Has the recent New York Times article about “How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body” created a lot of controversy in the yoga world? Yes. Are we still talking about it, despite the fact that it turned our Kombucha-filled stomachs? Yes. This isn’t the first time the ancient practice has come under fire and scrutiny, nor the first time we’ve all debated the “correct” way to practice. So to find out why William J. Broad‘s screed against yoga has caused so much controversy, we talked to Tara Stiles–named the “yoga rebel” by the New York Times just last year.
Here’s what she has to say about how not to wreck your body on the yoga mat:
What was your opinion of the New York Times article about how “Yoga Can Wreck Your Body?”
I had a New York Times piece done on me last year, and it opened up a lot of things for me, so my first reaction to this article was, ‘What a great PR piece for you.’ Although, it wasn’t such a good idea for the overall voice of yoga. It just scares more people away from yoga, and convinces them that they’re going to kill themselves. Of course people get injured in yoga classes, but I think the problem is not paying attention and not moving slowly enough–not the practice itself. Injury happens when you approach it from the outside (teachers pushing you, egos, trying to force yourself into a pose), which is not really yoga. When you move from the inside out, you’re not going to get hurt.
Are you referring to power yoga when you say that teachers sometimes push and force us?
I’m not referring to one type or another, but this does comes from the teacher. There is this kind of broad sensibility in yoga that you’re supposed to look like a certain person in a pose. But when you come from the inside out, there is a great sense of energy and sustainability. In other words, you are what you practice. If you practice frustration and pushing yourself into a pose, you’re never going to be satisfied and get where you’re going.
Is there a lot of ego in yoga?
Oh yeah, I think that’s why the writer in the NY Times sought me out last year to do a piece on this. After that piece, I felt a lot of angry eyeballs on me because every other teachers wanted attention too. A lot of people came to me and said they wanted to be a celebrity yoga teacher too. When that happens, I always tell people you have to provide something useful first, not just try to seek out stories to draw attention to yourself. That’s coming from the outside in. Instead, I tell people if they want to be in the public eye, they have to stand in the middle of the circle and provide something useful. That’s coming from the inside out.