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Is Yoga Safe?

Two years ago, at breakfast with the dean of yoga at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, I got an answer to a serious question that had nagged at me. Let me explain: I rarely practice yoga, but I quietly envy those who do it well. Kripalu has been rated as the best yoga retreat in the nation and trains more than 500 yoga instructors annually. The dean, Devarshi (or Steven Hartmann), told me that he had spent most of his life living a yogic lifestyle — and he seemed a walking advertisement for the myriad benefits of his practice. He looked healthy, strong, fluid, relaxed, and clear-eyed. Meanwhile, I have spent much of my life rowing and had recently returned from an attempt to return to the US Olympic Team after 28 years. Given that Devarshi and I were roughly the same age and had taken opposite paths to what is arguably a peak of health for a middle-aged man, what I wanted to know was this: “Do you now wake up in the morning with aches and pains?” He smiled and said, “Sure. Of course.” And so I sighed with relief. “Me too.” One hard reality is this: Whether you take …

Stephen Kiesling is editor in chief of S&H. A 35th anniversary edition of The Shell Game: Reflections on Rowing and the Pursuit of Excellence has just been published.

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