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Thursday, March 22, 2007

the changing face of yoga

i found this post on slate.com; it was penned by new york observer columnist ron rosenbaum. what he talks about ties in somewhat with the comments i received regarding my yogaerobics experience earlier this week. with its growing popularity, yoga just ain't what it used to be...

here's how the article starts out:

The Hostile New Age Takeover of Yoga
There's nothing worse than narcissism posing as humility.

By Ron Rosenbaum
Posted Wednesday, March 21, 2007, at 4:37 PM ET

Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against yoga—or Eastern disciplines in general. In fact, I've done tai chi exercises for many years.

No, it's the commodification and rhetorical dumbing-down of yoga culture that gets to me. The way something that once was—and still can be—pure and purifying has been larded with mystical schlock. Once a counterweight to our sweaty striving for ego gratification, yoga has become an unctuous adjunct to it.

There is the exploitative and ever-proliferating "yoga media." The advent of yoga fashion (the yoga mat, the yoga-mat carrier, and yoga-class ensembles). And worst of all, the yoga rhetoric, that soothing syrupy "yoga-speak" that we all know and loathe.

It all adds up to what a friend recently called the "hostile New Age takeover of yoga." "New Age" culture being those scented-candle shrines to self-worship, the love-oneself lit of The Secret, the "applied kinesiology"-type medical and metaphysical quackery used to support a vast array of alternative-this or alternative-that magical-thinking workshops and spa weekends. At its best, it's harmless mental self-massage. At its worst, it's the kind of thinking that blames cancer victims for their disease because they didn't "manifest" enough positive vibes.

One "manifestation" of this takeover is the shameless enlistment of yoga and elevated Eastern yogic philosophy for shamelessly material Western goals. Rather than an alternative, it's become an enabler. "Power yoga"! Yoga for success! Yoga for regime change! (Kidding.)

And then there's what you might call "Yoga for Supermarket Checkout Line Goals." Or as the cover story of Rodale's downmarket magazine YogaLife put it, yoga to: "BURN FAT FASTER!" (Subsidiary stories bannered on the YogaLife cover: "4 WAYS TO LOSE 5 POUNDS"; "ZEN SECRETS TO: HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS ... INSTANT CALM.")

Gotta love "Zen Secrets to Instant Calm," right? It goes right along with other cover lines like "Double Your Flexibility Today!" and "Heal Winter Skin Now!"

Clearly what the ancient inventors of yogic wisdom had in mind: Now! Instant! Today! Very Eastern, calm, and meditative right?

But even more insidious than the easily satirizable but at least down-to-earth and honest magazines like YogaLife—or ethereally serious ones like Yoga + Joyful Living (which coaches readers in "The Breath of Self-Understanding")—are the mainstream yoga publications such as Yoga Journal, one of the most popular, prosperous, and respectable yoga magazines.

In fact, my impetus for this examination of yoga media came from a sharp-witted woman I know who practices yoga but frankly concedes that—for her, anyway—it's less about Inner Peace than Outer Hotness. She called my attention to what she called an amazingly clueless—and ultimately cruel (to the writer)—decision by the editors of Yoga Journal to print a first-person story that was ostensibly about the yogic wisdom on forgiveness in relationships.

rosenbaum then goes on to talk about a woman who resorts to stalking an old friend so she can ask for his forgiveness for something she did to him 20 years earlier. yes, it gets pretty bizarre.

you can find the rest of the story here.


Blogger Stephanie said...

I thought the first few paragraphs he wrote were good but the rest was just a bunch of reactionary male anger towards women.

Emailing a guy you were once close with to get back in touch is HARDLY stalking. Geez, if I got upset at every person from my past who contacted me over the Internet, I could file a dozen restraining orders.

One of my high school friends emailed me recently...I haven't spoken to her in 20 years! When I didn't respond to her from my blog, she found my MySpace page and contacted me there. Is that STALKING? Ummm...no....

Hell, I'd be happy to hear from an ex-boyfriend from 20 years back - even the bad ones, just out of curiosity. What's the big freakin' deal?

It's too bad he went off on that stupid stalking tangent because the first part of the article showed promise.

12:03 AM  
Blogger joni said...

if i remember correctly, the author's point was that the woman failed to realize how her "friend" really didn't want to have anything to do with her, despite her numerous attempts to get hold of him. he finally had to resort to telling her outright that he never wanted to hear from her again. it may have been cruel, but she probably never contacted him again. mission accomplished.

i guess that's the main difference between men and women -- men think that if they ignore you, you'll go away; women feel they have to explain why they want you to go away. and yes, i'm guilty as charged.

also, it's one thing when you try to get hold of someone who's happy to reunite with you; it's another when you keep trying to get hold of someone who just wants to be left alone. sometimes we're so busy thinking about what WE want that we forget that it may not be what others want.

12:47 AM  
Blogger Stephanie said...

Right, but how would she know whether her old friend was amenable to the contact before she reached out to him? Right from the get-go, writer Ron accuses her of "Google-stalking" the guy. I just had a male friend of mine "Google-stalk" me - we had lost track of each other. It is ridiculous to call a woman a stalker simply for trying to get a hold of someone she once knew.

This overblown paranoia that Ron is exhibiting kind of calls into question his interpretation of the whole story. (I wish I had the original story to read.) It also continues that whole "Fatal Attraction" boiling bunny stereotype that paints women as hysterical and nutso.

3:42 PM  

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