Book & NY Times Articles – Benefits & Risks of Yoga

This recent New York Times article was sent to me by a friend – it is a good read and discusses a number of important aspects of practicing yoga.  It is an opinion piece as well as a book review on William J. Broad’s new book, “The Science of Yoga”.

Yes, an experienced teacher is very important – one who interacts with the class and counsels students on respecting personal physical limitations.  A capable teacher will offer asana modifications and remind students to adopt a non-competitive approach to their yoga practice.   I am certified E-RYT through the Yoga Alliance, as mentioned in this article.

This Jane E. Brody article links to New York Times Magazine article, How Yoga Can Wreck your Body and Glenn Black, a yoga teacher of nearly four decades correctly states:

“…a number of factors have converged to heighten the risk of practicing yoga. The biggest is the demographic shift in those who study it. Indian practitioners of yoga typically squatted and sat cross-legged in daily life, and yoga poses, or asanas, were an outgrowth of these postures. Now 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.”

Here are several important “takeaways” from this book and these articles:

  1. Mr. Broad concluded, based on his research, that the benefits of yoga “unquestionably outweigh the risks. Still, yoga makes sense only if done intelligently so as to limit the degree of personal danger.”
  2. Good scientific studies, including many supported by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, an arm of the National Institutes of Health, have demonstrated that regular yoga practice can improve cardiovascular risk factors like elevated blood pressure, blood sugar, blood cholesterol and clot-inducing fibrinogen, and it can raise blood levels of protective antioxidants.
  3. Yoga was shown to improve balance in elderly women and thus may reduce their risk of falls, a leading cause of injury-related death in older people. And, I was pleased to learn, perhaps by enhancing blood flow and the production of growth factors, yoga can counteract the deterioration of spinal discs, a plague of millions of Americans, young and old.
  4. Possibly through its stimulation of the vagus nerve, yoga appears to counter inflammation throughout the body, and may reduce the effects of diseases like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. And by relieving physical and mental stress, which can erode the tips of DNA, which are called telomeres and program cell death, yoga may slow biological aging and prolong life.

Gentle Yoga with Naomi is designed specifically for people who are plus-sized or dealing with physical limitations.  I have developed this Gentle Yoga format through decades of training and experience, with student safety (while deriving the benefits of a yoga practice) a primary concern.  If you have any questions or concerns about the benefits and risks of your yoga practice, please feel free to ask!