yoga

Seattle Times story on 'Undoing Whiteness' yoga class is tone deaf on what yoga is all about

Seattle Times story on 'Undoing Whiteness' yoga class is tone deaf on what yoga is all about

Just when you think it can’t get any more ‘woke’ here in the great Pacific Northwest, a Seattle Times piece created lots of outrage last week by profiling a yoga teacher offering a class on “undoing whiteness.”

What was problematic wasn’t just the topic of the class, but also the reporter’s brazen use of his platform to lecture white readers on their racist backgrounds.

Naturally this got some online reaction. You know things are heating up when the Times cuts off comments at 89, saying it was due to the “sensitive nature of this topic.”

Is there a religion angle here? That’s a controversial topic, as well. Tmatt reminded us here that while yoga is rooted in a spiritual practice based on Hindu tenets, the media keeps on stripping it of religious content.

That definitely happened here.

Laura Humpf braced herself for fresh salvos of death threats, rage-soaked slurs and indictments of “reverse racism” from media provocateurs.

The Seattle yoga instructor had endured it before, four years ago, after putting out word about a class for people of color only, at her studio.

She was slammed by critics for being exclusionary and promoting likely illegal segregation, but was doing neither, says Humpf. This is racial caucusing, and she sees the time-honored technique of voluntarily congregating by race to oppose racism as a way to dismantle a white-supremacist pathology found in everyday society.

This spring, Humpf publicized an “Undoing Whiteness” yoga class at Rainier Beach Yoga, geared toward white people wishing to “unpack the harmful ways white supremacy is embedded” in their “body, mind and heart.” Along with providing a contemplative space, the class would dissect the “pathology of whiteness” — an obliviousness to the batch of privileges society grants white skin — and how it operates in daily life.

Were there any editors looking over this story before it went to print? The reporter spouts off about “a white-supremacist pathology found in everyday society” as though it’s fact. Why not throw an “alleged” in there?

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New-old habits of the postmodern heart: 'When people choose not to believe in God, they do not ... '

New-old habits of the postmodern heart: 'When people choose not to believe in God, they do not ... '

It is without a doubt the most famous quotation that journalist and Christian apologist G.K. Chesterton either (a) said, (b) never said, (c) might have said or (d) said in pieces that were latter assembled by someone else into one memorable thought.

I am referring to this statement: “When men choose not to believe in God, they do not thereafter believe in nothing, they then become capable of believing in anything.”

You can click here for a fascinating investigation into the origins of this statement. The bottom line: There are all kinds of Chesterton statements that may have evolved into this quote. I liked this part:

... Robin Rader of Zambia argued that the epigram can be found divided between two adjacent Father Brown stories:
It’s the first effect of not believing in God that you lose your common sense. [“The Oracle of the Dog” (1923)]
You hard-shelled materialists were all balanced on the very edge of belief -- of belief in almost anything. [“The Miracle of Moon Crescent” (1924)]

I bring this up because this famous Chesterton semi-quote offers a perfect summary of what I felt recently while walking the streets of Prague, thinking about some recent Pew Research Center survey work about religion in Central and Eastern Europe, and the Czech Republic in particular. That turned into my "On Religion" column this past week, which then served as the hook for this week's Crossroads podcast. Click here to tune that in.

But before we get to that, please do this for me. Read the Chesterton statements again and then read this headline from a recent "Gray Matter" essay in The New York Times: "Don’t Believe in God? Maybe You’ll Try U.F.O.s."

Interesting? Here is a key chunk of this fascinating piece:

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Washington Post on airplane sleep: These days, most folks (like me) don't have a prayer

Washington Post on airplane sleep: These days, most folks (like me) don't have a prayer

I have been looking at this Washington Post feature for several weeks now, trying to decide whether to write a post mentioning its tiny little religion angle.

The headline got my attention right from the get-go and then it stuck. Anyone else? I am talking about: "Can’t sleep on airplanes? These products and techniques can help."

Yes, dear readers, I have even stared at this piece on my iPad while on an airplane, during a two-stage, coast-to-coast flight during which I nodded and nodded, but did not sleep a wink. You might say that I am the target audience for this travel piece. I once failed to get a minute of sleep during an entire 15-hour flight from Delhi to Chicago that left the ground at 1 a.m. Believe me, I tried. I took enough Melatonin to stun a horse.

Now, the religion angle in this piece is hidden right there in the headline, in the word "techniques."

Hold that thought. First, here is the evocative overture:

The rumble of a jet engine is a comforting sound to some air travelers, making it easy to sleep on virtually any flight. For others, just the thought of being trapped in a pressurized aluminum tube is enough to send massive doses of adrenaline into their bloodstreams, ensuring alertness for days.
Pamela Wagner falls somewhere in the middle. Though not a white-knuckled flier, she says the noise makes rest impossible.
“I’m used to super silence when I’m sleeping,” she says. “Not exactly what you get on a flight.”
True. The interior of an aircraft is anything but silent, with noises ranging from chatty passengers to screaming children and, of course, the constant whine -- of the engines. It’s also uncomfortable, even if you’re in one of those lie-flat business-class seats, which don’t always lie all the way down. Try falling asleep in a sitting position, even when you’re not on an aircraft, and you’ll know why sleeping on a plane can be a pipe dream.

The bottom line, saith the writer: "Having a snooze on a plane is not getting any easier."

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Update from hot world of Bikram yoga, where scandal still haunts a secular savior

Update from hot world of Bikram yoga, where scandal still haunts a secular savior

Once upon a time, many professionals who covered religion in the mainstream press argued that the future of the beat was covering "spiritual" forces in the lives of average people that played the role of organized religions. Even though the "spiritual, but not religious" slogan was overused, in my opinion, this approach was valid for quite a few stories.

There are people for whom running has become their religion. I know people for whom good wine and cooking serve what has to be a sacramental function in their lives. Ditto for some of the semi-religious movies and online games that all but take over the lives of congregations of young males.

This brings me to another activity that, in every sense of the word, is "spiritual" for many of its followers -- yoga. This is especially true when you are dealing with yoga masters who -- even though they insist their work is "secular" -- fill a guru role in the lives of their disciples, promising to help them change their lives in every sense of the word.

Yet, for some reason, many people (including journalists) think it is controversial to talk about the Hindu roots of yoga, perhaps because yoga has its share of Christian critics who see it as a false religion. Christian critics are always wrong, you know, and thus should not be quoted.

This brings us back to a Los Angeles Times update on the alleged sex scandals surrounding the life and work of the yoga superstar Bikram Choudhury. This is one of those stories that, if there is no "spiritual" hook in it, I'd like the Times team to show me why that is true. As I said in an earlier post about coverage of this scandal, "Pseudo-guru Bikram Choudhury and another scandal in the totally secular world of yoga":

... As all modern urbanites and even suburbanites know, yoga has nothing to do with religion. We're talking about secular gurus, secular healing, secular philosophy, secular transformations and, well, secular spirituality?

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