Category: Yoga in the News

Yoga in the News: Fear of Yoga

MASSENA, N.Y. — A group of parents and religious leaders in upstate New York want yoga classes out of public schools, saying the instruction violates boundaries between church and state.

Two high school teachers began using yoga last year to help students relieve stress before exams. Special education teacher Martha Duchscherer and Spanish teacher Kerry Perretta also were developing a districtwide program.

But those plans were halted after parents and others in the community complained students were being indoctrinated in Hindu rites.

To read the full article, go here.



Master Sergeant Chris Eder, USAF: There is a huge stigma in the military about men practicing yoga, an even bigger stigma on getting treatment for PTSD. So you can only imagine how difficult it is to get a guy with PTSD onto a mat!…I remember teaching yoga in Baghdad in a room where all four walls had everyone’s M16s standing upright. That is a standout moment for sure. In the same place, another time, we were attacked during the class and several of the Marines popped up, grabbed their rifles and took off. That was another.

Read the rest of the article here




Since we all know yoga is really meditation in action, sharing here this neat article about use of meditation in Brooklyn schools and for kids in trouble with the law.

The articles describes kids agitated by violence they’ve just seen:

“There was a brawl,” called Ian Alsopp, 18, shaking his head. “It went down. It went down.”Riding the subway after school, he said, he saw about 20 teenagers beat up another boy…“This is where you actually use this,” the instructor, Greg Snyder, told Mr. Alsopp. “Notice the thought. That’s fine. Notice the anxiety. Notice the fear. Use the meditation to focus your mind. Are you with me?”

Read the whole story here:

And then the New York Times sings yoga’s praises

For those of you who have been following along with the New York Times’ yoga saga, it all began with an article on the risks of doing yoga called How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body by William J. Broad. The article was an excerpt from a book on the risks and benefits of yoga, but the article itself put a real emphasis – as the headline suggests – on the potential risks (the benefits being described elsewhere in the book). It was, not surprisingly, poorly received by yogis, in general. It might have been least poorly received by Iyengar yogis as it sometimes seemed to single out Iyengar yoga, the form which we all practice with Elizabeth, for special criticism.

Today the New York Times came out with a very interesting personal health column by longtime writer Jane Brody that not only describes the benefits that can come from yoga – a nice thing to see in the pages of the paper following a story on risks – but also puts the original article into context. Here it is:



As many of you probably know, this past Sunday, the New York Times ran a disturbing article entitled, “How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body” whose subtitle was “Popped ribs, brain injuries, blinding pain. Are the healing rewards worth the risk?”  It’s a hard article to read because of the detailed injuries described, but more so because it doesn’t sound like the yoga we’ve all experienced in which Elizabeth takes great care to help us practice safely and beneficially. Oddly, there’s a particular focus on Iyengar yoga in the article (which is an excerpt from a book “The Science of Yoga: Risks and Rewards”). So you may be wondering what the Iyengar Yoga National Association of the United States’ response was. Elizabeth provides that below:

8 January 2012

To The New York Times
Re: “How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body” by William Broad

To the Editor:

If yoga hurts, it is not yoga. A student’s overreaching ego, a teacher’s ignorance –many causes may lead to injury while doing yoga, but yoga itself cannot be blamed. Nor can B. K. S. Iyengar, who more than any figure in modern yoga has made yoga safe, accessible and transformative for all.

Many teachers and students of Iyengar Yoga were disturbed by the negative tone and outright errors in “How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body” by William J. Broad. Just one example: Broad calls Roger Cole a “reformer” who advocates reducing neck bending in Shoulder Stand by lifting the shoulders on a stack of blankets. But this teaching was devised by Mr. Iyengar – Cole is simply one of many of Mr. Iyengar’s teachers who work this way. Similarly Broad writes that Mr. Iyengar does not address yoga injuries in his seminal book Light on Yoga; any reading will reveal countless instructions on how to perform poses correctly, without harm.

We urge readers to try an Iyengar Yoga class themselves. Iyengar Yoga teachers are held to the most rigorous standards. Only after years of practice and study, and close examination by senior teachers, are they certified. A Certified Iyengar Yoga teacher is a student’s guarantee of a yoga experience which is safe, progressive and personalized to their condition.

During his more than 70 years of practice and teaching, B. K. S. Iyengar has pioneered modern yoga and modern yoga therapeutics. One of his guiding principles – that yoga is for everyone – led him to develop modifications for the yoga asanas (postures) using props which allow them to be performed by practitioners of every age, fitness and skill level.

Iyengar teachers are trained to work even with students with serious limitations and injuries, to recognize when students are ready for certain asanas, and not to ask them to go beyond their readiness. Going to one’s maximum also means not going beyond one’s limits; teachers must help students understand this.

Before undertaking the practice of asana, those who pursue the eight-limbed path of yoga must first practice the guidelines of yama and niyama; first among these is ahimsa – non-violence. For a teacher, this means “do no harm.”


Christopher Beach, President
The Iyengar Yoga National Association of the United States (IYNAUS)

UPDATE: The NY Times seems to be pursuing the continuing kerfuffle from the yoga article in the current “Room for Debate”. The topic is entitled : “Me, Myself and Yoga: Is Yoga for Narcissists?” You might want to read it, if only because it will make you all the gladder that you live in Bellingham and study with Elizabeth.

BKS Iyengar’s wisdom brought to China

A recent news article in the Times of India, described Mr. Iyengar (here referred to as Guruji) and his visit and yoga demonstrations in China, where yoga is booming, in the short excerpt below:

Guruji demonstrated the subtle actions and movements of the skin, muscle and bone with the analogy of a simple leaf: the stem (centre) of the leaf is the line from the head to the feet; the veins of the leaf, which branch outwards from its stem represent the action of the muscles in the body. “Just as the veins of the leaf spread outwards, so also the skin and muscles of the legs. The entire body should not only vertically extend but also horizontally expand if one is to have a rhythmic stretch in the asana,” Guruji elaborated.

When the leaf dries, it dries first from its outer edges towards the inner core. Similarly, the human body generally ages from the outer musculo-skeletal body to the inner core of the being.

Read the full article here.

First off, you may have noticed that things have been kind of quiet around the blog lately. Elizabeth’s computer is on the fritz. So expect more postings from her when her computer has recovered.

In the meantime, yoga, which is a form of meditation, has been in the news again, this time for its power to diminish pain. According to a  study published April 6th in the Journal of Neuroscience, people who were exposed to a pain (in the form of a painful heat source) experienced 40-57% less pain by two different pain ratings if they were meditating during exposure than if they were not. Morphine typically reduces pain ratings by about 25%.

And these were not expert meditators. They were 15 healthy volunteers who had received four twenty minute long classes in mindfulness meditation. The volunteers were taught to focus on their breath and let thoughts pass, just as we do during savasana.

In the study, the researchers from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in North Carolina found that meditation reduced every participant’s pain ratings, with the reduction ranging from 11 to 93 percent. And brain activity went from very high to undetectable in an area involved in feelings of pain localization and pain intensity known as  the primary somatosensory cortex.

To read more about the study in an article in the UK newspaper known as the Telegraph go here. If you want to see an abstract of the original study go here.

(photo credit:

Yoga at Every Age

It isn’t so surprising to see Mr. Iyengar himself, no matter his age, enjoying beautiful yoga positions as he is in the picture above. But can other people without as much and as deep an experience with yoga training also continue to practice as they get much older? (Has anyone wondered this when looking at the startling postcard above the sink at 8 Petals in which an elderly lady is showing some stunning yogic flexibility at the busstop?) Can people still practice yoga into their 80s in a way that allows them to experience its many benefits? Into their 90s?

Apparently even people who have never done yoga before, people in nursing homes whose age and health drastically restricts their ability to move are enjoying some of the greatest benefits of yoga according to a recent posting at the New Old Age blog at the One instructor explained, “I work on breath awareness and gentle movement. In a way, their physical limitation allows them to be closer to the root of the yoga experience, which is breathing and awareness.”

To read this interesting article, go here.

(photo credit:

Meditation and the Brain

18x24   Vintage Anatomy. Brains poster. Human Body. Zombies. Horror. Science.

When we practice yoga – which is a form of meditation – we sometimes feel a change in our state of mind, sometimes during, sometimes after our practice. Some people feel an increased sense of well being or of spaciousness or perhaps a decrease in feelings of stress.

Because so many people report these kinds of benefits, scientists have begun to study the brain to see what exactly is happening in there when we stretch back into a downward dog or a settle into a seated meditation.

One group of researchers looked specifically for evidence of concrete changes in the brain as a result of mindfulness meditation, in which subjects were told to pay attention to the breath and if their attention wandered, to continue to bring their attention back to the breath, just as we do in savasana. In that study, scientists found that people who did mindfulness meditation for 30 minutes a day for 8 weeks, had increased density in their brains in regions associated with empathy, stress, sense of self and memory.

To learn more read this New York Times wellness column.

For more on the possible direct physical benefits of meditation and yoga, go here and here to read New York Times articles about the effects of meditation on heart attacks and here to read about the use of yoga for dealing with a hangover.

(photo credit:×24-vintage-anatomy-brains-poster)