If they go around letting people know they're participating in goofy cults, they'll also probably end up doing those stupid poses by themselves, and where's the I'm-cooler-than-you-normal-Americans cache' in that?
Come on, along with buying all the cult gear, claiming yoga as exercise is fine, in a fraudulent "you can fool some of the people some of the time,..." kind of way, except A) no one who understands exercise will agree with it, and B) the truth might slip out whenever yogis are caught talking to each other:
In her new memoir “Poser: My Life In Twenty-Three Yoga Poses”, Claire Dederer takes on the contradictions inherent in being a Westerner who dabbles in a non-Western belief system that comes lightly disguised as an exercise class.Bingo, baby! That's Emily Gould, and her article in - get this - More Intelligent Life magazine (will these people ever stop flattering themselves?) is a hoot, filled with every cult buzzword ever written!
Just scanning the first three paragraphs of her piece, we've got such exercise-oriented phrases as "yogic philosophy", "meditation", "self-help", "Eastern asceticism", "Intuitive", "a Zen rock garden", and the always hopeful and greedy NewAge bastard's desire for "abundance”. (Kind of makes you miss the NewAge language of reps and checking their heart rate, doesn't it?) And all that's just in the first three paragraphs!
Who do they think they're fooling?
Part of what makes studying American cultism so fun is unraveling their contradictions, and Mrs. Gould is more than happy to lay some real head-scratchers out, from Yoga Journal, for our perusal:
Don’t get me started on the ads, a regular source of contention in YJ’s letters-to-the-editor section. I’m clearly far from the only person who finds it annoying that articles about accepting your body are always surrounded by photos of young, lithe, mostly-white women showing off skin-tight, expensive spandex. In other ads, Eastern asceticism meets Western commerce in discomfiting ways. The most recent issue had a quarter-page ad for a book called “The Intuitive Investor”, featuring an image of the book jacket floating over a Zen rock garden and the copy “Lovingly written for you … for a life of abundance”. A few pages later, an article about meditating in order to let go of desire nestled between half-page ads for retreats in tropical paradises. Wish you were there? No! Don’t wish for anything!Yes, these yogis do love confused white people!
And the type who join the yoga cult are very confused, sucked up into every bullshit NewAge fad that's come down the pike in the last part of the last century. Mrs. Gould's writes of Claire Dederer:
Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, she now lives in a North Seattle community of locavore recyclers where, she writes, signs on her neighbours’ gates warn “be mindful of dog” (instead of “beware of dog”). Even still, Dederer had spent years feeling deeply suspicious of yoga: “I thought yoga was done by self-indulgent middle-aged ladies with a lot of time on their hands, or by skinny fanatical twenty-two-year-old vegetarian former gymnasts. I was also unsettled by the notion of white people seeking transformation through the customs of brown-skinned people.”Of course she did, because going to,...oh, we don't know,...a back doctor, was just too simple of an idea, right?
Despite these well-founded misgivings, Dederer finally starts taking a Hatha yoga class, spurred by back pain from nursing her daughter.
Sure it is, when she's the daughter of a woman who left "her husband for a much younger man during the dawn of feminism" (Dederer, to her credit, does admit "it’s possible" that event made her "a less stable young adult” - you think?) and now she's part of a equally lame-brained and wasteful recycling community that can't even admit dogs bite.
Seriously, where the bullshit begins and ends must be hard to figure out - especially if you're an American so sucked into a series of belief systems that you'll accept simple phrases like "full splits" have to be referred to as "hanumanasana". Or fearfully living with "the organic baby food and toxin-free lifestyle".
We'd never make it there without killing somebody.
We first began studying NewAge cultism after the killer ex left, and we started reading her books to see just what in the FUCK had gotten into that woman. One thing we clearly remember is the deeper we got into the cult experience, the more our head would hurt and a voice would rise up in our mind that would scream "NO!" and, on occasion, we'd fling a book across the room involuntarily. Not these women. These women are "seekers". They're "on the path" to madness, so there are no books being flung anywhere when the shit gets crazy.
And, if there's one thing they're NOT after, it's exercise:
About yogic philosophy, too, Dederer is at her best when she’s describing her own struggles to make sense of texts, like the Sutras, which at first seem impenetrable. “They were brief, yes, and looked aphoristic, but reading them was not like reading Oscar Wilde. It was like reading bread, or grass. Impossible.” Most Westerners who’ve tried, like Dederer, to swiftly assimilate a new belief system will relate to her confusion and frustration: “I mean, it was one thing to read about stilling the fluctuations of consciousness but another thing entirely to do it. Beyond that, I liked the fluctuations of consciousness. I made a living off the fluctuations of consciousness.” Dederer concludes her brief tour of her local bookstore’s Eastern Religions section by deciding that she will persevere in her classes, even though she “couldn’t be bothered to learn the right way to do yoga.” Her approach to yoga, she decides, will steer clear of research and focus on experience, specifically: “submission, trust, transmission from teacher to student, imperfection, the release of the ego.”Oh, geez - here we go with the "release of the ego" crap again. (We ARE finding this in the arrogantly-titled More Intelligent Life magazine, right?)
Even worse - and more revealing of how little "ego" these people are releasing - compare her notion that reading the Sutras "was like reading bread, or grass" with this description of how cultists absorb occult writings and quackery:
“The more convoluted the explanation, the more unintelligible the practitioners are, the more people may be inclined to believe them. It makes it appear as though it is privileged knowledge, like real medicine and auto tech.”Kind of hard to resolve releasing your ego with feeling privileged, isn't it?
Our favorite part of all this malarky is when the discussion turns to Dederer's husband.
Like a lot of NewAgers, Dederer "is unsparing in detailing her marriage’s weak points" - a main one being what's described as her "unsympathetic" husband's "depressive episodes". Her man doesn't sound depressive to us but - heaven forbid - rational when dealing with an "unsympathetic" fruitcake:
“How am I supposed to keep my career going without any time to do my work?” she asks him. “I don’t know, but I do know that I can’t take time off from my job so you can write BOOK REVIEWS for YOGA JOURNAL,” he shouts. She storms out of the room,...Yea, she's released her ego alright.
One of these days, probably after the Baby Boomers are long gone and most of their kids are finally leaving this mortal coil themselves, the truth of this time will finally come into focus, and all the various cult beliefs and influences will finally get the hearing they deserve, and nonsense like "yoga as exercise" will be revealed for what it is - a bald-faced lie. A lie swallowed whole, and spread by people too insecure and proud to admit they got snookered.
It will finally be known that from the election of Barack Obama (with Oprah Winfrey's NewAge help) all the way back to the arrival of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (with Jane Fonda and The Beatles) these fools were BSing themselves, and the rest of us, until little by little their grip weakened and America's conservative way of life could return to some semblance of what it was before anyone had ever heard of hippies and the stupid "path" to nowhere they took us on:
She acknowledges that her search for meaning and purpose has been inconclusive, that her life, like her yoga practice, is a work in progress. And she always maintains just the right amount of irony about the inherent cheesiness of such an acknowledgment. Describing her struggle not to feel ridiculous while doing “lion”, a breathing exercise that entails making a very goofy facial expression, she writes about “the hippie laugh. You know the hippie laugh. It says: I’m light of heart! Yet aware of my foibles! Also free! Very, very free!” That someone can be this self-aware, yet is capable of sticking her tongue out, rolling her eyes back and roaring in tandem with a classroom full of fellow adults, is endearing.No it's not. It's not endearing. That's not it at all:
It's immature and childish, and that's what it should be called, just like yoga should be called a cult belief system - not exercise - and the sooner everyone comes to grip with all of this, the better off we'll all finally be.
That will be endearing.