Natalie's Reviews > The Science of Yoga: The Risks and the Rewards

The Science of Yoga by William J. Broad
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Apr 25, 12

Read from March 28 to April 25, 2012

It was rage that caused me to purchase this book. Well played, New York Times.

After such riling and aggrevating headlines such as "How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body" and "Yoga and Sex Scandals: No Surprise Here," I needed to get to the bottom of what this man William Broad was talking about in his Science of Yoga.

Broad states that "a synomym for science is organized skepticism". And so with a fire in my belly, I opened his book.

Although I found his tone to be somewhat sanctimonious and sexist, like a 1950's TV dad "tsk-tsk"-ing his children, a lot of what Broad had to say opened my eyes to how I'm leading my yoga classes.

One of the claims he puts to rest immediately is how yoga improves oxygen intake and floods the bloodstream with fresh oxygen. He also disputes yoga's claims to be the sole method to become physically fit. Broad cites a study done at the University of Wisconsin in which women with no prior yoga experience were studied as they did 55 minutes of Hatha three times a week. Unfortunately, according to the study, the women showed "gains in strength, endurance, balance and flexibility, but not in VO2 max (oxygen consumption)." Therefore, not an aerobic workout.

It's inconvenient as a yoga teacher to read these claims. But they also ignited a desire inside me to learn more about exactly what is going on in the body during yoga asanas, pranayama, and the like. It was also inconvenient and confusing for me to read in one chapter how headstands can kill you and see them suggested to heal a rotator cuff injury in the next chapter.

All in all, I believe this book is a challenging but important read. There are a few postures that I will avoid teaching until I learn more about what happens in the body. And there are new ideas I will explore such as Kundalini and how the right brain is affected by yoga.

I would like to see a greater understanding of the science of yoga. I feel that with so many claims out there about one style being better than another, a little science can't hurt. I would like to see yoga as an alternative to pills for dealing with stress, high blood pressure, insomnia and other first world afflictions.

At the end of the day, I think a mindful practice with an attentive, knowledgeable teacher is the best way to ensure you're providing yourself with the safest approach to yoga.
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