Best of 2008: Martin Johnson's Picks

Illustration for article titled Best of 2008: Martin Johnson's Picks

OM, SWEET OM:I took my first yoga class 16 years ago and never looked back. I loved the combination of strength training with length training. It made me think about my relationship to gravity in healthy ways. One of the first instructors was black, and I recall doing sun salutes to Mary J. Blige, and it felt natural.


I never thought my favorite fitness activity was conduct unbecoming to a black man, but in recent years opposition arose. One of my mentees bristled when he saw a yoga mat in my office and snarled, "You should do Tae-Bo." I wondered if he knew that yoga was invented by Asians, not Madonna. Then again, look at the covers of Yoga Journal and other similar publications and American yoga does seem a tad, um, white.

That's why I so enjoyed Amy Alexander's piece, "Om, Sweet Om." I was delighted to learn that others forged ahead in their practice despite resistance and that organizations of black yoginis were thriving. Yoga is Asian not Caucasian in invention and its time we get over an incorrect perception.

DON'T DO BRACKETS, AND HERE'S WHY: I was stunned by the vehemence of the reaction to this piece. Google it in some way and you'll find literally dozens of blog posts about it as well as more than 25 responses. I tried to write this as much as possible as a personal essay, i.e., my point of view about a situation.

This image was lost some time after publication.
This image was lost some time after publication.

I grew up loving college basketball and I have been disappointed to see how the rush to the NBA has diminished the sport. I was surprised that so many readers took it as an authoritative denunciation of something they like, the NCAA tournament, and rebelled. What I particularly liked was that the denunciations were far from unanimous; many folks took my side or at least understood that I was presenting a personal viewpoint. I have been writing about sports for five years and never before did I fully appreciate the power that some readers vest in my work. I'll have to denounce men's college ball more often!

Martin Johnson is a regular contributor to The Root .

Martin Johnson writes about music for the Wall Street Journal, basketball for Slate and beer for Eater, and he blogs at both the Joy of Cheese and Rotations. Follow him on Twitter