“How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body” is an embarrassment of a headline for the venerable New York Times.
The accompanying article deserves it though, as do the photos of non-yogis performing asanas comically poorly. The whole package smacks of sensationalism: disappointing in such a well-respected news source, to say the least.
Actual facts are sparse in this article by William J. Broad, and his bold statements often contradict each other, as when he says that Glenn Black “has no formal training for determining which poses are good for a student and which may be problematic.” Yet but a few paragraphs before Black had “studied in Pune, India, at the institute founded by the legendary B. K. S. Iyengar.” Since when does studying at one of the foremost institutes of yoga qualify one as having no formal training?
This is just one patently false statement made by Mr. Broad. The bulk of the article is misleading. A phrase like “the yoga community long remained silent about its potential to inflict blinding pain” implies a worldwide conspiracy of yogis who want to hurt people.
The idea is laughable, and also untrue. I have had a regular yoga practice for over five years now, and have heard my teachers say, countless times, that no-one in the class should do anything that hurts. Inversions are served up with a multitude of warnings. Adjustments help those who don’t listen. In fact, teachers are generally overly cautious. Nobody wants a lawsuit.
Mr. Broad eagerly serves up examples, striking fear into the hearts of readers by citing the case of an otherwise healthy 28-year-old woman having a stroke in a yoga class… in 1973. 40 years ago. If he couldn’t find any similar cases in the interim, I think it’s safe to say that that is not something you and I have to worry about.
And this is something Mr. Broad must know, as the author of the forthcoming “The Science of Yoga: The Risks and Rewards.” Yet the rewards are nowhere to be seen in this article. Instead he paints yoga as a menace, and the people who practice it as gullible fanatics.
If any physical activity is done incorrectly, the results can be disastrous. This article could easily have been called “How Running Can Wreck Your Body” or “How Basketball Can Wreck Your Body.” But these headlines wouldn’t pull nearly as many readers, because these activities aren’t currently trendy enough to generate the kind of attention that Mr. Broad was looking for. To sell his book, he sold yoga down the river.