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The Science of Yoga: The Risks and the Rewards Hardcover – February 7, 2012

3.9 out of 5 stars 192 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“Yoga, an ancient practice with millions of modern practitioners, has been the subject of overheated speculation and grandiose claims; it has been dismissed without warrant as well, underappreciated by some who might well benefit from it. The Science of Yoga is a lucid and long overdue account of what scientists have found in their attempts to ferret out the truth about what yoga can and cannot do to heal and make better the body and mind. It is a fascinating and important book.”

Kay Redfield Jamison, author of An Unquiet Mind and Touched With Fire

The Science of Yoga offers a riveting, much-needed, clear-eyed look at the yoga mystique. In this investigation, science journalist William Broad pulls back the curtain on the little-discussed world of yoga injuries and risks, while setting the record straight about the numerous potential benefits. Downward dog will never look the same.”
Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence

“If this book doesn’t motivate you to practice yoga, nothing will. Broad sheds light on yoga’s health benefits and hoaxes, covering everything from headstands to hypertension, the vagus nerve to the YogaButt. Finally I understand why I feel so good when I do yoga. His lively exploration of its evolution from Benares to Beverly Hills flows like any great practice should – with intelligence, good humor and some mindblowing insights.
Priscilla Warner, author of Learning to Breathe – My Yearlong Quest to Bring Calm to My Life and co-author of The Faith Club

“After reading The Science of Yoga, I am even more awed by the magnificent complexities of the human body and mind, and astonished that we can exert so much control over this invisible realm through the practice of yoga. Broad has not only thoroughly researched his topic, he has lived it.”
Alan Lightman, author of Einstein’s Dreams

“William Broad is optimistic and hopeful in pointing the way to its future as a major force in preventing and treating disease.”

—Gail Sheehy, author of Passages in Caregiving

“In this compelling work of investigative journalism, William Broad exposes the ”scientific” claims made about yoga—from its much-vaunted healing powers to yogasms—to scientific scrutiny. The Science of Yoga is a wonderful read that any yoga practitioner thirsting for authenticity should study carefully before suiting up.”

David Gordon White, author of Kiss of the Yogini

"Dramatic...a flair for provocation…valuable.”
Publishers Weekly

About the Author

William J. Broad has practiced yoga since 1970. A bestselling author and senior writer at The New York Times, he has won every major award in print and television during more than thirty years as a science journalist. With New York Times colleagues, he has twice won the Pulitzer Prize, as well as an Emmy and a DuPont. He is the author or coauthor of seven books, including Germs: Biological Weapons and America’s Secret War, a #1 New York Times bestseller. He lives in the New York metropolitan area with his wife and three children. He enjoys doing Sun Salutations.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1 edition (February 7, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451641427
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451641424
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (192 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #104,625 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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 Titanic sank so fast. The Best American Science Writing, a yearly anthology, has twice featured his work.

He joined The Times in 1983 and before that worked in Washington for Science, the magazine of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Broad has won two Pulitzer Prizes with Times colleagues, as well as an Emmy and a DuPont. He won the Pulitzers for coverage of the space shuttle Challenger disaster and the feasibility of antimissile arms. In 2002, he won the Emmy (PBS Nova) for a documentary that detailed the threat of germ terrorism. He was a Pulitzer finalist in 2005 for articles written with Times colleague David E. Sanger on nuclear proliferation. In 2007, he shared a DuPont Award (The Discovery Channel) from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism for the television documentary, "Nuclear Jihad: Can Terrorists Get the Bomb?"

Broad is the author or co-author of eight books, most recently The Science of Yoga: The Risks and the Rewards (Simon & Schuster, 2012), a New York Times bestseller. His books have been translated into dozens of languages. His other titles include Germs: Biological Weapons and America's Secret War (Simon & Schuster, 2001), a number-one New York Times bestseller; The Universe Below: Discovering the Secrets of the Deep Sea (Simon & Schuster, 1997); Teller's War: The Top-Secret Story Behind the Star Wars Deception (Simon & Schuster, 1992); and Betrayers of the Truth: Fraud and Deceit in the Halls of Science (Simon & Schuster, 1982).

Broad's reporting has taken him to Paris and Vienna, Brazil and Ecuador, Kiev and Kazakhstan. In December 1991, he was among the last Westerners to see the Soviet hammer and sickle flying over the Kremlin.

Broad's media appearances include Larry King Live, The Charlie Rose Show, The Discovery Channel, Nova, The History Channel, and National Public Radio. His speaking engagements have ranged from the U.S. Navy in Washington, to the Knickerbocker Club in New York, to the Monterey Aquarium in California. He has also given talks at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. and the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City.

Broad earned a masters degree in the History of Science from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. He has three adult children and lives with his wife in the New York metropolitan area.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book created a buzz in the yoga world when a controversial excerpt, entitled "How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body," appeared in the Sunday New York Times magazine. While highlighting the important and under-discussed problem of yoga injuries, the article struck me as imbalanced and alarmist and, I'll admit, I was expecting to dislike the book. But I quite enjoyed author William Broad's lively voice and the various historical anecdotes he unearthed in his five years of research -- and even learned a few things about a topic I've intensely researched for more than a decade.

Where the Pulitzer Prize winning science writer shines is in debunking various myths, which continue to be spouted by well-meaning, but misinformed yoga teachers. Thus, yoga will not help you lose weight by revving up your metabolism, fast yogic breathing does not increase oxygen delivery to the brain (it actually has the opposite effect), and asana, even vigorous versions, won't give you anything like the aerobic workout of running or swimming. The book focuses on modern, athletic yoga styles, with little talk of meditation, cultivating awareness, growing spiritually, or finding your life's mission.

And sometimes in his glee to overturn sacred cows, Broad oversimplifies the science, or ignores research that doesn't support his point of view. For example, while yoga has been shown to lower the metabolic rate, we don't hear the evidence that suggests it does facilitate weight loss, likely via such mechanisms as encouraging mindful eating and better food choices, and reducing the level of the hunger-inducing, fat-depositing stress hormone cortisol.
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Format: Hardcover
Review of William J. Broad's "The Science of Yoga" by Leslie Kaminoff, author of Yoga Anatomy-2nd Edition

In spite of the fact that I have some highly critical things to say about this book, I am recommending that every yoga student, yoga teacher and teacher of yoga teachers read "The Science of Yoga." The issues that Mr. Broad raises are too important to be ignored, and need to be openly and objectively discussed by anyone who cares about truth, clarity and safety.

When he's at his best, Broad does a great service to our field by throughly investigating the history of yoga research and reporting on the actual science that's available to either support or refute many of the claims that are commonly made about yoga's promises. Several of the myths he exposes are ones that I have been trying to debunk for years. He also does a great job of documenting the evidence of yoga's benefits - for health, creativity and mental balance.

When he's at his worst, he's attempting to make his book more colorful by spinning speculative yarns about the personalities of his cast of characters. Most of them are long dead and cannot dispute Broad's assertions about their motivations, ambitions and ethics. However, some of his subjects are very much alive and I know for a fact that at least one of them takes extreme exception to the manner in which he was portrayed (full disclosure: I am referring to a good friend of mine).

Broad also loses his objectivity when, in chapter 4, he launches into the controversial issue of yoga injuries.
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101 Comments 778 of 847 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
1. Firstly, the book focuses mainly on pranayama and asana ... obviously a narrow slice of "yoga" as practiced everyday by millions of Devotees, Babas, Sannyasis and Yogis who are a vital part of cultural and spiritual life in India. It's a tad Western-centric to use "Yoga" in the title when the focus of the book is a narrow slice of an otherwise rich and multifaceted spiritual practice.

2. Broad describes how the modern form of Western yoga is a "cleaned up" version of a centuries-old Tantric practice. The modern postures were developed in Mysore in the early 1900's as part of India's press for independence from the British. This clean, gymnastic & more regimented form of asana and pranayama practice developed by Krishnamacharya is what eventually caught on in America. In India, yoga remains a source of great National pride in both its modern scientific foundations as well as its relationship to ancient Indian culture and religion.

3. Broad provides a, ahem, broad, overview of the way in which scientists have tried to understand how and why pranayama and asana practice lead to wellness and longevity. He digs up research findings in India from as far back as the late 1800's and follows them up to the present day. This was my favorite part of the book ... his trips to the original schools in India to dig up and introduce us to the earliest research on yogis ... usually on yogis who could stay buried inside of airtight chambers. Back then, yogis were believed to have supernatural powers! Even today however, modern scientists study the physiology of hibernation among mammals and wonder if humans might be able to enter similar dormant states. Who knows how long humans can really extend the natural age limit?
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