Is there such a thing as too much yoga? I’m afraid so – just like there is such a thing as too much coffee, too many miles or even too much water! To quote The Lemonheads, “You can be too rich. And you can be too thin.” Thankfully yoga hadn’t quite hit the mainstream when Evan Dando penned those lines…
But we read about yoga A L O T. It’s in the press frequently, there are yoga conferences, yoga festivals, numerous yoga streaming websites, and yoga agencies for teachers – yes, you can have a yoga agent!
But what is too much yoga, and how can you pace your yoga interest & practice?
Yoga is often a physical, asana practice for most people at first, one that places a set of stressors and strains on the body, which have been designed to increase flexibility and mobility of the skeleton and organs as a whole. But yoga is also about pranayama – controlling the breath, and dharana – controlling the mind. So – therefore, if, through the practice of yoga we heighten our innate sense of how the body, breath and mind are feeling, reacting, and responding to ‘yoga’ – we should be able to quite quickly sense when something doesn’t feel ‘right’. But the problem is the ego sneaks in to disrupt things, and that’s when the problems start…
An article this week in the New York Times highlights the risks from too much yoga, particularly by women. William J Broad, author of ‘The Science of Yoga: The Risks and The Rewards’, discusses recent science that has shown how the natural mobility of a women’s hips, which leads to an ability to move into many yoga poses with ease, can lead to arthritis if yoga asana practice is continued in a strenuous fashion over a number of years. Interestingly, his attention was drawn to the subject by a yoga teacher in Hawaii, Michaelle Edwards from Kauai who has written a book about the need for women to take up more moderate yoga practices.
But yoga has a complex and intriguing history. It is often not what we think. The BBC recently posted a great video and piece about a new exhibition at the Smithsonian’s Sackler Gallery of Asian Art, which shows how yogis of one particular era would often turn to violence to defend certain rights they believed to have garnered. Shocking! Maybe they had been doing too much yoga?
So yoga can be what you make it. There is no need to feel any pressure to attend a certain style or number of classes. As with everything – check it out, find a yoga class that suits you! Luckily there are many different studios and yoga styles to choose from.
Personally, I’m trying to take William J Broad’s advice:
“Better to do yoga in moderation and listen carefully to your body. That temple, after all, is your best teacher.”
But to end, I’d like to turn again to Evan Dando’s lyrical genius, and the final verse from Take It With You:
“You can be too rich. And you can be too thin. And you can take it with you, the things that you learn.”
Here’s to learning and having great yoga experiences!