Pique'n Yer Interest 

The life yogic: bend this way

Living in a small town brimming with overt and unbridled devotion, I tread carefully when referencing someone's religion, but here's the thing: I frickin' hate yoga.

Strong words, even when wielded in a Seinfeldian ode to the mild-to-strong revulsion I experience to tribal pretense, stinky mats, yappy instructors, headstands, horrible music, Sanskrit chanting, proselytizing of any kind, and the widespread abuse of yoga-branded clothing (note to those who attempt to cure corpulence with too-tight tights: no, you don't look good in that and it does make you look fat).

Though I'm objective enough to see this as my problem, suffering these annoyances is made all the more challenging by some counter intuition: I also love yoga.

Without seeking it, yoga has taught me about patience - both with others and myself. Helped me through a depression. And, after three years of more-or-less regular attendance, delivered noticeably more strength, flexibility and balance. I ski far better. I up-perform, in fact, in every sport, get injured less, recover faster (though perhaps I'm imagining this one), and find it obviates the repetitive strains of writing on a laptop all day, every day.

So it's love/hate - open embrace/cynical dismissal. And within this dichotomy dwells an entirely new level of the very yin-yangism underlying yoga's stated philosophic quest to effect reunion with the universal spirit; in less-flaky terms, find the connectedness with ourselves and nature left behind as we become, well, more human. Cue Eckhart Tolle - and with good reason. On a messed-up planet whose problems are all traceable to the increasingly unconscious actions of humanity, any activity whose essential tenet is to explore awareness can only be seen as a force of collective good - not to mention a great way to stay fit. Perhaps this is why people have turned to it in droves.

Explosive success, however, has also become yoga's burden: popularity breeds devotion, growth, and commerce, but also attracts posers, hustlers, and hijackers - the inevitable Demons of Disenchantment.

Despite its overwhelming veneer of benevolence and positivity, offer anyone on the yoga continuum a chance to dis it - naysayer, contemplator, practitioner, acolyte, teacher, businessperson - and muck bubbles like a plugged drain. As a test, at a recent dinner party I wondered aloud whether anyone had any issues with yoga. It was like firing a starting gun. I couldn't write responses fast enough - most from those who actually practiced .

"Oh my God - the whole thing is a friggin' ecosystem, with its own lowlifes and rednecks. Like Bikram [hot yoga] people - they're the scum at the bottom."

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