Women’s Flexibility A Liability (In Yoga) ???

December 15, 2013
Women’s Flexibility A Liability (In Yoga) ???

What are women experiencing in yoga?

I have had a fair share of requests/queries regarding the recently published article by William J. Broad in the New York Times. The article was titled Women’s Flexibility Is a Liability (in Yoga). Once again, he has provoked a strong response from many in the yoga community.

I can appreciate that in the first paragraph, Broad describes the many benefits that he has experienced and witnessed from yoga. This is a departure from the last article which almost caused a riot. After his last article, I did buy and read his book, The Science of Yoga. I actually recommend that all of you read it as it has some really good information in it backed by very good research.

The questions we ask, matter

Having said that, I also don’t agree with a certain point of view that Broad seems to take with his work. It always seems to have this element of “the sky is falling!” Perhaps this is a result of editing in today’s information-overloaded world and the need to get some eyes on your articles. I honestly don’t know. For instance, when Broad states “hundreds of women who did yoga were showing up in their offices with unbearable pain and undergoing costly operations…,” did anyone think to ask if they happened to do any other activities? Were they exclusively yoga practitioners? Just for a start. Is it possible that, with their genetic makeup,  any activity they did, say, run for 10 years would or would not end up resulting in them having a similar problem?

For me, these are all logical questions to ask and inquire about. I am not sure why these questions are not being asked.  These questions were also not asked in his last article. There was no relativeness between yoga injury and injury from other activities that are popular.

I pointed this out in my response to that article by quickly googling and finding stats for injuries of the most common physical activities that people partake in. By leaving out these questions, relative facts, and figures, we all just get upset and essentially want to ignore what Broad is (I think) trying to say.

I think he is trying to point out to all of us that yoga is not all rainbows and lollipops. As great as yoga is for us and as positive as the results are that we do receive from doing the physical part of the practice, we also need to be mindful that there is a potential for injury. I think most of us know that already. After all, it is a physical activity.

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The hips specifically

On the hips specifically: I have personally met people who practice yoga who have needed hip replacements. This goes beyond any one style of yoga. What usually comes to light in those cases is that there is an underlying misshapen form or angle in the joint itself. That particular shape would more naturally lead to wear and tear on the joint surfaces.

The sensations that should be a warning to you are:

  • Pain deep in the socket.
  • Regular clicking sounds.
  • Specific positions that feel like something is pinching or stuck.

The hip has its own additional piece of cartilage in the socket called the labrum. It’s similar to the meniscus in the knee. It can tear and lead to inflammation and long-term arthritis.

Pain and sensation in yoga

Even more important is how we choose to deal with pain and injury as yogis. Quoted in the article is Dr. Hyman from Atlanta who apparently sees as many as 10 patients a month coming in and experiencing “serious hip pain”. He goes on to say that people who are “doing things like yoga and have pain in the hips, they shouldn’t blow it off.”

I wonder if people are experiencing problems that are already there or if it is being created by the yoga? Is it even possible that doing yoga puts people in touch with an underlying problem? What do you think After all, doing an asana practice definitely puts us closer in touch with the feelings and sensations in our bodies.

I commonly interact with people at two places in their practice. One is when they can’t do something they want to do and they want to know why or how. The second is when they have an existing injury or they have recently injured themselves. This is where people want to know what’s going on and this is a good thing.


I have to agree with both of these guys. We shouldn’t blow off pain. At the very least we should be asking what we are doing that is causing it. After all, pain is the body’s way of asking you to PAY ATTENTION to something or some area of your body. Yes, sometimes it can be the yoga! More importantly, we should ask ourselves how we’re going to approach things differently so that we don’t make them worse. We should be using our own meta-cognition and intuition in these moments.

Please, pay attention to what’s going on. Yoga is not a magic pill that cures everything.

What did you think of the latest William Broad article? Did it make you want to pay attention or ignore it?

Comment below!