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AIBU to question the level of medical knowledge of Yoga Teachers?

(47 Posts)
WritingHome Wed 09-Nov-16 16:05:59

I don't do yoga, never have. However I have a very good friend who has a quite serious back problem and is under the care of a hospital. She goes to yoga and the yoga teacher says he has sorted out 'loads' of people with the same issue (disc).

I am sceptical as I don't know how much medical training a yoga teacher would have and I would worry about my friend doing further damage unwittingly by following advice from someone untrained in the area.

Or am i too sceptical?

MadameSilva Wed 09-Nov-16 16:10:39

I love yoga but it isn't properly regulated in the UK. The teacher may never have studied anatomy. On the other hand she could be a spinal surgeon.

WritingHome Wed 09-Nov-16 16:13:21

I am pretty sure the teacher is not a spinal surgeon.
I think I would worry about the unregulated aspect too. And the absolute authority he seems to be exuding that he can resolve her issues.

I'd always follow the advice of the medical specialist. If they've given yoga the go ahead- could help / won't hurt, I wouldn't worry about it as long as it didn't cause any pain. If the yoga teacher is suggesting moves the specialist has vetoed or specialist hasn't been consulted, I would worry.

What is the disk problem?

WritingHome Wed 09-Nov-16 16:16:01

I don't know all the medical details - its a disk with a bulge apparently.

WritingHome Wed 09-Nov-16 16:18:50

The yoga teacher is a friend of my friends and is offering her this advice that he can sort it out for her. I don;t know if her consultant has sanctioned it. I asked her if it was ok but she seemed convinced that he knew what he was talking about (because he told her so!)

It's none of my business, I know that. But I wondered if anyone could shed light on the levels of medical knowledge required to teach yoga and advise people on medical issues

ItsAllGoingToBeFine Wed 09-Nov-16 16:21:30

I was very amused when my yoga teacher told me the special breathing we were doing was moving our heart around in our chest cavity.

As long as she is careful, and as long as the hospital know she is doing it could be ok.

Yogis have no real medical teaching or ability to advise on medical issues - if they had studied this an aside they would have degree in physiotherapy or something.

Lorelei76 Wed 09-Nov-16 16:22:32

well a yoga teacher doesn't need medical training
but you are right to be concerned. I had a major back injury and the word Pilates got mentioned a lot. I resumed regular exercise and had no problems.

but I recently tried Pilates - not for the first time, I did it in my 20s - and had back pain immediately for about 5 days after. In fairness I hadn't spoken to my doctor because I made a complete recovery and nothing was banned, but I don't know what she would have said - possibly "try it"?

anyhoo, with a disc problem I would not do anything the consultant hasn't approved. I am used to yoga and quite like to make a pretzel of myself after sitting at a desk all day but I can easily see the potential for further injury.

I wish your friend a speedy recovery.

SpuriouserAndSpuriouser Wed 09-Nov-16 16:26:17

Eeek! I always take the advice of yoga/aerobics/dance/whatever teachers with a pinch of salt. I'm sure some of them are very good, and know what they are doing, but some of them definitely don't and the advice they give could be dangerous.

I also really hate when you are in an exercise class and they shout stuff like "push through the pain!" and "Everyone needs to finish this set, I don't want to see anyone giving up!" By all means be encouraging, but pushing yourself too hard could be really harmful, and I think they should respect that people know their limits.

iPost Wed 09-Nov-16 16:31:52

And the absolute authority he seems to be exuding that he can resolve her issues.

I read that line and this came to mind

Andro Wed 09-Nov-16 16:33:08

A really well trained yoga teacher will have done anatomy, physiology and a lot of work on what asanas (postures) to avoid for certain medical conditions. They will never tell you to push through pain, or go against the instructions of a doctor.

The challenge is finding a good, well trained teacher (standards seem to have slipped)!

iveburntthetoast Wed 09-Nov-16 16:40:29

I was also going to say that a good yoga teacher will always say to stop if it causes pain.

My first yoga lesson made me ache afterwards in muscles I didn't know existed--and I was already quite flexible. I've definitely noticed a huge improvement in my flexibility, I have toned up a lot too.

WritingHome Wed 09-Nov-16 16:41:38

Thank you all for the responses.
Very interesting case study iPost apart from this yoga incident I know quite a few people varying levels of this could be applied to!

Andro out of interest - where would the well trained teacher have learned about anatomy etc. I was of the impression that they sort of train each other? Is there a yoga degree?

iveburntthetoast Wed 09-Nov-16 16:41:56

I forgot to say that there are different types of yoga--some are more demanding.

YelloDraw Wed 09-Nov-16 16:51:07

They will never tell you to push through pain, or go against the instructions of a doctor.


Andro Wed 09-Nov-16 17:49:45


There are (or certainly were) several parts to qualifying as a yoga teacher.
Courses and formal assessments on anatomy, physiology and introductory psychology to give a sound foundation on how the body and mind work - taught by specialists in those areas.

Study of the theory and philosophy of yoga - courses and self study.

The Adams's and how to plan and deliver a class, this is where the 'teaching each other' comes in.
It used to be that you needed to have done yoga for at least 5 years before starting to train as a teacher, so the asanas should be familiar. A trainee will be mentored by an experienced teacher who helps them learn how to balance a class, how to deliver a class, problems to watch out for etc. Again, there arewere often seminars on various aspects of teaching.

Learning properly takes several years, but not all those who profess to be yoga teachers have trained that thoroughly any more! Avoid any yoga teacher who has an 'i can fix any thing' attitude - they've already broken one of the basic teachings of yoga (to not allow their ego to take over).

Andro Wed 09-Nov-16 17:50:39

Asanas, not Adam's!

PurplePen Wed 09-Nov-16 17:55:07

I stopped going to yoga classes when my yoga instructor sold her class to an attendee - who had the exact same yoga experience as me - she's been going to the class for about a year, and now she's a "yoga instructor" hmm.

It's totally unregulated. Anyone can start themselves up as a yoga instructor, book a hall and advertise classes... and there's no way on earth I'd be taking any medical advice from one.

EBearhug Wed 09-Nov-16 22:48:36

The yoga teachers I've had have been clear they need to be made aware of any injuries, joint problems and so on. There are always adjustments and alternative postures if you've got bad knees or stiff shoulders or whatever. They've always emphasised listen to your body.
But none of that means there won't be some teachers who don't have a thorough knowledge or know when to exercise caution.

AgathaMystery Wed 09-Nov-16 22:54:34

Unless the yoga teacher is a doctor they will have exactly zero medical training.

Anatomy/physiology etc is not 'medical training'

YouTheCat Wed 09-Nov-16 23:02:42

My yoga teacher is brilliant. I believe he's done a very thorough training program. He always asks if anyone has any injuries or problems at the beginning of the class and emphasises that if you feel pain you should stop. He offers alternative poses for anyone with problems. He really helped me with sciatic pain by giving me some simple stretches to try.

However, he wouldn't ever claim to be able to cure anyone and he would certainly urge anyone to follow their doctor's advice primarily. He's also a fully qualified sports masseur.

I've experience of another yoga instructor who does very few warm up stretching and doesn't appear to have much of a clue at all.

I'd be very wary of a yoga teacher claiming to cure anything.

sycamore54321 Wed 09-Nov-16 23:44:32

I think you are right in your scepticism. There is no minimum standard for yoga teaching. There is no requirement for anything even vaguely equivalent to medical-level training. And most importantly, unlike healthcare professionals, there is no enforceable duty of care towards the person who follows their advice and absolutely no accountability mechanism for bad practice.

Maybe, just maybe yoga might work for your friend. What this teacher is saying, with "I can fix your ailments" almost certainly means it won't. It is the Dunning Kruger effect someone mentioned above - because we don't know what we don't know, we massively overestimate our competence, the less we know.

The back is not something to be messed with. Please encourage your friend not to do anything, anything without the express endorsement of her doctor.

Trills Wed 09-Nov-16 23:58:44

Questioning their medical knowledge makes it sound like you think they have some.

So YABU to question it.

YWNBU to assume they have none whatsoever.

I don't think there's even a minimum standard of knowledge of yoga required to say you are a yoga teacher, let alone any other knowledge.

Atenco Thu 10-Nov-16 00:28:35

It sounds very dicey to me.

BewtySkoolDropowt Thu 10-Nov-16 00:49:45

It's entirely possible that people with bulging discs have had good results with yoga. One of the key reasons for bulging discs is spending too much time bent forwards, and bending back can help to alleviate the pressure and potentially (in some cases) normalise the disc.

Yoga has a pose called the cobra that is basically a back bend.

Having said that, it should be done with caution. Pain cues should be listened to and acted on. And the yoga instructor would need to be very careful about how he words any claims regarding aiding physical ailments.

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