I’m currently on a writing sabbatical, book writing, not blog writing. That means little-to-no time on social media, extended periods of time staring at my computer, a lot of typing, even more deleting, and few tantrums. But it has come to my attention, through an email from a friend, that a 3-year-old blog of mine has been circulating around social media. As a result, I’m taking a moment off book writing to write this blog, which is long overdue.
This blog started as a conversation between me and Charlie Reid. We were talking about how important it is for educators to say they were wrong. We spoke about how everyone who writes a blog should have at least one post saying they don’t know everything and that they have been wrong before. That is this post for me.
When I started my biomechanics blog, I was new to blogging, podcasts, and other online forms of education. I had also just finished grad school and was still developing my message and creating content that I thought would be useful for yoga teachers. At that time, I had a pretty strong bias toward yoga having the potential to cause injury. It was around the time of the William Broad book and my social media feeds were filled with all the things wrong with yoga. Plus, I had my own personal experiences with yoga and injuries.
You guys know it’s really easy to find research supporting your bias, right?
I mean, yoga is the cause of a whole variety of soft tissue injuries (including tendon and cartilage tears) [here] and spinal fractures in older women [here]. Never mind that these observational studies only look at imaging after the subjects reported a painful experience. It hurt after yoga, therefore, the injury must have happened in yoga.
But we know that tissue damage and pain are poorly correlated – we can experience pain when tissue is normal and healthy [here] just as we can find abnormal/injured tissue in asymptomatic individuals [here]. We even know that using less threatening language can improve optimism regarding imaging results [here].
Could it be possible that the subjects in the yoga injury studies above already had the injury and it became aggravated in yoga? We’ll never know because we don’t have imaging results prior to the complaint.
But I’m not writing this to discuss the complicated dilemma around injury, pain, and diagnosis – interesting as that topic is [here]. I’m writing this to share with you what happens when you challenge your own bias.
- What I used to think was dangerous, I now see as an opportunity to increase capacity.
- I used to see the body as fragile, now I see it as robust.
- I used to think I knew something, now I’m pretty sure I know nothing.
- I still think yoga can cause injury, just as every other sport or movement can, but I no longer push that agenda. Instead, I support exposure over avoiding, participating instead of worrying, and challenging without provoking.
- Instead of worrying about how yoga may be injurious, I celebrate how yoga may contribute to our resilience. Incidentally, isometrics are great for reducing painful symptoms [here] which is awesome because we already hold poses in yoga.
- I lay awake at night worrying about how I can make it up to those of you who studied with me 3 years ago when I was unfocused, overly enthusiastic, and full of assumptions.
- I wake up in the morning and remember that 3 years from now I will think what I’m teaching today is unfocused, overly enthusiastic, and full of assumptions.
- Every day I fight to overcome the sense of paralysis that comes with realizing how little I know and replace it with awe for how much there is to learn.
- I am keenly aware that as I evolve, I am developing a new bias, one that warrants the process of challenging my own work to begin again.
So what now? Should I take down all my old blogs since I’ve changed my position as I’ve continued to research, teach, write, and learn? Someday, after I turn in the manuscript for my book, I’ll go back and edit those old blogs. Until then, I’ll keep them because I actually think old blogs have value.
- I reference my own old posts when I’m teaching live courses to show that I’m as much a student as a teacher and I’m allowed to keep learning.
- Many of the posts still have really good information about compression, tension, shear that we don’t learn about in YTT.
- Blogs aren’t research (even if they cite research) but they can still be useful for improving visibility through those lenses tinted by 20 years of yoga instruction.
- Reading old material and comparing it to new material is a great exercise in critical thinking.
- I find that the more sensational and fear-mongering posts tend to go viral (even 3 years later), which is a great opportunity to question the integrity of the content.
In conclusion, I believe that we need more biomechanics education for yoga teachers. I think a lot of our alignment rules and safety tips are lacking biomechanical explanations, therefore, we learn what is right or wrong instead of how, when, and why something is useful or not. I am committed and passionate about providing this education to our yoga community and will continue to do so. I invite you to question what I teach, disagree with me, and provide me with evidence to the contrary. I only request from you to offer me the space to learn alongside you and the support to question my own work.
Extend Your Learning: Advanced Yoga Teacher Training with Jules Mitchell
This program is ideal if you have an interest in biomechanics, principles of exercise science, applications of pain science, neurophysiology, and stretching. These themes are combined with somatics, motor control theory, pose analysis and purpose, use of props for specific adaptations, pathology, restorative yoga, and intentional sequencing.
You will learn to read original research papers and analyze them for both their strengths and their biases. Critical thinking and intellectual discourse are central components in this training, which was designed to help teachers like you navigate through contradictory perspectives and empower you with education. Learn more >