The Hostile New Age Takeover of Yoga
I'd love to be able to do yoga. I've tried many times, and my too-short limbs and meatball-shaped body have resulted in failed efforts and giggling through class, which I don't think is conducive to other people achieving the deep peace they're looking for. I have lots of people in my life that are serious aficionados and whose yoga practice obviously contribute to their physical health, emotional groundedness and spiritual loveliness. They're not the strivers I see zooming around Whole Foods in flared pants and exasperated expressions chugging on Fruit Water by Glaceau and making dagger-eyes at me for lingering too long over the artisanal cheeses and getting in their way. True confessions, time, yoga people: I don't so much shop at Whole Foods as use it as free therapy. I shop at Trader Joe's and Stop & Shop. I stroll through Whole Foods to fill my nose and eyes with aesthetic ideals of beauty and health. Because seriously, their pears cost like $3 each.
A lot of today's yoga culture seems to me to be about the re-inscribing of upper middle class values: competetiveness, acquisitiveness, materialism and humorless self-importance, and my very favorite -- Just Making Up My Own Religion As I Go Along.
Of course if the liberal church was doing its job and showing people a deep, meaningful spiritual path and giving them unapologetically directive teachings on how to transform their inner lives through prayer, study and service, yoga people might be able to keep their Thursday morning class in better perspective. That is, those yoga people who attend liberal churches might. Hey, if the liberal church was doing its job better, I have to think that more people -- including yoga people -- would be attending.
Or maybe not. Maybe the idea of disciplined religion is so ruined in the eyes of spiritually liberal seekers that they'll never embrace it, and those of us in the liberal churches are presiding over a funeral. There's never going to be anything but a tiny market for floppy, "Gee-I-dunno-what-do-YOU-think" religion, no matter how much it dresses itself up in prophet's clothes and claims to be the Truth-Telling Group.
One Truth the liberal church has been telling for years is that conservative folks Just Want To Be Told What To Believe. That's so easy, so dismissive, so snotty and so mostly wrong. All people want a religious life that actually shakes them, demands something of them and transforms them. Liberals, unfortunately, join the effort with the attitude that while this process is occurring, they should be comfortable and even indulged. They join the project with the attitude that there are no rockbound truths, so everything is relative. Who can really be transformed with a permanent orientation of skepticism and self-preservation?
My understanding is that real yoga requires a guru. Some nice guy teaching "Hot Yoga" at your health club is not a guru. A guru makes demands on us and teaches us a path to enlightenment that requires sacrifice and the painful dissolving of ego.
My guru is named Jesus, and his form of yoga was about achieving personal and social change through healing. I kind of wish he taught some form of physical practice beyond walking around, preaching, healing people and eating with people, but he didn't. He also would be very against spending $3 on one pear.