Yoga will wreck you, roundup

[Update: I am updating this post as I come across new fave responses.]

I’d be amiss in my duties as yoga blogger if I didn’t weigh in again on the recent NY Times article How yoga can wreck your body. The article, an excerpt from Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and NYT science writer William J. Broad‘s upcoming book, The Science of Yoga: The Risks and the Rewards, has received a lot of coverage from the interwebs, yogic and otherwise, because it says that “the yoga community long remained silent about [yoga’s] potential to inflict blinding pain…a growing body of medical evidence supports [the] contention that, for many people, a number of commonly taught yoga poses are inherently risky. ”

I wrote a response (“whatevs”) a few days ago. Also, dudes looking for pictures of girls in yoga pants–the most frequent visitors to this site–likely don’t care if said girls need spinal surgery when they’re 50. Still, in the interest of jumping on the bandwagon, I am doing a round up of my fave responses.

  • How the NYT Can Wreck Yoga: This was posted by Eddie Stern’s Ashtanga Yoga NY. Added to the original post are a couple of excellent comments, one by a physical therapist who says: “[what] really concerns me [about the article] is the lack of balance in a report of genuine importance—risk of injury while practicing yoga. First, anecdotal reports…does not a convincing argument make. Second, the issue is not whether some people get hurt doing yoga…but injury rate……this piece…merely cherry picks a few extreme events and implicates the entire practice…A balanced, serious, and accurate scientific report on the risks of yoga would have, at a minimum, explicitly stated that no one actually knows the injury rates for yoga, as is actually the case.”
  • Yoga Won’t Wreck Your Body But May Make You More Hindu: From the Huffington Post, this author says: “Between Maureen Dowd’s column back in October, “How Garbo Learned to Stand on Her Head,” …and Broad’s own piece last week…Broad has taken up prime journalistic real estate to grind his axe with yoga. His conclusions about yoga, however, are premised on anecdotes about asana, not yoga, and the only thing really getting fat is the gap between the popular understanding of yoga and what yoga really is…Yoga is a combination of both physical and spiritual exercises, the key word being “combination” with an emphasis on the spiritual. ..Yoga is a holistic and spiritual system of living that is essential to the understanding and practice of Hinduism…Analyzing yoga as only exercise and then labeling it as hazardous to one’s health is a false equation because yoga doesn’t equal asana.”
  • My 2 Cents: by Leslie Kaminoff, anatomist extraordinare:
  • NY Times unfairly trashes yoga:  From the MIT (yeah! go beavers!) science journalism tracker: “I’ve written here before about the curious case of yoga and The New York Times. The Times often seems both obsessed and confused about yoga, as I wrote in 2010 when the Times published five stories on yoga in one week…Now with a piece by veteran Times science writer William J. Broad…If you suspect that this story might not be fair and balanced, you are correct….The Times magazine editors…focused only on the risks; the excerpt says little about the rewards, except to claim that they are often overstated….Can we look for a follow-up story in the Times magazine on the rewards of yoga, the other part of Broad’s book?…I’d say that’s unlikely. The Times doesn’t appear to be interested in the science of yoga. It seems to be interested in slaying a dragon.”
  • Six Reasons To Ignore The ‘New York Times’ Yoga Article: Sarah Miller makes us (me) laugh! YAY. “One example in the article comes from 1972. A woman went into wheel pose, in which she rested on her head, and then had a stroke….Well, a lot of people suffer heart attacks having sex or running, but isn’t this because their hearts are already fucked and they have sex or go running and their heart’s like, Okay, here we are, it’s go time?…I’d also like to add that my aunt died of a stroke too, and no one wrote an article about how eating Stouffer’s creamed chip beef and being married to a drunk asshole with orange hair causes strokes. Sometimes people just have strokes. My sound medical opinion on this is, “Better you than me.”
  • Why Are We Discussing This?: Sarah Miller, in a follow-up in the NYT called “Is Yoga for Narcissists?” (what is with the NYT’s axe grinding?) (that was the title as of yesterday night; today, Friday, it’s “Me, Myself and Yoga”. But the URL is still about narcissism.) writes: “What is it about yoga that makes people nervous? That it’s too strenuous, but that it’s also this thing that’s supposed to be good for you but that can also make people vain, or smug, or conceited…We think about the fact that yoga is supposed to be good for us and then, because it’s gone and been bad we say, “Yoga, you think you’re so great.”…Maybe we’re having this conversation about yoga because we see that it’s this sort of wonderful thing that humans willfully screw up.”
  • Yoga, American Style: Also in the NYT follow-up, journalist Suketu Metha writes, “The yoga that most Americans are aware of is hatha yoga, only one (and perhaps the least important) of the various types of yoga…: karma yoga (the yoga of action), bhakti yoga (the yoga of devotion) and jnana yoga (the yoga of knowledge)…Hatha yoga is not for everyone. The other forms are. Not everyone can — or should — stand on their heads, but everyone can use their heads to make the world a better place; yoke their emotions to their intelligence and feel more centered….In this sense, the greatest teacher of yoga is not Iyengar or Bikram, but Gandhi. “The yogi is not one who sits down to practise breathing exercises,” he wrote in his interpretation of the Gita. “He is one who looks upon all with an equal eye, sees other creatures in himself.” That’s one pose that will truly reduce your stress.”

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