The Future of Yoga

Quote from William J. Broad‘s book.


Run the clock forward a century or two. What is yoga like? It seems to me that, based on current trends, two very different outcomes are possible. Both revolve around science, otherwise known as the pursuit of systematized truth.

In one scenario, the fog has thickened competing groups and corporations vie for market share among the bewildered. The chains offer their styles while spiritual groups offer theirs, with experts from the various camps clashing over differing claims. Immortality is said to be in the offing. The disputes resemble the old disagreements of religion. But factionalism has soared. Whereas yoga in the late twentieth century began to splinter into scores of brands all claiming unique and often contradictory virtues—now there are hundreds. Yet, for all the activity, yoga makes only a small contribution to global health care because most of the claims go unproven in the court of medical science. The general public sees yoga mainly as a cult that corporations seek to exploit.

In the other scenario, yoga has gone mainstream and plays an important role in society. A comprehensive program of scientific study early in the twenty-first century produced a strong consensus on where yoga fails and where it succeeds. Colleges of yoga science now abound. Yoga doctors are accepted members of the establishment, their natural therapies often considered gentler and more reliable than pills. Yoga classes are taught by certified instructors whose training is as rigorous as that of physical therapists. Yoga retreats foster art and innovation, conflict resolution and serious negotiating. Meanwhile, the International Association of Yoga Centenarians is lobbying for an extensive program of research on new ways of improving the quality of life among the extremely old.

Its president, Sting, recently embarked on a world tour to build political support for the initiative.

In short, I see the discipline as having arrived at a turning point. It has reached not only a critical mass of practitioners but a critical juncture in its development.”

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