Friday, March 23, 2007

Yoga Stalking

Clever piece in Slate by Ron Rosenbaum, on the "hostile New Age takeover of yoga." The highlight is Rosenbaum's common-sense recital of a yoga-magazine story about a woman stalking her ex-flame, and learning to "forgive" when he tells her to get a life.

Confession: While no real yogi, Father A. has done his share of Downward-Facing Dogs over the years. And he works mighty hard to screen out the blathering yogaspeak that some instructors use. ("I'm sorry," said a very fine teacher one time. "That was a such a goober-yoga-teacher thing to say.") The truth is that after years of trying, I still can't follow the direction to 'breathe into your hamstring" for the very simple reason that my hamstring has no lungs.

But far more to the point is this: Father A. spent some time studying in India, and even wrote a master's thesis on representations of the goddess Kali in art and literature. At one time in his life, he could fairly easily describe the differences between the Devi-Mahatmya and the Devi-Bhagavata. And nothing that I ever came across, either on the street in India or in the dusty Asian Religion stacks of university libraries, sounds much like the "philosophy" of the standard yoga class.

(There are exceptions, and I will even name one: a teacher named Tony Luttenberger, up in the Berkshires. He's got an old-hippie vibe, and sometimes seems half-cracked. But the man knows his ancient texts.)

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