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Vote For Luke!

I just read via Elephant Journal that one of my favorite teachers at my favorite yoga studio in Boulder, CO The Yoga Workshop, is being sued by one Robert Heit of Santa Rosa, CA for an adjustment that, Heit claims, resulted in a torn medial meniscus and “severe personal injuries, causing him extreme physical, mental and emotional pain and suffering.” (See article from Boulder’s Daily Camera)

Adjustments are an important aspect of taking a yoga class. Hands-on guidance helps students to find alignment within their postures, alignment without which they would undoubtably become injured if they continue to practice improperly. If Heit wins his lawsuit it could severely impact the roles which teachers are able to fill in a class. Granted, there are plenty of teachers out there who probably have no business giving many adjustments. But, having practiced regularly at The Yoga Workshop myself and as a student of its owner Richard Freeman, I feel confident in saying that not only is every teacher at YW competent and knowledgeable, but they are all very well trained in observing, assisting and giving gentle and correct adjustments.

While I don’t doubt the severity of Heit’s injury, I highly doubt that he sustained it while practicing at the Yoga Workshop and I find it absurd that he would think to blame it on a teacher who not only makes a living teaching yoga (read, barely gets the bills covered) but is also a highly qualified teacher.

Injuries sustained while practicing yoga, are unfortunately , quite common. I see this as a symptom of our western material-obsessed culture. Practice yoga with most of the true Indian teachers and they’ll have you lie down to rest between the simplest movements and focus on your breath. Yoga asana wasn’t meant to be undertaken as a purely physical exercise. It’s too bad that Mr. Heit was injured and I can empathize, having incurred more than a few yoga-related injuries myself (generally when I was focusing more on my physical goals rather then any truly admirable aspects of my practice), but it is each of our responsibility to take care of ourselves.

That said, this is an important wake-up call for all us teachers and studio owners out there. Physical adjustments should not be made that are forceful or unsafe. Not ever. Teachers should consistently study their anatomy and continue to learn from more experienced teachers, especially when it comes to observing and assisting. Coming back to the foundations of Yoga, the Yamas: Ahimsa, means non-harming. Teachers should not impose their own ideas of form onto the function of a body by force; gentle and compassionate is best. And students should not inflict violence on their own bodies by grasping for postures they aren’t yet ready for.

I hope Mr. Heit heals quickly and well and that this unfortunate incident will strengthen and educate rather than crippling those who are ultimately in service of better health and stronger bodies, minds and hearts for all of us.

(Just a note about the picture for this post: I didn’t want to use Luke’s stunning headshot, nor could I find any satisfactory images on Google for “yoga lawsuit”. I’m thinking that maybe the light of awareness will come alive in all of us the more we meditate on what Yoga really is anyway.)

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