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
- Yes, Republicans can impeach President Obama
- The mystery behind China's aggressive push into space
- Why Texas' abortion rates aren't falling as quickly as everyone expected
- Here's the schedule very successful people follow every day
- What religious traditionalists can teach us about sex
- The 5 best and worst states for a well-lived life
- Why all drugs should be legal. (Yes, even heroin.)
- 7 ideas from ancient thinkers that will improve your modern life
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- The science behind Captain America's shield, The Hulk's anger, and more
Subscribe to the Week