One of my favorite columnists recently wrote a column on one of my favorite topics.
The New York Times’ ever-clever Maureen Dowd devoted her piece, entitled “How Garbo Learned to Stand on Her Head,” to the benefits and dangers of practicing yoga.
I read Dowd regularly, but this column grabbed me since I have had an active yoga practice for well over a decade. It has seen me through the sale of a third generation family business, the Precious Jewels’ departures from the nest, five political campaigns and countless untold and largely unremembered stresses of daily life. I began yoga at a time when I was facing unwanted surgery, though not because of my medical problem. The upshot is that my medical issue long ago resolved itself without surgery, and I take no medication for it — nada! I never even think about it unless I tell someone this story.
Yoga is an ancient tradition — some would say art, involving both body and mind. There are many different practices, some more physical, some more mental, some more spiritual. American Baby Boomers have adopted yoga by the millions, and it is now practiced in gyms across the nation as a form of exercise, though there are certainly many people whose practices are more cerebral.
Dowd and I agree on many things, including this: Yoga is not for everyone, but then neither are triathlons, polo, mountain bike racing or sitting on the sofa drinking martinis and savoring chocolate.
I found Dowd’s yoga column a riveting read, both because she suggests yoga as a cure for some of our most intensely partisan politicians and because she touches on possible negative effects of yoga, which has not been my experience at all. Interesting as her column is, the 114 literate reader comments the Times allowed may be even more so. They come from people who believe they have beneﬁ ted from the practice of yoga and from others who see it as hogwash.
Here is a sampling of those comments: “
We can learn to relax our bodies and minds, and we need to regularly for our health and well-being. Well-taught yoga in moderation is one way. I wonder why this simple idea, with many years of research and common sense behind it, still makes people … well, nervous.” Margaret in New York City
“I tried standing on my head and found that it was easier and more fulfilling to stand on someone else’s head.” Richhorn in University Place, Washington
“Oh brother. I’d rather have a couple of martinis than listen to a yoga teacher for an hour instructing me to make my body do things it doesn’t want to do on a dirty mat with crummy music …We Baby Boomers are the most obnoxious generation that ever lived. No wonder the 20-somethings can’t stand us.” Louise in Kansas
“I always thought that if you could look that silly in a room full of other equally silly-ly posed people then you must have achieved a state of complete oblivion. I find it now just too uncomfortable. However yoga has saved my sanity. When in my life I have found myself under extreme stress, I will lie flat on the floor, do the circular breathing and relax. It works. Amazing.” Scientella in Palo Alto
“With the economy in downward dog, the 99 percent and 1 percent in warrior, and all of our politicians in child’s pose, yoga may very well be our undoing, after all.” Jacob B. in Seattle, Washington
“Get a dog. No nagging, nor alimony, no university tuition, always glad to see you.” Dan Green in Delray Beach, Florida
“As a holistic physician I routinely ‘prescribe’ yoga to my patients. ‘Behavioral prescriptions’ are slowly replacing the U.S. obsession with meds. Yoga, however, historically comes from Eastern culture. Although Harvard’s Herbert Benson ‘Westernized’ yoga … any medical intervention from other cultures is inherently mistrusted by arrogant U.S. bio-medicine … U.S. patients are light years ahead of the stuck U.S. profession of organized medicine. But I doubt U.S. politicians are among our most enlightened patients.” Dr. Rick Lippin Southampton, Pennsylvania“
A soothing massage, a nice piece of Stilton and some Chivas on the rocks, sipped slowly, works wonders for me after a hard day at my volunteer job … Finally, unplug all media and communication devices for an hour or two before bed and read a few pages of a good book. Good night….ZZZZ..zzz” Renolady in Nevada
“I’ve done every type of exercise and fitness regime for my entire life. Took up yoga at 40 and am now 50 and it is unquestionably the best thing I’ve ever done for my mind and body...Harmony with yourself is what allows harmony with others and all your environments: social, family, work, etc…” Mr. Spock in New York City
Larry Eisenberg in New York City wins the Maureen Dowd Ever-Clever Award, though, with this little ditty:“
I’m raring to discard my toga, Resume my old practice of Yoga,End sexual disorder,Put frayed nerves in order,Pretend that I’m not an old foga.” Namaste.