The Science of Yoga: The Risks and the Rewards by William J. Broad
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Gail's (Disorganized As Usual) review here.
This book hit the yoga community much like a tornado does Oklahoma. Hard, unrepentant, and unforgiving. At the time of its publication, it was accompanied by an article - also written by the author - that fanned the flames of discontent in the yoga community. It basically said, yoga can cause injuries and nobody should do yoga. Oh my, in a group that supposedly teaches acceptance, the pitchforks and torches were being brandished.
But really, what activity doesn’t cause injury? I couldn’t think of a single one, and that was including Tai Chi. This was a book demanding to be read.
And I’m glad I did! I think the author did a methodical and meticulous job of researching yoga from a purely scientific standpoint, where current beliefs came from, and debunking quite a few of the yoga myths that seem to be perpetually cropping up. This is a book that will challenge how you look at yoga AND make you question what you are being told. It strongly illustrates that this isn’t the first time yoga has been looked at from a scientific side.
Mr. Broad breaks the book down into its components:
Prologue (History of Yoga pre-1900 and Krishnamacharya)
Risk of Injury
Divine Sex (oh yeah, baby! as Austin Powers would say)
I think the biggest yoga myth he kept finding scientific evidence to the contrary, is the belief that yogic breathing practices (known as pranayama) infuse the brain and body with oxygen. Medical studies have proven over and over just the opposite. Pranayama does not increase oxygen in the body. It increases Carbon Dioxide. You’ll have to read the book to find you why.
The next big myth debunked was yoga will increase your metabolism. Oh heaven’s, I see this one splashed across popular media, women’s health magazines, on supposedly reputable yoga literature; the “Get thin now by doing these five poses!” I could go on but the book does a better job than I. Simply put, over time yoga decreases your metabolism. The act of yoga is one of calming. A calm person does not need to eat more. They eat more mindfully. They eat less. But what about those CorePower classes? The high intensity Ashtanga? The Power Yoga's? Read the book and it will be explained.
The chapter on Moods was probably the most positive chapter in the book, science showing that a regular practice can have a positive effect on people who suffer from depression.
The chapter on Risk of Injury was spot on. People try and push themselves into postures that are not appropriate for their body, their fitness level, or their joints and they injure themselves. They are trying to emulate some Idea of Fit Perfection pushed at us from any given piece of printed media. You know what? 95% of the population does not have a dancers or a models or a gymnasts body. We live very sedentary lives on one end of the spectrum and on the other are the tri-athletes who have their own sets of issues. Further, studios are cranking out instructors by the dozens, often in 8 week or 12 week or 6 month programs that follow some nebulous framework as designated by a corporate entity. How much anatomy experience does that person really come away with? ‘Nuff said.
I think I’ve given enough of an overview. The last three chapters were just as good and I’ll let you read them and draw your own conclusions.
If you practice yoga, have practiced yoga, or are thinking of practicing yoga, you should read this book.
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