E.W. Jackson, Virginia’s GOP lieutenant governor candidate, is no stranger to controversy. A conservative pastor, Jackson has previously come under fire for comparing Planned Parenthood to the Ku Klux Klan, calling gay rights “ikky” and saying President Barack Obama has a “Muslim perspective.”
This week, Jackson is being skewered yet again — this time for saying that doing yoga may leave unsuspecting people vulnerable to satanic possession.
In a post for the National Review on Wednesday, Betsy Woodruff highlighted some quotes from Jackson’s 2008 book Ten Commandments to an Extraordinary Life: Making Your Dreams Come True. Among them was one about the hazards of yoga.
“When one hears the word meditation, it conjures an image of Maharishi Yoga talking about finding a mantra and striving for nirvana,” Jackson wrote in his book, according to Woodruff. “The purpose of such meditation is to empty oneself. [Satan] is happy to invade the empty vacuum of your soul and possess it. Beware of systems of spirituality which tell you to empty yourself. You will end up filled with something you probably do not want.”
“Behind the ice-cold eyes of Lululemon princesses burn the demonic flames of eternal hell,” joked Atlantic Wire’s Elspeth Reeve this week in response to Jackson’s comment.
Despite the criticism Jackson has endured for his many controversial statements, he has not apologized for them.
“I don’t have anything to rephrase or to apologize for,” he said in May. “I would just say, people should not paint me as one-dimensional. I have a whole lot of concerns.”
A problem with the NCPL position might be that they are challenging a practice (a hands-over-head stretch) that isn’t religious in and of itself. The hands-over-head stretch only becomes religious in the context of a larger tradition. In this sense, stopping kids from yoga stretching because it is religious in some contexts makes about as much sense as banning kids from shaving their heads simply because it reminds you of Buddhism.
However, the organizational test raises more serious concerns in this case. Encinitas’ yoga program is partially funded by a grant from the Jois Foundation, which is contributing to teachers’ salaries, curriculum development, and even yoga mats. The Foundation is associated with the family of the late Shri K. Pattabhi Jois, a yoga teacher who popularized a form of yoga called Ashtanga. Mary Eady and the ADF claim that the Jois Foundation is a religious organization. The director of the Jois Foundation, Eugene Ruffin, says it is not.
“Our organization is made up primarily of people who are members of the Abrahamic faiths,” Ruffin told me. But consider the Jois Foundation’s relationship to the K. P. Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute, an organization whose web page asserts that yoga practice helps to burn away the “six poisons” that surround the “spiritual heart.” Talk of “spiritual elevation” and “sacred beads” does not help the case that this is a non-religious group.
Ruffin insists the two organizations are legally separate, with distinct board memberships. But the Jois family is affiliated with both, and practitioners who have been affiliated with the Institute have also had a voice in the Foundation and its curriculum development. At least one major funding source for the Foundation (donors Sonia and Paul Tudor Jones) has also been involved with the Institute.
So let’s suppose that we are dealing with a group that is in some way tinged with religion. That in itself is not necessarily a deal-breaker: we wouldn’t turn away soup made for the school cafeteria, for example, just because it was made by Lutherans. In my view, the Organization Test really turns on two questions. First, is the program organized in such a way that it is accountable in a real and meaningful way to the school, and not the religious group? Second, does the partnership involve an entanglement between the school system and the religious group that could foreseeably involve state involvement in or endorsement of religion?
In the yoga case, both of these concerns have merit. In this particular instance, though, the Encinitas school district has an effective response to the first concern. The management and administration of the yoga program, the school insists, is internal. Assistant Superintendent Miyashiro, who has no connection with the Jois Foundation, sets the curriculum, helps choose the teachers, and monitors the results. He has the authority and the resources in place to manage the program and ensure that its content and execution it is answerable to the school. The school district has set up a line of accountability that is largely separate from the organization. Once the curriculum is developed, it will be public, rather than belonging to the Jois Foundation, and will be free for any public school to adopt.
The second line of concern is perhaps more difficult. The Jois Foundation has made it quite clear that it sees the program in Encinitas as a beachhead for the eventual development of a much larger program that would put yoga in schools across the country, potentially giving the Jois Foundation a broader influence on public education as a whole.
AS THE FOOT PATROL SNAKED INTO THE MOCK AFGHAN TOWN in the foothills of Camp Pendleton, just north of San Diego, the marines scanned courtyards, rooftops, and the crowd of locals milling around the market. A simulated improvised explosive device, or IED, exploded in a trash pile and shook the ground. The role players—Afghans hired to play street vendors, teachers, village officials—shouted and scattered, leaving the streets empty save for two marines lying in the street, deemed wounded for the exercise. One lay motionless. The other writhed and screamed for help. “Get the casualties back here,” a marine yelled from the cover of an empty building. “Let’s go!” As his comrades frantically tried to evacuate their wounded, a second fake IED exploded in the town square.
Afterward, the platoon leader, First Lieutenant Giles Royster, gathered his marines, two-thirds of whom had never been in combat. “We’re giving you these emotions now so when it happens for real, you won’t be acting so crazy,” he told them. “You’ll be able to calm yourself down.”
This village—complete with plastic fruits and vegetables in the market stalls, scent machines that can pump out the stench of singed hair and rotting trash, and bomb victims gushing fake blood—represents one of the most noticeable shifts in military training over the past decade. By running mock scenarios that introduce mental and physiological strain, trainers can help troops adjust faster and perform better in the real situation, and make them less likely to be overwhelmed by chaotic or ambiguous events. This is inoculation, same as a flu shot: a dose of stress now can stave off more-severe effects later.
And the benefits may go further: the military is trying to understand what’s happening in soldiers’ brains in moments of extreme duress, then train their minds to perform better. “It’s less about how we can mitigate stress and more about how they can learn to learn under stress,” Douglas C. Johnson told me from the rooftop of the mock town’s police station, as we watched another squad of marines hunt for an insurgent sniper.
The latest woo meister tea - does it really just get you buzzed?
Concern over the possible alcohol content in kombucha — a fermented tea — led Whole Foods to pull the drink from its shelves recently and has touched off a debate as to whether the health elixir needs further regulation.
The drink of choice at yoga studios and farmer’s market has quietly grown into a major business with $295 million in U.S. sales for the active juice sector last year according to the market research firm SPINS. And with its new found popularity, kombucha is drawing additional scrutiny for its potential to get you buzzed.
Kombucha is a tea made from a live bacterial culture, sometimes called a “mushroom,” which is heated, sweetened and then cooled. The concotion, typically in a jelly jar, sits for between five and 14 days at room temperature.
Now there is something that “Ick factor” can apply to…