THE BLOG

A Response to Stewart Lawrence, From a 'Conservative' Yogi

Yoga is not conservative or liberal. It crosses partisan lines. Who does not want to feel better about themselves, both mentally and physically? For if you don't care for yourself, do you have any right to assume the power to care for another?
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

2016-02-03-1454469542-3437624-Yoga_Class_at_a_Gym.JPG

Mr. Stewart Lawrence, somewhat disjointedly, argues in his "expose" on yoga ("Behind the Yoga Boom: Narcissism, Irreligion, or Just Fitness," Daily Caller, February 2, 2016) that we, America, have been duped.

But Mr. Lawrence's meandering arguments regarding the yoga-fication of America are merely a distraction to his real argument -- that women, i.e., those of the weaker sex -- have "fallen prey" to the all-mighty Yoga (it is unclear who is perpetuating this deception, unless they is comprised of those stay-at-home moms he cites or women who have been unable to "break the glass ceiling") to chase some elusive self-image and peace of mind. Well, Mr. Lawrence is half right.

The rat race, as he puts it, has, in all probability, increased the popularity of yoga in recent years as it has been shown to help decrease stress and anxiety while increasing focus and productivity. So to quickly, but effectively, dispose of Mr. Lawrence's conclusion that yoga spurs narcissism and social disengagement, studies contradict this. It is actually dependence on technology (devices, social media, etc. -- the overuse of, by the way, yoga discourages) that instead increases narcissism and social disengagement (sorry to turn the mirror on you, Stew) in today's age.

As to Mr. Lawrence's motive in masking a societal crisis over yoga and its danger to conservatives and America, writ large, is unclear. The only possible conclusion that can be reached is Mr. Lawrence believes he must rescue women from this morally corrupt practice. He repeatedly uses women to emphasize how dangerous yoga has become. Putting aside Mr. Lawrence's degrading language regarding women in this article, he puts forth no statistics or studies to support his theory. It is merely that women, who are overworked and must "juggle social and workplace roles," are "deeply stressed."

Much better if women just stayed at home. Then they wouldn't have to be subjected to such anxiety and therefore have to turn to yoga. But alas, even women at home, who've "been unable to break the glass ceiling," turn to yoga... as teachers who then dupe more women! It's fair to say that Mr. Lawrence doesn't understand women (at least that's the excuse we'll use) and does not realize that yoga brings more than a "psychic laxative" to both men and women. It provides a path to a healthier, more fulfilling life. A life not dependent on work, social media, or 21-century snarkiness disguised as wit. Instead, yoga encourages a simpler life, reminiscent of the past, such as when one would go on a walk without bringing his or her iPhone (a practice now called mindfulness).

Regarding the spiritual side of yoga, and Mr. Lawrence's claims that yoga is anti-Judeo-Christian is deceiving. The goal of yoga (if you can call it a goal), regardless of religion, is to find that spark of the divine that resides in each and every one of us and embody it. A spark that is born at the point of conception, and represents our best selves. So, although the Catholic Church may state yoga doesn't lead to God (oh, incidentally, Pope Francis's quote was grossly misinterpreted, tsk, tsk), and it may not, it also doesn't take issue with becoming more compassionate and empathetic, i.e., a better person or the person God wants you to be. So unless practitioners begin praying to Vishnu instead of God, then yoga is not really a danger to religion in America, either.

Yoga is not conservative or liberal. It crosses partisan lines. Who does not want to feel better about themselves, both mentally and physically? For if you don't care for yourself, do you have any right to assume the power to care for another?

Amy K. Mitchell is the founder and president of ProYOGA USA. ProYOGA specializes in stress reduction yoga in corporate and special event settings. Prior to founding ProYOGA, she worked in conservative politics. You can follow Amy on Twitter @ProYOGAUSA or on Instagram at @ProYOGAUSA.