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The Science of Yoga: The Risks and the Rewards

3.68  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,156 Ratings  ·  381 Reviews
A lead science writer for The New York Times—and lifelong yoga practitioner—examines centuries of history and research to scrutinize the claims made about yoga for health, fitness, emotional wellbeing, sex, weight loss, healing, and creativity. He reveals what is real and what is illusory, in the process exposing moves that can harm or even kill. A New York Times bestselle ...more
ebook, 336 pages
Published February 7th 2012 by Simon & Schuster (first published January 1st 2012)
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Andrew Gray
Mar 18, 2012 Andrew Gray rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a yoga teacher, I have been surrounded by negative energy from the yoga world about Mr. Broad. His articles in the NY Times have garnered lots of attention and have royally pissed people off. The book itself, though, is generally positive about yoga. The only thing it really states definitively is that yoga doesn't qualify as cardiovascular exercise. A friend said, "Well, this guy hasn't done 108 sun salutations in a row then -- I promise that is cardiovascular exercise!" If doing 108 sun sal ...more
Tim Gunderson
Dec 04, 2013 Tim Gunderson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The perfect antidote to yoga rage,

I would call myself a rational, realistic person who is skeptical of wide eyed, exaggerated flavour of the month fitness and nutrition health claims. I've also been practicing yoga for over 13 years now. Therefore, it has frequently been a challenge for me to reconcile the inherently flaky, faux spirituality present in any urban yoga studio with the quite obvious reality that there are clear physical and mental benefits to practicing yoga.

This book lays out the
Jul 03, 2013 Qi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: how-to-books
Yoga books are mostly two categories: colorful instruction manuals, or text based on ancient or modern philosophy. Personal anecdotal narratives abound, but what about something to analyze the objective experiences? Naturally, yoga is not about objective experiences, it is largely a personal experience outside of pure fitness realm. Yet given how yoga is being marketed, would it be worthwhile to quantify the things that we can objectively measure such as various health acclaims measurable throug ...more
Feb 11, 2012 Amy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dana Carvey has a bit in a recent stand-up routine about how after a certain age (an earlier age than you expected), you can seriously injure yourself just reaching for the TV remote. "The Science of Yoga" presents the usually unmentioned risks to yoga.

Not a really controversial thesis here. As with any other exercise, you can hurt yourself. As with any other exercise, you can improve some aspects of your health.

Certain yoga poses might cause neck strain--check, not new information. Those same

A surprising number of studies have documented benefits of yoga in reducing depression, fixing muscle and back problems, and possibly improving sex. In this well-documented book, science journalist William Broad discusses these benefits, as well as a number of mistaken beliefs about the benefits of yoga, possible sources of injury, and some history of the discipline. The kind of yoga Broad is referring to is basically postural yoga; the word yoga can have broader and more spiritual implications

So, here's the book that has caused all the controversy. Oooooo. Ready? Okay, Broad is not a great writer. He's biased; and gives lots of his own opinions in a "scientific" review of evidence. So that didn't impress me. However, a lot of what he has to say is very good. Yoga CAN be dangerous. That's why students need to vet their teachers, their studios and the flavor of yoga that they choose to practice. Yoga is NOT going to burn tons of calories. You want cardio, do cardio. Yoga's contribution ...more
Feb 09, 2014 Emily rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, nonfiction
The health benefits of yoga has been praised over the years, but it bothered me that there was a lack of hard science behind a lot of the claims. This is not a salacious debunking of yoga's health benefits, but a very even-handed, well-researched examination of the history of yoga, and an even deeper look into specific studies and tests that have been done to understand the benefits of yoga.

There was a big hoopla on the NYT in January 2012 on how this book warns of the dark dangers of yoga. Bro
Liz Dean
Apr 14, 2013 Liz Dean rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Basic findings from scientific research presented in this book:
1- Yoga does not improve cardivascular fitness.
2- Yoga is likely to cause you to gain weight, rather than lose it, because it decreases your metabolism.
3- Yoga significantly improves symptoms of anxiety and depression, across the board.
4- Yoga measurably, vastly improves your libido and sexual function.
5- Your brain on yoga, as measured by MRIs, is like your brain on spiritual inspiration and orgasm.

So don't do yoga to get in shape,
Chelsey Thompson
Overall, this book presented some great research regarding the risks of certain poses, erroneous claims made by yogis, and the potential benefits yoga provides. I enjoyed understanding the science behind how slowing down and speeding up your breath affects the carbon dioxide in your blood and therefore the oxygen to the brain. I also found the reasoning behind the benefits of inversions to be interesting.

However, I think the author was a little too insistent that yoga did not provide a cardiova
Jennifer Glass
After all the hype about this book, I was a bit disappointed. I thought I would come out of it feeling like I had a much firmer grasp of the science behind yoga. That hope was partially fulfilled in terms of the mental aspects and rewards of yoga; Broad did a good job explaining the scientific studies on yoga's ability to increase neurotrasmitters like GABA and hormones like testosterone. The physical risks of yoga were emphasized - particularly the risk of stroke and brain injury from postures ...more
2.5 stars. This book started out very strong and then took a long, graceful, smoking, flaming nosedive. Broad started off very skeptical, digging into the science and laying out for me exactly what was true and what was not with regard to Yoga's most famous claims—the abilities to stop the heart and to increase oxygen intake, primarily. He even explained the different scientific journals and schools that did studies on Yoga, their types, their sources of funding, and what that meant for the cred ...more
Apr 25, 2012 Natalie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 31, 2012 Audra rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: yoga
This book was seriously up and down in quality, with some stellar sections, some terrible, and most mediocre. Surprisingly, I felt the yoga & injuries chapter was the best written of the book, relying on a mix of science and teacher's interviews. It also related directly to the practice, whereas I felt many of the later chapters were quite the stretch. They either had little scientific research, or did not seem at all connected to the practice that I know (and I do not "only" practice asana ...more
Apr 26, 2012 Randal rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
William Broad has done an excellent job with gathering the scientific reports and synthesizing an intelligent review of modern yoga. The 'scientific' platform turns out to be a `must have' prop for improving our understanding and practice of yoga.

The book situates modern yoga, the physical and scientific endeavor, as a development to promote Indian nationalism in the mid-nineteenth century. In an early and startling scientific disappointment - even with the recent tinkering of adding Sun Salutat
Jan 31, 2016 Chris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As the subtitle states, Broad discussed both risks AND rewards of yoga. I enjoyed learning about the history and physiology of postures and breathing. In continuing my own practice I'm also aware and careful especially with regards to my neck. Must read for a broad overview of the recent state of research and potential future of yoga.
This book wasn't what I expected. I was expecting something easily digested, with short sections and a lot of section headings, or something. This book has a six-and-a-half page cast of characters in the front of the book, so you don't get the names confused.

What I wanted, I guess, was a collection of nuggets of information that were going to help me (I've been practicing yoga, on and off, but medium-seriously at times, for ten years) understand better just what yoga is, how it helps me, and how
Generally, an interesting (and fairly quick) read highlighting the relatively small set of scientific research behind yoga and measuring it against the claims made by both traditional texts and modern "masters" of the practice. Both the health benefits and the risks are highlighted, and the author does a good job of balancing positive, negative, and indeterminate research. That said, the book is still generally positive toward the practice, and takes an almost idealist view of how science can he ...more
Jennifer Mcferran
I found the NY Times article to be infuriating, but this was leant to me indirectly and I attempted to read this book with an open mind. I started off enjoying it a bit more than expected and that peaked somewhere towards the middle of the book. The end of the book dragged on a bit and I'm not convinced that he can make such lofty conclusions from what seem like piecemeal data. Also, although he admits that the physical yoga practice has so many different types, he seems to transfer conclusions ...more
Nov 24, 2012 Mike rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thought Mr. Broad, as a person who practices yoga, gave an interesting overview of yoga especially as promoted and practiced over the last 120 or so years. He provided scientific evidence that dispels some of the myths about the advantages of yoga that are still sold to the public while also shedding light on some of its physiological benefits, e.g. the postures that increase male and female testosterone levels. If you expect to be advised to do yoga for weight loss or to increase athletic per ...more
Ken Kugler
Apr 19, 2012 Ken Kugler rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had heard the author, William Broad, on NPR radio a while ago on the way into work. It seems others had the same idea as I did and had to put a request in for the book. At the time there were only a couple of copies in the system but now there a lot more.
It deserves to be read by anyone interested in yoga. The benefits and drawbacks are looked into and not just by anecdotes. There are doctors and psychiatrists as well as many teachers. The main fault, to me, is that their sampling seems mostl
Mar 08, 2013 Melissa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: life
After having started yoga for the first time in 2013, the controversy surrounding this book really interested me. I love to read a book that upsets people, especially if after reading it myself I find that I think their upset is meaningless. It really tells you a lot about those people and the circle or "clique" they belong to.

What really pushed me to read the book though was the development of some neck and arm pain about a month into my new hobby/exercise/self-awareness program ("yoga"). I f
Jun 29, 2015 Thomas rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating stuff. Broad goes into detail describing the history of yoga and the increasing number of modern scientific studies on the benefits (and risks!) of yoga. However, he only provides vague ideas about why yoga works. My understanding is this: stretching, meditating, focusing on breath, and holding each pose for at least a minute gives your *nervous system* a kind of workout. Stretching and doing sun salutations stimulate the sympathetic nervous system (the so called fight-or-flight resp ...more
Jun 17, 2013 Stacie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, read-in-2013
I was both intrigued and skeptical when I first saw this book. How many other books out there discuss yoga in a truly scientific light; quoting research studies and discussing both the promises of the field and how they hold up to scientific examination? Not many, that's for sure.

According to this book, yoga can help with your depression and increase your sex drive. It can also cause great harm. Strokes, torn muscles, and a myriad of other injuries are highly possible if poses are done incorrect
Jul 31, 2012 David rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
pretty good summary of what is known and not known about effects of various kinds of yoga, point of emphasis being to stick to what has been studied at least somewhat rigorously rather than just what has been claimed anecdotally by students/practitioners or advertised by teachers/studios. Author is himself a practitioner, and as I would have expected most of the findings are favorable (improved mood, relaxation, sometimes helpful for back pain, increased libido....).

He debunks a few myths by ca
Caveat emptor could summarize William J. Broad's book "The Science of Yoga: The Risks and the Rewards." The book is an example of a worthy topic treated by a well qualified author, resulting in a useful exploration to help the reader to have a place to begin to sort out the claims about yoga, both positive and negative.

Broad has practiced yoga for decades. He is also an award winning science journalist. This combination makes him a perfect fit to explore what are the risks and rewards of practic
I would give this book 2.5 stars out of 5 actually. I'll give him half a star for breaking new ground and being the first person to write a book like this. Which is important.

I must say, I had high hopes for a book with this title, and my hopes were not filled. The author's prose is nice, and the book is written in a fine manner, that is easy to read. However, It must be said that the book does seem to have a sour mood and overall negative tone. He's been doing yoga for 40+ years and he doesn't
Keith Kendall
Jan 28, 2014 Keith Kendall rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

This book impressed me when I first opened it and saw right-up-front, a page with a paragraph about each of the current yoga styles, and several pages with a paragraph about each of the major characters in the book, and a 7 page chronology from 1500 BC to the present. And, at the back there is a 2 page list of "Further Reading", which includes Yoga for Arthritis: The Complete Guide. The body of this book includes a lot about the author, Loren Fishman.

"Yoga Journal - the field's leading magazine
Mander Pander
Jan 15, 2014 Mander Pander rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: yoga, 2014
If you are a teacher or a serious/ lifelong practitioner, you'll get a lot out of this book. It is important for people who self-identify in this group to read this book.
If you are a weekend warrior yoga practitioner / have a casual practice/ are just getting started, or self identify as one who is very competitive, it's even more important for you to read this book...but there's a danger you'll be scared off from yoga.

William Broad has been practicing since 1970. He's not out to attack yoga. He
Jun 26, 2016 Amanda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating read for anyone curious about yoga, practicing yoga, or considering teaching yoga. This book brings forth every angle into view with excellent scientific citations and professional published literature. Topics such has health, risks of injury, healing, sex, and moods interlink chapter to chapter and help guide the reader to a well-rounded view of the "risks and rewards" of yoga.
Jenny Miller
Mar 19, 2012 Jenny Miller rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Here's my review of The Science of Yoga: The Risks and Rewards. Seriously, the guy is not a genius. It's not very well-researched or written. It's nowhere near the standard for investigation or lively-writing we'd enjoy with Michael Pollan, Mark Kurlanksy, or Bill Bryson, for example. He's really excited about sex! And he loves finding anecdotes that support his thesis. Including his own injury, which was caused by running, and which he exacerbated while not paying attention to what he was doing ...more
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Some of The Girls: Also simultaneously reading The Science of Yoga 2 9 Jan 22, 2013 11:43AM  
Yoga Folks: Science of Yoga chapters 6 to end and whole book 8 39 Jan 05, 2013 11:34AM  
Yoga Folks: "Science of Yoga" chapters 1-2 18 54 Jan 05, 2013 11:34AM  
Yoga Folks: Science of Yoga chapters 3-4 7 22 Jan 05, 2013 11:25AM  
Yoga Folks: March read is The Science of Yoga 11 38 Apr 02, 2012 06:43AM  
  • Yoga Body: The Origins of Modern Posture Practice
  • The Key Muscles of Hatha Yoga
  • The Mirror of Yoga: Awakening the Intelligence of Body and Mind
  • Yoga as Medicine: The Yogic Prescription for Health and Healing
  • Yoga Anatomy
  • Insight Yoga
  • 30 Essential Yoga Poses: For Beginning Students and Their Teachers
  • Hell-Bent: Obsession, Pain, and the Search for Something Like Transcendence in Competitive Yoga
  • Yoga The Spirit And Practice Of Moving Into Stillness
  • Itsy Bitsy Yoga: Poses to Help Your Baby Sleep Longer, Digest Better, and Grow Stronger
  • Fierce Medicine: Breakthrough Practices to Heal the Body and Ignite the Spirit
  • Anatomy of Hatha Yoga: A Manual for Students, Teachers, and Practitioners
  • Teaching Yoga: Essential Foundations and Techniques
  • Yoga Nidra
  • Light on Life
  • Yin Yoga: Outline of a Quiet Practice
  • Yoga for Pain Relief: Simple Practices to Calm Your Mind and Heal Your Chronic Pain
  • Power Yoga: The Total Strength and Flexibility Workout
William J. Broad is a best-selling author and a senior writer at The New York Times. In more than thirty years as a science journalist, he has written hundreds of front-page articles and won every major journalistic award in print and film. His reporting shows unusual depth and breadth - everything from exploding stars and the secret life of marine mammals to the spread of nuclear arms and why the ...more
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“What ever happened to mental hygiene?” he asked rhetorically. “It doesn’t exist—and never did. When you went through high school, you were never taught how to deal with stress, how to deal with trauma, how to deal with tension and anxiety—with the whole list of mood impairments. There’s no preventive maintenance. We know how to prevent cavities. But we don’t teach children how to be resilient, how to cope with stress on a daily basis.” 6 likes
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