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I have recently become one of “those girls.” Wandering the supplement section of Whole Foods, sitting cross-legged and focusing on my breath before bed, wearing pants that make it look like I forgot to put on pants while I try to wrap my arm between my shoulder blades and my legs into the shape of Montana. I blame this, as with a lot of things, on yoga.
After moving back to New York to take care of my mother, I needed something to get me out of the house that didn’t involve alcohol or a fire. And while I’m not going to waste words on yoga itself or my new-found practice, it has changed my life, and not just ’cause I can now achieve sexual positions that, mere weeks before, were impossible and required a healthcare proxy. It’s neither here nor there. But one thing I did notice is that there seem to be two very different groups of daily yoga devotees, and I fear which category I fall under: wealthy power MILFs who exercise and shop all day, and women — or should I say womyn — who are into alternative health and, often, new age mumbo jumbo.
I do take three vitamin supplements and season my food with Bragg’s Liquid Amino Acids, but I also really like using NARS makeup and reading Perez Hilton. But I’m poor, unmarried, and not shooting out a baby any time soon, and I attended Sarah Lawrence College for one very misguided year. I’ll be damned if you find me listening to Enya or calling my HP “goddess,” but I’m more inclined to stop and look at something with a pentagram on it than a Lilly Pulitzer tag. So the jury’s really still out.
For the later group of yoga fiends, there appears to be a swaying towards the spiritualists. For these ladies, most of whom have long gray hair and a minimum of two cats, new age paraphernalia seems to sell fairly well, even if the online marketplace shows that stores hocking crystals, incense, and Siddhartha statues usually have websites soundly rooted in 1996 web design. In the United States, nearly 38% of all adults are using some form complementary or alternative medicine, may it be chelation, massage therapy, hypnosis, what have you. I tried Reiki . No offense to the very sweet biddies who sat next to me and chanted om, but I fell asleep and felt exactly the same upon my departure, only groggier and ten dollars more poor. I went into it with an open mind, which I guess is all that counts. Some of my more cynical friends have gone to “healers,” and have felt some sort of spring in their step afterward. Then again, maybe they just wake up from naps slightly more refreshed than I do.
Even the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine says to be on the look out; if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. I would love to believe that chanting an incantation and walking in a circle would make me desirable, that drinking a tincture would cure my crazy, that a simple stick of a needle (no, not that kind) could cure me of my insomnia. The truth is, there is no simple solution. Things like weight loss or quitting smoking, require equal measures hard work, a conscious change in lifestyle, persistence, and patience. So you can become rich and powerful as a result of new age problem solving hoodoo, but usually it’s a direct result of being the high priestess of bullshitting suckers. I’m a skeptic at heart, no matter how much my new love of downward dog keeps me from flying off the rails and flipping off school children who cross against the light. I don’t think that divination or energy channeling are necessarily more than means of making people feel in slightly more control of their lives. Which is okay. After all, sitting still and chanting never hurt anyone. Gun ownership, on the other hand…
Forbes recently had an article about how the self-help industry made $11 billion in 2008, and although self-help can’t be completely lumped in the same hokey column as feng-shui , instant karma fragrance oils, and crystal balls, part of it is completely accurate for both industries: “Who buys into this stuff? Mainly middle-aged, affluent females living on either of the two coasts. What are they getting for their money? In a word: hope.”
I want to believe that in this so-called melting pot of a world that we live in there’s enough room for all kinds of belief systems and healing practices, no matter how unconventional. But my wish for all people to be intelligent far outweighs my hope that all people are good, and when I hear about people spending money on a healing candle to cure their rosacea , it makes me want to get all Dr. House, MD on their ass. Maybe there’s a spell that can cure me of my anger. Heaven (or the monotheistic Great Whatever) knows that a laying of hands could help, if it was done by a tattooed drummer in a dark broom closet.
People want to feel better, especially in light of the shitty economy, fear of the flu, For The Love Of Ray-J ending. Some of this new age hocus pocus is based on very real, very ancient traditions, respected by all kinds of people. Maybe the fact that I’m an outsider is what makes me so embittered, in the words of Fox Mulder, I want to believe. Hell, if one person told me that holding an amethyst crystal above my mom’s abdomen would heal her cancer, make her stronger, give me more patience, whatever, I’d do it. Why not? Alternative medicine is just that, an alternative to conventional medicine, the same way that new age practices are another option for people who find that traditional methods of worship or winding down don’t work for them. I can say that, for me personally, I was much more willing to read about Wicca after sobriety took away the whiskey. The truth is, everybody needs something to believe in.
Drop me a line: AinsleyDrew at gmail dot com. And thank you to everyone who donates!
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