Keeping up with the Yogis

November 23, 2008

disclaimer: I swear this post isn’t directed at any of our friends who teach Yoga. I point this out explicitly since I think 90% of our friends teach Yoga.

Having said that, last month’s Self magazine had an article, “Keeping up with the Yogis” that certainly reminded me of some people I’ve met.

More and more, I’ve noticed that people who practice yoga—which literally means “union”—are anything but united. They’re divisive and persnickety. Take one yogic experience I had in New York City several years ago. I was new to town and decided to check out a class offered a few blocks from my home. I walked in and headed for the studio when a guy snapped, “Excuse me,” in a tone of voice that clearly suggested I was the one who needed an excuse. Staring pointedly at my sneaker-clad feet, he said, “We don’t disrespect the earth by walking on it in our shoes.” I whipped mine off, but inside I was thinking, How the hell was I supposed to know?! Then I thought, Jeez, is it yogic to be so snooty to a newcomer? And disrespecting the earth? Puh-leeze. It’s linoleum.

Why would an activity that’s supposed to be noncompetitive and inward-focused turn people into such judgmental loons? My theory is that our culture has gotten so cutthroat that even spirituality has become competitive. And because many of us don’t belong to a tight-knit religious community, yoga has become a substitute for spirituality, a word thrown around like a medicine ball. Feeling spiritual used to mean more than simply treating one’s body like a temple; it suggested a call to social action, the determination to be a better person and, in some cases, to be closer to God.

Now there is only the body. And we persist in kicking each other’s asanas because we’ve convinced ourselves that exercise, which is not about fixing the world but about fixing one’s abs and thighs, is a higher form of truth.

And before you tell us in the comments that you only talk about exercise form X because it’s the best and you think everyone should know, do think about this:

More innocently, perhaps, when we natter on about the revelations of yoga, or any exercise fad, guess what? Everyone wants us to shut up. Because when you imply that there’s one correct way to do something (or when your husband goes on about the only way to clean one’s keyboard, not that I’m naming names) or you boast endlessly about a personal discovery (the way Tom Cruise raves about the virtues of Scientology), listeners cannot help but get hostile.

I’m not certain how long content stays up on the Self website and I didn’t want to lose those bits so I probably pulled out about a third of the article. Hopefully it will stay up in the free archives, it’s worth the read.

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