email page print pageAll Topic Reviews
Self-Compassion in Psychotherapy10 Minute Solution: Butt Lift10 Minute Solution: High Intensity Interval Training101 Ways to Meditate3-In-1 Total Body Fitness with Desi Bartlett30 Minute Ab & Butt Blaster5 Day Fit Yoga5 Mega Miles with Toning Band7 Weeks to 100 Push-Ups8 Keys to Practicing MindfulnessA Journey Into Yin YogaA Philosophy for the Science of Well-BeingA Student's Guide to the History And Philosophy of Yoga A.M. EnergyAgeless Mobility: Pain-Free Wellness For LongevityAlmost MeatlessAlready FreeAlternative Medicine?AltruismAnd BreatheAnywhere, Anytime, Any Body YogaAthlete's Guide to YogaBack in Action: Yoga for a Healthy BackBack To Basics: Fitness with Charlotte OrdBalanced AssetsBedroom Body: Booty Burner, Core & Pelvic Floor WorkoutBeginners Meditation & Mindful StretchingBeginners Yoga DVDBeginning YogaBellyFit ElementsBethenny's Skinnygirl WorkoutBeyond the SelfBody By BethennyBorn to Balance - Balance BasicsBreath-Centered YogaBrightening Our Inner SkiesCalm Body Clear MindCalm Focus JoyCardio for Beginners with Petra KolberChakra MeditationsComplementary and Alternative Therapies ResearchContemplative Psychotherapy EssentialsCore Fusion - Pilates PlusCore Fusion - Pure Abs & ArmsCore Fusion - Thighs & GlutesCore Fusion Body SculptCore Fusion Lean & TonedCore Fusion Power SculptCore Strength PilatesCore Strength Vinyasa Yoga Power Hour with Sadie NardiniCore YogaCultural Healing and Belief SystemsDance Off the Inches: Cardio Hip Hop PartyDeep ListeningDeep Stretch / Yin YogaDetox YogaDr. Andrew Weil's Guide to Eating WellDr. Yoga House CallEasy YogaElement: Barre ConditioningElement: Targeted Toning Pilates for BeginnersElement: Yoga for Stress Relief & FlexibilityElements of Yoga, Earth FoundationsElements of Yoga, Fire DynamicElements of Yoga: Air & WaterEveryday Workout for the Everyday WomanEveryday Yoga for Stress Release Everything VeganExercise for Mood and AnxietyExhale Core Fusion 30 Day SculptFamily YogaFit Family Fun CircuitFit in 5 DVDFlat Abs PilatesFlow YogaFluid Power Vinyasa Flow YogaFood You Can ForageFully PresentGaiam Pilates Slide and Sculpt Kit with DVDGaiam Pilates Total Toning KitGaiam Yoga For Weight Loss KitGet Fit Through GardeningGet Ripped & ChiseledGet RIPPED! 1000 #3Get RIPPED! and Jacked - The Boomer WorkoutGet Stronger Bones: 3 Workouts For OsteoporosisHandbook of MindfulnessHappy Yoga DVDHealing the Heart and Mind with MindfulnessHealing through ExerciseHealing Through Movement: Pilates Head to ToeHealing, Hype, or Harm?Healthy Sexy Beautiful Kundalini YogaHemalayaa: Bollywood BootyHow to Be a StoicHow to Cook Everything VegetarianHow Would Buddha Act?In Defense of FoodInsight Yoga Earth: Balancing Yin EnergyInsight Yoga Heaven: Balancing YangIntegrated YogaKids Teach Yoga - Flying EagleKidYogi - Yoga for ChildrenKripalu YogaKundalini Yoga : DVDKUNDALINI YOGA for Your Week - MONDAYKUNDALINI YOGA for Your Week - TUESDAY - CoreKundalini Yoga MeditationKundalini Yoga Meditation for Beginners & BeyondKundalini Yoga Meditation for Complex Psychiatric DisordersKundalini Yoga on the BallKundalini Yoga Solar Power All-In-One WorkoutKundalini Yoga to Detox and Destress DVDKundalini Yoga Transformer All-In-One WorkoutKundalini Yoga: Green Energy of the HeartLetting Go!LifeForce Yoga to Beat the Blues--Level 1LifeForce Yoga to Beat the Blues: Level 2Living BeautifullyLiving Room Yoga DVDLiving Room Yoga: Twist and BendLunar Flow YogaMake It Fast, Cook It SlowManage Your Depression Through ExerciseMaui PilatesMayo Clinic Wellness Solutions for Back PainMayo Clinic Wellness Solutions for IBSMayo Clinic Wellness Solutions for InsomniaMeditations for BeginnersMindful AmericaMindful ColoringMindfulnessMindfulnessMindfulness for BeginnersMindfulness for CarersMindfulness for TwoMindfulness in Plain EnglishMindfulness-Based Treatment Approaches: Clinician's Guide to Evidence Base and ApplicationsMisadventures of a Garden State YogiNamaste Yoga: Season 3 Part 1Natural FlexibilityNew Good FoodNew VegetarianNew York PilatesNext-Level PilatesNutrition Essentials for Mental HealthPain Free at WorkPeace Is Every BreathPerfect in Ten AbsPerfect in Ten: PilatesPerfect in Ten: StretchPerfect in Ten: YogaPilates AnatomyPilates for BeginnersPositivityPower to the Peaceful YogaPower YogaPower YogaPower Yoga: Core PowerPower Yoga: Fat BurnerPower Yoga: Strength and FlexibilityPrenatal FlowPrescriptive StretchingPresence Through Movement: Yin YogaPsychology Moment by MomentPure and Simple YogaPure SculptQi Gong Fire & Water With Matthew CohenQi Gong Flow for BeginnersQi Gong for Low Back PainQi Gong for Upper Back and Neck PainQi Gong for Weight LossQi Workout AM/PMQiGong for Healthy Joints & BonesQiGong IllustratedQuick Blast MethodRadiant Heart Yoga DVDReach - Upbeat Toning & Flexibility for a Dancer's BodyRelax Into Yoga for SeniorsResistance Stretching With Dara TorresRestorative Yoga PracticeRestorative Yoga PracticeSara Ivanhoe's Taste DVDSelfless InsightSleepSoupsSparkSpontaneous HappinessStep By Step Strength TrainingStep by Step Tai ChiStrength & SpiritStress Relief to GoStretchStrong & SculptedStrong Body, Ageless BodySuper Seniors: Box, Balance, & Lift Surf Yoga SoulSybel's Yoga For Sports & FitnessSybel's Yoga For Sports & Fitness Vol 2Tai Chi for Beginners with Grandmaster William C. C. ChenTeen YogaTeenYogi DVDTen Zen Tummy TonersThe 6 Qualities of ConsciousnessThe Accidental VeganThe Art and Science of MindfulnessThe Athlete's Guide to YogaThe Best Things You Can EatThe Booty Barre -Total New BodyThe Complete Book of Raw FoodThe Get Healthy, Go Vegan CookbookThe Harvard Medical School Guide to YogaThe Healing Remedies SourcebookThe Healing Remedies SourcebookThe Kettlebell BoomerThe Light of DiscoveryThe Mandala of BeingThe Meat Lover's Meatless CookbookThe Mindful Way through DepressionThe Nature FixThe Perfect ExerciseThe Psychology of LifestyleThe Qi Healing KitThe Road to Calm WorkbookThe Science of SleepThe Science of YogaThe Sense of SelfThe Spirit of Buddhist MeditationThe Spirit of Tibetan BuddhismThe Ultimate BALLET YOGAThe Ultra MindsetThe Well-Tuned BrainThe Yin Yoga KitTotal Health the Chinese WayTotal-Body ToningTransform Yourself with Jivamukti YogaTransformative YogaTrudie Styler's Cardio Dance FlowTrudie Styler's Warrior YogaV-Core WorkoutVegan ExpressVegan for LifeVegetarian Visitor 2008Viniyoga Therapy for the Low Back, Sacrum and HipsViniyoga Therapy for the Upper Back, Neck and ShouldersViva Vegan!Walk It Off in 30 DaysWalk to the HITS Radio RemixesWatch Me Do YogaWeight Loss Cardio KickWeight Watchers: Ultimate Belly SeriesYin and Yang YogaYin Yoga DVDYogaYogaYoga - Philosophy for EveryoneYoga : Beginners Flow for EveryoneYoga AnatomyYoga as MedicineYoga Bliss HipsYoga BodyYoga Body : Lean & Defined Total Body WorkoutYoga By Teens DVDYoga Emergency DVD: Arms & ShouldersYoga Emergency DVD: BackYoga Emergency DVD: Full Leg StretchYoga Emergency DVD: HipsYoga Emergency DVD: PregnancyYoga Flow DVDYoga for AnxietyYoga for AthletesYoga for Back CareYoga for BeginnersYoga for Energy & Stress ReliefYoga for FitnessYoga for MeditatorsYoga for OsteoporosisYoga for Pain ReliefYoga for Strength & EnergyYoga for Strength & FlexibilityYoga for Your WeekYoga in BedYoga Inside Out: Go DeeperYoga Inside Out: The Healing WayYoga Journal's Yoga for StressYoga Journal: Yoga for Strength and Toning DVDYoga Link: Core IntegrationYoga Link: Hip HelpersYoga Link: Shoulder Shape-UpYoga Nidra for Complete Relaxation and Stress ReliefYoga Quick FixesYoga Skills for Therapists:Yoga TherapyYoga TherapyYoga Therapy for Back PainYoga Therapy Prescriptions - 60 Health Restorative SequencesYoga to the Rescue - Feel Good from Head to ToeYoga to the Rescue for Back PainYoga to the Rescue for Neck & ShouldersYoga to the Rescue for Pain-Free Back, Neck & ShouldersYoga, Karma, and RebirthYoga: Freedom from Back PainYoga: Relief from Neck and Shoulder PainYoga: Spirit of Vinyasa FlowYogabodyYogawomanYou Can Think Yourself ThinYour Body Breakthru - Your Best Body Circuit DVDYour Brain on Food: How Chemicals Control Your Thoughts and Feelings,Your Brain on YogaZen Encounters with Loneliness
One month prior to the publication of The Science of Yoga: The Risks and the Rewards, author William J. Broad caused an uproar in the yoga community by writing an article for the New York Times entitled "How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body." By offering this preview, Broad also revealed his bias, manifestly announcing that his upcoming book would focus more on the "risks" of yoga (as noted in the subtitle) than the rewards. Still, as both a psychologist and an avid yoga practitioner, my goal was to approach this book with an open mind.
Unfortunately, it is difficult to overlook the flaws in this effort. Perhaps the most salient of these is Broad's tendency to unnecessarily perseverate. In doing so, he skews his work from offering valid arguments to imparting a prejudiced viewpoint. For example, in the "Fit Perfection" chapter, Broad thoroughly, elaborately, and tediously makes the case that yoga has not been proven to benefit cardiovascular fitness. (As a side note, I would argue that this is somewhat of a moot point, as most educated practitioners are well-aware of this fact; however, I will concede that the general public is less informed.) But infuriatingly, both in this chapter and the "Health" chapter which precedes it, Broad glosses over the many other physical benefits of yoga, only very briefly acknowledging well-studied, highly desirable effects, including "enhanced sleep, energy, health, endurance, and flexibility" (p. 57). Later, he mentions yoga's proven ability to perform equally to or better than other forms of physical exercise in areas such as "improving balance, reducing fatigue…improving sleep, reducing pain, lowering cholesterol" (p. 73), but inexplicably, in the next paragraph, Broad offers a quote which suggests that although yoga has benefits in many areas, physical fitness is somehow excluded from this list.
As a psychologist, I was trained in the classic scientist-practitioner model. The "scientist" aspect of my doctoral education prepared me to critically evaluate and interpret research. I expected some of the same rigor from Broad, a science journalist and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner. Throughout the book, however, I was dismayed by obvious preferential weight which Broad placed on certain studies. For example, at times he dismisses particular research (and rightly so) for employing small sample sizes and thus having little utility for making more general conclusions. However, when arguing certain points, Broad is more than willing to cite investigations of very few subjects as well as to reference anecdotal case stories. This is most evident in his now infamous "Risk of Injury" chapter, in which Broad starts with a few reports (for example, a 2002 survey of forty-six patient emergency room admissions related to yoga) and then goes on to make broad-based, unsubstantiated conclusions.
Furthermore, Broad appears to be unaware that correlation is not in fact a basis for causation. The best example of this may actually be his own personal situation: Broad describes sustaining a ruptured disk in his back, which he attributes to running. He finds yoga to be effective for pain management, and so he makes the decision to forgo surgery. Unfortunately, he later experiences a painful episode when coming out of a pose in yoga class—as a result, he attributes his "injury" to the dangers of yoga. Would this incident have occurred in absence of his pre-existing back condition? Broad also cites a larger survey (1,300 respondents) in which there were 231 reports (18%) of lower back injuries related to yoga. However, with an estimate of at least 80% of adults experiencing back pain at some point in their lives (various online sources), it is very difficult to concur with Broad's conclusions that these injuries are yoga-based.
This is not to say that injuries don't occur from yoga; of course they do, just as they result from any other type of physical activity. The central problem with The Science of Yoga is that the small amounts of true science which Broad does offer are overshadowed by his subjective presentation, which includes favoring the scandalous over the substantive (certainly spending three paragraphs on how Sex in the City popularized the term "yogasm" does not help his case). And to further add to the difficulties of distilling any science from this work, the citations, although numbered within the "Notes" section, are not numbered within the text itself, and the Notes are tucked away at the very end of the book (providing notes at the end of each chapter would have made much more sense, especially given the lack of text references).
In his final chapter, Broad states that "science—even at its best…is nonetheless extraordinarily crude" (p. 222). This is perhaps the best summary I could have written of his book; I cannot recommend it.
© 2012 Beth Cholette
Beth Cholette, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist who provides psychotherapy to college students.