Living with chronic pain means I’m always looking for something simple that will improve my quality of life. When I saw on Berkeley’s course catalog a class called “gentle, restorative yoga,” I thought it might do me some good, build up some muscle in my back. And I figured, since it was offered through a public university, it wouldn’t be full of hairy fairy spiritualism.
I figured wrong.
This class was taught by an instructor so deep in woo he actually described the universe as breathing, as the sun coming up around the Earth, using expressions like “let your organs work at their most optimal for you at this time” and “this pose opens up your heart chakra.” The last time some overbearing dude tried to open my heart chakra it was for the stated purposes of “curing lesbianism” (whose lesbianism went unspecified).
This instructor is also quite fond of recommending these practices for the treatment of specific medical conditions or diseases, likely in violation of FDA regulations on that sort of thing. Apparently, a particular yoga pose that involved lying on your side under a blanket with a pillow under your neck and a jasmine eye bag on your face, magically improves liver function and reduces blood pressure by “giving your organs more room” for the “energy” to circulate.
He regularly questioned students about their medical conditions, and on at least one occasion, he asked another female student about the regularity of her menstrual cycles! He then exclaimed, “Oh, so you’re not THAT skinny.”
When he exhorted to “turn your awareness to your past lives,” I would my awareness to more important matters, like whether the ceiling was a true eggshell or just a burnt ivory. And I smiled and nodded when he’d inform me that he could “sense” that I was taking longer to “fully relax” and scold me for drinking coke outside of class because “you know why!”
Once I asked him to define energy, the quack replied that he didn’t “live his life by science, but by experience.” Sure, I may have thought, “right, you live your life by your experience of other people’s liver function before and after yoga,” but even then I suppressed my better urges to publically eviscerate his entire persona. Even though, he digressed into saying how “taking a pill should be a last resort.” Not if it’s the best resort.
I held my tongue to this shit, week after week, still willing to give the technique a chance even if the messenger taught no better than a malignant narcissism See ‘n Say
Then I find out, the dude thinks he’s going to give me a B, in the academic and literal equivalent of preschool naptime. And I say to myself, oh, it’s on.
Given the reactions to the proposed “prayer space” on campus, perhaps the political climate is right to eliminate these anti-science classes from the public dole. Yoga is based on religious notions of the soul, past lives, “energy” (undefined), “vortexes,” and other nonsense, which is all claimed to be somehow relevant to our day to day lives and chronic medical conditions.
Our tax dollars should not go to support the religious indoctrination of students, when courses are being cut, real professors furloughed, and students losing financial aid, all for lack of funding. Let’s employ some competent individuals as yoga instructors if yoga is that critical to the student experience. I’m sure there’s a pool of unemployed graduate students who could do a much better job. Anything is better than the incompetent quack welfare system we’ve got now.