• 20Apr
    Michaelle Edwards Headshot

    Yoga Poses That Can Hurt You

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    “Anityasuciduhkhanatmasu nityasucisukhatmakhyatiravidya” (What at one time feels good or appears to be of help can turn out to be a problem; what we consider to be useful may in time prove to be harmful.) — From Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, written in Sanskrit approximately 2,400 years ago.

    As a 40-year yoga practitioner, with over two decades practicing massage therapy and teaching yoga, I have seen countless injuries, chronic pain and joint issues in yoga clients of every age and fitness level. My work and investigations with yoga injuries has revealed certain yoga poses engage the body in positions that are unnatural for the design of the human body. In this series of posts, I will explain why these poses need to be radically modified or eliminated to protect yoga practitioners from finding out that which was considered to be useful may in time prove to be harmful.

    The sad truth is that years of practicing body positions that do not simulate real life function can lead to misalignment, chronic pain, and even surgical replacements.

    To be smart and safe in yoga, we need to consider postural alignment and natural joint function, rather than blindly following a list of “must-do” traditional poses and boot camp challenges.

    Yoga Can Heal and Yoga Can Hurt


    Paschimottasana and Uttanasana are straight leg seated forward bending poses practiced from sitting or standing that go against how our body is “wired” to move. These poses and many variations are practiced with the compartmentalized idea that stretching the back while keeping the knees straight will lengthen the hamstrings and make the spinal column more flexible. But how does this contribute to real life anatomical function and a balance of postural dynamics?

    Stop driving with your parking brakes on.


    We must bend at least one knee to move forward. When both knees are straightened and we stretch forward as in yoga forward bends, we are driving with our brakes on and stretching the ligament forces needed for natural anatomical function. Try to walk without bending your knees and you will get the global picture of how your body works. Can you feel the unnatural torque and tension in the lower back and knees?

    Touching your toes is a waste of time and could prove to be harmful in the long run.


    All standing and seated forward bends with knees straight and ankles flexed in right angles undermine the spine’s integrity creating the C shape, or slouch, stressing the necessary ligament tension needed for natural joint functions of our spine, hips and knees.

    Keep your sexy curves by not engaging your body in straight lines!

    We are not made of parts. Our body is made of curves, global in nature, and all parts affect the whole. We all want to be healthy and feel peaceful in body and mind. What is the purpose and function of doing yoga poses that flatten the curves, and stretch out the very seams of the fabric that holds us together?

    Forward bends with straight knees can give you a flat butt!


    Before and After YogAlign Practice

    Many yogis wind up with a flat butt and sagging posture from ligaments that are too loose. Ligaments need to be “tight” enough to keep the hip joint stable during normal activity and movement.

    The gluteus muscles are stretched out and weakened when we do straight leg forward bends because the butt muscles cannot functionally activate if both knees are straight. This is why people with strong tight butts have difficulty doing forward bends with their knees straight.

    The flexible and bendy people have no trouble doing these poses and it can even feel “good,” but over the long run, this flexibility becomes a liability. The sacroiliac (SI) joint ligaments become lax and the hip joint is destabilized, lacking shock absorbing forces needed to protect joint function. Many famous yoga teachers and long time practitioners are getting hip and knee replacements as a result of over-stretching the SI joint as practiced in straight leg seated and standing forward bends.

    Babies know best.

    Watch a toddler move and bend over. When they lean over to pick up a toy, they move from core center, hips back, with knees bent and butt and leg muscles working. This is why all babies have cute butts.

    Bend your knees, not your spine!

    When we lean forward from sitting or standing without bending our knees, we are asking the spine to stretch in ways it is not designed. Any back doctor will tell you to always bend your knees when leaning over. Why does yoga get a hall pass to ignore this basic anatomical rule to bend the knees?


    Protect your spine and lower back curves in yoga: Keep your knees deeply bent in all seated and standing forward bends, and stay out of all yoga poses that create a C shape in the spinal column.

    Align, don’t contort.


    Before and After YogAlign Practice

    In order for yoga to evolve and be safe for all, we must use critical thinking, discernment, awareness and simple bio-mechanical common sense.

    I always remind my students to practice naturally aligned posture as the most important asana. If an asana does not support your spine in good posture, it is quite possibly working to pull your body out of alignment, and what is the benefit of doing it?

    Three simple tests to determine whether a pose serves the human design:

    1. It should allow the spine to maintain its natural curves.
    2. It should not restrict the ability to do deep, rib-cage breathing.
    3. It should have a real-life correlation to functional joint movement.

    Yogis need to take off the avidyas (blinders) and consider the long-range effects of yoga poses on the human body. Is the pose or position going to lead to a favorable outcome adding value to our lives and supporting the ancient wisdom of the yoga sutras?



  • 19Apr
    April 19, 2015

    The most important aspect of love is not in giving or the receiving: it’s in the being. When I need love from others, or need to give love to others, I’m caught in an unstable situation. Being in love, rather than giving or taking love, is the only thing that provides stability. Being in love means seeing the Beloved all around me.

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  • 19Apr

    M, Dorothy,

    Was cleaning up old email just now and stumbled upon this. So funny, you exactly predicted my experience that I already confessed. Off gluten and major pain reduction. On Gluten and woken up by the pain.  Off Gluten and again measured quick transcendence. Pain is still with me but research studies I read said that maximum effect was not for about 2 months. 80% of the 3000 people studied had significant pain reduction!

  • 17Apr

    Discover an Intimacy with Unconditional Love

    Cultivating the Courage to Love
    A free online retreat with Ram Dass, Roshi Joan Halifax and Krishna Das
    May 1-3

    On the spiritual path, we all take on different practices to free ourselves and clear the way to merging with the one, and finding peace and balance in our lives. Of all the practices, discovering an intimacy with unconditional love is the most difficult and important. To be able to act selflessly with our close ones, our neighbors, and even strangers takes enormous courage.

    Courage to love starts with a heartful engagement with life. It takes courage to look at ourselves and allow for discovery- for a revealing of our shadows. It takes a basic trust that we are not alone – that we are connected with each other and there is a force of unconditional love that can be a presence in our lives.

    Combined with the courage for self revelation is the sense of vulnerability. Vulnerability is being honest, taking emotional risks, and making friends with uncertainty – this fuels our daily lives and is the core of innovation and change.

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  • 17Apr

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  • 16Apr

    Check out this video on YouTube:


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  • 16Apr
    April 15, 2015

    Some of the beings around you every day are very ancient beings, and some are very new. But is it better or worse? It’s just different. Is it better to be twenty years old than fifty? It’s just different. So why do you judge someone because he’s not as conscious as you are? Do you judge a pre-pubescent because he or she is not sexually aware? You understand. You have compassion. Compassion simply stated is leaving other people alone. You don’t lay trips. You exist as a statement of your own level of evolution. You are available to any human being, to provide what they need, to the extent that they ask. But you begin to see that it is a fallacy to think that you can impose a trip on another person.

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  • 15Apr

    Hey….I remembered what I wanted to tell you several days ago. When I told you about the diagnosis of osteoarthritis, you made a rather succinct declaration and told me to get off the gluten immediately. Climbing out of my dark place and doing research in the following days, the omission of those inflammatory agents, including sugar, made all the sense in the world. So I did it. When I went to Mexico I had little choice and made bad decisions. When I came back I immediately resumed.

    So in the 4 days or so before Mexico, the improvement was fairly shocking. So much so that I did not want to give it credence thinking it was hopeful optimism. In Mexico I was being woken up by pain in my hip within just a few days. Now more than a week back on track, my hips are better than they have been in years. That does not mean I am pain free yet, but the progress is entirely astounding even with the evidence support. One piece of research stated that in a 3,000 person study, full beneficial effects were not realized until the two month time frame. There is considerably more, but I must keep charging on other issues.

    D . Thank you for the insightful, encouraging and loving words.

  • 15Apr

    Growing Up Vegan: A Family’s Story

    With their new book, a wellness-world power couple proves that going vegan can be a family affair.

    Roll models: “As an athlete, you’re told meat is what you need for strong muscles... but I got rid of all that and felt better than I ever had,” says world-class triathlete Rich Roll, who went vegan with the help of wife Julie Piatt’s revolutionary recipes.

    Roll models: “As an athlete, you’re told meat is what you need for strong muscles… but I got rid of all that and felt better than I ever had,” says world-class triathlete Rich Roll, who went vegan with the help of wife Julie Piatt’s revolutionary recipes.If there were ever an advertising campaign for the vegan movement, Rich Roll and Julie Piatt are exactly whom you’d expect to see on the billboards. With their honey-colored skin, taut muscles, and really good hair, they’re proof that it’s kale, not milk, that does a body good

    Naturally, just about everyone who encounters the Calabasas couple—who met in yoga class, of course—wants to know their tricks, so they wrote a cookbook/lifestyle guide. The Plantpower Way: Whole Food Plant-Based Recipes and Guidance for the Whole Family (Avery, April 2015) is brimming with more than 120 of Piatt’s veggie-centric family recipes, which aren’t just approved by their four kids, but also fuel Roll’s career as one of the world’s most celebrated ultra-distance athletes. (He’s the first person ever to complete the EPIC5 challenge, finishing five Ironman triathlons in under a week). CNN’s chief medical correspondent, Sanjay Gupta, calls it “the best book I have read on the topic [of going vegan]… and I have read many.”

    But life for Roll and Piatt hasn’t always been all tempeh and turmeric. Piatt grew up in Alaska eating moose tacos and caribou captured by her big-game-hunter father (though she says being a carnivore “never felt right”); Roll was a swimmer for Stanford who continued on what he calls the “Michael Phelps” diet long after his college days were over. “I was 39 years old, 50 pounds overweight, and had no interest in changing my behavior around food whatsoever,” recalls Roll, now 47, who was working as a lawyer at the time. “And then I had a moment on the staircase when I became winded and had tightness in my chest, and I realized I needed to change how I was living.”

    With his yogi/musician/artist wife’s help—she was a vegetarian by this point—Roll went on a cleanse and experimented with giving up meat. But it wasn’t until he went completely vegan that, he says, “I could feel this sense of vitality returning to my body. As an athlete, you’re told that meat is what you need for strong muscles, and if you want strong bones you need milk… but I got rid of all that and felt better than I ever had.”

    So much better, in fact, that Roll started prepping for 320-mile Ultraman triathlons (and winning), and Piatt started concocting vegan recipes that would sustain him during his grueling training. He began winning races and garnering media attention (and a huge fan base) for his nontraditional diet, and the rest is history. But their ultimate victory has hit a bit closer to home. “My food is not fancy; it’s hearty family food,” says Piatt. “I’m proud that I can cook for my dad and afterward he tells me, ‘I can’t believe you didn’t have any salt pork in that.’ That’s really the test.”


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