Adventures in Mysore India,  Alignment and Injuries,  Ask the AYP,  Teaching Ashtanga,  Yoga Philosophy,  Yoga Sutras

Yoga Will Not Keep Bad Things From Happening

Yoga is not an inoculation against bad things. It is the science of learning how to deal with bad things when they happen. If you are lucky, you start to view “bad” things as just events and you don’t label them at all.

On my last post, someone commented and asked, “how can you hurt yourself when you are practicing Ahimsa?” Easy. Most people don’t wake up in the morning and say. “I feel like hurting myself today. I really want to get in a car accident, maybe get a cold, catch my husband in bed with his co-worker, rip my hamstring, and have to bail my son out of jail.” Just because you follow all the traffic rules, eat a healthy diet, treat your husband like a king, practice perfect alignment and love your kids does not mean that none of the above is not going to happen.

I caught a cold a few weeks ago and a co worker said half jokingly, “I thought ashtangis were impervious to illness?” I wish.

As far as yoga injuries, science has proven that you can be injured or sick and have no symptoms or pain and that you can have pain and no injuries or sickness. Look it up on Google. You can get on your mat and everything feels awesome…until it doesn’t. You can hurt yourself and there is no warning before it happens. No tenderness, no tightness, no feeling of coming up against a barrier;nothing. That is how I hurt my hamstring. There was no warning. I felt awesome…until I didn’t. I have seen instances where a person didn’t even know they were injured until many hours after their yoga practice.

People, who practice yoga, are still human. No one is getting out of here alive or unscathed. The yogis knew that. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are full of warnings about obstacles and taking wrong turns on the path. There is only one state of Samadhi, out of 7 or 8 possible states (depends on who is counting), where you are done with being a living walking disaster. Even in that state, “bad” things can still happen to you because you still have karmas in motion that you have to see through. Practicing yoga does not guarantee that you will not be an asshole. Samskaras, mental conditioning, are extraordinarily powerful and can knock even the most accomplished yogi into temporary unconsciousness.

Even if you become “enlightened” and treat everyone kindly, there are going to be people who hate your guts and do everything in their power to destroy you. MLK, Jesus and Gandhi were teachers of peace but they were all killed. A Black man in Alabama, Emantic¬†Fitzgerald Bradford, was shot down by cops in a mall while he was trying to save a woman’s life.

Just because you love everyone and do good in the world does not mean that only good is coming to you. If that is what you heard, its bullshit. Go look at the last paragraph again. Whether you like him or not, Pattabhi Jois did have this one thing right, “breath free and all is coming”. ALL IS COMING. Not just what you want. Not just what you like. Not just good stuff. All of it. Yoga gives us the tools to deal with whatever shows up. Sure, our actions do affect what shows up. If you treat someone with compassion, they are less likely to want to kill you. If you do well at work, you are less likely to get fired. If you treat your body well, you are less likely to get hurt. However, none of these are guarantees.

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali says that, if you practice Ahimsa, you can be around wild animals and no harm will come to you. It also, says, “pain, that has not yet come, should be avoided.” It also talks about things going wrong. So to me it is saying, “do no harm, but don’t be stupid either. ” “If you don’t hurt people, they probably won’t hurt you but don’t’ be stupid either.” “Take precautions but sometimes shit happens.”

Shanna Small has been practicing Ashtanga Yoga and studying the Yoga Sutras since 2001. She has studied in Mysore with Sharath Jois and is the Director of AYS Charlotte, a school for traditional Ashtanga in Charlotte NC. She has written for Yoga International and the Ashtanga Dispatch. Go here for more information on AYS Charlotte. For information on workshops, please e-mail


  • jane chai

    Feeling shitty lately……but your article shifted my shitty mood. I like the word you used “guaranteed”. Thank you Shanna. Namaste Jane