The Science of Yoga: The Risks and the Rewards

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Ann Swanson. Yoga Anatomy. Leslie Kaminoff. Ray Long. David Keil. Review "William Broad is optimistic and hopeful in pointing the way to its future as a major force in preventing and treating disease. Read more.


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I brought a great deal of interest and enthusiasm towards this subject as I began reading this book. At its best, the book shows the state of scientific research on yoga and crushes myths that are deeply ingrained, and it points out risks of which yogis and yoginis should take notice. At its worst, it is sensationalism run-amok--suggesting hugely expensive solutions to issues that are either relatively small problems or that the author fails to prove are really problems at all.

The book is arranged into seven chapters, each of which discusses the scientific research on a different dimension of controversial beliefs about yoga. These include the historic claims of supernatural yogic abilities, the issue of whether yoga increases cardiovascular health, the role of yoga in mental health and well-being, the safety of practicing yoga, the role of yoga in healing, the sexual claims of yogis, and whether yoga enhances creativity.

It is written in a scholarly format, heavily end-noted and with bibliographic citations. There is front matter giving information about key people, time lines, and yoga styles in outline form. In an afterword, Broad points out that this has been his most controversial book to date.

The former problem was exacerbated by the fact that a single chapter excerpt was published in the New York Times as a teaser for the book. While all of the chapters combine a mix of good and bad news, one comes away from some of them seeing a positive picture of yoga and others with a negative one. In the first half of the book it seems as though chapters may have been arranged to alternate positive and negative dimensions.

Of course, there will also be people who are outraged because of the discussions of the debunking of the con games of their beloved yogis, or for a failure to discuss the critical importance of things like Chakra fluffing.

The Science of Yoga: The Risks and Rewards (Unabridged)

First, there are problems that are exceedingly rare but catastrophic for in individual involved. This is exemplified by the apparent heightened incidence of strokes among individuals engaged in certain inversions e. In an interesting turn away from science, Broad makes assumptions in the face of lack of evidence about the incidence of stroke in yoga practitioners. He assumes that yogis have at least the same incidence of stroke due to vertebral artery injury as the general population because of inversions and other yogic activities that put pressure on blood vessels in the neck.

For the most part the human body is an anti-fragile system, i. Is it wrong?

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If it were the case that many people got fat because they thought yoga would help their cardio when instead it decreased their metabolism as the evidence suggests it does , then no one would believe the myth. Even if someone came to yoga to lose weight and gained some, they will abandon yoga and go to Zumba or Taebo with greater flexibility and probably a diminished risk of injury for having done yoga. By spreading information about the risks and the state of scientific understanding of them Broad is doing good work. However, he goes on to suggest that we need lots of bureaucrats to monitor and license yoga and that we need much more rigorous requirements for yoga teachers than the or hour Yoga Alliance certifications that currently exist or the teaching certificates issued by the gurus or teacher trainers of various styles of yoga , and herein lies two problems.

First of all, many of the worst cases that he points out were people engaged in questionable practices on their own. There was one kid who sat for hours in Vajrasana sitting on haunches , one who fell asleep in a forward bend, and another who had a stroke after holding a shoulder stand on a hard surface for hours. To the degree that there are rare exceptions, thinking that no teacher would ever again give a piece of bad advice if they just all had PhDs is a little presumptuous. If the monthly cost of attending yoga class goes from tens of dollars to hundreds of dollars because every yoga teacher has to have a PhD in Kinesiology and every studio has to comply with the extensive regulations and licensing fees of the newly formed Department of Yoga Management, then many people who are happy with the level of instruction they are currently getting are going to be emulating books and videos and injury rates could actually go up.

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Larry Payne for using a Ph. One expects to hear how Larry Payne left a pile of wrecked souls in his wake. Ursatine and that he furthered the state of his professional field. Interestingly, Dr. Another example of sensationalism can be seen in the chapter on sexuality. In other words, if yogis are no more lecherous on the whole than other teachers or coaches, then it would seem that mention of this issue is just to titillate. It provides a good overview of the literature, and is well-cited.

The books weakness comes from insisting that a large number of molehills are really the Himalayas. These molehills can be addressed with education, but can never be eliminated. We may think a world in which there was never another fatal traffic accident would be nice, but I assure you we would not want to live in the world in which all the actions were taken necessary to achieve said goal. For me it would have been a great book if it laid out the risks and rewards, and suggested caution. Well researched book by a long time time and current practitioner of yoga.

Interesting bit of history of Yoga during the turn of the 20th century. This is not a book that bashes yoga. Even though few nutty reviewers seem to believe so. I would have liked to have seen the author dwell a bit more into the early history of Yoga and how it relates to the other 5 schools of Hinduism. And also a better explanation of the Kundalini process would have added to the value of the book.

But the author's main focus seem to lie on what science has been able to verify. To this end he has done a good job of digging up the scientific research and the background context of it. Every Yoga enthusiast should read this.

cacarphotodog.tk It didn't detract me from practicing yoga daily. If you carefully consider some of the arguments made in this book; It makes you an intelligent and aware practitioner. It gave me a bit of perspective to change my practice to better suit my needs. After growing up in the Indian sub-continent I am continually amazed by the gullibility of most western yoga enthusiasts about all things "Ancient Indian".


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One of the earliest critic's of this was a man named Siddartha Gauthama Buddha , years ago. Jon Kabat-Zinn but they mostly wrote from a Buddhist point of view. Auteur: William J Broad.