Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Proof is in the Pudding

30 Day Reading Challenge... DAY TWO!

Well, I haven't read any of my anatomy book yet today, but I am planning on doing so before bed.  Since it's past 10:30 and I am teaching at 6am tomorrow, this puts me a little bit behind schedule... but I will persevere!

Here's an interesting question that was brought up in the foreword to my anatomy book: will modern science ever accept the "proof" that yoga is an effective form of medicine?

This passage is written by Dr. Timothy McCall from Boston, and I think he sums up the situation especially well.  He writes: "In a medical profession now itself dominated by a near religious reverence for the randomized, controlled study, knowledge acquired through thousands of years of direct observation, introspection, and trial and error may seem quaint."

He's got a point.  How are we ever going to get a randomized, controlled study of yoga?  Where would the money come from for a true, long-range study?  Who would be the control group?  And how would you manage to "hold everything else constant," in the case of a holistic therapy that treats all the systems at once?

Very simple example: Say that someone starts practicing yoga, then changes their diet, then loses weight.  How can you ever, in an objective and scientific fashion, determine the true thread of cause and effect?  Maybe it's true that the weight loss came from the diet change (although in the case of Bikram yoga, the crazy calorie burning effects will also help).  But where did the diet change come from?  Did it come along with the yoga, or was it a coincidence?  Can you prove it?  Oh, and where does the thyroid gland come into this equation?

When people ask us for proof, we point to anecdotal evidence.  Now, in the world of the "randomized, controlled study," this is not considered hard, solid proof.  But my god, we have some great anecdotal evidence!  Each Bikram yoga studio - and there are hundreds of Bikram yoga studios - has dozens of students who will testify to the changes that they've seen.  And teacher training attracts the ones who have really experienced miracles - the ones who were virtually crippled and now can walk, the ones who have stopped taking dozens of pills, the ones whose whole lives have changed.

One girl from my teacher training, a good friend of mine who was in my group, had been crippled by rheumatoid arthritis when she was in her early 20's.  She walked with a cane.  Her family had to help her use the bathroom.  She couldn't grasp a doorknob to open a door on her own.  I would never have suspected any of these things about her - I had no idea, until I read her testimony in our yearbook after graduation - because now she is completely fine.

Yoga did that.

Dr. McCall says that it is a philosophical question: "When you have an intervention which appears safe and effective - and when its side effects are almost entirely positive - should one wait for proof before trying it?"

I say, hell, just try it.

As we say in Bikram yoga circles - and I really want to get this on a t-shirt one day - "This shit WORKS!"

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