It happens with every pop cultural wave: That moment when things turn. I’m old enough to remember when it seemed everybody was being held captive by the hypnotic backbeat of disco. “Do the Hustle!” All right, I will! The Bee Gees tag-teamed with a lean and feral John Travolta for the “Saturday Night Fever” assault. But nobody said it would last forever, and it didn’t: On Thursday July 12, 1979, at Comiskey Park in Chicago a “promotion” called “Disco Demolition Night” featured a crate filled with disco records. During a twi-night doubleheader, the crate was blown-up. Rowdy fans, some reportedly stoked on marijuana, surged onto the field and a near riot ensued.
Now it looks like it might be yoga’s turn, sans riot. New York Times senior writer William J. Broad has written a book warning of yoga damage to limbs and body. “The Science of Yoga; the Risks and Rewards” looks at yoga-related injuries. Some are mild while others, while rare, quite frightening including brain and nerve damage, degenerated hips, back problems, torn Achilles’ tendons. A long-time yoga practitioner, Broad investigates popular health claims about yoga – that it boosts metabolism, for example – and finds that scientific studies tell a different story. Say it ain’t so, Yogacharya…!
Sometimes parody signals change in the air and a new online video (or what we’ll soon call a “book”) titled “Yoga Girl” filmed on Santa Monica’s Main street by the same dudes that did “Whole Foods Parking Lot” goes about where’d you expect, referencing yoga terms and asking beautiful yoga-stretching women “Would you like to meditate with me?” because later “We could have a vegan cookie and talk about your day.”
What caused the recent boom in yoga? Amna Babar, a YOGABODY teaching team member possessing a name that certainly sounds authoritative in this area, writes on the website ezine articles (All caps, then all lower case… what has happened to our language?!) that “people want to take time out of their busy work lives and focus on themselves in order to eliminate factors that are burning them out. Yoga is the answer to their problems, which gives serenity of mind along with a healthy body. It doesn’t take up much time as it can be adjusted according to one’s life style and schedule. It is more popular in females as they tend to be extra conscious about their bodies as compared to men. However with the passage of time, men are also beginning to discover the joys of regular yoga practice.”
Yes, but with time men are also beginning to discover that the women at yoga studios are in excellent shape and have their mind-body thing together. Contrast this environment for finding a soul mate to, say, hitting Jagermeister Night at The Sink Hole (Not a real bar, I hope). It doesn’t hurt that smart, fit females can be found in a yoga class. Perhaps those women have specifically come to the class to avoid such modern-day stresses as approaches from men, although there’s probably a few that like the social aspect. I know couples that met in ashrams, so there is something about finding serenity that gives off heat.
At this point you can likely deduce that I’ve never done a lick of yoga or even attended a class. Were you to meet me in person, especially at a Wendy’s, you’d know that yoga is pretty far off my radar. But even so, I can see where stretching for an hour away from your computer with your phone turned off would have healing impacts.
Still, is the blowback against yoga on its way? Any day now, Rick Santorum is bound to connect yoga to Planned Parenthood or socialism or insist that it’s yet another huge waste of time like education and college. Until he does you can always count on somebody in the Christian right being against just about anything you can Google. Sure enough, as early as October of 2010, a writer described as a “veteran cultural warrior” feigned surprise at reactions to an article he wrote where he advised Christians not to practice yoga.
People took issue with Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, because of his conclusion that “Christians who practice yoga are embracing, or at minimum flirting with, a spiritual practice that threatens to transform their own spiritual lives into a ‘post-Christian, spiritually polyglot’ reality.”
Some previous Mohler bon mots include his declaration that married couples who choose to be childless are in “moral rebellion,” that he of course denies evolution, believes women cannot serve as pastors and that wives must submit to their husbands in the home. Ashley Grizzle, administrative coordinator at Wieuca Road Baptist Church in Atlanta, responded to Mohler by posting online that “My yoga time IS my time with God. It’s when my body is most at peace and I am able to center my thoughts. Why is that so awful?”
Probably it’s awful to some because yoga, like the term “socialism” or “elite” or the name “Saul Alinsky,” just sounds like something weird that must have something wrong with it. I mean, who wants to be at peace and centered with their thoughts? Liberals, right? Still, yoga fans, be sure to protect those hips and tendons. Because you never know when your post-Christian, spiritually polyglot reality might require running away from somebody deeply un-centered.