Uh-Om. A report on the dangers of yoga in The New York Times magazine is causing quite a stir. In the article, William J. Broad examines how people in both the medical and yoga communities believe that a number of common yoga poses are "inherently risky." These days, Broad writes, "urbanites who sit in chairs all day walk into a studio a couple of times a week and strain to twist themselves into ever-more-difficult postures despite their lack of flexibility and other physical problems." The result, he says, is that yoga can actually "wreck your body," causing a number of painful ailments, from hip degeneration to stroke. Really?
Sadly, yes: The "vast majority of people" shouldn't practice yoga, veteran yoga teacher Glenn Black tells The New York Times. "Yoga is for people in good physical condition." It's not for the general public. Many ordinary folks have physical weaknesses or other problems that put them at great risk of injury. And it's hard for a teacher to handle a yoga class filled with all sorts of people with all sort of problems — especially when too many instructors and schools focus on pushing people to dangerous limits.
"How yoga can wreck your body"
C'mon. This is a biased hit piece: The Times article isn't exactly "fair and balanced," says Paul Raeburhown at M.I.T.'s Knight Science Journalism Tracker. It alleges that yoga isn't a "miraculous agent of renewal and healing," but rather a dangerous enterprise. That's a cheap argument. Of course yoga doesn't offer easy miracles. But that hardly makes it dangerous. Plus, this story focuses almost entirely on yoga's risks, giving short shrift to the practice's many rewards. And, the Times relies on scant, decades-old anecdotes to make its case. Clearly, "the Times doesn’t appear to be interested in the science of yoga. It seems to be interested in slaying a dragon."
"NY Times unfairly trashes yoga"
And all exercise involves some risk: Too much of any activity, from marathon running to cycling to yoga, poses danger of some kind, says Carmel Lobello at Death + Taxes. As with any workout, yoga should be practiced with caution. You can't jump into the hardest exercises without first getting into shape. If you do, "every form of exercise will tear your body to shreds" — not just yoga. But remember: "Despite all the known dangers" at the gym, "there are even greater dangers in not going."
"Every form of exercise will tear your body to shreds, even yoga"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- How U.S. special forces are preparing for the worst-case scenario in North Korea
- I hate Ayn Rand — but here's why my fellow conservatives love her
- Here's the schedule very successful people follow every day
- Hey, Paul Ryan's new poverty plan isn't completely terrible!
- The 11 worst fast food restaurants in America
- The secret to Gabrielle Hamilton's amazing grilled cheese sandwiches
- Deficit scolds are the most crazed ideologues in America
- 7 things the world's happiest people do every day
- The weird obsession that's ruining the GOP
- The disturbing lessons of Arizona's un-American execution
Subscribe to the Week