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Articles

 

How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body
by William J. Broad

How Yoga Will Not Wreck Your Body
by Mark Stephens

The Risks and Rewards of Practicing Yoga
William J. Broad interviewed by Terry Gross

Upon Returning Home: Giving the Gift of Yoga to Veterans
by Lilly Bechtel

Forget Six-Pack Abs
by Fernando Pagés Ruiz

For Beginners: Vrksasana
by Barbara Kaplan Herring

Integrative Breathwork:
A transformational journey within

by Faith Burrington Jones

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There has been a lot of controversy about this article from the New York Times Magazine. Here is the article, followed by a particularly valid rebuttal, and then a lengthy interview with author William Broad from NPR's Fresh Air, which makes more sense of Broad's original article and his more balanced view of yoga and its benefits. Don't be scared off by the sensationalist title -- this is good stuff for discussion!

How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body
by William J. Broad

On a cold Saturday in early 2009, Glenn Black, a yoga teacher of nearly four decades, whose devoted clientele includes a number of celebrities and prominent gurus, was giving a master class at Sankalpah Yoga in Manhattan. Black is, in many ways, a classic yogi: he studied in Pune, India, at the institute founded by the legendary B. K. S. Iyengar, and spent years in solitude and meditation. He now lives in Rhinebeck, N.Y., and often teaches at the nearby Omega Institute, a New Age emporium spread over nearly 200 acres of woods and gardens. He is known for his rigor and his down-to-earth style. But this was not why I sought him out: Black, I’d been told, was the person to speak with if you wanted to know not about the virtues of yoga but rather about the damage it could do. Many of his regular clients came to him for bodywork or rehabilitation following yoga injuries. This was the situation I found myself in. In my 30s, I had somehow managed to rupture a disk in my lower back and found I could prevent bouts of pain with a selection of yoga postures and abdominal exercises. Then, in 2007, while doing the extended-side-angle pose, a posture hailed as a cure for many diseases, my back gave way. With it went my belief, naïve in retrospect, that yoga was a source only of healing and never harm.

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And now this insightful rebuttal by highly respected yoga teacher and author, Mark Stephens:

How Yoga Will Not Wreck Your Body
by Mark Stephens

Will yoga wreck your body? Yes. Or no. Eating chocolate can make you fat (or not) and reading this on your computer can strain your eyes (or not). Similarly, the effects of yoga have everything to do with how one approaches the practice.

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And now the fascinating Fresh Air interview with William Broad, which gives even more insight into the controversy manufactured by the New York Times:

The Risks And Rewards Of Practicing Yoga
William J. Broad interviewed by Terry Gross

Listen to the interview and/or read a transcript of the interview.

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Upon Returning Home: Giving the Gift of Yoga to Veterans
by Lilly Bechtel

Hugo Patrocinio was tricked into his first yoga class.

If he had known what he was in for the day that a yoga teacher walked into his “Back on Track” rehabilitation group in 2007 at Cam Lajune, he never would have shown up.

“Honestly, when you said the word ‘yoga’ to me, all I thought about hot chics and flexibility. Point blank. That’s what I knew.” But Patrocinio stayed that day because for him – and the several other marines enrolled in the program for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder- saying ‘no’ was not part of their training.

“When you’re a marine, and you’re told you’re going to do yoga, then you’re gonna do yoga,” Patrocinio explains. And so, class began.

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Forget Six-Pack Abs
by Fernando Pagés Ruiz

Healthy abdominal muscles are strong, not hard.

Have you ever stood at the mirror, sucked in your stomach and thought, "I wish I could look like this all the time?" If you grew up in the United States, your answer is probably yes. Madison Avenue has sold us the notion that taut abdominals are the quintessence of health and beauty. Rock-hard bellies are used to promote everything from underwear to cereal.

But if you yearn for the rippled look of "six-pack" abs, consider what you may sacrifice to obtain it: That look might cost you flexibility and freedom of movement. Overdoing abs exercises can lead to a flattening of the lumbar curve, creating a weakened spinal structure. "We're even beginning to see hunchback conditions because of excessive abdominal crunches," claims biomechanics and kinesiology specialist Michael Yessis, Ph.D., author of Kinesiology of Exercise (Masters Press, 1992).

Society's obsession with flat tummies has psychological consequences too. "We want to control our feelings, so we make our bellies hard, trying to 'keep it together,'" says yoga teacher and physical therapist Judith Lasater, Ph.D., author of Living Your Yoga (Rodmell Press, 2000). Soft bellies appear vulnerable; abs of steel don't. But the traditional military posture of attention—chest out, belly ina—not only makes soldiers appear hard and invulnerable, it also foils their independence. Soldiers are supposed to follow orders, not intuition. Yogis may be warriors too, but we want to shed armoring. Tension interferes when trying to access the deeper wisdom that rests in the belly. As yogis, we require a supple abdomen in which we can sense the stillness of our being.

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For Beginners: Vrksasana
By Barbara Kaplan Herring

A balancing posture like Tree Pose may take you to your edge, but your midline will keep you from toppling over.

For many beginners, balancing poses are extremely challenging. Sometimes it is hard enough to do an asana (posture) with two feet on the ground, let alone to avoid toppling over while standing on one foot. The key to successful balancing lies in cultivating awareness of the midline (or median line) of your body-the vertical axis that bisects the face and neck, running straight through the center of the torso and pelvis and down between the legs into the ground.

To get a felt sense of your midline, stand in Tadasana (Mountain Pose) with your feet hip-distance apart and parallel, arms relaxing down by your sides, eyes closed. First bring your awareness to just the right half of your body: the right side of your face, the right arm, the right side of the torso, the right leg and foot. Be open to receiving whatever you may sense-feelings (strong or vulnerable, open or closed, focused or distracted) and also sensations, colors, textures, temperatures. Repeat this exercise on the other side.

Then take another breath and focus on your median line. What are you experiencing here? These sensations may be profoundly different, for your center can be a sacred place, untouched by the stories and variations of the left and right sides. My students have said that they feel equanimity, peacefulness, and truth when they focus on their midlines. Honor whatever you perceive. Vrksasana (Tree Pose) requires a sense of rootedness and centering down through your core. If you attempt to balance on your right leg with no sense of your midline, your weight will fall on the outer leg and outer foot, and the inner edge of your foot will lift. Before you know it, you will fall to the right like a felled tree.

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