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Customer Review

786 of 856 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Deeply flawed, but a must-read, February 7, 2012
This review is from: The Science of Yoga: The Risks and the Rewards (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. I am the last person to deny that asana injuries happen quite regularly, as a significant part of my practice consists of helping practitioners who have sustained them. Nevertheless, the truly scary picture painted in this chapter is not based on any science that would pass Broad's own muster if he was reviewing it in the first 3 chapters of his book. He can cite no serious scientific studies done regarding the actual cause and frequency of severe injuries (stroke, pneumothorax, paralysis, etc.) because there are none. Instead, Broad reports on a handful of case studies dating back to the 70's, and some surveys of emergency room statistics. He then extrapolates from those numbers to conclude there must be a minimum of 300 strokes caused by yoga asanas per year. Any indication of how common these injuries are in the non-yoga practicing population? No. Any context for where asana practice ranks in relation to other "risky" activities (it's safer than golf)? No. Any mention of the fundamental logical rule that correlation is not causation? No. Is this good science? Hell no.

What becomes clear in his epilogue is that Mr. Broad is a man with an agenda. He wants yoga to gain more credibility and acceptance in mainstream health care delivery by medicalizing its educational standards and subjecting itself to governmental regulation (something I've been fighting against for the past 3 decades). This explains why he needed to build the case for yoga's riskiness, and why he felt compelled to unfairly and inaccurately portray the International Association of Yoga Therapists as a non-credible group with shady origins whose main agenda is to provide its members with "phony credentials." He even absurdly proposes the formation of a "Yoga Education Society" whose mission would be to collect information about yoga and disseminate it to the public - the exact same mission the IAYT has been splendidly fulfilling since its founding. Shameful.

Broad's misplaced faith in his own agenda, the medical model and in governmental controls has blinded him to the fact that much of yoga's popularity as a healing modality is precisely because we are an alternative to all that. We are not medical practitioners nor should we aspire to be. We are educators and should fight to remain so.

Nobody asked Mr. Broad to push for the medicalization, accreditation or licensing of yoga. He took it on himself to make a case for it, and its up to us as yoga professionals to show him that he's wrong by continuing to raise the standards of our educational programs, and by keeping our profession free from coercive forces of any kind. That is why I say it's important you read this book and then let your voice be heard.
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Showing 1-10 of 104 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Feb 7, 2012 9:48:46 AM PST
In his interview with Terry Gross, Broad admits that it is against the very spirit of Yoga to be regulated in any way. He says he doesn't want to create a lot of red tape, but he says that there are those who can get certificates as yoga teachers with no more than online correspondence and he wants there to be certain standards - not medicalization, as I understand his argument.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 7, 2012 10:01:06 AM PST
With all due respect to Broad's expertise as a science writer, he clearly knows very little about the regulation discussion. It's been going on for many years in our community, and IAYT has done a great job of facilitating a healthy, nuanced dialogue among the many stakeholders.

Broad has inserted himself into this process like a bull in a china shop. He should have taken the time to do the research, but he appears to be more interested in pushing his own agenda, which he makes very clear in his book.

I have no doubt that we will meet at some future yoga event, at which point I assure you he will get several pieces of my mind. Politely.

Posted on Feb 7, 2012 12:06:18 PM PST
G. W. says:
As a yoga enthusiast I will definitely check this book out.

It sounds as though your negative criticisms arise from the author's portrayal of individuals and organizations towards which you are favorably disposed, and also from differences of opinion about how best to approach the question of regulation and certification. But I also note that you criticize him for speculative portrayals of individuals, and then impute a variety of nefarious and deceitful motives upon him yourself. Your argument is most effective when you take issue with specific facts and methods, such as with his portrayal of the statistical evidence surrounding injury-rates.

When an "outsider" says critical things about an organization or disagrees with its methods, and those who are invested in that organization take exception and respond by impungning that person's motives, it does pique my curiousity to learn more, so that I can decide for myself. So that is what I shall do.

Posted on Feb 7, 2012 12:49:13 PM PST
C. A. Wright says:
As a long time yoga student and someone getting my certification in June, it was very disappointing to read that it is an "easy" task to become a yoga teacher. I have been practicing for almost ten years, and, due to the respect I have for all the great teachers who have passed through my life, I am just now seeing it fit that i pursue this goal of sharing a safe practice with all of my future students. I find this all throughout the yoga community, and find unsafe practice almost completely in ones own mind (just as the people who will do nearly anything to be 'healthier', i.e. crash diets, pills, etc.), and not within the teaching community.

Although I feel this is a topic that needs to be discussed in the health community, the discussion of accreditation and licensing might need to come in a different tone. Anyone who knows a true yoga teacher, knows that this is not about money or a quick certification. It is about healing in a safe and timely manner.

Posted on Feb 7, 2012 9:38:43 PM PST
Yoga Healing says:
If you listen to Mr. Broads interview on Fresh Air with Terry, his first words were how he injured himself by practicing a Yoga Pose while talking and being in an Ego state of Mind, Yoga is a collective practice which trains the mind towards one pointed focus. If we practice Yoga as a way to collect our consciousness inwards, naturally leads us to our first human instinct; do no harm towards ourselves.
Terri Alexander

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 7, 2012 10:52:06 PM PST
Anonymous says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 7, 2012 10:54:40 PM PST
Anonymous says:
With all due respect for your argument and your background, it does seem that Mr. Broad's motivation for "pushing his own agenda" is one of concern for the health and safety of yoga students, which is not a bad thing. And perhaps he began to feel greater urgency in the "agenda", more urgent than you seem to think is warranted, when he experienced his own injury. I don't know, and am just conjecturing.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 7, 2012 11:01:05 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 7, 2012 11:02:00 PM PST
Anonymous says:
A relative of mine trained for a rather long time in swaroopa yoga to become a teacher. Another relative of a friend who is a short-term yoga student decided to train to become a teacher in Bikram yoga and spent a grand total of 9 weeks in training - and is now teaching. She is young, inexperienced and is guiding people's bodies in yoga practice. That seems to me to illustrate the need for certification or some kind of regulation. If a charismatic or bullying teacher has students doing something dangerous, yes, students should just say, "no", but naivete or timidity can sometimes lead people to do things they "know" to be unwise.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 8, 2012 7:27:24 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 8, 2012 7:35:03 AM PST
K. Miller says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

Posted on Feb 8, 2012 8:26:14 AM PST
Is it too much to ask that people reviewing the book actually READ the book...?

...and maybe then, when you write your review, perhaps you could also use proper grammar, syntax and spell-check.

Also, I can't fathom why someone would want to post a review as "anonymous." That just seems cowardly to me. We authors put our names, ideas and reputations on the line every time we write something. If you're going to critique what we say, at least have the balls to do the same. When I see "anonymous" on a post or comment, I (on principle) ignore anything that person has to say.
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