January 29, 2007

Yo Ga, Girl

by PG

As Hinduism rarely gets drawn into American church-state controversies, I'm almost happy to see all the silly people who are convinced that teaching yoga in public schools -- without use of gods' names in chants, or any other references to religion -- violates the First Amendment. Most of my family doesn't do yoga, except for elderly members who officially have entered the phase of life in which they are supposed to be preparing for death and no longer worrying about paying bills or getting the kids married. You can be a good Hindu without engaging in yoga and serious meditation. Sure, you won't be as enlightened as the yogis, but an absence of yoga doesn't doom you to a worse next life.

However, there's a more stringent way of life that does demand yoga, and that's California Hippie-ism. "Portrayed as a New Age nut out to brainwash young minds... Guber, married to former Sony Pictures Entertainment CEO Peter Guber, embraced yoga after moving to California in the 1970s." Hence the fabulously Orientalist quotes from critics of public school yoga: "I've talked to too many people who got hooked on the spiritual deception of yoga. They come to believe in this and become enamored with Hinduism or eastern mysticism," says 80-year-old Dave Hunt. Ah yes, that dangerous eastern mysticism. Not like good ol' fashioned Western mysticism.

The majority of Americans who try yoga can't tell Sanskrit from Urdu, nor Krishna from Shiva. (Though Americans often have seen Kali, and Ganesh usually gets "Yeah, elephant head.") Their doctor may have recommended yoga as a low-impact form or exercise, or they read about a movie star who swears by it for staying in shape. Yoga Booty Ballet leads one to believe in Hinduism as a religion about as much as Legally Blonde leads one to believe in feminism as an ideology. Certainly practicing yoga can cause one to appreciate the benefits of combining meditation with movement, but this by itself doesn't bring many recruits to the local temple; if yoga is "a vital part of the largest missionary program in the world" for Hinduism, Hindus need to pick up some tips from Mormons on how to make it clear that this is a deistic faith, not gym class with incense.

January 29, 2007 4:57 PM | TrackBack
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