Dangers of Yoga and Meditation
Millions of American and Western-world women are practicing meditation techniques that were developed for male Hindus who lived a thousand years ago. What could go wrong? The short answer is, relatively little - mostly people get uncomfortable doing the wrong technique for their body type, and quit. But some continue, and over a period of years, they lose touch with themselves.
Yoga is 85% or more women. Practicing techniques developed by and for men from India. Yoga Meditation, in particular, was developed almost exclusively for celibate Hindu males (and some Buddhist males).
Keep in mind that it is probably safer to do yoga, even if you get injured once in awhile, than to not do yoga. By a huge margin.
Still, injuries can sideline us for months or even years. And a major thought in yoga is, “the dangers that have not yet come can be avoided.” Heyam duhkham anagatam.
heyam = avoided, prevented
duhkham = pain, suffering, sorrow
anagatam = which has not yet come
“avoidable is the suffering which has not yet come.”
Patanjali, Yoga Sutras, 2.16
A skill to be cultivated is to recognize the dangers each individual is prone to - by her individual nature, constitutional imbalances or tendencies, previous conditioning, selective attention, previous traumas or injuries - and head them off in advance.
Yoga Journal Interview with Desikachar
T.K.V. Desikachar brings to the practice a full spectrum of yoga therapy, philosophy, and Ayurveda learned from his father, T. Krishnamacharya.
By Diane Anderson
YJ: What distinguishes your teaching from other yoga?
The practice is adapted to suit the needs, abilities, and interests of each individual. Unfortunately, today's standardization is a one-size-fits-all approach. This can impose great risk. This is why my father chose the sutra Heyam duhkham anagatam as the motto for our institute: Pain in any form must be anticipated and avoided. I never compromise by standardizing yoga practices for different people. Adapting yoga to suit the needs of every unique individual is where the true greatness of yoga lies.
What do you wish yoga students might experience?
My wish is that more students experience the vastness of yoga, not simply asana. Increased attention to the concept of body consciousness has become very popular.
Yoga was primarily evolved for inner limbs such as mind, senses, emotions. Unfortunately, many yoga teachers themselves are not aware of these techniques to be able to guide students in these domains. It is my sincere wish that both teachers and students of yoga move beyond their obsession with the body level, to actually experience these subtle and more powerful dimensions of this ancient wisdom. This requires patience and commitment and a serious search to look at oneself.
From The Dangers of Yoga website
Dangers of Yoga
"(...) The following have been rarely reported : Nerve or vertebral disc damage — Caused by prolonged postures, sometimes involving the legsEye damage and blurred vision, including worsening of glaucoma — Caused by increased eye pressure with headstandsStroke or blood vessel blockage — Caused by decreased blood flow to the brain or other body parts from postures.
There is a case report of a woman who presented with pneumothorax (potentially dangerous air around the lung) caused by a yoga-breathing technique called Kapalabhati pranayama. There is another report of a teen-age girl who died of obstructed breathing associated with mouth-to-mouth yoga (in which one person breathes into another person's mouth using yoga breathing techniques).
However, a long-acting barbiturate (which can cause decreased breathing) may have been partially at fault. Chronic cheilitis (inflammation of the lips) and persistent reflux have been reported in yoga instructors with unclear relationship to this modality.
People with disc disease, fragile or atherosclerotic neck arteries, a risk of blood clots, extremely high or low blood pressure, glaucoma, retinal detachment, ear problems, severe osteoporosis or cervical spondylitis should avoid some yoga poses. Certain yoga breathing techniques should be avoided in people with heart or lung disease.
Some experts advise caution in people with a history of psychotic disorders (such as schizophrenia), because there is a risk of worsening symptoms, although this has not been clearly shown in studies."
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“Meditation has been gaining popularity as a psychotherapeutic intervention (Frith, Stevens, Johnstone & Crow, 1979). However adverse effects of meditation have also been reported, viz. depersonalization, altered reality testing, and the appearance of previously repressed, highly changed memories and conflicts (Glueck & Stroebel, 1976 ; Kennedy, 1976). Similar responses were reported in a single subject several weeks after initiation into Transcendental Meditation (French, Schmid & Ingalls, 1975). Another report described how acute psychotic episodes were precipitated by intensive meditation in patients with a history of schizophrenia (Lazarus, 1976). A subsequent study attempted to analyze the correlation between contemplation and psychosis (Chan-Ob & Boonyanaruthee, 1999). Observations were made in three patients who presented psychotic symptoms subsequent to practice of meditation. In two of them sleep loss following a “wrong doing” of meditation was found to be the main cause and drug withdrawal was the principal factor in the third case. Also, in the case of Qigong, a Chinese meditation, a series of psychological and physiological disturbances followed inappropriate training (Xu, 1994). Some patients experienced a range of physical and mental symptoms which came to be called “Qigong deviation syndrome” which disappeared after the exercise was stopped. In traditional yoga texts, it has been mentioned that “by a mistaken course of yoga the yogi brings upon himself all diseases” (Hatha Yoga Pradipika (2:16). Ayuktabhyasa yogena sarvaroga samudbhavaha. Vishnudevananda, 1999).”
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Meditation should be used with caution in patients with underlying psychiatric conditions such as mood disorders, personality disorders, seizures, or psychotic conditions.
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"Reiki is not recommended as the sole treatment for potentially serious medical conditions, and its use should not delay the time it takes to consult with a health care provider or receive established therapies. Serious adverse effects have not been reported in association with Reiki. Some Reiki practitioners believe that Reiki should be used cautiously in individuals with psychiatric illnesses."