One Year Later: The "How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body" Controversy

Posted by admin on 1/11/13 in Yoga

Most yogis will recall the brouhaha that erupted over Mr. William Broad's article that appeared in the New York Times Magazine a year ago, entitled "How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body", an excerpt from his book "The Science of Yoga".  It wasn't a mere blip on the yoga conversation radar: anyone who had anything to do with ever having set foot upon a yoga mat chimed in, offering their two cents on whether the dangers in yoga were worth the attention they were getting in light of the physical benefits that yoga is known for. As a Chicago-based columnist remarked, the article provoked “more coverage, umbrage and yuppie outrage than the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq combined.”  Even the photo he selected to lead with, above (an image of the Broadway cast of 'Godspell' contorting themselves into positions that approximate yoga asana) was meant to be funny, but the humor was lost on almost any serious practitioner of yoga and a backlash against Mr. Broad ensued. 

Mr. Broad revisits that dicussion in this January 10 New York Times Blog, sharing some of the letters that were written to him that bolstered his argument. He heard from one former studio owner who was undergoing cervical fusion and would need a lifetime of physical therapy.  One of the saddest and most thoughtful letters he received came from an elderly man who studied with Iyengar in India for 16 years. His list of personal injuries included torn ligaments, damaged vertebrae, slipped disks, deformed knees and ruptured blood vessels in his brain. “All that you wrote,” he said, “I can confirm in my own life.”

The blog post goes into the frequency of injuries, which are admittedly low, but suggests that the quality of these ailments rather than the quantity suggests that, "It may turn out that yoga, despite a low rate of injury, is unusually dangerous." He also covers some of the fatalities that have been attributed to yoga practice. 

You can hear Mr. Broad in discourse with Steven Colbert, below, where he offers that his own practice led him to write "The Science of Yoga" (as he states in the NYTimes blog, "Most people had no idea had no idea that I’m a yoga enthusiast, not a basher"), and hear him explore some of the benefits of the practice, including Colbert's line of questioning on the purported 2-hour orgasm.

What stance do you take on the issue?  Are we wise to be aware of the risks of our yoga practice? Or are the situations described by Mr. Broad overblown and doing more to detract from the overall benefits of the practice?

Tags: controversy, health, injury, safety, william broad, Yoga

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