It seems that when men reach that certain age, they get mistresses and fast little cars. Women, on the other hand, when they begin to feel the ennui of middle age, practice yoga. At least that's the theory of the New York Times. You can read about it here: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/09/magazine/09fob-wwln-t.html?pagewanted=1&_r=2
I was somewhat astonished to find out that my devotion to a 2,000 year old practice had more to do with middle age then enlightenment. The Times wrote:
"Today the daughters of these runaway moms, having arrived at the shores of middle age, are taking flight, too. But they’re not, by and large, dumping their husbands. They’re not looking to the job market with expectations of liberation.
Instead, they’re fleeing to yoga, imitating flight in the downward-gazing contortion called the crow position. They’re striving, through exquisite new adventures in internal fine-tuning, to feel more deeply, live more meaningfully, better inhabit each and every moment of each and every day and attain “a more superior, evolved state of being,” as Claire Dederer puts it in her just-published book, “Poser: My Life in Twenty-Three Yoga Poses,” the latest installment in the burgeoning literature of postboomer-female midlife crisis."
Of ocurse, my mother never "dumped" my father. They've been married over 50 years, thank you very much. I also had my day in the sun in the job market, having worked as an attorney in one of the largest, most prestigious, law firms in New York. Indeed, I still work as a freelance journalist which has more to do with economic necessity then liberation.
I also found this tidbit from the Times interesting, although I'm not quite sure what to make of it.
"The values and beliefs and practices that go into sustaining and maintaining the way right-thinking, highly educated, generally affluent folk go about living their lives today — and that have made yoga a multibillion-dollar-a-year escape from the crush of modern life — are not rejected. Rather, as ever, the women question themselves. They can always be — must always be — further perfected, their performance of selfhood more highly refined."Gee, what would I have done without the Times to explain my decision to practice yoga to me?.
OK, this is the reality. I started practicing yoga when I had severe back pain seven years ago. I am naturally quite stiff, particularly in the hamstrings, quadriceps and hip region, and that led to a lot of pain due to sciatica. I was told to practice yoga, focusing on stretching out this area, and it worked. The pain went away.
Along the way, I also discovered it was a phenomenal exercise practice for strength and toning, and I enjoyed the spiritual aspect of it as well.
Women, as we age, lose muscle, and less muscle means fewer calories that we can consume, which leads to more fat. Yoga, particularly the more strenuous practices like Ashtanga, help to build and retain muscle, so naturally, they're great toning and weight loss (although you still need an aerobic activity ).
Plus, when you're a working mother with an autistic child adding exercise into the daily routine can add stress to an already stressful life. So doesn't it make sense to practice yoga which is proven to reduce stress?
While the idea that practicing yoga is just the latest incarnation of women seeking an outlet for their mid-life crisis is an easy, pat explanation for the current popularity of yoga, I think it's hogwash. Anyone who has devoted themselves to the practice of yoga can tell you it is so much more than that.
Besides, how does it explain all the dudes doing yoga?