The Science of Yoga: The Myths and the Rewards

William J. Broad, Author
William J. Broad. Simon & Schuster, $26 (320p) ISBN 978-1-4516-4142-4
Reviewed on: 11/14/2011
Release date: 02/07/2012
Open Ebook - 320 pages - 978-1-4516-4144-8
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As he did with the ancient Oracle in Delphi, Pulitzer Prize–winning New York Times reporter Broad attempts to elucidate another subject shrouded in myth and mystery. Positioning yoga at a turning point in its centuries-old history, he points to pioneers in the 19th and 20th centuries who applied scientific rigor to claims of miraculous powers and cures and discovered some of the physical, mental, and emotional mechanisms by which yoga produced tangible, and sometimes paradoxical, benefits. With dramatic writing and a flair for provocation—e.g., he states that hatha yoga began as a sex cult and that yoga has many “dirty little secrets”—Broad takes readers through a whirlwind tour of yoga’s high and low points, declaring with examples of recent research its ability to calm the nerves, tone the body, revitalize sex, spark creativity, and heal injuries, as well as cause strokes and maim. A longtime student of yoga, Broad is also a skeptic wary of tantric showmen of ages past and contemporary yoga entrepreneurs like Bikram Choudhury and advertisers hawking everything from clothing and jewelry to beverages and peace of mind in the pages of Yoga Journal. But he is also quick to credit instructors like Amy Weintraub, who created from personal experience an effective yoga program to fight depression. While Broad’s report is an unusual and valuable addition to typical yoga books on the market, some readers will feel the loss of the spiritual, which is a basic root in the yoga mix. (Feb.)
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