Yoga might actually be the problem

Published on December 4, 2014 by      Print
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By Nadine Fawell

I love yoga. I’ll confess that upfront.

But I generally stay well away from yoga marketing because it makes my crazy come back. Since I do yoga in large part to MANAGE my mental health issues, I find it really sad that most yoga marketing still makes people feel so very bad about themselves.

I saw a blog post today that made my eyeballs bleed:


(If you haven’t already read it, you might want to for context.)

Of course yoga isn’t the problem. It’s perfect, didntcha know? As are the people teaching it. It’s just that YOU are dodgy. Your body probably doesn’t bend right. You are probably the wrong shape, the wrong size, the wrong color.

And you are definitely not spiritual enough either.

For decade and a half, I’ve used yoga as my main tool of sanity.

One of the most important things I learned, and am still learning, from my practice, is that it’s essential to practice compassion. Which is the essence of the yogic precept of ahimsa: non-violence.

I suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Have done since I was eight years old. Rough childhood. And although I can go months, sometimes even years, without any real symptoms, life has taught me that they will probably come back when I am very tired, or very stressed, or something triggering happens.

If you feel compassion for yourself and others you are more likely to make decisions with everyone’s best interests at heart. Telling people that they are too defective to get into a down dog? Not compassionate. Why not just offer a variation on the pose that suits the person today?

And anyway, which version of each yoga pose is the “right” one? Because there’d have to be just one right one in order for it to be not yoga, but you, that is the problem.

Life doesn’t work that way.

There are shades of gray; there is no such thing as one perfect alignment for all people.

There are principles, sure, but they need to adapt to each unique human. For example, I spend a lot of time trying to stabilize my joints, many of which are hypermobile. So I do a lot of strength work. Things might be different for someone who’s incredibly strong but has never stretched. There isn’t one pose or goal that is “not the problem.” Any could help and any could harm.

We know so much more about how bodies work these days: biomechanical principles are being taught and disseminated in the yoga world.

We also know more about how minds work: we don’t call PTSD “shell-shock” anymore, and there are good strategies for helping sufferers deal with their symptoms. One that works very well for me is thought challenging: challenging the validity and usefulness of a thought or belief pattern.

Here’s one I have to work on ALL the time (it’s common to many sufferers of PTSD): believing we are somehow faulty, that we somehow caused the trauma. Often, in cases of abuse, the abuser perpetuates this belief in order to keep the victim quiet.

Much like telling someone that yoga isn’t the problem, they are. I wonder who the author of this article is trying to keep quiet?

Nadine FawellAbout Nadine Fawell:

Nadine Fawell’s edit button doesn’t work: if there is something inappropriate to be said, she will say it. Often in yoga class. She drinks coffee and swears and sometimes she thinks deeply about life. You can find her at




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  1. Jenifer says:

    I love you, Nadine.

  2. vanessafiola says:

    I love this, Nadine! Welcome back and thanks for the great response to an article that was (at best) ridiculous.

  3. Erifily says:

    Im so sick of this “yoga world”… It wasnt like this when I first started practicing,

    Your article is a sight for sore eyes!

    • Nadine Fawell says:

      Erifily, you know, I was just thinking that I remember the daggy yoga, with flappy pants and old tshirts. Remember that? Probably makes me old ;)

      I miss those days too. But not some of the other stuff from back then, like the guru culture.

  4. Joe Sparks says:

    Only mistreatment makes humans into problems. Stop mistreatment and problems will be stopped. No individual human has an actual rational conflict of interest with another human.

    • Nadine Fawell says:

      Joe, this is SO TRUE. It was a bit of a doh! moment for me, reading it.

      And that was what triggered me about the original article: yoga poses are of course not the problem, but a lot of the time, in our yoga culture, people aren’t choosing out of free will, but because they’ve been manipulated or shamed into doing the poses, and often they aren’t even aware that’s happened to them.

      Thanks for articulating it so well.

  5. Anne-Marie says:

    Some day I hope to make it to your side of the globe, I think we’d have a ton of great conversations with many inappropriate words over delicious coffee.

    Your response is right on target!

  6. Jessie Jackson says:

    So very well said. I too love yoga but am so troubled by teachers pushing their agenda on trusting students. I read the article and it seemed a little scary to me. Kinda like the person writing it was trying to justify some postures gone wrong under their care. I am thrilled that I came across this website. It’s nice to hear the real – life side of yoga.

  7. Cate says:

    I was once affiliated with a yoga community. The day I canceled my studio membership I cried.

    The pain was similar to ending a relationship with someone who causes us to feel we were never quite good enough. The tears were triggered in part by the emo/psych abuse I had tolerated from various members of the staff coupled with the knowledge that I willingly compromised my boundaries with these bitches.

    I was aware of the controlling, soul squelching energy inherent in the place shortly after I enrolled, but was blindsided by the initial love-bombing. I must admit I was mesmerized by the effect the asanas had on my mind/body as well as the attainment of enlightenment if only I kept at it.

    No such bounty appeared, but it did become a matter of public knowledge (to everyone it seemed but me) when one of the instructors began sleeping with a man I was convinced I loved at the time. As it happened, her ability to twist herself into a pretzel mirrored his absence of a backbone (and testicles).

    I was ticked off for many months thereafter at the very thought of the ‘y’-word.

    This ordeal does however have a happy ending: I have finally learned to respect and honor MY emotional needs and NEVER, ever to tolerate any kind of disrespect from anyone.

    Not only has this new philosophy made me even more aware of how to treat others (no problem apologizing when I see I’m in the wrong or could possibly be in the wrong) but I will now courageously confront the offender.

    And the icing on the cake: because of my new and much healthier outlook, I now have a Latino man (who puts the ‘M’ in the word m-a-n) and the healthy, realistic commitment to a home-based regular yoga practice.

    I believe the Spanish have a saying that ‘Roses grow from shit.’

    • Anne says:

      Beautiful, thank you for writing this, Cate.

      Great post, Nadine. At first I thought I shouldn’t even read the article because it would just upset me, which it did, but I used that energy to write a comment (currently in moderation) about why the article was so hurtful. You also used the energy, to write this post, which I think was good because, as Michelle Obama recently said, “When they go low, we go high.” I think it’s important for us to speak the other side.

      Blessings to you.

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