What's the New York Times' Obsession With Yoga?

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"Why," asks Paul Raeburn at the Knight Science Journalism Tracker, "is the New York Times so obsessed--and confused--about yoga?" For him, the question arose when, this past Sunday, "the Times carried no fewer than three articles on yoga--one in the Sunday Book Review, one in the Sunday magazine, and another in the metro section." Raeburn, a ten-year fan of yoga himself, can't figure out the paper's fixation. Yoga may be different things to different people, but "for the New York Times ... yoga seems to be something of an occult art, riddled with danger and badly contaminated by greed and corruption, more about fashion and fads than fitness."

The problem, as he sees it, is that the Times' attempts to substantiate these theories are a little weak. In the Book Review, he says, the attempt consists of taking anecdotes (jokes, really, argues Raeburn) about Sting's yoga-induced sexual prowess out of context, focusing on an "early 20th-century faker" as if he were "the central figure in the history of yoga in America," and similar oddities. Raeburn's reaction:

I have no idea what Mishra is trying to say about yoga's history, but he clearly hates yoga, thinks the people who practice it are victims of fraud and lecherous gurus, and does--or doesn't--believe it has something to do with titanic sexual accomplishments. I can't tell.

The pieces in the magazine and metro section, Raeburn continues, were similarly confused. The former, he argues, sets up a "straw man" suggesting yogis "are supposed to be starving in Mysore" instead of capering through New York, while the latter "is about how dangerous yoga can be," but fails to produce a story of an injury worse than a "strained back" or "aching wrists." Writes Raeburn:  "Compare those to, say, bicycle injuries, which can include not only broken bones, but concussion and death. Or soccer injuries. Or football ... Lighten up, Times. It's exercise. Some people like it, some don't. Some add a spiritual dimension, some don't. Why does it frighten you so?"

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