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Crucifixion for Better Abs

A cranky meditation (not really, that's a pun) on marketing other people's sacred beliefs and approaches.

I was staying at a woman's place outside of Philadelphia, and she had a pile of videos about how to meditate, how to do Yoga, an entire bookcase of self-help books, lots of “miracles” and “healing” and books that were revealed instead of written. I picked up a video from her kitchen table called Yoga: 30 Days to Perfect Abs, in Only 30 Minutes a Day.

“Yoga! A tradition thousands of years old that brings real health benefits today. Yoga can give you the abs you want.” That's the back of the box, and suddenly I'm thinking of someone sitting in their house, an hour or two drive outside of Bombay, with a pile of videotapes:

  1. Christian Fitness Resurrection Vol 1: tone arms through crucifixion
  2. Christian Fitness Resurrection Vol 2: gain powerful abdominals by rising from the dead
  3. “Give me power thighs, Lord, but not yet!” St. Augustine's workout
  4. Christian Fitness Resurrection Vol 3: gain upper body strength by rolling away rocks from your tomb
  5. Christian Fitness Resurrection Vol 4: strengthen legs and torso by ascending to heaven
  6. The Eucharist Diet. (Just make a healthy shake out of red wine and unleavened bread)
  7. The Ten Commandments for Perfect Glutes
  8. Christian Fitness Resurrection Vol 2: gain powerful abdominals by rising from the dead
  9. “Give me power thighs, Lord, but not yet!” St. Augustine's workout
  10. Christian Fitness Resurrection Vol 3: gain upper body strength by rolling away rocks from your tomb
  11. Christian Fitness Resurrection Vol 4: strengthen legs and torso by ascending to heaven
  12. The Eucharist Diet. (Just make a healthy shake out of red wine and unleavened bread)
  13. The Ten Commandments for Perfect Glutes

I didn't watch the video, but I have a strong sense that there was no 30 minute teaching from the Upanishads to go with the 30 minute workout. Which makes it, I think, not Yoga, just Yoga-like exercises, and thus people playing at deepness, all of them getting half the story.

And I wonder, will the women and occasional men in the Yoga clinics of Manhattan ever turn to one another and say, “Ignorance is the notion that the non-eternal, the impure, the evil, and that which is not soul are, severally, eternal, pure, good and soul,” or “the tenacious wish for existence upon earth is inherent in all sentient beings, and continues through all incarnations, because it has self-reproductive power. It is felt as well by the wise as the unwise?” (Both from Patanjali's The Yoga Sutra.) Some will. Most won't. I don't know why it bugs me, in my athiest lack-of-belief. Even if they were devout Yoga devotees with trips to India under their belt I'd still think they were chasing shadows. And it's none of my business.

Oh, I know there are exceptions, I can hear Paul arguing the other side, that, in some Panglossian way, this is a good thing for people, to hear about other cultures, even if it is for the goal of having a flat stomach so your husband or boyfriend won't become bored putting his penis inside of you and take away your sense of economic safety. This Yoga-for-abs-program seems like the corrolary of the African boys living on $8.50 a week, wishing to God they could afford nice Nike sneakers. We shovel garbage and pull in what we can use from the rest of the world - Yoga as a ticket into a Spiritual Disneyland PLUS hotsexappeal, taught by white people or friendly yogis in their Boston ashrams kissing and fingering their “spiritual daughters” before a big lecture.

There is something wrong with American skimming, turning away when it gets ugly or hard, when your comfort is threatened. It's finding a new way to toss knucklebones - Kabbalah, say, or Meditation, or Yoga, or Charismatic Catholicism, rather than facing the ugliness in front of you, or more likely inside you, choosing instead a new, happy religion that will keep you from doing the hard thing, which is admitting you're an asshole.

A friend of mine is part-Chinese and good-looking. She put on a temporary tattoo that said, in Chinese characters, Stupid Asian Fetish and went to a party. She said the white boys asked her what it said, then got pissed when she told them.


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About the author: I've been running this website from 1997. For a living I write stories and essays, program computers, edit things, and help people launch online publications. (LinkedIn). I wrote a novel. I was an editor at Harper's Magazine for five years; then I was a Contributing Editor; now I am a free agent. I was also on NPR's All Things Considered for a while. I still write for The Morning News, and some other places.

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