So by now you’ve probably heard about a Fox News (News? Oh right, “News”) report about how American children practicing yoga is turning an entire generation into “Wussies.” Here’s the thing, as much as we don’t love to say we agree with anything on this program, some of the statements they make, at least seem to ring true. Yoga, for us, is not practiced with the intention of being a sport. So when it is being talked about as the “fastest growing sport in America” that’s probably more a reflection of the attitudes our country has towards a physical movement practice. Some people just don’t know how else to categorize it. The category of “self-care” maybe just isn’t accepted enough for people to use it in this context, which we would.
The author interviewed on the tape says that yoga is not interactive like a sport is. True. “If nobody is keeping score it ain’t a sport.” No argument there. But he says that because yoga is practiced alone you don’t learn social skills or what it’s like to “get knocked down and get back up.” Oh see, this is where we disagree. He goes further into his erroneous understanding of the human experience (did he really write a book about parenting?! *shudders*) to say that, “slipping on your mat won’t teach you anything!”
Settle down, people. We know he’s wrong, how wrong he is and why. Those of us who’ve practiced don’t even need to be up on in arms. The fortunate thing is that nothing this man says matters. The more unsettling part of the conversation is that there are still some of us in society that regard certain characteristics of human decency in a “weak vs. strong” dichotomy. So the formula for some goes:
Soccer, Football, Hockey = Strong
Yoga, self-exploration, cultivating awareness = Weak (Oh just come on and say it. You know you want to…Yoga-Pussies.)
When will people realize that self-exploration, like the kind provided by a yoga practice, is critical to doing and being better at EVERYTHING (including the “strong” sports). I would love for the superstar Jiu-Jitsu warrior Rickson Gracie (who is, by the way, one of Kim’s greatest inspirations and THE main reason she began taking up yoga) who would make it a ritual to practice yoga intensely before a fight to be called a “wussie” (oh, did we mention that the man has a record of over 400 wins and ZERO losses?). The guy in the Fox “News” video does say that yoga is a great supplement to any sport. We do agree! But when people start using the strong vs. weak classifications in this conversation with a real worry that our children are becoming sissies because they’re enjoying a peaceful activity as well as beating the shit out of one another on the playground…That’s when we jump off that crazy train heading straight to Myopic Ville.
Team sports are great for children (yea, the ones “with a ball”). They are a way of learning teamwork., coordination skills, winning/losing, etc etc. Are they THE only way to learn those things as this man suggests? No. With all of the physical activity out there (team sports, dance, yoga, gymnastics, skateboarding, biking, rock climbing, martial arts, etc.), perhaps a more appropriate way to encourage movement is to let your kid do what they enjoy doing and NOT instill values in them that would make them think that what they want to do, or what they see others doing, makes them a “wussie”. Hey! That might even help combat bullying in schools! What a novel idea…
Ugh. Now on to the other end of the spectrum! Interestingly enough the BBC News (I know a foreign news source?! Try to relax.) ran this interesting article:
Hell-bent: Transcending pain in competitive yoga
Ben Lorr, author of the new book Hell-Bent, talks about transforming his body and life by getting deeply involved in Bikram Yoga and Competitive Yoga. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! Too many yoga controversies in one weekend to handle!!!! But seriously, at least the author seems interested in sharing his experience for the benefit of others. We’re down with that even if we, like many others, don’t agree that competitive yoga is the same as YOGA. But at least here in lies the possibilities for an intelligent conversation.
Mr. Lorr is aware of the controversy. But he says, “To define yoga is to limit yoga.” Well, here’s a dialogue we’d be interested in having without the fear of someone throwing out the hackneyed “Nazis” name-calling. How refreshing! Definitely, yoga (even in its competitive forms) can provide a context for self-exploration. But whether you practice with the intention of knowing more about yourself or the intention of performance makes the difference, to us. Lorr does also share about a paralyzed shoulder he suffers from an back-bending experience. He asks, “Was it an injury or just part of the process of my body opening up?” We would have to ask what he means by “opening.” But whatever the outcome of that experience the information he gained and his interpretation of that experience is his personal responsibility and journey. We would probably interpret that shoulder thing as, “well, you probably weren’t being very aware while doing that asana. Do a better job of listening to your body next time.”
Whether yoga is weakening the next generation or becoming part of an aggressive competitive sport it’s clear that the practice is here to stay. How do you experience yoga? We’re curious to know.