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The Science of Yoga - William J Broad

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  • Book The Science of Yoga - William J Broad

    So it would be hard to call myself a Science Based Yoga Educator and not start reading this book

    The book has gained plenty of interest since an excerpt was posted in NYT that was posted by Diane here

    So far I note that it is a pretty impressive dig into some historical information about Yoga.

    Because of Leslie Kaminoff's point below about the ad hominem attack on Larry Payne I went straight to that section of the book. I think there is a point that Larry was promoting his PhD to gain status with what wrote. Kaminoff agrees that Larry's breath physiology was off track and the University that awarded the PhD may or may not be a diploma mill. I didn't see the ad hominem attack. I see a lot of hurt feelings but if something is going to be reviewed critically that has to happen.

    I'll try to post anything I glean from this book here.

    [YT]ESMGLAbYiDs[/YT]
    Byron Selorme -SomaSimpleton and Science Based Yoga Educator
    Shavasana Yoga Center

    "The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool" Richard Feynman

  • #2
    Oh and I invented the name Science Based Yoga Educator because of a suggestion my friend Carl Horowitz made about the trouble with naming yourself a Therapist in a litigious society and without any formal training or credentialing to back up a term like that. I did not get it from Leslie.
    Byron Selorme -SomaSimpleton and Science Based Yoga Educator
    Shavasana Yoga Center

    "The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool" Richard Feynman

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    • #3
      Here is a follow up article in NYT by Broad.

      The Yoga community is definitely up in arms about this book. It has stimulated all the head bloggers to write something about it.

      The beginning of the book documents some attempts to legitimize the science behind Yoga as early as the beginning of the 20th century. There are some pretty decent debunkings of long held Yoga beliefs. Such as the faulty notion that Yoga will rev up your metabolism and that the breathing techniques will increase the oxygen supply in the body.

      The big controversy seems to come lately from Broad determining that Yoga evolved from a sex cult. I don't know the history on it that well but it sure got people talking.

      Here is Leslie Kaminoff again on it.

      Elephant Journal also has a strip to tear

      I know from an sexual standpoint, the history does point to many Guru's who "fall from grace" or maybe never had it to begin with. It prompted one blog devoted to exposing Guru's who are not what they appear.

      The Science of Yoga is clear that there are plenty of benefits to be had by Yoga but that the popular forms are often over hyped and misdirections based on current trends and fads.
      Byron Selorme -SomaSimpleton and Science Based Yoga Educator
      Shavasana Yoga Center

      "The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool" Richard Feynman

      Comment


      • #4
        I read that article but didn't make the connection that it was Broad that wrote it.

        The origins of yoga are fairly misty, and India has so many traditions inter-mingling that it's hard to say if Broad is right or wrong about the sex cult background.

        One thing for sure, in general there is a major difference between hatha yoga (which texts are the only one's that mention asana's) and raja yoga (patanjali's) that's the yamas and niyamas. Hatha yoga omits them. Tantric cults tended to be more involved with ritualization of sex, but again things intermingled there, and in the west most people don't know there are any distinctions at all.

        Patanjali and most traditional indian sects are pretty puritanical. And again since most westerners don't know the different sects beliefs, there is a big disconnect. Being taught Patanjali's views on celibacy and tantric sexuality together can be mighty confusing.

        The usual result is - we love patanjali and conveniently ignore that celibacy thing - and well most of what he said, except the asana thing, only he wasn't talking about that kind of asana, but we don't know any better.

        His recounting of history is correct, and certainly conforms to what i've witnessed my self. And frankly makes me wonder what it is with any group that has celibacy contained in it's tenants. It seems always to make matters worse, and behavior that wouldn't happen with healthy people seems to happen in those groups. Is it like the old saying 'don't think of a pink elephant' does having the tenant make breaking it have to be in the most egregious way?

        On a personal note, there are a number of poses that Patabhi Jois claimed would take one's sexual desire away. My experience was pretty much the opposite.

        edit - I just read the 'rebutal' articles, I think they are missing the point, but that is not a surprise. Like all of the earlier rebuttals that find it important to pick on the details but totally ignore the message.
        Last edited by CDano; 04-03-2012, 09:33 PM.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by byronselorme View Post
          The Science of Yoga is clear that there are plenty of benefits to be had by Yoga but that the popular forms are often over hyped and misdirections based on current trends and fads.
          This really sums up the situation for me. When i got out of yoga and started studying I realized the same. However, acting on this understanding left me with a handful of students. It's a tough battle, but one worth fighting.

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          • #6
            It is the same with me Cole.

            I see this whole thing as one big charade with full posturing (no pun intended).

            OK, Broad saying that Yoga comes from a sex cult is overly simplistic, but I saw a lot more in that article that I agree with. It seems everyone got their back up from the first line and didn't bother thinking after that. Too bad.

            I have read accounts of the Bikram teachers training as basically being one big orgy. (forget where I read it but it wasn't just a random blog). Not surprising.

            And I am right with you on the whole celibacy thing, ridiculous.

            Funny I was reading through Kaminoff's book references and sure enough Tom Meyers "Anatomy Trains" was in there. I wonder if he gets excited about Fascia too.
            Byron Selorme -SomaSimpleton and Science Based Yoga Educator
            Shavasana Yoga Center

            "The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool" Richard Feynman

            Comment


            • #7
              I think one of the many issues with yoga, and the one Broad is attempting to address (albeit, not as well as he could have) is the history of yoga is clouded.

              It's being sold as a 1,000+ year old practice which it patently isn't. Or maybe better said, what is being taught today isn't an ancient practice. None of the modern traditions go back more than a couple of generations.

              There certainly were yoga practices going back though time, but it's not possible to link them directly to any modern commercial yoga systems.

              Actually I don't have an issue with this, other than perpetuating the myth. The myth is causing a great deal of division, and in my mind at least, stagnation. As people dogmatically hang onto imaginary traditions.

              If we can admit, this isn't an old art, handed down from generation to generation, we can begin to break it down in the same way a good coach would. We wouldn't be afraid of progressing the 'sport'. Ask Ken if we should coach running in the same way we did in the 1930's?

              I am somewhat exaggerating, there has been change in yoga, but there is without doubt this constant, and IMHO, unhealthy reference to the past, and too much letting the authority rest in the hands of a 'teacher' who though certainly well versed in the topic, is more interested in preserving his status than progressing the art.

              This is in part an Indian thing as well. Kalaripayat, one of the few remaining Indian martial arts, suffers from the same problem. Teachers would be very reluctant to teach students beyond a certain level, less they surpass them, which would cost them their livelihood. In the west this would be considered ridiculous.

              Though I'm addressing yoga as a physical art, the spiritual side is equally in doubt. Again with very few traditions that actually go that far back, but the texts they are based on do. The same power structures exist as well.

              Remember it can be argued that the modern spiritual movement in India began with Vivekandnda. That's only about 100 years ago.

              The truth is Indian spiritual history has been one of constant evolution, is very very diverse and simply can't be put into one simple box labeled yoga. Anymore than one can put all of Christianity into one box.

              Just like a teacher should be expected to be proficient in the asana's they teach, they should have more than a cursory knowledge of India's spiritual heritage if they want to teach that. Additionally IMno-soHO they be held accountable to the ethical standards they preach.

              I've had at least one high level teacher i knew quite well lie to my face many times regarding his sexual standards and conduct. That I find inexcusable.
              Last edited by CDano; 05-03-2012, 01:30 PM.

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              • #8
                From the chapter on Healing on page 139 of The Science of Yoga about Loren Fishman MD and Yoga Therapist in NYC.

                Brackets mine.
                I [Broad] especially liked his explanation for what stretching did. He told of a hidden interplay between two kinds of sense organs woven into the body's tendons and muscles. As a muscle stretched, he wrote, [from Fishman's book Relief is a Stretch: End Back Pain Through Yoga] the two systems sent conflicting signals. Contraction was stronger than relaxation, so the muscle stayed tense. If the stretch continued, however, that signal began to diminish of its own accord and the relaxation impulse started to dominate. The transition took time, Fishman wrote. It started as the stretch continued from fifteen to thirty seconds, and the relaxation signal grew to dominate in less than two minutes.
                That mechanism, Fishman wrote, is why students of yoga should hold poses patiently - at a minimum, fifteen seconds to two minutes.
                He said the lengthening can dramatically help victims of back pain
                I have enjoyed most of Broad's book so far but it looks like he has decided not to investigate what Fishman is proposing thoroughly. He is accepting just about anything Fishman says because he is an MD. Later in the chapter they discuss how Headstand can help cure Rotator Cuff injuries. The explanations are consistently linked to stretching or biomechanics and there is no mention of any other factors save potentially some points on breathing. A complete investment in the specific techniques with no hope of identifying the underlying principles.

                So I am a little disappointed at this section, a big opportunity lost.
                Byron Selorme -SomaSimpleton and Science Based Yoga Educator
                Shavasana Yoga Center

                "The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool" Richard Feynman

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                • #9
                  yoga history

                  Another interesting read is "Yoga Body. The origins of modern posture practise" In it the author Mark Singleton, himself a yogi, discusses that far from being an ancient practice, that the asana's as practised today owe more to early 20th century european gymnastics and what was then viewed as nationalistic pride from a european perspective. Practises like Sun salutations are from the early 20th century when every Yoga teacher will tell you that it is one of the most ancient of practises. Does it mean one shouldn't continue practising, that would be an individualistic choice..I still practise regardless of the books ascertions.

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                  • #10
                    Hi Polymacca, I am aware of that book. Haven't read it yet though.

                    Does it mean one shouldn't continue practising, that would be an individualistic choice..I still practise regardless of the books ascertions
                    I have to admit I am a bit unclear what you are getting at here. Are you suggesting that your practice doesn't change as you become aware of new information?
                    Byron Selorme -SomaSimpleton and Science Based Yoga Educator
                    Shavasana Yoga Center

                    "The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool" Richard Feynman

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      A recent article extolling the virtues of yoga for moderating Vagal Tone. Those with high Vagal tone being more resilient than those with low Vagal tone.

                      Anyone hear of some good research on this? Since it may assist with anxiety, might it also assist with catastrophising?

                      Huffington Post

                      Last edited by byronselorme; 09-11-2012, 07:09 PM.
                      Byron Selorme -SomaSimpleton and Science Based Yoga Educator
                      Shavasana Yoga Center

                      "The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool" Richard Feynman

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        From the article

                        So what's the vagal tone all about? It's directly related to the state of the vagus nerve, which is our largest cranial nerve. It's also known as the "wandering nerve" because of its mobility through the body. The vagal tone starts at the base of the skull and travels throughout the body, touching the respiratory, digestive, and nervous systems. Often thought of as our "air-traffic controller," the vagus nerve helps regulate all our major bodily functions. Breathing, heart rate, digestion, and even how we take in, process, and make meaning of our experiences are all directly related to the vagus nerve.


                        It's easy to see, then, why the vagus nerve is critical to optimal physiological functioning, as well as a significant marker of resilience. People with healthy vagus nerve functioning are considered to have "high vagal tone," meaning their bodies and brains are more resilient under stress. They have an easier time moving from an excited state to a relaxed one. Someone with high vagal tone, for example, would recover faster from a fight with a spouse than someone with low vagal tone. Not surprisingly, these individuals tend to be healthier and more resilient
                        Byron Selorme -SomaSimpleton and Science Based Yoga Educator
                        Shavasana Yoga Center

                        "The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool" Richard Feynman

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          It is interesting. High vagal tone would be a misonomer I would suspect as you would want someone whom could modulate their vagal tone and exist all of the time at either a high or low tone.
                          --------------------------------------------------------------
                          Body is imbued with mind, and mind is embodied.

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                          • #14
                            People with healthy vagus nerve functioning are considered to have "high vagal tone," meaning their bodies and brains are more resilient under stress. They have an easier time moving from an excited state to a relaxed one. Someone with high vagal tone, for example, would recover faster from a fight with a spouse than someone with low vagal tone. Not surprisingly, these individuals tend to be healthier and more resilient
                            I'm with MileHigh on this one.

                            It could just be the wording of the article but Vagal tone (an observation on the state on the output /efferency (word?) of the nerves) would be an observation on another's ability to modulate and attend to their 'vagal state'. The movement from an excited state to a relaxed one will undoubtedly have some pre-existant unique to each individual characteristics but wouldn't the practice and ability to attend to, and subsequently modulate, it's effects based upon their attendence to their afferent/interoceptive/proprioceptive state be part of the equation? They learn that they can modulate their state and find correlates between what they think they'll do (intention), what they do (action), how it feels (perception), and how that matchs their expectation of how it would feel (acknowlegement/enforcement).

                            Taking time out to mindfully assess and practice unique large body multiaxial movements in a slow controlled manner, choosing to alter the prioritisation of attention from their exteroceptive environment and their future predictive cognition (attending to what you are doing over what you may need to do in the predicted future), would be one way to do so. So people who choose to put some of their intention towards time to the health of their self (which the body is one representation of and yoga is one way of doing) will feel healthier because they choose to do something they believe to be healthier and then action that belief.
                            Last edited by Mark Hollis; 10-11-2012, 01:36 AM.
                            "Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent." ("Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen.“) Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus Ludwig Wittgenstein
                            Question your tea spoons. Georges Perec

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                            • #15
                              Doesn't "high" vagus "tone" refer to good heart rate variability? HRV varies with depth of breath. Heart rate slows on inspiration, speeds up on exhale. If it doesn't, it indicates potential health problems or something.
                              Diane
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