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The Science of Yoga: The Risks and the Rewards
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The Science of Yoga book chat > Science of Yoga chapters 3-4

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Meryl  Davids Landau (MerylDavidsLandau) | 529 comments Mod
Hi all:

Here are some prompts for chapter 2, on moods, and chapter 3, the infamous chapter on yoga injuries. I have to say I'm finding the book a little disorganized; some of the stuff in moods, for example, were about the physical effects of yoga and really belonged in chapter 1, IMHO. But I digress.

Comment on these questions, or ignore them and say whatever you want about these two chapters. Thanks!

1) Broad spends a lot of time debunking the notion that fast yogic breathing increases oxygen in the body. He says science shows that what is really happening is that oxygen in the brain is actually lowered (which is why, he says, people faint). Did your yoga teacher ever say (or for you teachers, did you ever say) it does increase oxygen. What do you think of this?

2) Since Julie mentioned Swami Rama, I'll point out that Broad does mention (here, rather than in chapter 1 where it better belongs) that he indeed could use his mind to create a gap in temperature of up to 11 degrees across his palm. Cool! And restores my faith in yogis' abilities to do amazing things.

3) Studies show that yoga does have a profound effect on mood, Broad writes. The reason is that some poses, like headstand, excite the sympathetic response in the nervous system, while others, like shoulder stand, press the parasympathetic brake, and the cycling of the two systems throughout a class is healing. He also describes a recent Boston University study by Chris Streeter (I actually interviewed her for an article I once wrote on yoga and mood for a magazine; fun to see her named in the book!) that showed that yoga lifts GABA levels, a neurotransmitter linked to depression. Were you familiar with yoga's documented effects on mood? Is this something you've experienced yourself?

4) As for yoga as a weight loss tool, Broad cites studies showing how yoga actually lowers metabolic rate (how many calories you spend doing nothing), which would make losing weight harder. The reason we lose when we do yoga, he says, is only because of it's effects on mind and mood, which make us stress eat less. What do you think about this?

5) In the injury chapter, Broad goes on a fair amount about both the anecdotal cases of injury (which include serious things like stroke from torqued necks, a lung injury from rapid breathing, and many back injuries) and a recent survey showing 62 percent of respondents had suffered at least one month-long (or more) injury. He says his reason in focusing on injuries is that the yoga community doesn't emphasize safety enough, and, to the contrary, sometimes touts yoga as the panacea for everything, rather than a potential source of injury. Your thoughts?

6) As in his article in the NYT, Broad describes the riskiest poses as headstand, shoulder stand, side angle pose, triangle, plow, cobra and wheel. He talks about making shoulder stand safer by lifting the shoulders on a stack of folded blankets and letting the head fall below that level, to lessen the angle of the neck. Have you ever injured yourself in any of these (or other) poses? Do you do shoulder stand on a folded blanket--or do you think maybe you should?

Meryl Davids Landau

message 2: by Julie (new) - added it

Julie (readerjules) How in the world do you get a lung injury from rapid breathing??

I think one of the most important reasons to go to yoga classes with a (well trained) teacher rather than trying everything on your own, is that they *should* let you know about things to help avoid injuries. One of my teachers is always saying not to turn your head in shoulder stand for example. I think I will try the blanket thing sometime. It sounds like it will make it a little more comfortable and I think I have heard that before...I just never did it. One more thing: my teachers always talk about how yoga involves listening to your body. If you don't forget to do that, the potential for injury would probably be alot less. The worst injury I've had from yoga is a muscle cramp. I think I hurt more NOT doing yoga. Being in bad shape while going about everyday activities can cause injuries too!

I am still not reading the book, but I am getting more and more interested in doing so!

message 3: by Meryl (last edited Mar 20, 2012 07:24AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Meryl  Davids Landau (MerylDavidsLandau) | 529 comments Mod
I completely agree with you, Julie, that not doing yoga, and therefore not having strength and flexibility, can also cause injuries. And I do think Broad wrote about injuries, both in the book and in the New York Times article, a bit sensationally.

Still, I have to say after reading the injury chapter that I agree with Broad that the yoga community does play down the risk for injury, and the history of injuries people have gotten over the years from doing yoga. When twisting the body or extending the head, there definitely is a possibility to do some harm. A friend of mine just developed hip bursitis, which she and her doctor attribute to her Bikram yoga (which is totally not my style of yoga).

The injury during kapalbhati breathing was definitely weird to read about. Apparently this woman doing teacher training at Kripalu had air leak into the space between the lungs and chest wall, partially collapsing one lung. ER docs had to insert a tube and remove the air. There's no reason to doubt this happened, although I'm sure it's very odd and extremely rare.

message 4: by Julie (new) - added it

Julie (readerjules) Interesting. I don't like kapalbhati breathing at all (it makes me feel anxious and like I am suffocating) so I guess I don't have to worry about that one! :-)

Jenene | 36 comments 1) I don't really care either way. ;)

3) Yes! This is something I've experienced myself and it's a big part of why I do yoga.

4) I can see this being true. What a bummer that it LOWERS the metabolic rate. Sigh. All the good things counteract that though.

5) I've hurt myself mildly this year, I think through yoga. I can't pin-point exactly when but I think I over stretched and pulled my shoulder out a bit. It took a couple of weeks for it to feel better. I healed it through more gentle yoga! ha. Again, we just have to listen to our bodies SO carefully and be sure we don't overextend.

6) Some of my absolute favorite poses: triangle, cobra, side angle. To me if you are not overextending I think it would be difficult to injure. I have never injured myself on any of the poses mentioned. I am cautious of shoulder stand and headstand because I don't have a strong practice with them and i practice mostly at home. I generally work around them because of that, unless i'm in a class.

message 6: by Danie (new)

Danie (Wandernwoman) | 28 comments I haven't read, so just a few comments.

2) There is actually a yogic practice in Tibetan yoga, called Tummo that creates body heat, or more accurately, an "inner fire." I've seen videos of monks soaking their robes, heading outside to practice, and then steam rising from their robes as their body temperature rises.

I haven't personally experienced this, as I practice a different branch of Tibetan Buddhism, but I have experienced it via Reiki. I am a Reiki master practitioner, and there are times when I practice on a client that my hands will heat the point that the client notices.

5) Injuries wise, I broke my left hand a few years ago, and have the beginnings of carpal tunnel, so poses that place a lot of weight on the hands and wrists kill me. The times I have ignored it, and continued with a class with say, numerous down dogs, I cannot practice for a couple of weeks after.

I think like it has been noted if teachers teach proper methods, warn students of possible injuries if a pose is performed wrong, AND students do not push themselves further than they know their body can go without injury it is safer than many other forms of exercise.

Phillip (JeevesWooster) Meryl wrote: "Hi all:

Here are some prompts for chapter 2, on moods, and chapter 3, the infamous chapter on yoga injuries. I have to say I'm finding the book a little disorganized; some of the stuff in moods, f..."

Your #5. I must say I found his chapter on injuries to be alarming. I can see how headstands could be dangerous to bone injury, especially if the practitioner is over weight, but it never occurred to me that strokes could be caused by the practice. I see what he says as something to consider.

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