Back when I took yoga classes regularly there was one teacher whose classes were too early on a Saturday morning for me, but who was one of the best teachers around. She was great at explaining things, had really excellent form, was really present in the moment … oh yeah, and she was really hot.
Given how incredibly healthy she seemed, I was surprised to find out that she was 8 years HIV+ . There are a number of reasons for her health – she was an athlete before she was infected, she was on ARVs, but she gave a lot of credit to her yoga practice. She taught a class for the HIV+ which probably increased the quality and also possibly the quantity of their lives.
I concede up front that Yoga can be a very important thing for people whose lives have great challenges (as American PC-speak would put it).
Still, there’s a time and a place for everything. I’m a bit weirded out by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar‘s proposal to bring Yoga to the war torn Iraqi city of Najaf.
Maybe I’m reacting a bit harshly. The Art of Living foundation does work in a number of different war zones teaching yoga as part of their “peace work.” It’s just that people’s needs are so large, and given the opportunity costs involved I would rather see efforts directed towards the base of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. In short, I can’t imagine teaching corpse pose to people whose main worry is avoiding becoming a corpse themselves, teaching the Art of Living to those whose worry is the Art of Dying.
On the other hand, I’m far more favorably inclined towards the Indian Army’s yoga classes in Lebanon:
In the village of Ebel es-Saqi, in the farm country of Southern Lebanon, a new subject is being taught at the local middle school: yoga. The instructors are from the Indian army, members of the U.N. peacekeeping force. Three times a week, Lt. Col. Rajesh Kumar of the 1st Battalion Punjab Regiment instructs about 50 students and their teachers at the school. [Link]
p>There’s no substitution here – you have peacekeepers providing security already, so yoga classes are a bonus, a way to win over hearts and minds. They’re also teaching yoga in a post-conflict situation rather than a hot war.
p>The philosophic impulse behind these two programs seems very similar:
Kumar pioneered the popular classes based on exercises he requires for his troops. “The man who is eternally at peace can contribute to peacekeeping much more,” he says. [Link]
p>but the execution is far better in the second case. I’m happy to learn warrior pose from a warrior. Especially if they bring Mithai afterwards .