So I was lamenting with some colleagues about how I am feeling conflicted about teaching and writing at this time. Don’t we have more pressing concerns than a nagging, albeit tolerable, pain below the butt during yoga class? I mean really, let’s get some perspective here.
But then I was served perspective by my friend and colleague Catherine Cowey. She reminded me that our work is also about scientific literacy and critical thinking skills. And that by questioning things we’ve been taught about asana on our mats, examining the available evidence, and then choosing the best course of action, we learn to evaluate what we see, what we read, and what we hear.
Stretching. That one simple word is anything but simple. It’s a linguistic divide among the yoga community. On one side we have the “yoga is not stretching” camp and on the other side we go to public yoga classes, and we do what seems to be stretching. In fact, just yesterday I took a class where we did some “hamstring stretching,” a few “neck stretches” and a “shoulder stretch.” (Quotations are the teacher’s words, not mine.)
Regardless of which side you are one, I believe the conversation around stretching is useful. For us to agree on whether or not yoga has anything to do with stretching, we must first agree on the definitions of the words we are using.
This blog is sort of like a podcast, only you have to read it. It’s basically a conversation between me and my friend/colleague, Charlie Reid, about yoga and resistance stretching. We email often, so this is a glimpse into one of our email threads, just formatted to read more like a blog. Oh, and the cat photos have been removed and replaced with content related images.
I am not sure how or why this division came about, but whether or not to bend the knees during a hamstring stretch is a fiercely contested topic in the yoga community. Perhaps it is because injury at the proximal tendon (yellow part of photo below) is quite common among yoga teachers and students. When I lead biomechanics workshops for yoga teachers, I often ask who in the room has experienced, or knows someone who has experienced, proximal hamstring tendon injuries. The show of hands is staggering.