Friday's Health and Feminism

I've been doing some research on new ways to be active during the winter months which inhibit my running.  Recently I've been looking into Yoga.  To be honest, when I look at the pretzel bending bodies and head standing tight clothes wearing folks, I'm a bit skeptical.

In my research I found this small article, dated back in 2004 where a judge sentenced a man to Yoga and anger management after he hit his wife during an argument about her drinking problem.   There were many things the man was sentenced to - 80 hours of community service, anger management counseling, random urine analysis, and serious probation time - and Yoga was just an additional item added to the list.   Judge Larry Standley contends that "anger is a result of feeling a lack of control," and hopes that Yoga will teach the man how to calm down and prevent further and escalating violence.

Read the article in its entirety, but I'm calling on some Yoga folks out there with two requests:

1) What do you think of the judge's tacking on Yoga as part of this man's punishment?  (I couldn't find any follow-up.)  Do you think it was effective?

2) Is Yoga worth the initial humilation if you don't have gumby flexibility?

by Lisa Factora-Borchers
View profile »

Lisa Factora-Borchers is the formal editorial director at Bitch Media. Her work is widely published and she is the editor of the anthology, Dear Sister: Letters from Survivors of Sexual Violence.



Get Bitch Media's top 9 reads of the week delivered to your inbox every Saturday morning! Sign up for the Weekly Reader:

5 Comments Have Been Posted

Don't be skeptical about yoga

I for one have never had "gumby flexibility" and have had mostly great luck with very patient, understanding instructors who insist that students only do what they feel comfortable with, in more than 8 years of doing yoga. The class environment has typically been supportive and calming, rather than judgemental. Look for a gentle yoga or hatha yoga class, and don't go to the swanky gym where the classes are just inside a giant glass wall where anyone can watch!


I'm not someone who is naturally flexible, but I've attended yoga classes off and on for years and I've never felt humiliated. As a former soccer player and current runner/cyclist/occasional triathlete, I looked into it as a way to try to improve my flexibility. I found that in addition to helping me with flexibility it helped me feel stronger overall, and I enjoy it tremendously.

The instructors I've encountered come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and they approach teaching yoga in different ways depending on the type of yoga they specialize in as well as their own personalities. But every instructor I've encountered has always emphasized that studying yoga requires one to recognize where they are, physically and emotionally, and use their yoga practice to work forward from that point. They have always worked with me to adjust my practice to my physical needs and limits.

So, with that mindset I've found that I tend to look at others around me more to ensure that the form of the moves I am doing is correct than to see how I stack up in the looking good in tight clothes department. Sure, there may be times I feel envy when someone can just easily fall into a position that I'm struggling with. But there are also things that are easier for me than others, and I've found I get better with practice. I may not ever be the poster child for yoga, but sometimes I surprise myself with what I am able to do.

Of course, the type of yoga you decide to study and the instructor have a lot to do with making the experience a good one. So I'd suggest you talk to people you know to find a good class that will work for you.

I really can't speak as to whether yoga has been shown as being an effective therapeutic means for managing anger. But I do think it's helpful to me physically, which makes me feel better about myself overall. So perhaps the judge was thinking that people who feel better about themselves could be less likely to hurt others. I don't necessarily think that's true, or that yoga will fix this man in the long run. But I suppose it couldn't hurt either.

yes to yoga!

If I were ever forced to evangelize about something, it'd most definitely be yoga (and yoga balls!). It's helped my body, my mind, my entire life in ways that nothing else has. And what's so amazing is that you don't need any equipment. Just your body and a mat or something to practice your poses on.

It's definitely worth the initial humiliation -- in fact, if that's a concern, videos are an easy way of getting into it within the privacy of your own home.

And yes, I think it's a great activity for someone with anger management issues.

You don't need to wear tight

You don't need to wear tight clothes or be flexible (or even do a headstand) to do yoga.

Mostly it's nice b/c you learn how to hold your body more efficiently (and the muscles to do so get strengthened) and some people learn to have more peace/a better relationship with themselves.

Some people do yoga for more of a cardio thing, some do it for spiritual reasons, there are a lot of options, but none of them are about humiliation, it's not a competitive sport.

Good luck!


I believe that yoga should never be humiliating. If you're going to practice yoga with a large group of people, then you have to realize that nobody is going to care if you can't touch your toes. Really. Nobody cares. Everyone is there to focus on their own bodies and their own practice.
One of the most basic principles of yoga is "ahimsa" which means "non-violence". This principle basically translates to the idea that if you can't do something right away you shouldn't force it. If anyone practicing yoga is trying to do a headstand the first day, they are doing more harm than good.

As for sentencing someone to yoga, that seems a little counterproductive to me. You have to want yoga and the positive changes it brings. Forcing someone to do yoga will probably just cause them to be spiteful and maybe end up hurting their self.

I'm a little disappointed that this blog included some pretty standard yoga cliches. I mean, "tight clothes wearing"? "Pretzel bending"?

Add new comment