles of yoga that have very rigid alignment guidance, not all styles follow these strict rules. I teach and practice Hatha yoga, which has traditional roots, but allows for poses to be adapted for the differences in people’s bodies. This is something that I am increasingly bringing to classes and also sharing on the Yoga Teacher Training that I tutor on. If something feels bad, your body is telling you to stop doing it, so stop!
An example of this is Warrior II pose (Virabhadrasana II), where some schools would teach alignment of hips as being ‘squared to the long side of the mat’, the best way to find where the hips should be for you, is to let them angle where they want to be. This is a more comfortable and personalised version of the pose for each individual student.
The article also contained the quote from a yoga teacher, Natalie Gartshore, "I don't think you're told very much when you're training as a teacher about physiology or anatomy".
While it is true that not all Yoga Teacher Training courses require this, those certified by Yoga Alliance (YA) or British Wheel of Yoga (BWY) include large amounts of anatomy and physiology. It is noted in the article that this is the case for BWY.
Personally, I was required to do at least 30 hours of physiology training before I even started my 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training (YTT200). This is the case for the YTT200 I teach on for Camyoga, which is also where I trained. My 500 hour Yoga Teacher Training has required even more anatomy study and modifying poses is a large part of both Yoga Alliance certified courses.
Those looking for a yoga teacher, or a training course to become a teacher, should be mindful that not all yoga teaching qualifications are created equal. Look for a teacher or qualification certified by Yoga Alliance or British Wheel of Yoga, as it is possible to buy an online 20 hour course and call yourself a yoga teacher!
A fellow yoga teacher also pointed out that if anyone were to repeat a motion over and over, joint problems could occur – golf, dance, tennis. Tennis and hip problems are widely documented, as Andy Murray found. However, I do happen to know the yoga teacher who has helped him recover from his hip surgery.
We need to remember to listen to our bodies when we practice. There is no such thing as an 'Instagram perfect' pose. Adopt an attitude of Ahimsa, Sanskrit for ‘non-violence’, towards ourselves in our yoga to make it our personal practice. This means that we will be practicing yoga on the outside and inside.