Oiled in my yoga spandex

Published on January 11, 2012 by      Print
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By Jesse Aizenstat

This article originally appeared on Huffington Post on 1/8/12.

May the pagan gods bless the New York Times – because when I read “How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body” last week, I enjoyed one of those fine belly laughs that only comes once in a great while.

The article, by William J. Broad, was laced with first-hand accounts and all the classic scenes that one might expect in a yoga studio. But the thing that irked me was not the main point of the piece: fit teachers whipping their students into injury. It was the failure to get into the pseudo-religious attitude found in modern yoga, which is about as unique as the Starbucks latte you’re currently holding.

That’s right. Yoga. And the pill of ignorance that is offered in many American studios is as dogmatic as it is silly. It’s cafeteria-style theology, where people can choose what feels good among a field of mediocre options, and consume it all for $15 bucks a session.

But what bothered me wasn’t the fact that amateur yogis were dropping straight into Full Lotus and getting hurt. That’s just stupidity — and should be cited in some college paper as proof of Darwin’s theory about the fittest.

What got me going was the built-in church session. The relentless banter, which is contradictory to the “quieting the mind” element of yoga I actually enjoy. It’s the glorification of some naked Indian guru on the wall — elevating him to Jesus — while pretending to hold the moral high ground over American Christianity. And then there’s the famous yogi line: “Well, we’re not religious… we’re spiritual.”

Ahh… yes. Spiritual. The real demon at work here.

It’s the queer in the closet that refuses to buy into the brand that it is just another system of belief. It’s the shifty yogi creed, stitched together all across America, that has too many holy deities to list. Which is why it’s so hard to understand. Every yoga teacher who mixes stretching and spirituality is different.

Some drink the Native American “Mother Earth” stuff, while others smoke the other kind of Indian —mostly Hindu based — and then there are those who just hit the spike with “sacred geometry” or “holy cosmology” or whatever the hell can get them high.

Spirituality. It’s a way for people to pretend they’re “not religious,” while hiding from a dogma that may have sodomized them as a child.

But really, what’s wrong with that? What’s wrong with a newer and friendlier religious term? Is being spiritual such a bad thing?

No. It’s not. But it’s an excuse to urinate on the very tenets of the Western Enlightenment: rational thought and the ability in humans to think things through.

Of course there are questions out there that make our big brains hurt. It’s a scary universe. And it’s frightening to think the cosmos may have never known we were here… and may never know when we’re gone…

So what the hell? Why waste my time on spiritual yoga teachers as they whisper some kind of aloof gibberish in my ear? Simple. I came for the back stretches. Not reworking my deeper meaning, and doubling down on my quest to enter the fourth chakra.

Jesus. Do you really think I got all oiled up in my yoga spandex for that?

 About Jesse Aizenstat

Major in political science. Graduate with honors. Fail to find a job. Go surfing in the Middle East. Rogue journalist and self-admitted California wave junky Jesse Aizenstat couldn’t find a real job after college. But his two passions, Middle East politics and surfing, seemed like a good fit for a freelance gig. What the hell? Why not surf from Israel to Lebanon?  Upon his return to California, Aizenstat partnered up with an Emmy-winning Hollywood studio to create an enhanced media iPad app, and has maintained his “indy credentials” by developing a wholly new self-publishing model in entertainment. “Surfing the Middle East: Deviant Journalism from the Lost Generation,” will be available on Amazon.com early next year. Aizenstat is also an avid blogger at bloggingthecasbah.com. Find him on Twitter.

Filed under: Zombie Yoga and Tagged:


  1. Donna says:

    Right on, Jesse!

    I too am a political-science-without-a-job-graduate. I’m also highly annoyed with the yoga of today. The affect. The bullshit.

    Hell, maybe I’ll go surfing in Lebanon. For today, though, I’m going to Nevada City, where I’m sure to find some enlightenment;-)

  2. YogaforCynics says:

    “It’s the glorification of some naked Indian guru on the wall — elevating him to Jesus — while pretending to hold the moral high ground over American Christianity.”

    Oh god, yeah. Thank you.

  3. Nadine Fawell says:

    It’s odd: the longer I practice and teach yoga, the more leery I become of all forms of the non-concrete. I don’t know quite how this happened to me, but I am becoming a non-believer.

    But I do (cough cough) call myself spiritual.


  4. Chrissy says:

    I loved this Jesse!
    I am both religious and spiritual! It is a good time!..Seriously, whatever works, I just hate when people have to have a pissing contest over which choice is the “best”!

  5. David says:

    In my view, it’s all yoga. So that would have to include yoga-hating echo chambers, too. But y’all are too hip for me. Bye.

  6. Pamela says:

    You should read: Selling Spirituality: The Silent Takeover of Religion by J. Carette and Richard King. They explain how it’s all basically a capitalist plot to feed our individualism and make us buy more stuff… Great read by two very serious scholars at Oxford!


  7. David Lincecum says:

    Very much what I might expect in yoga writing from someone whose passion is mid east politics. Conflict.

  8. Oiled in my yoga spandex. ~ Jesse Aizenstat | elephant journal says:

    [...] in my yoga spandex. ~ Jesse Aizenstat  Originally published by our elephriends over at Recovering Yogi on January 11, [...]

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