Eddie Stern: William Broad, you’ve been served

In just the past couple of days, Eddie Stern has tossed a lot up on his AYNY blog (and re-designed it again). We’ll to everything, if you’ve missed it, but we’ll begin with his (self-admittedly delayed) response to a William Broad article in the New York Times last fall:

As Broad’s by-line lists him as a ‘science reporter for the NYT’, there are, at the least, three characteristics to his writing that undermine his mission by negating scientific rigor, and also seem to be a catalyst of annoyance for many readers.

1. His research methods: “…in late summer, I got around to making some calls.”

2. The types of supporting evidence he cites: “I found that hundreds of orthopedic surgeons in the Mediterranean region heard a conference presentation in 2010 that linked FAI to middle-aged women who do yoga.”

3. His needlessly sensationalist tone: “To my astonishment, some of the nation’s top surgeons declared the trouble to be real—so real that hundreds of women who did yoga were showing up in their offices with unbearable pain and undergoing costly operations to mend or even replace their hips.”

The takeaway? Mr. Broad made some phone calls; surgeons (as they are prone to do) heard a paper read; and other surgeons, whose bread and butter depends on performing said surgeries, performed surgeries. This does not add up to a very deep investigation of the syndrome, or its true relation to yoga. The one yoga teacher referenced in his article, Michelle Edwards, is authenticated because she posted an article on the yoga website Elephant Journal—hardly a peer-reviewed portal of scientific rigor.

Now, there’s much more worth reading about the supposed injury that is at the center of Broad’s article. The above is just a wonderful takedown of Broad, who — in my opinion (fairly learned in this case) — seems to share an illness peculiar to New York Times reporters: a tendency to make illogical leaps when they go from writing articles to longer forms (mostly books). (For the latest example, Google “Jo Becker.”) I think there’s a certain, well, certainty in the NYT’s reporters that perhaps serves them well within the confines of a newspaper article, gives them the authority to package up an issue into its “first line of history” moment, but when tasked with more thoroughly examining an issue, that same certainty blinds them to their own mistakes, biases and blinders.

Eddie also provides some helpful exercises, complete with photos that “make me look as silly as possible.” For example:

Via AYNY.org

Check out the piece for more, written from Eddie’s wise and learned perspective.

Eddie also has up two more posts, one another story from Robbie Norris’ prisoner yoga students:

A YOGA EPIPHANY:

I was heading 2 lunch at Richmond Jail when a clear & simple though hit me: “Da purpose of Life is 2 find something good 2 do wit’ one’s self… and in dat one find da will of God and happineness… since all dat iz good is from God.”

And most recently, he shares the story of a Sonima Foundation teacher:

This afternoon I was leaving the building and walked by the security desk, where three security guards were standing around one of my students. (I actually failed this student last semester—she was hardly ever in class and when she did attend, she was exceptionally disruptive. But I’ve been working extra hard to connect with her this semester, and things have improved.)
I said hello to her and she looked at me and said, “I need yoga right now.” I said okay, let’s do it. I asked the security guards if she and I could go sit outside the auditorium, where there is a table and some chairs.

Read on for what this yoga did and how it did it.

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

2 thoughts on “Eddie Stern: William Broad, you’ve been served”

  1. Elephant journal may not be a peer-reviewed portal of scientific rigor but the fact is there is very little peer-reviewed research on yoga injuries. I think there needs to be a research project on individual yoga pose biomechanics. Doctors tell people to bend their knees when leaning forward to protect the lower back but yoga class tells people to try to keep the knees extended and feet together. People put their feet behind their head and a physician may tell you that is a sure way to cause compression injuries or arthritis to the neck spine. Where is the peer-reviewed science behind these poses?
    I am Michaelle Edwards, the woman who alerted William Broad about the dangers to women who practice yoga who may be creating a laxity in the sacral/hip joint that could lead to hip joint pathologies. Many practitioners of yoga have received hip replacements including famous teachers such as Beryl Bender, Mary Dunne, and George Purvis. William Broad and I both have emails from hundreds of yogis with hip replacements and injuries.

    My ‘research’ is based on more than 40 years of asana practice with yoga injuries myself and over 25 years teaching and also practicing as a licensed massage therapist. I have worked with hundreds of people who have injuries from yoga practice and much of this stems from the compression of the hip joint in extreme forward bends, twisting the spine when the lumbar is in flexion, and over-stretching the plantar fascia and necessary ligament tension of the knee, hip and spinal column.

    Here is a recent quote from a spine doctor who practices at the Spine Center and Orthopedic Rehabilitation of Englewood, New Jersey. “I see more yoga injuries than any other single sport or exercise activity”. Randy Marrinan, MD, FAAPMR. He is fellowship trained and has a (subspecialty) in Interventional Spine and Sports Medicine.

    The necessary elasticity of the spine and hip ligaments is strained and compressed in the practice of some yoga asanas that engage the human body in straight lines and right angles over-riding the way our body is designed to move. Why do you think we all hate chair sitting? Yoga asana needs to evolve to help people retain the natural tensional forces in the body that hold us together. I will be in NYC on May 10th teaching a workshop called Change Your Posture, Change Your Life if you want to experience how this is done. See http://www.yogalign.com for more information.

  2. Just to provide a counter-response to Michaelle Edwards’ comment above: I had both sacral hip pathologies that did not go away with surgery, physical therapy, chiropractic, or massage therapy. They didn’t heal until I started a daily ashtanga practice.

    My experience won’t be everyone’s experience. No single experience will be everyone’s experience. The human body is a complex, ever-changing system.

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