Category Archives: news

Current events in the United States and around the world concerning yoga and related affairs

Yoga helps war veterans deal with trauma

More evi­dence that yoga and related dis­ci­plines can help heal the body and mind of peo­ple suf­fer­ing from post-​​traumatic stress dis­or­der or PSTD:

Wash­ing­ton PostYoga helps war vet­er­ans get a han­dle on their PTSD.But the new study is the first of its kind to pro­vide sci­en­tific sup­port for the ben­e­fits of yoga’s breath­ing tech­niques for PTSD patients in a ran­dom­ized and con­trolled (though small) long-​​term study which mon­i­tored effects of yoga over the course of the year.

The study cited in this arti­cle actu­ally deals with the prac­tice of sudar­shan kriya, a sequence of breath­ing exer­cises cre­ated and pro­moted by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. But he does not have a monop­oly on the ben­e­fits of yoga practice.

Please note that the arti­cle was orig­i­nally pub­lished in The Con­ver­sa­tion, Sep­tem­ber 14.

Yoga master BKS Iyengar leaves this life

It’s a sad day when we have to bid farewell to one of the cor­ner­stones of mod­ern yoga as prac­ticed around the world. BKS Iyen­gar died of kid­ney fail­ure on August 20 in Pune, India:

BKS Iyen­gar, who helped bring yoga to the West, has died
Iyen­gar had been ill for weeks, accord­ing to the Times of India, and had been suf­fer­ing from heart prob­lems. Admit­ted to the hos­pi­tal on August 12, Iyengar’s con­di­tion had wors­ened in recent days, and he was put on dialysis.

There will be an out­pour­ing of grief, grat­i­tude and remem­brances, as well as attempts to take stock of the state of yoga with the death of one of the three major Indian prop­a­ga­tors ( Pat­tabhi Jois died in 2009 and TKV Desikachar is in ill health) who took the man­tle from T. Krish­na­macharya. Iyen­gar left a legacy of lit­er­a­ture about hatha yoga, pranayama and other tech­niques, as well as a focus on the health-​​giving poten­tial from the practice.

I’ll prob­a­bly have more to say later.

On year after yoga teacher training

This MSNBC arti­cle comes one year after I started my sum­mer inten­sive yoga teacher train­ing at Thrive Yoga.

Yoga teach­ers: Over­stretched and under­paid
In many respects – the low pay, the gig-​​based nature of the job, and the unpaid over­time – yoga is lit­tle dif­fer­ent from other free­lance pro­fes­sions in the new, service-​​based Amer­i­can econ­omy. More than one per­son inter­viewed by msnbc com­pared teach­ing yoga to being a part-​​time adjunct pro­fes­sor, with all the job inse­cu­rity and irreg­u­lar pay that implies.

The arti­cles dri­ves homes the mes­sage that it’s tough to turn yoga teach­ing into a viable pro­fes­sion in a com­pet­i­tive mar­ket­place. Obvi­ously, I decided that I did not want to pur­sue teach­ing even part time or as a fall­back option. I’ve made a cold­blooded deci­sion to work on a career track that builds on my accu­mu­lated expe­ri­ence and skills — and brings a salary and ben­e­fits. I am in awe of those who decided to fol­low their heart down the yogic path.

Yoga as medicine gets a bad review

Brian Palmer is Slate‘s chief explainer and tack­les the claims that yoga is med­i­cine for many med­ical conditions.

Slate Does ther­a­peu­tic yoga work? The best stud­ies say no, but they don’t get much press..
Doc­tors even­tu­ally real­ized — most of them, at least — that prayer didn’t fit well into a clin­i­cal trial. Yoga doesn’t, either. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do yoga. By all means, do yoga, pray, and eat lemons, if those things bring you con­tent­ment. Do yoga espe­cially if it’s your pre­ferred form of exer­cise — exer­cise is a health inter­ven­tion sup­ported by thou­sands of clin­i­cal tri­als. But rec­og­nize the “yoga as med­i­cine” craze for what it is: an indi­ca­tor of the zeit­geist, not a sci­en­tific discovery.

I’ve com­mented on the trend towards pre­scrib­ing yoga for all kinds of ills and flaws. Much of it goes back to the incep­tion of mod­ern yoga in India when its early advo­cates wanted to val­i­date yoga within a West­ern, med­ical­ized frame­work. In the States, the appli­ca­tion of yoga as a ther­a­peu­tic tool has also help it makes inroads into main­stream cul­ture. There’s been a lot of bad sci­ence done around yoga ther­apy, which has com­pounded the prob­lem. It’s hard to run stan­dard­ized, double-​​blind stud­ies on a mas­sive scale on a prac­tice that should be tai­lored to indi­vid­ual bodies.

But I also think that all this talk about yoga address­ing med­ical con­di­tions is wrong­headed. The prac­tice of yoga is aimed at well­ness, the holis­tic uti­liza­tion reg­u­la­tion and bal­anc­ing of bod­ily sys­temic func­tions (myofas­cial, neu­ro­log­i­cal, cir­cu­la­tory, lym­phatic, and oth­ers). You could focus a ses­sion exclu­sively on lower back pain, but the asanas and vinyasas would not affect just the lower back, but the whole body. The effects would be accu­mu­la­tive over time, not some­thing like a round of antibi­otics. In addi­tion, yoga addresses men­tal states that Western-​​style exer­cise ignores and have a huge impact on well-​​being.

This arti­cle is the lat­est wave of skep­ti­cism about yoga, mind­ful­ness and other things vaguely New Agish. You should also check out The Mind­ful­ness Racket: The evan­ge­lists of unplug­ging might just have another agenda by Evgeny Moro­zov, a senior edi­tor at The New Repub­lic. He’s actu­ally talk­ing about another trend, the rec­om­men­da­tion that peo­ple should unplug from their stress-​​inducing devices because West­ern soci­ety is too hyper-​​wired and needs to stop mul­ti­task­ing. The mind­ful­ness thing gets lumped in because unplug advo­cates fre­quently cite that mind state as the coun­ter­weight to multitasking.

Yoga Poses in Israel

Love the photos. Yoga Poses in Israel.
Their stu­dents, taught in single-​​sex classes, are encour­aged to come as they are, even in day clothes or long skirts, if nec­es­sary. The Kol­bergs say yoga helps peo­ple who spend long days in prayer and study and aren’t phys­i­cally active. But, Rachel says, “in our stu­dio, we will never have prac­tices that con­tra­dict our reli­gion, such as mantras and chanting.

I guess they are not going to have any “naked yoga” classes.

Prison inmates take to yoga

It’s not “news,” but it’s pub­lished in the New York Times:

New York Times – If the Sun Salu­ta­tion Has to Fit Into a Cell
The class was the fourth that Jim Free­man, a lawyer turned yogi and the founder of Con­vic­tion Yoga, has led at the Texas Depart­ment of Crim­i­nal Justice’s Powledge Unit in East Texas. For the inmates, the weekly two-​​hour ses­sions offer a reprieve from their cells and the bore­dom of prison life, along with phys­i­cal and men­tal health ben­e­fits. And the Powledge chap­lain said cor­rec­tions offi­cers saw bet­ter behav­ior from inmates who took part in spir­i­tual pro­grams that gave them a chance to exercise.

Yoga and med­i­ta­tion are increas­ingly used in prison. Good for the inmates, and bravo to the teach­ers men­tors who take the lead in going into pris­ons. Now if we could only get the jus­tice sys­tem to work right so that we don’t have the high­est per­cent­age of impris­oned pop­u­la­tion in the world.

File under “provisional”

The fol­low­ing arti­cles should be read as a point-​​counterpoint about how we think we know our bod­ies, our brains, and how they all fit together, and how each indi­vid­ual human being is a unique creation.   –  The Secrets Inside Us
Vesalius’s wasn’t the first book on anatomy, but it was the first detailed study based entirely on actual dis­sec­tion of human cadav­ers — on sci­en­tific fact, not sup­po­si­tion. It sys­tem­at­i­cally dis­man­tled the error-​​filled doc­trine of Galenism, which rested in part on ani­mal rather than human anatomy and had held sway for 14 centuries.But in map­ping the inner body, Vesal­ius didn’t get every­thing right — he didn’t cor­rectly grasp the cir­cu­la­tion of the blood, a dis­cov­ery that the Eng­lish physi­cian William Har­vey made in the 17th cen­tury — nor was his work imme­di­ately embraced by all. Revered in ret­ro­spect, he was not immune to crit­i­cism, or skep­ti­cism, in his day.

Through neu­ro­science we are dis­cov­er­ing fresh dimen­sions of how our brain works, but these can eas­ily be blown out of the water by the next round of discoveries.

The Guardian (UK) – Despite what you’ve been told, you aren’t ‘left-​​brained’ or ‘right-​​brained
What research has yet to refute is the fact that the brain is remark­ably mal­leable, even into late adult­hood. It has an amaz­ing abil­ity to reor­ga­nize itself by form­ing new con­nec­tions between brain cells, allow­ing us to con­tin­u­ally learn new things and mod­ify our behav­ior. Let’s not under­es­ti­mate our poten­tial by allow­ing a sim­plis­tic myth to obscure the com­plex­ity of how our brains really work.

Our under­stand­ing of our bod­ies, brains, minds and souls should always be tagged as pro­vi­sional, not locked into dogma or sound-​​bite ready one-​​liners that give the appear­ance of insight.

Another list of yoga’s benefits

A par­tic­u­larly com­pre­hen­sive list­ing of yoga’s pos­i­tive effects on mind and body in this Web-​​focused fad of lists. Nice pho­tos too.

Bored Daddy 13 Yoga Ben­e­fits That Will Sur­prise You by Kim
You may have noticed that a lot of the sur­pris­ing ben­e­fits of yoga came with a few extra pos­i­tives attached, and sev­eral of the ben­e­fits listed here are inter­linked. Yoga is a fan­tas­tic holis­tic approach to improv­ing your men­tal, emo­tional, and phys­i­cal health. A lot of the ben­e­fits you find on the mat also extend well beyond your ses­sion or even the hour or so after you’re done with your practice.

Hard (Australian) men are softies for Bikram yoga

Another news story about pro­fes­sional sports and yoga slipped across my com­puter mon­i­tor and I was not going to post about it, but it had an inter­na­tional angle and a dif­fer­ent sport: the Aus­tralian rugby team.  For that rea­son, I am going to point to it:

Tele­graph (UK) Hard men are soft­ies for Bikram yoga
The Aus­tralian team are not alone in strik­ing a sweaty yoga pose to speed their post-​​match recov­ery, improve gen­eral flex­i­bil­ity and help guard against injury. Their Eng­lish oppo­nents have also sup­ple­mented their train­ing with the ancient dis­ci­pline at the insis­tence of Mark Bit­con, head of per­for­mance with the national team as well as at Wigan War­riors, the rugby league club.

The arti­cle is actu­ally thought­fully writ­ten, with more than a pass­ing knowl­edge of yoga ter­mi­nol­ogy.  It ends men­tion­ing  svastha or  “to stay as your­self” as “yoga’s per­fect state of opti­mal health and bal­ance in body and mind,” accord­ing to the story.  That the team is prac­tic­ing Bikram yoga is a piv­otal fac­tor because if you’re sweat­ing a river, it must be a real workout.

Dissident parents continue resistance against yoga in public schools

And the next round of lit­i­ga­tion over yoga in pub­lic schools got under­way in California:

The Wash­ing­ton Post – Par­ents appeal judge’s rul­ing allow­ing yoga in pub­lic schools
Broyles filed a notice of appeal Wednes­day Oct. 30 in San Diego Supe­rior Court on behalf of par­ents who oppose the yoga cur­ricu­lum in the Encini­tas Union School Dis­trict. Broyles first filed a law­suit regard­ing the district’s yoga pro­gram last Feb­ru­ary on behalf of Stephen and Jen­nifer Sed­lock, whose child attended El Camino Creek Ele­men­tary School in Carlsbad.

You can be sure that this suit will make it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Also see “Appeal revives school yoga law­suit.”