I’m Over the Moon

Super Blue Blood Moon lunar eclipse, Jan. 31, 2018

Enough of the magical moon already! I know this sounds terrible. Who doesn’t love beauty, mystery and symbolism of that shiny globe in the night sky? Who hasn’t cried, howled or swooned under its light? I like all that as much as anyone. “Moonstruck” is one of my favorite movies.

No, what I’ve had enough of is the idea that the moon itself (beyond its myths) has magical properties. That it can cure us, guide us, solve our problems. Instead of having to think for ourselves, we can bask in its light and believe the answers some from outside ourselves.

Magical thinking. Used in traditional religion, it is waning, especially among the young. But it’s waxing big time in new age belief systems. According to a recent article in The New York Times, belief in astrology is on the rise with millennials.

This moon-worship fever is invading yoga studios. Maybe because so many teachers are young? Almost every day I see a Facebook/Instagram post or email or flyer announcing a moon-themed workshop or series of classes based on phases of the moon. Here are just a few examples:

Full Moon Yoga

Full Moon Yoga at Waterfront Park

Full Moon Meditation

Balinese Full Moon Yoga

Half Moon Yoga (heal your trauma and live your dharma)

New Moon Goddess Gathering

New Moon Yoga Sequence

Heart Yoga and Reiki New Moon Ritual

Lunar Yoga

Boomerang Blood Moon Bonfire (bring special items to charge in the moon or ceremoniously burn in the fire)

Soothing Moon Salutations

Moon Cycle (11 yoga poses to harness the power of the full moon)

Sun and Moon yoga poses

Ohana Moon Yoga (activated healing moon water)

Mandala Moon (11th day lunar cycle experiences)

Unlock Your Inner Femininity: Women’s Moon Centers

So, why do I dislike these? For at least five overlapping, interrelated reasons.

First, the idea that the moon affects our behavior is false. There is no scientific evidence to support the idea that people are crazier, turn into werewolves or have more accidents during the full moon. The beliefs that we or our body parts or “special items” or “activated water” can glean energy from the moon is wrong, untrue, unscientific!

Second, these pseudoscientific ideas contribute to the unthinking, dumbing down of so many citizens and our country. Do we really need more people who think dinosaurs lived a few thousand years ago and that we are not contributing to overpopulation, climate change, pollution and destruction of our environment? Who think it’s okay to eat processed foods and saturated fact and not suffer consequences? Who cannot tell the difference between reality and lies?

Third, jumping on the moon magic marketing bandwagon is exploitation. Perhaps it is not done intentionally. Perhaps those who believe, for example, that they can help yogis coordinate with moon cycles and heal trauma are sincere. But still, they’re making money off people who are hurting or feel lacking in some way.

Fourth, by claiming to be healers, they are astoundingly arrogant. While some physicians might be arrogant, at least the arrogance is based on knowledge and experience. But most educated doctors and scientists I’ve met are the opposite of arrogant. They are humble, always questioning. They haven’t taken a five-week course called How to Mine Healing Moondust and Sprinkle It On the Unwoken.

Fifth, there are no magical, outside answers. The “answers” come from within! If we continue to look for magic in moons or planets or rocks, we avoid looking for real causes of problems. Whether the strife we feel is individual or global, we benefit more by seeing clearly, analyzing, discussing, weighing options. That is more difficult than basking in meditative moonlight. I do enjoy meditating, but I don’t have to pay anyone on my balcony under the moon. And I realize when I come back inside that the real work still awaits me. And it always will.

End of the lunar eclipse from my balcony. I did not levitate.
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Woo Woo and Yoga

Yoga Woo“The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.” – Isaac Asimov (1920-1992)

I’ve been practicing yoga for 17 years and love it. I hope I can continue for the rest of my life.

The only thing I don’t like is the woo-woo fog that follows some teachers around and settles into the spider web corners of the room along with the Hindu god statues.

By woo woo, I don’t mean the spiritual practice from which yoga originates. This is by definition not of the body, ephemeral, left for each of us to interpret and practice. I am not religious myself, or spiritual, but I respect everyone’s right to believe what they want, as long as they are not forcing it on anyone or hurting anyone.

As a writer and always-trying-to-be-kind human being, I deeply appreciate the yoga saying, “Namaste – the light in me acknowledges the light in you.” And if practicing yoga can help me see beyond the limitations of my own ego into a bigger picture, I’m glad to learn. Just try not to go on about it too long.

What I mean by woo woo is the flat-out unscientific statements teachers make about the body and how it works. For example, that we have chi, or energy running through our body and little wheels of energy, or chakras, each a different color and representing a different part of our being. Oh, and we have meridians connecting various parts too. Acupuncturists stick needles into these. Yoga Woo“energy healers” use their hands to hover over us and direct good and bad chi traffic. Certain poses, usually hip openers, can release emotions that have collected. And don’t get me started on reflexology, little body maps on the feet, rubbing the big toe helps clear the mind, relax the neck, blah, blah. Any teacher who believes that should go to medical school for 20 years and have her big toe (head) examined.

Many of these beliefs, ironically called ancient wisdom, are actually based on ancient ignorance. Ignorance of how the body works, before we had the ability to prevent infections and disease, before we understood that there was more to us than the Four Humors Hippocrates described around 400 BC.

To my knowledge, someone with a stomach pain wouldn’t go to a doctor who specializes in yellow chakra disease. Well they might (foolishly) visit a naturopath, but if the pain didn’t go away, they’d hightail it to the nearest MRI machine. Same with a brain tumor, or serious mental illness. The purple chakra hocus pocus won’t help as much as a brain surgeon or psychiatrist. Nor do doctors turn to chi banks when their patients run low.

Another example of the pseudoscience some yoga teachers promote is how breathing and doing certain poses will get rid of toxins. Toxins, toxins, everywhere! Twist away and squeeze them out. This idea that we are full of toxins is completely bogus. I swear it is the modern-day equivalent of Original Sin. Unless we drink a full bottle of Drano, our body does a fine job of cleaning itself. With these real body parts called the liver and the kidneys.

Recently I was browsing the website of a new local yoga studio. Selling lava stone necklaces to soak up essential oils and “enhance our vibrations.” And wooden combs “that balance the electromagnetic field of our aura and create a steady, neutral headspace.” (But we must comb our hair backward for it to work.) And a new class with a series of poses, breathing and meditation “to reset our glandular system.”

Really?

Asimov was right. Our gathering of wisdom is far behind our gathering of scientific knowledge. And he wrote that more than 25 years ago!

I understand why people want to cling to belief systems that don’t really make sense. We have excellent doctors and treatments, but a healthcare delivery system that is broken, impersonal and expensive. Feeling ill is frightening and so it’s easy to turn to some practice that seems more personal, hopeful. These alternative treatments are not inexpensive, however. Nor are they safe, especially if they delay more effective treatment.

Being a yogi, I tune out much of the blather. But I wish that those who are helping us with our bodies, and even our spirits, had a better understanding of how they work.

As Dr. Steven Novella, an American clinical neurologist and Yale professor, writes about yoga woo on the website, Science-Based Medicine:

“… all of the mystical and pseudoscientific woo that often accompanies yoga is counterproductive. It may be useful for marketing to the gullible, but it taints the entire practice with pseudoscience. I would also find it difficult to trust in the competence of an instructor who thinks a yoga pose will squeeze toxins out of my liver.

It would be nice, but perhaps too much to hope for, to have a science-based yoga movement – yoga-based exercises minus the woo, and evidence-based to maximize safety and effectiveness.”

Yes!