Yesterday morning as I walked to work I noticed that seemingly everyone else out on the streets was wearing some kind of yoga outfit and carrying a mat. Some staggered forward with a grim, zombie-like obsessiveness, others marched with intense and purposeful stride, but all were heading for the heart of downtown Columbus. Naturally, I had to follow to see what the heck was going on.
I learned that on Saturday morning the yoga practitioners among us have a little confab on the main lawn of the Columbus Commons to do their yoga thing. Actually, it’s not that little — I’d say there were more than 100 people there, stretching out, regulating their breathing and enhancing their innate flexibility, and getting ready to do the downward facing dog — and still more were arriving. It was a very pleasant setting for yoga, with the cool, grassy lawn for the most part covered in shade and the downtown skyscrapers towering in the background against the bright blue sky. You could see how it might help promote the inner calmness and serenity that yoga is supposed to bring about.
I walk past the Commons just about every day, and it’s become a real beehive of activity for the people who live in or near downtown. From Saturday morning yoga to carousel rides for kids to kickball games after work to nighttime concerts and other events, the Columbus Commons is making a great contribution to the downtown community. It’s a vast improvement over the City Center mall that used to occupy that space. No one, but no one, ever did yoga in the City Center mall.
Most of us tend to think of Yoga as a New Wave, gentle, and physically safe form of exercise. The New York Times magazine has an article that reminds us that isn’t always the case. In fact, yoga can cause serious injury.
The article notes that yoga has been associated with lower back, shoulder, knee, and neck injuries and even more serious problems such as stroke, ruptured Achilles tendons, and nerve and brain damage. It appears that many of the injuries come from overdoing it, by trying to achieve even more contorted positions, or holding poses for extreme lengths of time, or maintaining a neck-based position on a hardwood floor. Some of the more extreme forms of “yoga” that are offered these days — like the “hot yoga” classes that one of our good friends takes — are an example of how Americans often try to push the envelope with exercise regimens. Sometimes, unfortunately, we push through the envelope and cause serious injury and long-term physical damage.
The lessons of yoga injuries are especially pertinent now, with New Year’s Day just behind us and many of us having resolved to lose the weight we gained over the holidays and a bit more, besides. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but easy does it is a good rule of thumb — particularly for those of us who are older and have been desk-bound for years. Rather than trying to immediately run five miles, or to achieve yoga positions that master yogis can only dream of, why not focus instead on eating and drinking less, cutting back on fatty or calorie-laden foods, and lengthening that morning walk and adding a short evening walk, too?