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A Pain in the Asana
July 12, 2011 7:38 AM   Subscribe

What becomes of your yoga when you are forbidden to do asana? "My chiropractor gave me the ultimate prescription: no asana. Since my practice inspires my teaching, I cut back on my teaching as well, only offering one super gentle community class and working with a few private students. (...) I’ve been in a place of inquiry: What is my practice? What does asana mean to me? What is yoga?"
posted by amusem (65 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
A better question: what is chiropractic?
posted by Pararrayos at 7:54 AM on July 12, 2011 [25 favorites]


to save everyone else the trip to wikipedia. Asana is sanskrit word denoting body position, usually sitting.
posted by jrishel at 7:55 AM on July 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


What is yoga?

A better question: what is chiropractic?


The tragedy of conflicting superstitions. Tonight at 11.
posted by mhoye at 7:58 AM on July 12, 2011 [51 favorites]


You lost your rock that keeps back pain away? Here, I'll sell you a piece of mine.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 8:04 AM on July 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


I will say this: yoga can feel pretty good, just physically. With no poses, I guess you're down to maybe, uh, feeling good mentally?
posted by everichon at 8:09 AM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yoga's not just about the poses. She talks about that in detail in the post.
posted by blucevalo at 8:15 AM on July 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


So the new age practice that has repeatedly been show to have no medical benefit is opposes to the one that has been shown to have medical benefit? It's like the person who cures you with incense telling you not to be a vegetarian anymore.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:22 AM on July 12, 2011 [23 favorites]


Yoga is an ass kicking workout. Just because the instructor is a small, delicate woman speaking in an exaggerated monotone borrowed from NPR doesn't mean that inside there isn't a Marine drill sergeant yelling, "Downard Facing Dog, you maggots!! Breathe! Breathe through it! I can't hear you breathing, you pukes!"
posted by Xoebe at 8:26 AM on July 12, 2011 [16 favorites]


Tell your chiroprator to jump in the lake.

Mrs. H has had 14 fused vertebrae for twenty-five years, and does asana yoga every day. Some poses are not good and some are not possible. But overall, it's been beneficial. Her physician, orthopaedist, physiotherapist, and the surgeon who did the fusion agree.

See also: Yoga For Scoliosis Yessiknow, not the same as disc degeneration, but I haven't seen Yoga for Degenerate Discs anywhere.

Also
Also
posted by Herodios at 8:29 AM on July 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


Wow.

Holy first world problems, Batman.
posted by Sphinx at 8:37 AM on July 12, 2011 [7 favorites]


I agree with everyone else. She should be talking to her physical therapist and her orthopod, and she shouldn't be letting a chiropractor anywhere near her damaged spine. Many of the PT exercises I do for my spine are taken directly from yoga.
posted by hydropsyche at 8:37 AM on July 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


Yeah, Astro Zombie, this woman got a lot of benefit out of yoga, by ruining her spine. This is a very common problem in yoga circles. Yoga Journal covers this topic frequently.

This was a very weak post, I just doubled the number of relevant links.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:40 AM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


If she insisted on doing twists when she knew she had a bad disc, then what was she teaching her students? This is why I don't trust most yoga instructors.
posted by yarly at 8:49 AM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


What the aspiring yogini seems to be asking is: can you practice yoga as a spiritual practice without twisting your body into quasi-Hindu pretzels? She talks about yoga as having brought her awareness back into her body.

If you believe in the usefulness of such practices, there are certainly many techniques and schools of work which work toward the same desired end (non-dual awareness) but don't involve spine-bending postures. I know many Mefites see chiropractic and yoga and Christianity and Buddhism as a bunch of superstition, but others who have been involved in martial arts, meditation or yoga believe one's orientation to the world differs when one feels one's center of being to be in the body, not in the sense of self which tells stories about the world and feels like it lives right behind a pair of eyes.
posted by kozad at 9:02 AM on July 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


Where are the actual doctors in all this?
posted by edheil at 9:02 AM on July 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


What's with all the skepticism about yoga? My wife is a yoga teacher (vinyasa), and I've seen plenty of bad teachers. But I've seen plenty of good teachers too. Yoga's like a lot of things that way.

Is it because Western yoga is widely considered girly? I get the feeling that people who call out yoga as superstitious would be much more hesitant to do so about, say, aikido or any East Asian martial art, which, in my experience, can easily be as metaphysical as a yoga class with a statue of Ganesh in the corner.
posted by jhandey at 9:03 AM on July 12, 2011 [13 favorites]


So the new age practice that has repeatedly been show to have no medical benefit is opposes to the one that has been shown to have medical benefit? It's like the person who cures you with incense telling you not to be a vegetarian anymore.
Do you have any links for these repeated demonstrations?
posted by delmoi at 9:06 AM on July 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


What's with all the skepticism about yoga?

mefites are born knee-jerk skeptics. Especially about anything that stinks of woo-woo. (Not my opinion of yoga, which, scientifically suspect or not, helped save a slipped cervical disc after a physician told me that the only solution to my back problem was invasive fusion surgery that probably would have made matters even worse.)
posted by blucevalo at 9:26 AM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Anyway, discussing Chiropractic care, there are apparently a lot of people who think Spinal Manipulation Therapy, which is what Chiropractors do doesn't work. I have no idea why people think this but it's very prevalent.

Anyway, here are some links to scientific papers showing that Chiropractic care works about as well as other types of medical care for back pain:

A study by the UCLA department of Epidemiology
After 6 months of follow-up, chiropractic care and medical care for low back pain were comparable in their effectiveness. Physical therapy may be marginally more effective than medical care alone for reducing disability in some patients, but the possible benefit is small.
Another study (same authors) over 18 months:
CONCLUSIONS:

Differences in outcomes between medical and chiropractic care without physical therapy or modalities are not clinically meaningful, although chiropractic may result in a greater likelihood of perceived improvement, perhaps reflecting satisfaction or lack of blinding. Physical therapy may be more effective than medical care alone for some patients, while physical modalities appear to have no benefit in chiropractic care.
Chiropractic management of low back pain and low back-related leg complaints: a literature synthesis. -- published in the Annals of internal medicine:
As much or more evidence exists for the use of spinal manipulation to reduce symptoms and improve function in patients with chronic LBP as for use in acute and subacute LBP. Use of exercise in conjunction with manipulation is likely to speed and improve outcomes as well as minimize episodic recurrence. There was less evidence for the use of manipulation for patients with LBP and radiating leg pain, sciatica, or radiculopathy.
This Cochrane review of 39 registered controlled trials found:
There was little or no difference in pain reduction or the ability to perform everyday activities between people with low-back pain who received spinal manipulation and those who received other advocated therapies.
So, what you see is that Chiropractic care isn't necessarily better then other types of medical care, it's also not any worse. There are also medical doctors who do the same types of SMT on patients. (If you're wondering if it's just the placebo effect, the Cochrane review shows it works better then Sham therapy)
posted by delmoi at 9:35 AM on July 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


to save everyone else the trip to wikipedia. Asana is sanskrit word denoting body position, usually sitting.

It's also just one of the eight limbs described by Patanjali.
posted by homunculus at 9:37 AM on July 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


What's with all the skepticism about yoga?

I ganked this not to long ago from some Mefite, I sadly can't remember who, but it speaks to a lot of my problem with this yoga fad....

"I am perplexed at the number of atheists I know who do yoga, which is a Hindu spiritual act, and there is no evidence it's much better as exercise than, say, pilates, which was actually developed as an exercise, and not as an exercise in living in divine harmony, as mapped out by the Vedas."

and that's it' isn't it. It's not about any sort of communion with a long and complex history but rather a cheap shorthand for some kind of phoned-in psudospirituality the primary goal of which is to A) have a convenient shorthand for "look, I'm upper-middle-class but sooooo very deep cause I know all these Indian words and can pronounce them" and B) to get and keep a firm ass for beach season without having to go to a gym (which is so very 90's).

The practice is questionable but mostly harmless, the attitude, as exemplified by this lame blog post, is what makes my teeth itch.
posted by mikoroshi at 9:41 AM on July 12, 2011 [7 favorites]


Yoga's not just about the poses. She talks about that in detail in the post.

Really? She seems to barely touch on it. In fact, she barely touches on anything. The post is incredibly short on details.
posted by asnider at 9:52 AM on July 12, 2011


I think this link is a pretty good summary of chiropractic.
posted by Pararrayos at 10:06 AM on July 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


I am perplexed at the number of atheists I know who do yoga, which is a Hindu spiritual act, and there is no evidence it's much better as exercise than, say, pilates, which was actually developed as an exercise, and not as an exercise in living in divine harmony, as mapped out by the Vedas.

I think there's something to be said for the fact that yoga is very low-pressure. It's almost always couched in terms of being gentle with yourself, working with your body where it is now, not pushing yourself too hard, paying really close attention to what your body is telling you, and making your practice a calming, relaxing refuge from the rest of your life. A lot people who were driven away from sports by screaming phys ed teachers find yoga to be an emotionally comfortable way to exercise.

Maybe some pilates instructors might have a similar approach? I've never tried pilates, but the stereotype is that it's much more aggressive.

And, yeah, I wish the post was a lot more specific, because it hints at something intriguing.
posted by BrashTech at 10:14 AM on July 12, 2011 [8 favorites]


Anaerobic exercise is a good thing, and yoga can be a good form of anaerobic exercise. The issue is that it's actually anything more than that - when someone starts blathering about chakras, they've gone off the deep end.
posted by kafziel at 10:31 AM on July 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


I am perplexed at the number of atheists I know who do yoga, which is a Hindu spiritual act

Yoga may have started as a "spiritual act," but it isn't much any more. I do "Firm Power Yoga" at home with a DVD and I assure you that there's nothing spiritual about it; it doesn't even include the meditation part that they used to have at the end of yoga classes when I was a kid doing yoga with my mom.

Believe me, if it was "spiritual" about it, I wouldn't do it.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 10:34 AM on July 12, 2011


I've always thought someone could make a very good living by opening a Yoga studio that focused on the health benefits and stress reduction and leaving all the spirituality out of it and marketing it as such. "Hooey-Free Yoga" or "Atheist Yoga" or some such.
posted by jopreacher at 10:36 AM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah "Skepticism" about Yoga doesn't make much sense either. It's like being skeptical of Pilaties
posted by delmoi at 10:39 AM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was actually the atheist who spoke about yoga. And it wasn't to say that it shouldn't be done, just that it wasn't originally designed as an exercise, but instead as a religious practice, and I know far too many people who just say, hey, yoga, it's just what I need, when hyperflexibility may not be what they need at all.

Yoga has demonstrated health benefits. They just may not be the benefits you need, nor may it be the best exercise for you. And, of course, there is the risk of bad teachers and bad practices, although I have not seen it demonstrated that there is increased risk than any other physical exercise, which also brings with it risks of injury and bad teachers.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:43 AM on July 12, 2011


jopreacher: at the place I sometimes go, it's called "Yoga for Misfits". Because I enjoy a good stretching and pose holding, but my eyes start going all googly when the teacher says that everyone in the studio is doing yoga with such "integrity". So, Yoga for Misfits is the one without all the wooey stuff, even at the very wooey studio.
posted by atomicstone at 10:45 AM on July 12, 2011


I'm an atheist and I do a lot of yoga. I don't really go in much for the spirituality aspect of it, though I really do appreciate the focus on the "right here, right now" aspect that is so missing from a lot of my life as a project manager.

I have experienced an all encompassing warmth and well being in a saturated golden light that must be what some people would experience as heaven on earth, by doing some specific back bends. I know this all comes from me and my body. I think it is basically the same thing as my dog getting her belly rubbed while she's lying in a sunbeam.

I hear people dismiss yoga or lump it in with some hipster/hippy/jelly thing and I just scratch my head. Why not enjoy living in your own body?
posted by dobie at 10:46 AM on July 12, 2011 [11 favorites]


Am I wrong or is yoga not actually a "Hindu spritual act" and only a very recent invention? (I mean the excercise not other meanings it may have)
posted by runcibleshaw at 10:49 AM on July 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


"I am perplexed at the number of atheists I know who do yoga, which is a Hindu spiritual act, and there is no evidence it's much better as exercise than, say, pilates, which was actually developed as an exercise, and not as an exercise in living in divine harmony, as mapped out by the Vedas."

and that's it' isn't it. It's not about any sort of communion with a long and complex history but rather a cheap shorthand for some kind of phoned-in psudospirituality the primary goal of which is to A) have a convenient shorthand for "look, I'm upper-middle-class but sooooo very deep cause I know all these Indian words and can pronounce them" and B) to get and keep a firm ass for beach season without having to go to a gym (which is so very 90's).


I can't disagree with you that there's a whole lot of shallowness out there, and I've heard some pretty shocking things from both yoga students and teachers. It's not just personal shallowness, though. There's something uniquely off-putting about a thirty-something former corporate climber whose use of Americanized concepts of "karma" and the like make her sound a little like a new-agey Rush Limbaugh (this is one of DC's most prominent yogis, FYI). There’s an absolutely excellent book I’d recommend to, well, everyone, called “Selling Spirituality: The Silent Takeover of Religion”. Written by two British academics, it reads like a book-length version of Harvey Cox’s “The Market as God” with a focus on Eastern and Eastern-inspired spirituality. I find this site very iffy, but there's a great review of the book:

Jeremy Carrette and Richard King, authors of Selling Spirituality: The Silent Takeover of Religion, have developed a theory that is both disturbing and sadly convincing. According to these authors, today it is spirituality, not religion that, as Karl Marx famously wrote in 1844, has become “the opium of the people,” sedating and numbing us to the state of the world and our own souls. As a matter of fact, they argue, spirituality—that which we trust to be the fountainhead of meaning, mystery, and value in life—has undergone nothing short of a “corporate takeover” and has become the latest victim of neoliberal ideology, a modified form of liberalism that values free-market capitalism above all else. “In our view,” Carrette and King write, “this reflects a wider cultural reorientation of life according to a set of values that commodifies human experience and opens up the space for the corporate takeover of all human knowledge and life.”

The confluence of economics and spirituality has produced what the authors call “New Age capitalism,” a “brand name for the meaning of life” that reinterprets religious and spiritual truths to benefit the profoundly individualistic and materialistic postmodern person. According to Carrette and King, New Age capitalism's overriding characteristic is the hawking of “personalised packages of meaning . . . rather than offering recipes for social change and identification with others.” And this popular form of spirituality, lacking any shared definitions or the context of tradition, is too easily co-opted by “the desiring machine of consumerism.” The result is that instead of providing effective paths for social transformation, spirituality is now little more than a balm that soothes us, helping us to cope with and perhaps feel a little better about the harsh realities and existential hurdles of the modern world.


Yoga isn’t solely a Hindu spiritual act, in harmony with the Vedas, however. From Roman Palitsky's "Is Yoga Hindu?" on Religion Dispatches:

…While the Take Yoga Back movement positions itself against the secularization and de-Hinduization of yoga, it can also be seen as an answer to one of the most fruitful decades in yoga research to date. A corpus of literature has emerged over the past ten years, including David Gordon White’s “Siddha” trilogy, several volumes by Joseph Alter, Elizabeth DeMichelis’ A History of Modern Yoga and just last year Stefanie Syman’s Subtle Body and Mark Singleton’s Yoga Body, all of which oppose the straightforward message of the Take Yoga Back movement.

These works reveal the formative influence of (wait for it) Buddhism, Jainism, Sufism, television, military calisthenics, Swedish gymnastics and the YMCA, as well as of radical Hindu nationalism, upon today’s postural yoga practice. There is no doubt that the Vedas, Upanishads, and folk traditions of India have been formative toward yoga: yoga is almost inseparable from them. Nevertheless to assert that yoga is essentially and primarily a Hindu practice means to ignore millennia of generative influence from other quarters. Worse still, it means to step blindly into a political fight for the heart of India that has simmered for over two hundred years.

If we are to really speak of origins, “Hinduism” does not accurately describe Indian religion before the British Raj. The term’s use to designate a religion per se sprung from the meeting of British rule and what sociologist M. N. Srinivas called the “Brahminization” of Indian culture. Colonizing British deemed those religious activities in India that were closer to their own as more evolved and genuine than others. These were the hierarchical, centralized and vaguely monotheist (or deist) theologies of Saiva and Vaisnava Brahmins. The Brahmins themselves had been struggling with armed tantric monastic orders on one front, unsubordinated folk religion in small communities on another, and against Muslim rule on yet a third. The British presented an answer to all three woes. They broke the power of the Naths, the most powerful of the monastic orders that held North Indian trade routes. They also generally favored Brahmins to Muslims, and offered communication technologies that would spread and streamline Brahminic religion. The propagation of Brahminical culture and repression of contradictory folk practices included putting down the “superstitious” practice of Hatha Yoga…

posted by jhandey at 10:59 AM on July 12, 2011 [7 favorites]


Am I wrong or is yoga not actually a "Hindu spritual act" and only a very recent invention? (I mean the excercise not other meanings it may have)

The way it's generally done in the West has little or nothing to do with tradition, as discussed previously here. And yes, there's a good amount of evidence which suggests that yoga took much of its current shape from the exercise culture of the late 1800s.
posted by vorfeed at 11:03 AM on July 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


Bring on the eurhythmics!
posted by mikelieman at 11:34 AM on July 12, 2011


Anyway, discussing Chiropractic care, there are apparently a lot of people who think Spinal Manipulation Therapy, which is what Chiropractors do doesn't work. I have no idea why people think this but it's very prevalent.

Because, (1) as has been discussed here before, the evidence for the benefit spinal manipulation therapy for back pain is "very low quality" (BMJ Clinical Evidence), and (2) because chiropractors often go beyond even this questionable remit. This very story is a case of the latter—people are displeased not with the chiropractor's use of SMT, but with her instructions to avoid all yoga, which strikes me as rather ignorant. As the yogi points out, it's pretty hard to avoid anything that could be considered yoga—mountain pose and corpse pose are essentially standing and lying down in a yogic way. It would have been far better to consider which exercises would be beneficial and harmful; it seems Harvey is doing some physio exercises and pilates anyway. It's unclear whether the physio and pilates are Harvey's idea or were prescribed by the chiropractor or a physical therapist.

Chiropractic management of low back pain and low back-related leg complaints: a literature synthesis. -- published in the Annals of internal medicine

The link is to an article not the respected journal, Annals of Internal Medicine, but actually in The Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, which is the house journal of the American Chiropractic Association.

posted by grouse at 12:20 PM on July 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


More about the development of Chiropractic here. I know it's one-sided, but it's best to get your quackery out in the open asap.

I've never been clear why Yoga, as practiced in the West by people who are neither Indian nor Hindu, should be seen as anything other than a physical discipline. Yes, there are lots of people who believe in weird shit that also practice Yoga, but as people here are so fond of stating, correlation doesn't equal causation.
posted by sneebler at 1:02 PM on July 12, 2011


There is plenty of clinical trial evidence suggesting that yoga is helpful in a variety of areas, including anxiety, stress and depression. To the extent that dealing with anxiety and depression gets at the very core of being (which I think it does), then yoga becomes very spiritual indeed. Is it Hindu? No. But it's something.

Physically, I know that after I started yoga, I gained a lot of range of motion in my neck. If I stop, I start to feel a lot of tightness in my back. Plus, it just feels good in general.

None of this is to say that there isn't a lot of stupidity and crass commericalism and co-optation of exotic others in yoga. But that can be found everywhere.
posted by yarly at 1:11 PM on July 12, 2011


We get the word "yoga" from Sanskrit, where it can be used for types of exercise that are wholly non-physical. That probably has something to do with the woo-woo stuff.
posted by LogicalDash at 1:12 PM on July 12, 2011


The obsession with yoga is a classic example of casting off what one deems the worst of western culture, and embracing the shallowest interpretation of the east. Yoga is not ancient. It stems from a European exercise craze that was introduced to India through the Raj and was incorporated into military workouts. The single picture we have of a person in a pose is where we get the word yoga, meaning "yolk" in Sanskrit. It was not a continually practiced art, nor codified until very recently.
posted by karmiolz at 1:52 PM on July 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yoke, not yolk.
posted by sweetkid at 2:05 PM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Correct
posted by karmiolz at 2:09 PM on July 12, 2011


My concern about chiropractic has nothing to do with spinal manipulation, which physical therapists also do, among others. It has to do with the fact that chiropractors have no medical training and the training they do have is based on pseudoscience which is contrary to reality. Her chiropractor has no expertise from which to be making any recommendations about her health.

And, as numerous people have pointed out numerous times in numerous places, there are mountains of scientific evidence supporting the idea that gentle stretching is good for our health, and not a single study proving that subluxions of your spine give you allergies and migraines.
posted by hydropsyche at 2:25 PM on July 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think a large portion of this has to do with the workout culture in the US. The "no pain, no gain" attitude forces people into the injury zone with all sorts of sports and fitness. There is a difference between mild discomfort/fatigue versus pain as a prelude for injury. I've seen articles like this coming out how running is bad for your knees or doing dead-lifts will cause injury. The main issue is most people don't take the time to learn about the limits of their body let alone what proper form is for a given activity. Listening to your body is the whole point of yoga and other movement exercises like Tai-chi whether that is spiritual or not depends on your point of view.
As for chiropractic, I think the big issue is the licensing system. There are some schools that are big on the magical thinking and others that actually teach the limits of chiropractic practice can do. Although in my experience, there are not many of the latter.
posted by roguewraith at 2:49 PM on July 12, 2011


Although it doesn't address the West's affinity for yoga, Joseph Alter's Yoga in Modern India: the body between science and philosophy is extremely ENLIGHTENING on how the modern hatha tradition, with its complex series of postures, really only dates from the early 20th century and how it was inspired, to a significant degree, by western exercise techniques and ideas of hygiene. His analysis of the modern physical practice in India really focuses in on how Science was and is enthusiastically invoked to describe the benefits that various physical practices (diet and hygiene, as well as asana) accrue. It is perhaps not a total shocker that science is quite often mangled in the process.

Although I get high off of Yoga, it is definitely the case that some of those postures just ain't right for the average person, despite assurances that the asana are derived from so-called ancient lineages and have various arcane benefits. There is more than a little incoherence between the submission-to-a-tradition (or a guru) ethic and "listening to your body". I suspect the latter is more of a western, new age thing than a direct inheritance from Indian yoga.
posted by Roachbeard at 3:01 PM on July 12, 2011


I get the feeling that people who call out yoga as superstitious would be much more hesitant to do so about, say, aikido or any East Asian martial art

Yoga is superstitious, as are Aikido and most other East Asian martial arts.

Anyhow, Yoga is great for relaxation, mobility, and flexibility, obviously, but I think it is really weird how many people use it as their only form of exercise. It is much better as a supplement to other forms of training.
posted by Theodore Sign at 3:40 PM on July 12, 2011


There's something wrong with my heart chakra.

Or so I was told back in 2003 by a woman on the train after I gave up my seat for her while on my way to Tai Chi practice. She said she "could tell just by looking at me." Not the best way to begin a conversation.

Gee, I thought I was being considerate.

She went on to tell me I needed to go to China to get a massage with "essential oil" to improve my heart chakra. When she reached into her bag to show me the book she was reading, I began turning down the volume on my mental hearing aid.

She advised I should do more than Tai Chi, and that I'd be a Master in martial arts if I chose to become one before I went back to the United States. I didn't bother telling her I'm not American. There was no point in making her feel bad for her incorrect assumptions.

Couldn't she tell I'm Canadian by looking at me?
posted by bwg at 4:47 PM on July 12, 2011


Yoga is superstitious, as are Aikido and most other East Asian martial arts.

Nice broad brush you're painting with there. Of course, whatever you do isn't superstitious. As is always - always - the case.
posted by jhandey at 7:04 PM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


The problem with throwing words like "superstition" and "hooey" around so easily is that they preclude any further thought. They're labels intended to end discussion - who, after all, wants to defend something so obviously silly and wrong? It's a debating trick, nothing more.

Ending discussion is pretty important to people who level accusations of superstition (and I'm not just talking about metaphysical naturalists, but anyone who is so confident in their own capacity for reason that they spend lots of time constructing worldviews based on argumentation and instrumental logic. There's a lot of internet Christian apologists who fit this description). Their dirty secret is that the assumption that there is such a thing as clear, pure Reason and that they has access to it is pretty superstitious itself. Just because you can successfully argue something doesn't make it true. Any lawyer or salesperson could tell you that.
posted by jhandey at 7:32 PM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Of course, whatever you do isn't superstitious. As is always - always - the case.

Weightlifting, interval training, and submission grappling?

You're right, of course. I'm off to leave a bowl of milk out overnight in the power rack so my rep max is blessed by the Little Folk. I also like to pin a bit of mistletoe to my rash guard so the ringworm demons pass me by. Mea culpa.

The problem with throwing words like "superstition" and "hooey" around so easily is that they preclude any further thought.

Except that in the very next statement I talk about the usefulness of Yoga in a pragmatic way. Lots of systems of thought have dogma and superstition about them. The job of a reasonable person is to weigh the amount of nonsense vs. usable info and to come to some conclusion. Proportions matter. Chiropractic and Yoga really ride the line, with each having useful bits surrounded by a lot of obfuscation and magical thinking. Hence the comments in this thread. I'd actually say that most TMA (traditional martial arts) are worse off than Yoga in this regard, but that is a matter of debate.

If, in order to defend your position, you have go six levels lower and talk about how "pure reason" is unavailable to everyone, it is a good sign your argument is going off the rails.
posted by Theodore Sign at 7:51 PM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Because, (1) as has been discussed here before, the evidence for the benefit spinal manipulation therapy for back pain is "very low quality" (BMJ Clinical Evidence), and (2) because chiropractors often go beyond even this questionable remit.
Well, the "Very low quality" link is behind a paywall, so it can't be reviewed. The stuff I linked too was all in main-stream publications by reputable researchers, all published on pubmed (except the Cochran review). In the other thread the argument basically came up was that pubmed "didn't count" or something.

Anyway, the person I was responding too said (or seemed to be saying) that Chiropractic care had been repeatedly proven not to work. In fact, that's the exact opposite of reality. It's been proven to work hundreds of times, by real scientists in, in published-peer reviewed papers many of which are hosted by the national institutes of health. The Cochraine review was of dozens of registered controlled trials.

If you think the the research is "low quality" feel free to do your own "high quality" studies. But right now the scientific evidence that does exist clearly shows SMT works. There are certainly no studies showing it doesn't work.
posted by delmoi at 9:25 PM on July 12, 2011


"Weightlifting, interval training, and submission grappling?

You're right, of course. I'm off to leave a bowl of milk out overnight in the power rack so my rep max is blessed by the Little Folk. I also like to pin a bit of mistletoe to my rash guard so the ringworm demons pass me by. Mea culpa.
"

Maybe this is you, but I know more than a few bodybuilders and lifters who subscribe to some pretty crazy-ass nutrition schemes that are entirely superstitious, Western and materialist.

Or just about anything involving "toxins."

Though when I pray to Thor, I open it up with, "We both know this won't work…"
posted by klangklangston at 9:28 PM on July 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


All I know is when I took a seven day yoga course in Thailand where we had a day where we focused on our chakras with guided meditation. It was an interesting experience and afterwards I have never laughed more uncontrollably than I did in that moment. And this laughing was shared with another participant. I don't know what happened, but it sure was awesome.
posted by josher71 at 10:10 PM on July 12, 2011


That is nutrition and supplementation, not weightlifting. See what you had to do there?

In any case, the question isn't if people who practice activity X happen to have superstitious beliefs, it is if activity X has fundamental assumptions that are predicated on superstition and magical thinking, and if so does that activity have enough useful components to make pursuing it worthwhile despite this. Like I said, proportions matter: Yoga has a lot of woo surrounding it, but it is a pretty good way to get more mobile and flexible. Homeopathy? 100% nonsense predicated on a fundamental misunderstanding of biology, chemistry, and physics.
posted by Theodore Sign at 10:19 PM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yoga as a non-spiritual activity: My friend and co-worker Mikey is a yoga teacher. Frequently we'd go outside onto the lawn during the middle of the act (while we have nothing to do) and work out the specific injuries and sorenesses from our job. While wearing toolbelts and smoking cigarettes. I assure you, there was nothing spiritual about it.
posted by mollymayhem at 10:26 PM on July 12, 2011


"That is nutrition and supplementation, not weightlifting. See what you had to do there?"

Wait, the attendant nonsense of your sports aren't really important because they're not how the True Scotsman tosses his caber?

"In any case, the question isn't if people who practice activity X happen to have superstitious beliefs, it is if activity X has fundamental assumptions that are predicated on superstition and magical thinking, and if so does that activity have enough useful components to make pursuing it worthwhile despite this. Like I said, proportions matter: Yoga has a lot of woo surrounding it, but it is a pretty good way to get more mobile and flexible. Homeopathy? 100% nonsense predicated on a fundamental misunderstanding of biology, chemistry, and physics."

What jhandey was getting at is that immediately shouting down yoga (or anything) as superstitious precludes being able to enjoy those benefits.

By all means, go into these things with a clear, skeptical conscience. Just don't pretend you're immune from self-delusion because you participate in other traditions — which, yeah, do tend to make a lot of dubious claims regarding things like nutrition or training regimes or even how doing these sports will make you a better person, etc. — and don't pretend that other people are incapable of evaluating the claims that yoga makes for themselves.

There are plenty of things that we do where the mechanisms are obscure and we take a best guess and move forward.
posted by klangklangston at 11:02 PM on July 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's just as ridiculous to train or engage in an activity in a certain manner which carries it's own presumptions about things, and at the same time cast aspersions on other forms of activity. The fact that you believe you have some advantageous view point can be just as limiting as any other presumption or superstition. People do what they do and if they enjoy it without causing any harm why come in and start with the "u r doin it wrong" bullshit.
posted by P.o.B. at 12:45 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


You've got a bit of hyperbole in your post there, Klang (can I call you Klang?). I don't think it is necessary or particularly helpful.

Again, I assert that weight training as a "discipline" has far less superstition grounding it than does Yoga, which has undeniably religious roots and the general practice of which very, very often relies on metaphysical concepts. No matter how much you may want to draw an equivalence between them, that does not make it so.

Meathead "broscientists" are most likely wrong when they talk about nutrition, yes. When someone says you should have X amount of protein per bodyweight, and you should load it in Y fashion, they are likely mistaken. Still, we know that protein exists, and we know that adequate protein intake is important for strength and hypertrophy. The broscientist, though wrong, has not made a category error: in order for him to be right, we do not have to overturn centuries of scientific knowledge and understanding. If it does turn out that he is right, no one is going to be greatly shocked, yes?

When a Chiropractor says that diabetes and cancer are caused by spinal subluxation, what would it mean if they were right? How big a leap do we have to make? Yogis and Chakras? Akidoka and Chi?

Disciplines do not all have equal amounts of unfounded assumptions and superstitions. How could they? Forget the jock bullshit for a minute. Surely you can think of a discipline more rigorous in its assumptions than Yoga, right? One with fewer superstitions?

Wait, the attendant nonsense of your sports aren't really important because they're not how the True Scotsman tosses his caber?

No, it isn't really important because it isn't fundamentally a part of the "sport" of weight training . The "No True Scotsman" fallacy doesn't really work if the things are actually different. I'm sure there is a fairly healthy overlap between people who believe in crystal healing and those who practice yoga, but it would be damn uncharitable of me to leverage crystal healing as one of the superstitions upon which Yoga relies.

on edit:

It's just as ridiculous to train or engage in an activity in a certain manner which carries it's own presumptions about things, and at the same time cast aspersions on other forms of activity. The fact that you believe you have some advantageous view point can be just as limiting as any other presumption or superstition. People do what they do and if they enjoy it without causing any harm why come in and start with the "u r doin it wrong" bullshit.

Ugh.

The content of individual disciplines and the beliefs that underlie them are important; they aren't just people "doing what they do." Beliefs are as important a target of criticism as just about anything there is.

A convenient example: as per the original article, the woman involved was told by her Chiropractor that she couldn't practice asanas anymore. If Chiropractic is wrong in its assumptions, and it probably is, there is a good chance that this is bullshit. So there is one superstition-laden belief system hurting someone right there, with poor old "haters" like me having nothing to do with it.

Going the other direction, it seems as if the practice of Yoga, as linked upthread, can lead to rather serious injuries. The belief that Yoga is a gentle, meditative discipline is pretty pervasive, yes? The spirituality that surrounds it only supports this belief. And yet, here we have injuries from it (I admit I was a little surprised to find this out, though I shouldn't have been). So we should not look critically at the practice, even if people are getting hurt?
posted by Theodore Sign at 1:24 AM on July 13, 2011


The content of individual disciplines and the beliefs that underlie them are important; they aren't just people "doing what they do." Beliefs are as important a target of criticism as just about anything there is.

"Ugh" is right. You really want to go around attacking belief systems and still hold yours above reproach?

When a Chiropractor says that diabetes and cancer are caused by spinal subluxation, what would it mean if they were right? How big a leap do we have to make? Yogis and Chakras? Akidoka and Chi?

Plenty of Chiropractic, Yoga, and Aikido schools that don't teach their students anything you just mentioned,

it seems as if the practice of Yoga, as linked upthread, can lead to rather serious injuries.

If you exercise or play sports like weightlifting, interval trainining or submission grappling you can be seriously injured. Is that really a surprise?
posted by P.o.B. at 2:23 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


My yoga teacher taught me to send my "energy" into various parts of my body during the meditation sessions. I didn't understand what that meant and, it turned out, neither did she when asked.

Then I did regular exercise for a while and found that, whenever I lifted weights, the particular muscles I was working out would feel hotter for some minutes afterward--blood flow, of course. It seemed I could extend the effect by concentrating on it.

I guess that's probably what she was talking about.
posted by LogicalDash at 5:00 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


You must have missed the class where she taught 'Yoga Flame'.
posted by P.o.B. at 5:21 AM on July 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Haters gonna hate.
posted by dobie at 9:37 AM on July 13, 2011


taters gonna tate
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 10:41 AM on July 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Again, I assert that weight training as a "discipline" has far less superstition grounding it than does Yoga, which has undeniably religious roots and the general practice of which very, very often relies on metaphysical concepts. No matter how much you may want to draw an equivalence between them, that does not make it so.

I think that's our disagreement right there.

Saying that something has "undeniably religious roots" and that the general practice "very, very often relies on metaphysical concepts" seems to mean something to you that it simply doesn't to me. Metaphysics and religious roots don't immediately disqualify something in my mind. That might be because I'm a religious person, but even with concepts that might fall outside of my own tradition(s), I don't pretend to know enough to dismiss them out of hand.

And the term I was looking for last night for your use of words like "superstitious" is "thought-terminating cliché".
posted by jhandey at 11:41 AM on July 13, 2011


Haters gonna hate.

Unfortunately that pretty much sums it up, yeah, since most arguments made about some schools of Chiropractic, Yoga, martial arts, and so on, are usually either made from a place of ignorance, superiority, or both.
posted by P.o.B. at 12:18 PM on July 13, 2011


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