Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Be moderate in everything, including moderation.*

*Horace Porter, 1837-1921

Gorgeous shot via Gregg Le Blanc / flickr

Yoga for Hangovers

This New York Times Wellness blog entry is harmless, but some of the comments on it have gotten me a little steamed. Some of the same people who define (their style, natch, of) yoga as one glorious thing go on to define alcohol drinking as one awful thing, when it seems so obvious to me that people can only speak to their own experience. Yet that caveat is never included in the comment.

Maybe my hackles are residually raised from my time in Utah, and I'm still hypersensitive to all-or-nothing, us-vs.-them claims. Or maybe my perspective on this has come from being in the Bikram community and exploring its place in the larger yoga world... It's so often under attack; it's not "real yoga," according to someone(s) who've declared themselves deciders for the rest of us. That judgment, that sense of superiority that makes it OK to judge, really bothers me.

And maybe oddly, the same goes for comments like this one:
The purpose of drinking is to numb oneself to life’s challenges, forget your troubles, lower ones [sic] inhibitions, and enable oneself to have a good time, It requires no work or effort. It has the potential for bringing short term bliss and longer term misery, unpleasant recuperation, and long term physical harm.

It's simply not true across the board. No doubt there are people for whom numbing and forgetting is the purpose of imbibing (in fact, I dated one of those people; it was terrible). But there are many, many more people for whom some alcohol is healthily integrated into daily life. As far as the commenter's claim about alcohol consumption bringing "long[-]term physical harm," well, he or she must not have heard any of the science linking red wine with heart health. And that's just the tip of the iceberg...

It may seem like someone who gets so amped up about this must be on the defensive, must have some deep personal attachment to drinking (or insert any vice here). But I'm not, and I don't. Yes, I work at a wine magazine and on some level, surely have a vested interest in people continuing to consume alcohol. Yes, I really like the taste of beer (IPAs, mostly). I'd guess that I drink four times a week, including a glass of wine with dinner some nights. But if for some reason I had to stop ingesting any alcohol right now, I'd be fine. It's the principle here, people.

I just looked up quotes about moderation, looking to cite this post's title, and it was funny how many of them, across cultures, related to "the drink." I particularly liked this one:
It is better to rise from life as from a banquet - neither thirsty nor drunken. ~Aristotle

So go and take part in that banquet, and enjoy its bounty, and rise from life knowing, reveling, in that fine place of balance we've worked so hard to create.

And for Pete's sake, can we stop the obsession with defining what's correct for everyone??

(Grrrr. There are so many things I've wanted to blog about in the past month; it feels a shame to start with this one. And so ineloquently, too. Harrumph.)


  1. I'm with you on this one!!

    And I must say, I do just LOVE enjoying a bottle of wine with a table of fellow yoga teachers. I feel just a little bit of glee every time, because I love that we can do that; we don't have to be all high-and-might and purist about EVERYTHING. We know that we're doing good work AND we deserve to enjoy the pleasures in life!

  2. no shame in writing about a 'grr' post, and it is not written ineloquently at all.

    totally agree with you on the alcohol, and anti-bikram sentiments, and purists...despite my weekend of debauchery (ok it was just karaoke, but really scandalous singing).

    now, next time i'm in the city we shall break the moderation on fish sauce, yes? :p

  3. I love reading your blog. Your intelligent and coherent points of view hug my own. :)

  4. @J - Yes! I love that we're not high and mighty and purists about EVERYTHING (just dialogue, hah). I so hope you had a good trip up this way.
    @Lala - Thanks for the sweetness. Can I crash your karaoke party next time you're in town? It's on my 30 Before 30 list! Can't wait for another fish sauce date.
    @Lacey - That is really kind. Sometimes I feel like writing about moderation is a copout, because I *wish* I had half the discipline you do. Seriously.

    Funny thing, ladies: After I wrote this, I read another yogini's blog, written a few days ago, about the idea of moderation being basically impossible to implement for some people. I didn't mean this blog as an insult to anyone, or a denial of concerns for people who have very real issues with food addiction. Sometimes I wish I were slower to speak (well, click "publish," anyway) and quicker to put compassion first...