What the NY Times doesn’t get about yoga

Don’t go thinking that the last New York Times article about the danger of yoga (this time, for women, which I guess means we can expect dogs — from doga — will be the next subject) is totally in our rear view mirror.

It isn’t. The Times is still too big a media behemoth to ignore that quickly. (That’s just a fact of life in the U.S. For now.)

That doesn’t mean we have to take what it says lying down (in shavasana?). So, here’s a video that went up a week ago. It’s Leslie Kaminoff’s response:

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

13 thoughts on “What the NY Times doesn’t get about yoga”

  1. Do you find that people completely misinterpret or fail to understand the what “yoga” really is? I’m a simple dude – to me, yoga is simply stillness, awareness and comfort. As a matter of fact I just brushed my teeth being mindful of these three tenants, was I practicing “Brushing Teeth Yoga?” … Taking a sip of tea, going for a walk …

  2. The NYT writer — and the folks who made the traveling movies — are not dedicated or committed to yoga. That’s the #1 difference. It’s about wrting a story and being paid to publish. That’s why they don’t know the difference. FOr a psychospiritual endeavor to have its effect, the practioner must surrender the “reason” he’s doing it.

    PS>> Just because they are “big” doesn’t mean they’re right.

  3. Ironic NYT doesn’t get it, Bloomberg published a pro-Yoga article:

    “Scientists are getting close to proving what yogis have held to be true for centuries — yoga and meditation can ward off stress and disease.

    John Denninger, a psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School, is leading a five-year study on how the ancient practices affect genes and brain activity in the chronically stressed. His latest work follows a study he and others published earlier this year showing how so-called mind-body techniques can switch on and off some genes linked to stress and immune function”

    It’s a great article, will help you convince some of your non-Yoga friends that science is on your side.

  4. As much as I can appreciate Leslie’s comments regarding asana vs yoga it’s simply reality that the term “yoga” has firmly entered the western cultural mainstream as synonymous with the contemporary re-imagining/interpretation of the physical practice of asana poses. The toothpaste is out of the tube at this point and complaining that the NYT doesn’t understand the true meaning of yoga to people who seemingly already know this (is the general public reading this website?) is, at best, impotent preaching to the choir and, at worst, a diversionary tactic from an important issue.

    I think William Broad is doing a service by shedding light on the ever growing issue of yoga asana injuries, something the western postural yoga world seems intent on downplaying (oh, all activities cause injuries so just stop talking about it) or passing the buck on (must be the student’s fault somehow or those “other” teachers who aren’t me or my friends). Modern physical asana practice has inherent pitfalls and injuries do happen as a direct result of the practice, deal with it, educate yourself and proceed in an accordingly professional manner in the best interest of your students.

    1. Well, keep in mind, I’m just passing on Leslie’s thoughts — you can see the setting he said these comments in. We’ve talked repeatedly about the asana vs. yoga issue. Really, a problem with “yoga in the West” is that yoga and asana have become synonymous. I doubt people would be as sensitive to comments about “asana injuries” or even “paddleboard asana.”


  5. News papers are about making money. The wider the circulation the more the advertising costs, the more you can pay journalists, the more buzz is created about the paper. It’s false thinking that any newspaper would ever deliver truth. Spin creates energy, excitement and makes people talk about the badly written article and the newspaper especially in this age of electronic media the reader does the job of distributership. These are truly Orwellian times. If we could lock into the relationship between electronic media and our consciousness and get rid of the media all together and retain the feeling reaching out through cyberspace gives us we would be getting somewhere!

  6. God forbid somebody criticizes Yoga.Yogis need to chill a bit. We who practice should know that the physical effort is not without risk. I agree with Ms Green view, By highlighting the risks involved William Broad is doing yoga a service, making it real. Of course people get injured practicing yoga, it can be an intense physical practice. What Yoga needs to do is to work on the quality of teachers. In NY there are some very good teachers but also some very bad theachers. Plunk down a couple of hundred bucks, take some classes and you are a teacher. Not much quality control……The practice needs better standards.

    1. I think what you are describing is what yoga practitioners (and teachers, even more so) wish were happening. The response to Broad and others is because, rather than suggesting that there are issues and certain risks to a very physical practice, he makes broad (and “provocative” / headline-grabbing) claims based on no substantial information. (In the latest, there was no context to the numbers of patients showing up needing hip surgeries, for instance.)

      My guess is that what underlies the reaction is that non-yogis are going to leave with the takeaways that yoga is “dangerous” and they’ve been hearing what amounts to lies about its effectiveness.

      And most yogis think more people should be practicing yoga. 🙂

      My reaction is just to what I see as pretty sloppy reporting — the NYT is supposed to be better than that (although it regularly isn’t). I’d welcome journalism or other research that suggest the physical “dangers” of practice — I do think people should know that yoga isn’t without its injury potential. But that’s a far cry, in my mind, from what Broad has been producing around his book.


      1. I disagree that Broad doesn’t provide substantial information on the link between yoga and injuries, he has done a good deal of research and continues to source valid scientific data and studies. These may not add up to the smoking gun you are looking for but the study of yoga related injuries is nascent science because the explosion of yoga into the mainstream has been relatively new. The data is building, much like the scientific data is building on the benefits of yoga. How many studies out there in support of the benefits of yoga would hold up to the scrutiny and complaints that have been thrown at the studies and data Broad has sourced? I’ve read many of these yoga benefit studies and truly most have the very same shortcomings (not enough data/test subjects, correlation vs. causation, etc). I’m afraid if you are going to ignore or toss out the injury studies based on these complaints of insubstantial data you will also have to toss out most if not all of the benefit studies as well. And yet, any half-assed story about the benefits of yoga is plastered repeatedly all over social media to be taken on face value as proof positive of yoga’s all positive, all the time powers. Biased much?

        Also, the provocative headlines are more a function of the editors and not so much Mr Broad – see Roseanne Harvey’s interview with Broad in Feb 2012 where he expressed surprise and dismay at the provocative “wreck your body” headline on the article of that same year http://www.itsallyogababy.com/william-j-broad-author-of-the-science-of-yoga-video-interview-exclusive/. The guy is straight up and on the level as far as I can see. And I don’t agree with every contention he makes either, but at least he’s moving the conversation forward with the health and welfare of the students front and center. What I see coming from a lot of the yoga world in response is a good deal of reactionary ad hominem attacks, defensiveness and finger pointing at either students or other teachers as the “problem”. i think this knee-jerking against William Broad is yet another way to divert the conversation away from addressing the serious issues of injuries and maintaining the illusory status quo of yoga is only good and healing. The mindset needs to shift.

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