New study: If nothing else, yoga’s got a great placebo effect

A new study from the Centers for Disease Control suggests that of popular alternative wellness activities, yoga beats natural supplements and chiropractic care.

Link to the study is here. Its distilled down here:

Not only are yoga enthusiasts much more likely to report that their downward dogs and tree poses improve their physical and mental health, they are also more likely to report that yoga motivated them to adopt healthier behaviors, such as eating more nutritiously and doing more aerobic exercise.

Indeed, the study found people who take up yoga are four times more likely to say the practice inspired them to eat healthier and three times more likely to say it encouraged them to run, walk or do some other kind of regular physical activity than those who take supplements or receive chiropractic treatments.

[snip]

There is no good evidence-based research to support claims that any of these complementary practices boost the body’s immune system or improve memory or other thinking skills. Yet many of the people surveyed perceived that they did — a finding that likely reflects the placebo effect.

Indeed, 82 percent of the yoga practitioners, and about 67 percent of the users of supplements and spinal manipulation said their overall health had been improved because of the complementary practices.

Yet, when asked if these approaches had made it easier for them to cope with their health problems, less than 40 percent of the yoga practitioners and the spinal manipulation users and only 25 percent of the supplement users said yes.

That last paragraph sounds a weird note to me. Perhaps there’s something to the idea of “ease” that doesn’t translate. I suppose I wouldn’t say my yoga practice has made it easier — it perhaps has made me more effective at coping with things, but it isn’t easy to do so.

Of note: Across the board, yoga outscored taking supplements and chiropractic care in terms of people’s positive experiences and reactions.

Posted by Steve

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Lululemon: ‘We are back’

Lululemon gets the fairly big New York Times treatment this weekend. If that really means the company is back — after a series of gaffes, flaps and sheer pants — is up to you. From the story:

Though largely still built around the peaceful practice of yoga, Lululemon has not given up the fight. Indeed, it seems to be doubling down on the devout yet irreverent corporate culture Mr. Wilson created, though he left the board earlier this year, after selling half of his stake in the company for about $845 million in 2014.

The gathering in the atrium, billed as a Pants Party, was in celebration of a new line of women’s bottoms, which remains the core product for Lululemon. The various designs have names like Naked and Held-in and are being marketed to steer women’s focus from how they look in the pants (not naked, one hopes) to how they feel in them. The atrium floor was decorated with stickers that read, “I feel more locked in than a harness on a roller coaster before it flips upside down,” and “I feel freer than a skinny dip under the midnight stars.”

After Ms. Poseley spoke, the company’s chief executive, Laurent Potdevin, whose résumé includes Toms, Burton Snowboards and (less congruously) LVMH, also took a turn. “Who but you would take our anchor business and turn it on its head?” he said approvingly, in his heavy French accent, to the crowd. “It’s the culture of innovation at its best.”

[snip]

Mr. Potdevin’s strategy is essentially twofold: to grow the men’s business (recently with loosefitting pants designed to give their genitalia breathing room) and to expand globally. To accomplish this, he has brought on a new chief financial officer, as well as new executives to lead digital, “brand and community” and design — all men.

He also said he has tweaked the company culture, putting less pressure on employees to take, as they have for years, Landmark Forum personal-development seminars (though many still do, and the company pays for them, along with fitness classes).

[snip]

The whole operation has been backed since 2014 by an in-house research and development lab, opened in the center of the Vancouver office and encased in glass walls that frost over to assure the privacy that innovation (formerly known as spitballing) requires. It is run by an internal team of engineers and scientists called Whitespace.

The lab is a Wonkaville for athleisure gear. There is a weather chamber that simulates extreme heat and humidity, letting the company determine the effect of elements on materials, seams and other details. There are washing machines to test how well garments withstand the spin cycle. And there is an enormous treadmill built into the floor, surrounded by video cameras to help map out the stretch of seams and — that bugaboo — coverage of material.

I had to include that middle part about the men’s clothing.

Posted by Steve

More changes. Maybe temporary (isn’t everything?)

A few more changes to announce here:

We won’t be posting daily anymore. Our practices, as we’ve discussed between us a lot, are at a point where we don’t feel like they lend themselves to much sharing. Practicing at home, plugging along, isn’t producing much we have felt to be of use to others.

Those who’ve read this blog know I’ve never been very comfortable thinking my practice has much to tell someone else.

And there also are enough other channels for people to share things; as I know I’ve mentioned, when we started this blog years back, folks weren’t using Facebook and Twitter (let alone Instagram or Snapchat) as they are now. If you want things, you can find them. Or, really, those things find you.

We’ve also over the years narrowed down our content; we try to get things to you that we think you might not see otherwise, things that somehow are mainstream enough you ought to know or things we think important — whatever that means. Something to deepen your practice; something to make you think; something to inspire.

We try to pass along things we think have real value. (Or occasionally, real humor or some counter to the heaviness of an Ashtanga practice.)

And the fact is, those things don’t come along every day.

But when they do, and when a practice happens that suggests something broader than just an individual “aha,” we’ll pass them on. A couple times a week? Maybe something like that.

Also, for me especially (not so much Bobbie, if at all her), I’m trying to take to heart something Tim Miller talked about during the Third Series training, which of course I heard second hand: Don’t let your practice become a prison. Too often, I think, getting a post up everyday feels more a prison and less a freedom.

Enough of that. For now, at least.

Posted by Steve

Another benefit to yoga in jail: Better fathers

A study unveiled this summer reaches a wonderful conclusion: Combining yoga practice with parenting classes for inmates can help them be better fathers.

Here’s a link to the study. From the conclusion:

These results also provide preliminary evidence that yoga and mindfulness combined with parenting education may benefit incarcerated fathers personally, in terms of self-awareness, resilience and parenting knowledge, which may in turn improve actual parenting behaviors. The outcomes also suggest that physical and intentional, guided yoga practices may have built participants’ capacities for assimilating new ideas and concepts, retaining and applying information shared in both the yoga and parent education sessions. Given the growing popularity of yoga and the availability of yoga instructors trained to teach in specialized settings, yoga shows promise for offering an accessible intervention with large potential returns.

The yoga part took place after the parenting session (for a variety of reasons). You might think the other way around would be better to get the inmates in the right frame of mind. But the researchers found that this sequence allowed the inmates to process what they’d just learned.

Now, this study wasn’t without some significant limitations, as it notes. But it did occur over three years with 14 different groups of men. (A big limitation: No control group.) And they are hoping to do more studies, given the findings.

Posted by Steve

Here’s someone who thinks Bikram should have won his copyright lawsuit

Here’s a counter to what seems the prevailing idea that the Bikram sequence of yoga poses should not be able to be copyrighted:

Yet the emphasis on the science of yoga doesn’t demonstrate that Bikram yoga isn’t also a highly specific form of coordinated bodily motions arranged in a particular way to produce an aesthetic reaction — in other words, choreography.

Congress specifically gave copyright protection to choreography in 1976, without defining the term. (Apparently, you know it when you see it.) Remarkably, the 9th Circuit thought that it could deny choreography protection to the Bikram sequence without defining the term itself. The court said that the Bikram sequence can’t be copyrighted because “it is an idea, process, or system,” and those are legally unprotectable — even if they are also choreography.

This can’t be right. Consider the ballets of George Balanchine, whose copyrights are carefully guarded by the George Balanchine Trust. Each and every one of those ballets unquestionably incorporates an idea, or rather many ideas: of modernism, of classicism, of the relationship of movement to music, and so on.

What’s more, many people do ballet as a form of exercise and as an aesthetic-spiritual meditative experience, just as they do yoga.

I think that’s the crux of the argument from this BloombergView piece. Something about the choreography = yoga (really, asanas) doesn’t quite pass muster for me. Perhaps I don’t quite agree that an established dance move is the same thing as a particular asana. But I get why someone would want to argue that.

Maybe Bikram will appeal higher.

Posted by Steve

Quit meditating, already

It’s been a while since the New York Times published something seemingly intent on irritating yogis, meditators and other alternatively bent thinkers.

If you’ve missed those NYT pieces, fear not! It’s got one in the paper this weekend:

I AM being stalked by meditation evangelists.

They approach with the fervor of a football fan attacking a keg at a tailgate party. “Which method of meditation do you use?”

I admit that I don’t meditate, and they are incredulous. It’s as if I’ve just announced that the Earth is flat. “How could you not meditate?!”

I have nothing against it. I just happen to find it dreadfully boring.

“But Steve Jobs meditated!”

Yeah, and he also did L.S.D. — do you want me to try that, too?

“L.S.D. is dangerous. Science shows that meditation is good for you. It will change your life.”

Will it?

You can get a pretty good sense where it goes from that. It is by a contributing opinion writer for the paper, Adam Grant, who is a professor of management and psychology at the University of Pennsylvania.

My main problem with the piece is that it doesn’t really feel like he provides much support for his argument that other activities can do as much good as meditating. And he makes some thinly veiled references to what I assume are the occasional lost soul who tries some Eastern or alternative path and dies (for any number of reasons). But he doesn’t provide any actual examples.

It also seems the whole point of the piece is he’s annoyed by those evangelists he addresses in the first line. But, as with so many piece in the Times, there’s no evidence to support a claim the writer makes.

Really? You’re being stalked? Maybe rather than writing an Op-Ed you should either call the police or find out what it is about meditating that turns people into sociopaths.

Posted by Steve

Bikram on wrong end of major court ruling

A three-person panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled against Bikram Choudhury in a case involving his attempt to copyright his yoga sequence.

The news is out there at various outlets. Here’s Time:

Bikram Choudhury, the self-styled creator of Bikram yoga, has for years threatened to sue practitioners that he feels are copying his signature yoga poses. However, a court ruled on Thursday that he has no legal right to do so.

[snip]

Choudhury’s most recent legal case involved Evolation Yoga, a Florida-based studio that the magnate accused of copyright violations.

A three-judge panel on the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has now disagreed with him after he appealed a district judge’s ruling in favor of Evolation. The judges clearly stated that his sequence cannot be protected by copyright law, the Times reports.

“Copyright protects only the expression of this idea — the words and pictures used to describe the sequence — and not the idea of the sequence itself,” Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw, one of the judges on the panel, wrote.

Radio coverage I heard here in Los Angeles of the ruling — Bikram’s based here — reported that the judges also determined yoga is meant to improve people’s health and well-being and that copyrighting such a thing would be akin to giving a doctor exclusive rights to using a certain medical procedure.

He could appeal up… but I’m not sure given the substance of the ruling that he has a good chance. But you never know.

Posted by Steve