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Paul LaRosa Headshot

Is Yoga Dangerous? Absolutely Not!

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The New York Times magazine recently ran a story headlined: "How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body." It was one of those articles that takes the contrarian viewpoint, seemingly just to be provocative. And in that way, it succeeds. It's also one of those articles that allows the yoga haters -- you know who you are -- to come out of the closet with chants of "I told you so..." Well, enjoy but I'm afraid you're wrong.

In case you haven't read the article (and I hope you don't), the point is that yoga is not the cure-all that's been advertised and that you can actually -- gasp! -- get injured in yoga. What's truly infuriating about the piece are the photos of wacky, ill-dressed actors doing their level best to make fun of asanas or yoga poses. (Note to self: don't go to Godspell, which features these actors.)

As someone who practices yoga (when healthy) four times a week, I find the photos insulting and the article misguided. Yes, you can get injured doing yoga just like you can get injured in any form of exercise.

Right now, I am not practicing yoga because I am injured -- from jogging! I only wish I had stuck to yoga.

I will grant you that the article makes a good point when it notes that there are all kinds of yoga classes out there and some are not very good. In that, the writer is correct. I've found some studios and teachers to be poor examples of what yoga can and should be. I think the worst classes are those that tip too far over into just pure exercise and abandon the principles of yoga which, by the way, are intended to link movement and breathing. Anything less than that is calisthenics.

Yoga, to me, is about getting out of your head a bit and entering a different state of mind. That's why I stopped going to one studio (where I had a pass for unlimited yoga for a month for $20) when, at the first class I took, every student was looking at his or her Blackberry, iPhone or iPad. That's no way to prepare for a yoga class, my busy, anxious friends.

But if you go to a great yoga class (and there are great teachers out there like Tara Stiles at Stralayoga in Manhattan or Sarah Lewis at Jaya Yoga Center in Brooklyn), you'll get a great workout and feel relaxed at the end of class. You'll flat out feel better and, when that happens, there's no exercise in the world quite like it.

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