Today's print column -- not too late to help me with feedback before we go to press:
For many Minnesotans who practice it, yoga is a good workout — a low-cost and low-impact way to "groove it," as the Blue Cross TV ads for wellness put it.
For others, yoga is a more spiritual practice, a discipline for mindfulness that originated in ancient India and has a cultural resonance for Hindus and others.
A week ago Saturday on the Faith pages, we ran a guest column by a Rochester woman on her own experience with yoga.
The writer, Sara Schleicher, describes how she learned about yoga at a health club, but in the end decided it was contrary to her strong Christian faith: "If I want exercise, there are many ways to go about it. But when it comes to a connection to the Divine, there’s only one place to find it. From now on, I hear the words of Christ and put that into practice."
That's a strong and unusual view, but we thought it was relevant in the Faith section. Unfortunately, we didn't label it as a column, which would explain to most readers that it was Biblically charged opinion.
The headline — "Yoga is worship and idolatry" — didn't help. Although Sara's column made that point, the headline seems like a statement of fact, and some readers thought it was offensive and absurd. The headline that Sara drafted for the column was more to the point: "Why I gave up my yoga practice," and that's what we now have on the online version.
And there were a few points in the column that should have raised red flags for editors. Sara writes, for example, that "The heart of yoga is idolatry." A lot of people would be insulted and offended by that, for religious and cultural reasons. An editor should have worked through those points with the writer.
We heard complaints from a few readers, including Stefanie Dickens Underferth of Preston, who wrote, "I was deeply disheartened" by the article. "The older I get, the more troubled I am when others use faith or religion as an excuse to judge or discredit another person's belief. As someone raised in the Christian faith, I can understand and respect that yoga may not be part of everyone's spiritual journey. It is a large part of my own, however, and I feel strongly about shedding some light on the points mentioned in the article, which I felt to be ignorant and unfair."
I'll post Stefanie's complete letter on my blog, and we'll publish another letter along the same lines in the Faith pages on Saturday. Take a look at both of them and you'll get a fuller view of yoga and learn more about not only its spiritual traditions, but why it has become a mainstream health trend nationwide.
Lessons learned. Thanks for the feedback.
Best wishes to Harley Flathers
You've probably noticed that Harley Flathers, the only guy who writes two entirely different columns for the Post-Bulletin every week, has been out of action for about a week. He's been ill recently; we talked last week, before his appearance at Yule Fest, and he said he'll have to take a break for a while from his "Back and Forth" and "As the Spirit Moves Me" columns.
Harley's not one to miss an opportunity to tell a great story, so he's clearly not feeling well. We'll just put aside some newsprint and ink for when he returns, hopefully soon, and in the meantime wish him the very best. He's one of the most remarkable and courageous people I know, and a lot of readers will join me in rooting for his quick return.
No lighting contest this year
In case you're wondering, we aren't running a holiday lighting contest this season. We've taking a year off to work on other projects but might plug it back in for next year.
In the meantime, if you know of a house that's extravagantly or creatively lit — maybe your own? — send a pic and some details, and we'll publish the best of them before the holidays. Your pics can go to Life Editor Marissa Block, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Join the crow-d tonight
Here's a last reminder to join us tonight for the last P-B Dialogues event of the year, an informal but enlightening conversation about the crow problem in downtown Rochester. The event is at 6:30 p.m. at the Rochester Public Library. Be careful where you park — the library parking ramp would be a cleaner alternative than a spot under tall trees in which 10,000 crows are roosting.
I got an ornery voice mail from a rural reader who think it's absurd how much time and attention the issue is getting from the city, Mayo, readers and us. I'll just say, if you live and work in certain areas of downtown Rochester, and if you park your car along certain streets, you know it's more than a typical nuisance. It's an eyesore and image problem for a city that welcomes millions of health-conscious visitors a year.
It's completely reasonable for the city to work on solutions, and for us to report on it.