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A New Yoga Manifesto: Just A Stretch To Free Your Soul, Or Occupy Wall Street

Essay: Channeling her “citizen yogi,” Swiss columnist Anna Lietti takes a couple of deep breaths before launching into a passionate defense of why yoga matters more than ever.

Anna Lietti

GENEVA - "Stand straight!" my elementary school teacher would shout, pursing her lips. "Find your verticality," my yoga teacher now whispers in her velvety voice. In both cases it's something about aligning the vertebrae. Yet these are two very, very different worlds.

Yes, I practice yoga – like so many people these days. But of course there are still some out there who find all of this funny, who laugh at the exotic Indian-inspired trend that has Western bohemian-bourgeoisie types folding like pretzels. As if a good old-fashioned gym wasn't cool enough anymore, they had to dip it in curry…

Others take up academic arguments to sock it to us yoga practitioners. Last week, in the weekly French news magazine Marianne, a sociologist explained that by helping people adapt to their social environment, yoga "deters individuals from taking reforming actions." The journalist drives the point: yoga favors "the flexibility of the body and the spirit, positive thinking and individual responsibility," all of which constitute the "mantras of ultra-liberalism."

Ouch! The citizen-yogi in me is still feeling the sting from that one. Give me a few minutes to calm myself. Let me breathe. Mmmmm… OK, much better.

Phys Ed. + Breathing

First, let me get back to this whole gym concept. In the schoolyard, the teacher made us do our exercises. Standing straight, we had to bend forward. Standing with our legs spread, we had to bend down to one side. And so on. Uttanasana, trikonasana, in short? Yeah, funnily enough, yoga resembles those good old physical education classes – but with more breathing. It's really the breathing that makes all the difference. It's like comparing Matisse's color paintings with his black-and-whites, if you know what I mean?

Speaking of breathing, give me a second to fill my lungs once again before turning my attention to that Marianne article. So, if yoga makes us more flexible, it would make us kneel more easily before the altar of productivism. The well-being that yoga provides us would actually make us lobotomized zombies, happy with the soft ultra-liberal gulags. In short, not the kind of yoga the "Occupy" protesters would want. Or so the argument goes.

Well, I'm not so sure about that. Have you noticed how tired those Occupy protestors look in the morning, crawling out of their tents after yet another night of sleeping on the ground? What could be better, to start on the right foot, than a nice elongating twist – or vakrasana. Do I need to dumb it down by reminding you that with low back pain, it is as difficult to bring about a revolution as it is to go to work? Unless, of course, you happen to be the one making others do that twist.

Well. I can see now what worries our friend, the sociologist. She fears that a radiant well-being might become our sole aspiration. That the only cause we fight for is having an impressive six-pack. That in the end, we might be left with mere substitutes for our dreams.

Here's what I have to say: Yes, after millennia of toothaches and superstitious bodily restraints, we've entered a new era of physical well-being. On the other hand, too many people today are only obsessed with having a flat stomach. But believing that one follows the other is claiming that well-being corrupts pure souls and that we need to go back to standing straight on wooden benches. Hatred of the body, my dear sociologist, is more Puritan than revolutionary.

All right, enough grumbling. Find your verticality. Just wait and see, it will help you go far -- on a horizontal plane.

Read the original article in French

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FOCUS: Israel-Palestine War

Two-State v. One-State Solution: Comparing The Two Options For A Palestinian Homeland

For decades, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been left unresolved. Hamas's recent attack has forced politicians to confront facts: the conflict needs a definitive solution. Here's a primer on the two possible scenarios on the table.

Two-State v. One-State Solution: Comparing The Two Options For A Palestinian Homeland

At a art event in Gaziantep, Turkey, aimed at expressing solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza.

Samy Magdy

CAIRO — The Israel-Hamas war in Gaza has once again focused the world’s full attention on the Palestinian cause.

For the latest news & views from every corner of the world, Worldcrunch Today is the only truly international newsletter. Sign up here.

Beyond the outrage and anger over the toll of Israel’s war in Gaza and the Hamas attack of October 7, there is a quieter international consensus that has been revived about forging a lasting settlement that includes the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside the Israeli one.

Naturally, there are the eternal (though largely resolvable) details of how that settlement could be achieved. Yet the so-called two-state solution is very much back in the conversation of international diplomacy.

At the same time, there is another scenario for the Palestinians to have a homeland: to share in a single state with Israelis — the one-state solution. There are supporters and opponents of the two solutions on both sides.

Here’s a look at what’s on the table:

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