Has anyone here taken an Art of Living course?
December 6, 2006 6:43 PM   Subscribe

Has anyone here taken an Art of Living course?

Has anyone here taken a course through the Art of Living Foundation? My school offers them, and they are supposed to offer spiritual peacefulness through breathing exercises. However, the adverts for the course seemed like a real hard sell, almost like an infomercial: THIS course will CHANGE YOUR LIFE!!

So before I sign up I'm wondering what people's experiences have been. The course that is being offered is 10 days long, 3 hours per day. I'm wondering if such an intensive course will be able to hold my interest. Also, is it really going to change my life?
posted by mintchip to Health & Fitness (6 answers total)
You have touched one of the most negative experiences that I've ever ever had at my school. I'll tell you all about my experience with them, and you can see how it may or may not be similar to what you're being offered and whether it fits with what you want out of the course:

The Art of Living was offered as a 5-day, 2-hour-a-night course which would fulfill a graduation requirement at my university (physical education, actually. Stop laughing, I took it for the schedule, and not for the strenuous exercise). It sounded a bit hokey, but sure, why not.

Each night was Special. 40 students on exercise mats in a gym with new-age music playing and two instructors directing breathing exercises (in... 2. 3. 4. out... 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. Imagine yourself floating above... Think about your love for yourself... for your neighbor... for Jesus... etc.). At the front of the room every night was a classroom chair with a large framed picture of His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, grinning in front of some anonymous mountains, surrounded in the picture and on the chair by roses and baby's breath. Every night - keep in mind that this is in a school course - we were "recommended" to peruse the "library" of books for sale that taught more of his history and the techniques that we were learning in class. One day they were even passed out during a talk about the international organization, and then collected again (or your $12 instead, just like on the subways in New York).

Effects on the participants were varied. For me, I was happy to have two hours a night to close or roll my eyes, breathe heavily, and think about the work I still had to do that night. I guess that might be effective. A LOT of people fell asleep, some to the point of snoring. If the instructors noticed they'd wake you up, but a lot of people were out for the evening each night. The most fun were the people who must have really been getting something out of it, and there was some deep breathing and moaning going on. If I'd kept my eyes closed, I'd've sworn there was sex in the room. One particularly memorable participant, during the caring and sharing session after an exercise, revealed that he had seen himself as a PALADIN with WINGS OF STEEL or something, SAVING THE WORLD from... yeah. So it must inspire some people.

On the last night as I tried to leave the class one of the instructors physically blocked me from the door, grabbed my arm, and told me I must be "unhappy with my life," and invited me to his future classes for "additional tutoring."

I got my damn credit for the class, but ended up sending a lovely email to the center that organized the class, pointing out the fact that the Art of Living was selling us books in class, talking about our love and acceptance of Jesus in class, and by the way, the one instructor... yeah. That was the last time Art of Living was offered for credit here.

Does that help? I'm curious what others say, so if you have any more questions about this, I'd be happy to answer.
posted by whatzit at 7:08 PM on December 6, 2006

(Also, looking at your tags again: this is not what most people would consider yoga, and if this is meditation, meditation is over-rated. If you want either of those, AoL is NOT IT.)
posted by whatzit at 7:10 PM on December 6, 2006

When I did it, it was centered around "Kundalini" force channeled by breathing. I think we basically got light-headed and happy by hyper-ventilating. (And for context, while I don't believe in hokum about "energies", I do think there is tremendous, non-wacky value in Hatha Yoga and the simple yogic breathing involved in it.)

All in all, I felt it was the worst of what people call "new age". The other students were fun to joke around with, but the instructors took themselves way too seriously. I thought it was pretty worthless, and you can hyper-ventilate on your own time.
posted by ontic at 7:16 PM on December 6, 2006

It's hyperventilation (feeding the brain on an oxygen high) mixed with relaxation exercises and some hokey "get in touch with yourself and your neighbor" exercises. The instructor I had was not into the big sell, as far as tapes and books were concerned, but I also took a class at a private home.
posted by availablelight at 7:47 PM on December 6, 2006

I did some research into AoL when my unversity was thinking of expanding it's alternative health programs. They seemed culty but mostly harmless to me and the above descriptions are exactly right. There is some value to the type of breathing they do, but it's not what they claim and the lines they feed you are mostly pablum.
posted by allen.spaulding at 10:03 PM on December 6, 2006

I was roped in to a free mini-demo at the library a few months ago. I left ASAP; glad for the additional info presented here. (The technique wasn't exactly what I'd call hyperventilating.)
posted by Rash at 10:19 AM on December 7, 2006

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