What the Eff is going on? Why should I do yoga anyway?

Within the past few weeks, there has been a massive amount of controversial publicity surrounding yoga. Is yoga really bad for you? Is my athletic practice just spurring my ego and causing injury instead of making me stronger? Am I good enough if I can’t press into a handstand (in my panties)?

The controversy that started with the recent article published in the NY Times Magazine touting the dangers of yoga was followed by a NY Magazine article showcasing one NYC Rock-Star yoga teacher who made a dramatic shift in his teaching style because “he didn’t like what he was seeing” from his students. All of the buzz was quickly defended (or ripped a new one) from the yoga community and the rock star yogi himself. The best part is that Equinox preempted this with a sexy yoga video of the gorgeous Briohny Smyth demonstrating a series of flight poses in her skivvies.

It’s all pretty crazy and overwhelming… especially for those who aren’t sure what to digest first. Should you practice yoga or not?

The fact of the matter is this, you can get injured in yoga just like you can get injured in any sort of physical activity, like lifting weights, playing football or snowboarding. In yoga, injury occurs when you aren’t properly aligned, when you are pushing yourself too hard, when you aren’t listening to your body or your teacher and when you are being guided by your ego instead of your breath.

And then what about that ego, I must suck at yoga if I can’t press myself into a handstand. (I have to admit, with all of the controversy, I am totally still in awe of the Equinox Video. I thought it was beautiful to see someone with so much control of her body and her breath.)

So why the Eff Should I do yoga anyway?

I heard it perfectly spoken by one of my students after class on Friday. It is my exact belief and was so beautiful to hear it coming from someone else’s mouth. Yoga is about the breath. How can you sit in the place that makes you feel at “your” edge (not someone else’s edge) and still find the internal stillness to breath through it.

Yoga is about the breath. That’s it.

The physical part of the practice has it’s many benefits, but if I were to personally speak about what brings me to the mat every day, it is always to breathe. To show up wherever I am that day, sometimes handstand strong and sometimes just to take it slow.

The fact of the matter is this: many of us may never be able to master what some can. When we breathe, wherever we are in any given moment, we are doing yoga. So if you think you aren’t strong enough or flexible enough to take a yoga practice, I really challenge you to think again. Show up. Do what you can. Ask your teacher for guidance and listen to what they have to say. Most importantly, breathe.

I like breathing so much that I made a video of one of my favorite breathing practices..

I want to hear what you think about yoga and how the breath has helped you. Leave a comment below.

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  1. Brenda Coleman on January 16, 2012 at 5:46 pm

    I have tried yoga many times. I have a great book that walks you through twelve months of exercises. Yet, for some reason I focus mainly on the positions and getting that downward dog perfect. Instead, I should just focus on “the breath” as I inhale and it moves down my spine.

    Thank you for this post. I would love to see another post going into detail about “the breath”. It will help people like me that have tried and given up on yoga.

    • Tracy Matthews on January 16, 2012 at 5:50 pm


      Thanks so much for your comment. I love your feedback about the breath and I will definitely write another post about focusing on the breath! Without focus on the breath we can all lose sight of what is important.

      I definitely hope that you will give yoga another shot!

      xo Tracy

  2. Laurie Erdman | Chronic Wellness Coach on January 16, 2012 at 9:35 pm

    Brilliant. I actually hadn’t been aware of the stir up, but you are so right. Yoga is all about the breath. I’ve gone in and out of yoga until I found an approach that started with the breath. It was when I went to Kripalu. To me it was just so intuitive that it starts with the breath. I was able to do things I hadn’t been able to do before.

    But I’m also not into some of the more complicated poses. I was excited that I recently did Crow, but as far as handstands, I really don’t have a desire. Maybe one day, but not now.

  3. Sheila on January 16, 2012 at 9:49 pm

    Tracy, I agree, injury occurs in any sport or any practice, just as it does in yoga, when we are pushing ourselves too far, too fast. That is exactly what the ego likes to do and athletics generally involve a lot of ego. That is precisely why I love yoga so much is because it reminds me to always come back to the breathe and pay attention to my body’s edge on that particular day.

  4. Christie Halmick | Jewels Branch Creative on January 16, 2012 at 11:13 pm

    Tracy, I’ve just started back into my yoga practice after several years of not doing any yoga. My hubby noted that my poses aren’t quite what they used to be and I said, “yes, that’s o.k. it’s about the breath.” When I first was introduced to yoga I did push myself too hard to get into poses, luckily I had an instructor who noticed this and help me realign. I very happy to be coming back to yoga, I know that it grounds me.

  5. Irene Lyon (formerly Gutteridge) on January 17, 2012 at 3:36 am

    Great post and education on the recent “yoga” news going thru the press.

    A teacher from Vancouver posted a rebuttal to that article about yoga wrecking the body (http://www.rachelyoga.com/2012/01/a-response/) and she, as you have noted, mentions that you can hurt yourself doing ANYTHING.

    I do believe however that we really need to refine the mind-body practices that are becoming nothing but another means to “check-out” and not pay attention to ourselves. I’ve worked with quite a few you practice yoga and are in no way aware of anything in their bodies or minds.

    ….so I LOVE that you bring the concept of Breath, and then meditation (in your vid), cause after all that IS what Yoga is about!!

    Irene xx

  6. Tina Pruitt | The Green Juice Coach on January 17, 2012 at 4:28 pm

    Thanks for this post Tracy…I had heard about this and thought the same thing – you can get hurt at anything if you aren’t doing it properly!!! But, I totally agree that yoga is about the breath and love what you wrote. I practice about 4-5 times week, and each time is different with regard to my body…but my breath, my rhythm…THAT is what I know I will always have from every practice. It is pure joy.

    Thanks again…xo,

  7. Lazarus on January 17, 2012 at 5:08 pm

    LOVE, Love, love this!!! I thoroughly enjoyed doing that exercise with you! I don’t practice very much yoga but used to and kinda miss it really. It’s connection to meditation is a huge thing for me. Painting is a meditation for me but I often find myself holding my breath and curling my toes when doing that too! Just gotta breathe through it. So important to remember!
    Thank you so much for this! Will def get back into yoga.

  8. Alara Castell on January 18, 2012 at 2:10 am

    First, I have to say that photo is ridiculous…I mean that in a oh my goodness look how rock solid you are. I assume that is you 🙂 I have to say Yoga changed my life. I remember clearly I was on a spiritual journey of really discovering ME again and yoga was brought up to try. I tried yoga and the breathe work allowed me to connect with me, to center, to get grounded, to feel…back then to truly slow down.

    Wow, thank you for this question, but it really brought me back to the first time I experienced yoga. I sit here right now taking deep breathes and full of gratitude. Yum.

    With lots of sparkle magic,
    Alara Castell,
    Queen of Play + Fun Loving Business Activator

  9. Jennifer Peek on January 18, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    Yoga has always been a little hit and miss for me. If I’m honest, though, it is when I haven’t found it “hitting” for me that I am in the most in need to being able to focus – on my breath and on movement. I am a fan of the flow yoga style but do think that the potential for injury is higher because there is very little time to correct and perfect poses.

    I have noticed recently that getting back to a regular practice – with breathing and mindfulness – is something that I need to do. It helps me think clearer. So, while the muscle benefits are nice (that Equinox video is amazing!), the mental ones are better in my book.

    Jennifer Peek
    Find Your New Groove
    The Freedom to Build Your Business Your Way

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