Bending Yoga Out Of Shape

Brian Palmer contends that “Yoga is the new prayer: the risk-free, cost-free solution to all of your medical problems”:

In 2006, a well-constructed study finally proved that praying to God confers no medical benefit. … God’s medical career was over. But he left a void in the public discussion of medicine, and yoga has filled it. Studies come out on a near weekly basis trumpeting the benefits of yoga for any problem. Yoga for diabetes. Yoga for high blood pressure. Yoga for heart disease. Yoga for cancer. Yoga for slow reactions. Yoga for bad grades. The quasi-miraculous healing powers of yoga are, I concede, more credible than the truly miraculous healing power of a divine being. At least there is a nexus between health and yoga—the human body—which is something you can’t say for therapeutic prayer.

The yoga studies, however, contain myriad methodological problems, some of which are similar to those that plagued prayer research.

Joshua Eaton highlights how Buddhism has also been co-opted:

Interaction among Buddhism, neuropsychology and the self-help movement has also launched a constellation of publications, gurus, life coaches and conferences that make up the mindfulness movement. Its proponents tout yoga, mindfulness and meditation as panaceas, good for everything from managing stress and increasing longevity to turning around poor urban schools and establishing world peace, all one breath at a time.

Corporate America has embraced mindfulness as a way to raise bottom lines without raising blood pressure — much to the chagrin of people like [Amanda] Ream, who feel that Buddhism’s message is much more radical.