Workout or Religion?


A busy week critiquing the final essay for my composition classes.  On Monday, my literature students will be turning in their final essay for critiques, so I’ve been slogging through everything trying to stay on top of the final tide before the end of the semester.

The first week at the gym made me realize that despite my extra few pounds, I’m not as out of shape as I thought.  I did spring out of bed thinking maybe I’d make it to yoga this morning (I went Wednesday night), but I just couldn’t bring myself to get down there at 9 a.m. on a Saturday.  That feels somehow uncivilized to me–though I know some people’s definition of “civilized” might include getting up and going to the gym at a specific hour everyday.

I don’t much believe in alarm clocks, and when I wake up, I prefer to ease into the day a little more gently by making coffee (or tea), checking my e-mail, chatting with H about today’s plans.  I’ve been getting down to the gym between 10 a.m. and noon-ish, which suits me because it’s pretty empty at those hours.  I can get in a couple hours of classwork before that and when my attention starts to flag, I get some exercise.

As much as I like how yoga makes me feel, I’m a little weirded out by the spiritual dimension that many yoga teachers inject into their practice and more so by the spiritual dimension they encourage others to inject into their practice.  I’m not really there to devote my day’s workout to solving world hunger or bringing about world peace, I’m there to stretch and move my body so I can feel better and do my other work better.

I guess if students of yoga want to feel religious about the experience of standing on their hands, etc., there’s nothing wrong with that per se, it’s just that when I go to yoga, I’m there for the workout, not the religion.  This probably marks me as a crappy student who will never achieve enlightenment, but I’m guessing there are many paths on that road and not all of them require jacking your knees up onto your arms to stand on your hands (though I’m going to work on that Crow pose anyhow).

Ah, well.  I’ll have to stick to the afternoon yoga classes interspersed with the cardio workouts I’ve been doing.  I’m pretty basic–I like the treadmills and those machines where the feet sit on paddles and go ’round in a circle and the arms go back and forth on the handles.  I’ve been offered the “full body workout” training a couple of times now, but I honestly have enough complexity in my life without developing a routine of things I may or may not want to do on a given day.

The discipline I have is best saved for other tasks where it is required to bring in a paycheck or to make plants grow–getting myself down to the gym once a day should be about renewal and feeling good, not going through pre-prescribed motions to sculpt some sort of ideal body.

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Claire on December 6, 2008 at 10:17 pm

    well, yoga did start as part of religion and is considered a form of worship. In CA, I’ve actually found that the spiritual aspect of yoga is rather hard to find unless you are specifically looking for that. It’s kinda weird to me that SD yoga is opposite. If anything I would have expected to find yoga for stretching here and yoga for spirit there.

    Traditional Kundalini yoga is meant to activate this spiritual serpent that dwells in the spine. Serious practitioners believe that it is dangerous to mess with this force without a highly skilled yogi to guide you or you may release something you can’t control and go crazy or something. (Maybe this explains how/why I strained my back so bad doing yoga that it still bothers me fiercely 2 years later!)

  2. Posted by flyingtomato on December 7, 2008 at 9:09 am

    The religious aspect is not very strong here, but I guess that if it is going to be religious, then the “disciples” should be highly trained in that aspect, and those who attend should be made fully aware that that’s what they’re getting into.

    I don’t reject the mind/body connection, I just find it odd to go to a class at the gym and be told I should “dedicate [my] practice to the happiness and freedom of all creatures everywhere.”

    It’s a lovely thing to wish for, but really, I’m just trying to be there in my body and breath and keep from falling on my head. I’m not sure how far that goes in ensuring the happiness and freedom of all creatures everywhere.

    –re.

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