Thursday, May 2, 2013

Yoga for Smart People... really?

It's been a while since I wrote a blog post taking (cheap?) shots at something that is happening out there in the yoga world/blogosphere that I disagree with. Most of the time, I don't bother, simply because it's generally a waste of time and energy. I mean, if I don't like something, I'd do well to shut up, not participate, look the other way. And maybe, just maybe, if enough people shut up, not participate, and look the other way, the offending phenomenon might just lose momentum and go away by itself, right?

Well, I really don't know. But in any case, this latest phenomenon to hit my radar screen is too blatantly... [insert appropriate word to describe that distasteful feeling in my mouth] to just look the other way. I guess I should tell you how this all started. Yesterday, I was reading this blog written by this Ashtanga blogger I highly respect. In her latest post, she made a reference to something called the "smart yoga" movement. To my hyper-inflated self-important self, it looked like she was referring to slightly-over-educated yoga bloggers like me who have too much to say about too many things. So I left a comment on her post declaring my belief that "smart yoga" is an oxymoron, and left it at that.

And I thought that was that. And then, earlier today, I stumbled upon this thing called "Yoga for Smart People" (hey, I'm not making this up; check this out). My very first reaction was one of disappointment: So my fellow blogger wasn't referring to me when she referred to "smart yoga"... :-(

My second reaction was: Wow... there really are a bunch of people out there who call themselves "Yoga for Smart People"... no kiddin'. Damn! Now I wonder if I should rename this blog "Yoga for Stupid People in the Dragon's Den", just to see how many people will stop reading (after all, who wants to be associated with stupid?).

Anyway, the folks at Smart People have issued the following disclaimer on their website:

"Yoga for Smart People is not meant as an elitist enterprise. It is meant to provide a space where thoughtful yogis can come together to discuss ideas. It is also not meant to compete with or to replace any of the already awesome yoga blogs [Nobel: Such as Yoga in the Dragon's Den, if I may be so immodest to suggest? ;-)] and online magazines out there. It is meant to bring writers together to engage with each other in a conversational way."

Well, I probably should just shut up already and go practice (as Kristen has so sagely advised recently). But it's really not often these days that I can find something so blatantly [insert appropriate word to describe that distasteful feeling in my mouth] in the yoga blogosphere that I just can't resist throwing a couple of cheap shots. So, maybe I'll conclude by bringing your attention to one more little detail: If something isn't meant as an elitist enterprise, why would its creators need to go out of their way to disavow any such elitist intentions? Something to think about, no? And maybe, just maybe, if you think about this hard enough, you might just become smart... 


  1. I checked out the site and I can't tell if the name is facetious, elitist or earnest....maybe a combination of the three? In any case, too much yoga talk makes my brain hurt. I'd rather have achey hamstrings than an achey brain, even if it means I wouldn't count as a "smart person". To hell with labels.

    1. "I checked out the site and I can't tell if the name is facetious, elitist or earnest....maybe a combination of the three?"

      Unfortunately. it's going to take a lot more smarts than I have to figure that question out... but if I really have to guess, I would venture that it probably started out being earnest and maybe also a little facetious. And then they realized after the fact that it might also come across as elitist. Hence the disclaimer. But why do any of this matter, anyway? :-)

  2. Kinda saw this coming.
    I've tended to consider Ramaswami's newsletter's an example of 'smart' yoga',

    'Yoga for Stupid people', I'd still visit Noble,

    Think I might change my own blog title to 'Klever Klogs Krama' ( see what I did there with the spelling of clever with a K. kinda faux ironic....'sigh').

    1. Ah, unfortunately, I haven't been keeping up much with my reading of Ramaswami's newsletters. I seem to be suffering from short attention span when I am in the blogosphere lately (is this another sign of encroaching stupidity?...), and Ramaswami's newsletters, as wonderful as they are, are a bit long for me.

      Thanks. Now I'll really seriously consider changing the name of this blog...

      And yes, I see the triple K in your prospective new blog title. Be careful there...

    2. :-)

      Calling a spade a spade is also yoga. (One very good reading of Patanjali is that yoga = accurate perception.)

      It is usually the smarty pants practitioners who take the longest to grok yoga.

      I'm not being clever in saying this. It's just the case. Smarty-pantses, drama queens, and drug addicts. These are the hard cases.

      I get a lot of requests for "smart yoga." Ann Arbor is very "smart."

      Speaking from experience, I'll note that another funny thing about "smart" is that it's parasitic on "stupid." Mr and Mrs Smart are (by self-definition) afraid of looking stupid, and thus always looking for others outside oneself to play the part of Stupid. To confirm who is Smart.

      Points gun-finger to temple, cocks the hammer, logs off.

    3. I think you hit the nail on the head in observing that "smart" is necessarily parasitic on "stupid". This is probably what bugs me most about "smart yoga", disclaimers against elitism notwithstanding.

      Besides, we spend so much of our working lives being smart (or at least trying to), you would think that yoga, if anything, should be a respite from being smart. I have nothing against engaging in critical thinking; I'm definitely not advocating that we deliberately "switch off the brain" (or is this another oxymoron?). But I like to think that there is a difference between engaging in critical thinking because it comes from being the sort of being that one is, because one simply can't help doing so, and being smart just to assure oneself that one is not "dumb" or "stupid."

  3. Personally, I feel I'm getting dumber all the time. I'm taking it as a small glimmer of progress.

    1. I think some famous person once said, "Dumb is as dumb does." :-)

  4. I am glad you mentioned this. I also had an immediate negative reaction to that name. When I mentioned it in a public forum, I was quickly told that I didn't understand the real meaning of it and pretty much told to sit down and shut up. Too stupid, I guess. I remember a book that came out several years ago called "Mothers Who Think". I had the same reaction - sign me up with the stupids, the non-thinkers, the dumb clucks but, whatever happens, do not put me in with people who would call themselves that!

    Yucky, sez the dumb-dumb.

    1. Isn't it funny how people who like spouting big words also seem to enjoy telling people to sit down and shut up? Somehow, I think there is a correlation (wait, this is a big word too!) between these two behaviors, although I don't seem to be smart enough to be able to pinpoint just what the correlation is. Oh well...

  5. ha, my other name for my yoga website is yoga4smartpeople.