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The New York Times Stepped on My Yoga Toes

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When the New York Times stays relevant with teasing headlines such as "Yoga Will Wreck Your Body," its effect is verified by social media's firestorm of feedback. Thankfully, the Times's Room for Debate section offers multiple articles, from "What Yoga Is and Isn't" by Ganesh Das, to "The Purpose of Yoga" by David Surrenda, to "Yoga, American Style" by Suketu Mehta, to "Why are we discussing this?" by Sarah Miller, all at the ready to meet the orchestrated debate.

Honestly, I simply couldn't "follow the debate" as encouraged in the Room for Debate section. I'd read yoga traditionalist Eddie Stern's response, and was personally satisfied with his sentiments. I'd put that New York Times Magazine article to rest. Next.

But the article's ripples continued throughout the blogsphere and on social media sites. I skimmed various Facebook comments on the New York Times' lost credibility, to criticisms on omissions and errors, to testimonials of yoga experiences, while almost sidetracked by the sexy Equinox yoga video and its hailstorm, and closely succumbing to the Cirque du Soleil-ish "Yoga Lady Breaks Both Arms" YouTube video.

I wish I had 100 hours of teacher training to read all the ensuing material but I don't. In fact, I don't have the capacity to hear the different interpretations and defenses of yoga, not when Europe is on the verge of a financial meltdown and we're looking at a second or third global recession in the middle of a U.S. presidential comedic showdown.

One posting, however, did grab my attention: MindBodyGreen's "Jane Fonda's Life's Third Act." In her TED talk, Ms. Fonda not only looks mind-boggling terrific in her 70s, she has a platform on which to espouse wisdom from someone in their 70s.

In translating the third act of life she points out that longevity now affords us an entire second adult lifetime. The third act, or the last three decades of life, even has three identified developmental states. How do we use our third act time, she asks?

I'm not on the third act, but breaking life into a three-act play made me understand more about why I practice yoga, and how we become terribly annoyed with yoga translation overload. If the last three decades of life is a welcomed third act then yoga, in my opinion, is a chance for a second act, a gracious gift when you can get it.

We are all born with spirit, Fonda states, but it becomes tamped by life experiences of rejection, violence, abuse and neglect. The universal law of entropy states that everything is in a state of decline and decay, except the human spirit.

When I came to yoga I felt it was time to move beyond blindly following society and to listen to my own spirit. Whether that exact sentiment occurs signing the waiver at a yoga studio or upon the first surya namaskar doesn't matter, what matters is you've asked for more.

When you enter yoga as a second act, it has a beginning, middle and end just like life's first act. We sometimes look and behave like toddlers. We sit on mats, listen to the teacher, roll around, get frustrated, laugh, and sometimes cry.

As we learn more, like rebellious teenagers, we test our independence and knowledge. If we didn't learn from the first act we might worry who's most popular or who has the best urdhva kukkutasana. We might categorize and group practitioners; we might form hierarchies and exclusive social groups and once again wish to be the football captain (or exotic yoga teacher) or homecoming queen (the lithe yoga teacher).

Yoga as a "second act" can happen at any stage of life, and doesn't necessarily involve yoga class. Parents play with their kids, re-connecting to and witnessing the child within. Sitting on the floor or balancing on one foot reconnects us to our bodies and gives us a snapshot of how far we've gotten from those flexible (both mental and physical) days of youth.

If we understand the tools to better manage our second act there are new things to embrace, love and experience. But better, through yoga, we have the opportunity to eschew inflexible burdens and revisit life afresh.

If you've been looking at the world, your living room, the mall and thinking, something's not right, it probably isn't. There are many present-day follies but we don't have to be a part of them. Yoga as life's second act can guide and nurture us into discovering the voice inside. From here we apply discernment and make better decisions, whether it's watching body-bending YouTube videos or the staging of human "debate" in our newspapers to sell more books or more newspapers. If we prep for that third act, where the body lessens but the spirit awakens then why not start now and enjoy each part along the way?

A famous yogi once said, "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter heaven."

For more by Leslie Hendry, click here.

For more on yoga, click here.

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