I was looking at some yoga blogs online and I came across one titled “Yoga Poses to Help Sciatica”. I thought it sounded compelling so I followed the links to the article. In a number of teacher training workshops I’ve attended I learned of a particular pose that that was supposed to help sciatica. I think it was even mentioned in a medical journal and I was excited to learn more. This blog post however was disappointing to me for several reasons.
- It listed a number of poses that I would teach in any given yoga class to anyone regardless of their physical challenges. (so what?)
- It didn’t address what it was about each of these poses that was specifically regarded as special for someone experiencing sciatica. (why not another pose?)
- The article claimed to be “yoga therapy” but wasnot written by a yoga therapist. (personal opinion)
So many online yoga articles claim to heal or improve a wide variety of conditions or health concerns but the real issue is that yoga is for everyone. When you go to a yoga class maybe your intention for going is to find freedom from back pain, or strengthen your upper body, or release stress or find peace of mind or to get a good workout. All of these intentions can exist in the same yoga class by different people and yet, they are all doing the same yoga asanas.
Yoga is therapeutic in its own nature. Certainly there are different sequences or poses that are better suited to different physical challenges but we can educate ourselves to become aware, and be mindful of the over stimulation and mis-information that is out there. In some ways the marketing of yoga has created consumers of entitlement when it comes to shopping for yoga.
As prospective yoga students, we hear and see the “miracles” of yoga for weight loss and meditation for “enlightenment” and expect to see results overnight. What we forget is how long it took us to get to where we are currently. I have seen this in students of yoga. Looking at the reasons why we might be in poor health or in pain may be traced back over years and even decades of lifestyle choices that impact us not just physically, but emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. It takes a long time to undo this and it takes a lot of hard work and effort.
Not everyone comes to yoga because of health reasons but we all have some kind of obstacle in our lives that we would like to overcome. We all want to feel good; we all want to be happy; we all want to love and be loved.
As an elementary school teacher, I taught my students to think critically about what they read in the news, what they saw on TV or online. As adults we still need to think critically about how we consume information and make choices.
- Don’t be afraid to ask your yoga teacher questions.
- Try out different teachers and different styles of yoga.
- Cross-reference what you read.
- Get a second opinion.
- Talk to another health care provider, a doctor, osteopath, chiropractor or physiotherapist.
- Listen to your heart about what feels right for you.
- Find a teacher you trust and build a relationship with them.
Yoga is more often than not offered as a service. As consumers of that service, we need to be vigilant about what we consume and how we consume it. Marketing and advertising campaigns are quick to isolate any “need” in order to sell their product or service. In the case of sciatica, for example, could a person with sciatica only benefit from these specific poses or could they still get better from attending any type of yoga class? Do these poses only help people with sciatica or are they healthy for pregnant women, people with limited mobility, or people who are stressed out? Why make the claim for sciatica? Why not say that everyone can benefit from these poses because of x, y, and z?
Yoga can be a deeply personal practice. It can take you places you’ve never imagined. Always remember to acknowledge that it is okay not to have all the answers. Embrace what life has to offer. Offer love and support to others. Receive with humility and grace. Learn from your mistakes. And grow through positivity and change. I don’t claim to have all the answers. I will share what I know with care and integrity and hope that I can be an inspiration for others.