I've recently taken up Yoga, for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it's a type of exercise I enjoy. And it is exercise -- it's basically gymnastics for old people, with a lot of emphasis on flexibility and strength. Plus, it helps with stress relief -- and is probably more healthful that some other stress relief options. So, given the positives, I figure I can overlook it if the instructor occasionally explains things in terms of chakras.
But sometimes I wonder...
I first got the idea to try Yoga from a colleague who was always raving about it. This same guy was horrified by Sarah Palin's young-Earth-creationism and her general anti-science outlook. So I got the impression that Yoga and critical thinking are perfectly compatible. Enough of it is real to be worth the effort.
More recently, however, this same colleague was talking about how he's been taking his dog to get alternative-schedule homeopathic vaccines (instead of real vaccines). Fortunately he doesn't have any kids to endanger. (Actually, I'm a little surprised it's legal to license a dog without real rabies shots -- I know people have a lot of leeway for using faith-based treatments on their own offspring, but it's not quite the same for animals.)
Then, last week, I met a lady who is currently working on some sort of diploma in "wellness." She is an intelligent lady, interesting to talk to, speaks several languages, has had a successful career in finance, and wanted to switch to something else. The first part of the wellness program was an intensive course in different types of massage. She explained that she had to learn quite a lot of anatomy for the class, not to mention learning about a variety of health conditions which might make some types of massage risky for some clients.
Then she explained that the next course will be acupuncture and acupressure.
And part of me wanted to ask, "Um, you know that stuff isn't real, right?"
Yet somehow that didn't seem like an appropriate thing to say, under the circumstances. Even though it's theoretically a secular "alternative" treatment, it's a little like religion. It's like the time I ran into one of my friends at the bus stop and saw that she was sitting there reading the Bible. Obviously it would be impolite for me to say, "Um, you know that's all a bunch of hooey, right? Much of it rather offensive hooey..."
So what do you think I said to the lady who told me she's going to be studying acupuncture and acupressure? Can you guess?
Naturally, my pathological desire to fit in under any circumstances struck again. I told her all about how I'm taking Yoga.