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

The Science of Yoga by William J. Broad
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Feb 05, 2012

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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 like the Head and Shoulder Stand. But the physical benefits of yoga were not well explained at all. Broad claims that yoga slows the metabolism and can lead to weight gain -- Really? Does this apply to all forms of yoga, including those with a heavy cardio component like Bikram? What is the scientific cause of metabolism slowing? Also Broad's explanation of the effect of yoga breathing on O2 and CO2 levels in the body was lacking in the physiologic details. The book was not as seamless as I would have expected. Its strength was Broad's meticulous historical research, not his communication of the science. And I felt the historical aspects were tediously long and filled with too many characters -- is it really necessary for readers to remember all of these yogis? Broad could have distilled these sections to just their essential lessons. Overall, an interesting read for the history and mental benefits of yoga, but you won't learn much about the physical benefits -- particularly of the bikram yoga I practice.
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