Wednesday, February 08, 2012

the antidote

William Broad, a New York Times science reporter and Pulitzer winner, is making the rounds of the interview shows to promote his new book, The Science of Yoga: the Risks and the Rewards. Last night he was the guest on Terry Gross's "Fresh Air" on NPR.

Broad, a yoga practitioner himself for over 40 years, is singularly well equipped to address the subject, which he successfully de-mystifies by describing both the mechanics of asana (yoga movements) and the psychology of its contemplative aspects in modern scientific language. He avoids jargon, however, and the interview, transcribed alongside the MP3 file here, is as entertaining as it is informative, at least until towards the end Gross veers off into a conversation about Iran's potential nuclear weapons capability, or lack of it. But that's another story.

In the last decade, yoga has metamorphosed from a popular exercise activity (and, for some, a spiritual path) into a mass movement, and shows no signs of slowing down. The risks of practicing asana -- and they are significant -- needed to be better publicized, along with the profound benefits of a prudent asana regimen. The good news Broad delivers is that modern science shows yoga to be an effective antidote to "civilization and its discontents," and a counter-activity to the busy, restless, obsessive nature of an industrialized and regimented society.

I think of it as the Anti-Super Bowl, in which organized gangs of highly specialized professional gladiators engage in a dangerous and desperate competition for money, status, and fame. Yoga, neither a competition nor a performance art if it's pursued in the intended spirit, is an amateur activity whose sole purpose is to improve the quality of life of those who practice.

Photo, "Sweep," ©Whole Life Yoga, 2010.

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