I’ve never understood the idea of spiritual excercise. When I first started doing yoga years ago, I had to look around forever to find classes and DVDs that suited me. By “suited me,” I mean that there was no hokey spiritual bullshit served alongside my exercise. It’s kind of hard to stay balanced in Warrior III pose when something your instructor is babbling about the 8-fold path makes you roll your eyes, know what I mean?

No joke, I have this one yoga DVD where completely out of nowhere the instructor pulls some Kafka quote: “It is not necessary that you leave the house. Remain at your table and listen. Do not even listen, only wait. Do not even wait, be wholly still and alone. The world will present itself to you for its unmasking, it can do no other, in ecstasy it will writh at your feet.” The first time I did the DVD I thought, “Whuuuut? Um, OK? That’s cool, are we gonna do another vinyasa flow, or am I supposed to stop and wait for the world to show up and have an orgasm on my sticky mat?”

I think it’s pretty clear that the likes of me are intended to remain unenlighted. And that’s fine. For those of you who like to have your third eye tweaked and align your chakras or whatever, I don’t have any problem with that. “Whatever works for you” has always been my motto in that respect.

People go to yoga for different reasons. Some people, like me, just want a workout. Some people like to go to a class to meet new people, or make weekly socio-aerobic appointments with friends. Others like to open their minds to guided meditation coupled with an exersion high. Others still like to treat yoga class like a baited poon field (*cough* Eric Schaeffer). Excluding the last example, I like to think that any reason people have for taking an exercise class is perfectly valid in a society when so many people are forced to put their health on the back-burner.

But sometimes, workout trends emerge that just make me go, “Come ON!” After the jump, I try to put my skeptical, snarky ways behind and see the merit beyond the cheese of the “spiritual exercise” craze.

Earlier this week, P Diddy posted a video in which he waxes spiritual about running. Many of us have experienced a runner’s high and yeah, it’s pretty awesome. To be honest, part of what prompted me to quit drinking on a regular basis was the knowledge that I can get a better buzz from exercising, I can get it for FREE (rather than watching my paycheck mysteriously vanishing round the other side of the bar), I don’t feel like shit the next day (albeit a bit sore), and it’s actually good for me. But, Puffy, this is a bit… much. Since there’s nothing about running I could tell you all that you don’t already know/can’t Google your own damn self, this time, just watch and laugh.

Why, anyway, does Diddy assume anyone wants to know what he has to say about running? It’s absurd when celebs labor under the assumption that we care, even when no one seems to have asked them what they think. Much in the same way Jessica Simpson assumed people wanted her to release a country record. Yeaaaah. Anyway, I’m inclined to think the Puff doth protest too much, given that many people thought he cheated his way through the NYC marathon a while back.

I’m sure you’ve all heard of Gwen Shamblin’s Weigh Down workshop by now. The basic premise is that you can eat whatever you want, so long as you’re already full (of God’s love) before sitting down at the table. Not only is this diet fantastically fact-free, but peep these amazing and informative, highly scientific diagrams to illustrate how the program works:

WOW! I feel so smart now! And full, too! Who knew bullshit could be so satisfying? Yeah. This “diet” is basically Jesus-orexia. Check out her free eating tips here. She basically advocates, on an evening out, eating only about 10 actual bites of food. And they’re supposed to be very small bites. That spells trouble. Not only does this diet address nothing about nutrition or the right kinds of food to fuel the body, it doesn’t address dietary issues like empty calories found in refined sugars and how that effects the insulin and blood glucose levels in the body (sugar makes you hungrier, eat more, oh, and then there’s the looming threat of diabetes. A real issue that affects overweight people, and it’s an issue you can’t pray away, no matter how deluded you are).

Nay, she’s too busy going, “OMG CHOCOLATE! You can eat CHOCOLATE on this diet! Jesus wants you to!” If there’s anything to take away from this “diet,” it’s that controlling portions and eating more slowly can help you lose weight. But you could have read that in Marie Claire, so skip all this bullshit. This is a nutritionally devoid starvation plan by a woman who’s trying to tell you that if you turn control of your body over to Jesus, he’ll bless you with an eating disorder.

Newsweek brings us another form of Praise-centric exercise: Gospel workouts being held in community churches all over the country. Now, I have to suppress my initial reaction, which is something like, “Ppppfffffffffffttt!” Because seriously, where I live, people send so much time at church and away from their own families it borders on abuse. But once I get past my organized-religion phobia, there’s a lot of good there: a) If folks are gonna be at church anyway, may as well break a sweat up in there. Yay for multitasking. b) This is one of the FEW exercise progams targeted at and made accessible to the black and minority communities. With obesity being a major problem in such communities, it’s good to see programs arising to meet their needs. c) If you’re into the God thing, I’m sure the worshipful instructors and gospel soundtrack will be really engaging and motivating, so folks will stick to getting healthy.

And now for the funny: from the article “When Dawn Harvey leans back on her elbows, legs outstretched, rapidly pedaling, she’s not just toning her abs-she’s kicking Satan in the head.” Ahahahahhaaaaa! This is inspiring me to create my own line of Christian exercise DVDs for fun and profit. Here are a few ideas:

Cruicercise: Aerobic and resistance training, where the participants exercise using both their own body weight and the weight of a large, wooden cross.

Bible Bootcamp: A rigorous blend of cardio and strength with “Prayer Drills” – basically Burpees with a lot of kneeling thrown in.

The Road to Bethlehem Spinning Class: A high-energy class where the instructor guides you through Mary & Joseph’s journey on the night of His fateful birth. “No room, at the Inn, y’all! Hill climb!”

And, of course, Sweatin’ to the Old Testament: Fire, brimstone, jazzhands, and the wrath of an angry God have never been so much fun with Richard Simmons as your host! Drop those pounds fast and have a blast while learning new dance moves! All you’ll need is your can-do attitude, a set of light hand weights and the jawbone of an ass!

I’m going to hell. For those of you who have God, pray for me in the comments.