The Times reviews ‘Science of Yoga,’ the book that launched ‘yoga will wreck your body article’
Having riled up the yoga world with the infamous How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body article, which unleashed a veritable storm of responses from Ashtangis and every other yoga tradition, as well, the Times now offers up its own review of William Broad’s The Science of Yoga.
The Times article was a fiasco of agenda-oriented editing, taking what appears to be a balanced look at the scientific research on yoga and turning it into a screed on the dangers of yoga, or rather the dangers of Yoga American Style. The actual book it turns out is “an intellectually honest exploration that is true to yoga’s own winding path,” Annie Murphy Paul writes.
In the process of unpacking yoga’s claims, Broad reveals the fascinating history of modern yoga.
Yoga’s bid for respectability began with its home country’s campaign for independence from Britain. In 1924, an Indian nationalist named Jagannath G. Gune established a sprawling compound dedicated to the scientific study of yoga. The goal was to give the ancient and often unsavory ritual “a bright new face that radiated with science and hygiene, health and fitness” — to present it as an indigenous practice that Indians could point to as proof of both their traditional wisdom and their swift modernization. The rebranding was a spectacular success. Yoga as a means to physical fitness and psychological equilibrium spread quickly around the world, and once it reached the United States in the early years of the 20th century, it changed yet again. Broad uncovers the fascinating fact that many of the practices we associate most closely with yoga, like the flowing series of poses known as the Sun Salutation, have no ancient pedigree, but are instead modern inventions.
Then there are the risks. “He makes a strong case that without careful precautions, yoga can produce painful or incapacitating impairments in the form of torn Achilles tendons, nerve damage, back injuries and even stroke.” And the benefits: “The discipline on balance does more good than harm.”
Somehow, though, the review concludes yoga is a “decidedly mixed bag,” with warnings that it won’t give you a sexy ass and can disappoint you if you were expecting miracles, or weren’t planning on working quite that hard.
Risks and magic claims aside, it seem “The Science of Yoga” is chock-full of deep historical and scientific information that makes it a must-read for yoga teachers and dedicated practitioners.