Dear Yoga Chickie,

September 30, 2005

Why so hostile, about me and the wife, yo? Me and Demi, we had a Jewish wedding and followed all the traditions, right down to the breaking of the glass at the end, a’ite? That’s more than I can say for you, yo, you dis da Ganesha puja, bending instead, you know what I be saying, dat be true, Yoga Chickie, yo.


AK from LA

Dear AK,

Actually, my post that talks about you, Demi, Madonna, Esther and Hamentashen (I left out Britney because she put on 65 pounds during her pregnancy – GO GIRL! – and she might be really sensitive to being made fun of right now…) as being examples of “appropriation of culture” was intended to be tongue in cheek. It was supposed to be so OVER THE TOP that it would illlustrate what it is that Yoga Chickie finds to be absurd about the notion of claiming “ownership” over Indian culture, Hindu culture and the Eight Limbs of Yoga, including the Asana limb.

Even as a Jew, Yoga Chickie is not particularly upset or even moved by the idea that non-Jews are aping Jewish ceremonies and traditions. They say that imitation is the highest form of flattery. If there was anything to “steal” from the Jews and the Jewish religion, perhaps Yoga Chickie would feel differently. By analogy, Yoga Chickie is not really upset or moved by the idea that non-Indians (etc.) are aping Indian (etc.) ceremonies and traditions. And Yoga Chickie freely admits that she is one of those who does the aping: she teaches yoga, including quoting and interpreting passages from the Yoga Sutras, including chanting in the Sanskrit language. Like the non-Jewish Kabbalists, Yoga Chickie does not adhere to every aspect of Judaism, nor does she adhere to every aspect of yoga tradition. That being said, Yoga Chickie is quick to acknowledge that the traditions are important, and that changes from the tradition be recognized and given context. As such, she ends each of her yoga classes with the following request: that her students bow forward in a gesture of honor to the traditions of yoga practice.

If anyone thought that I was angry about Hamentashen, let me just dispense with that notion here and now. The more Hamentashen I can find in the spring, the better. I don’t care if it’s baked by rabbis or by nuns. I often bakes some in my own non-Kosher kitchen.

As for my “monkey mind” – first of all, I really dislike the negative reference to monkeys. I am a huge fan of Hanuman, the great monkey God-warrior of Hindu mythology. He was brave, and he was patient, and he loved his master, Rama so much that he was willing to spend, literally YEARS on a quest to save his life and to bring back his love, Sita (who Hanuman may or may not have been in love with, himself). Hanuman did what was thought to be impossible: he leapt across the sea. He did it out of love, he did it with devotion, he did it with perseverance. It has been said that from the moment Hanuman began his leap until the moment he touched down in Sri Lanka, years passed, and during that time, Hanuman’s hair went gray. I think that we all could benefit from being a bit more like this particular monkey, Hanuman.

Putting aside the word “monkey” and just focusing on what is meant by “monkey mind” (the term, “monkey mind” refers to a mind that is distracted, a mind that is spinning and leaping jumping like a monkey), I don’t think that writing in a journal, or a public journal like a blog, is the sign of a monkey mind any more than writing a novel, poetry, music or engaging in any form of creative expression is the sign of a monkey mind. And if it IS, then bring on the monkeys. The world would be a terribly boring place if we all became too blissed out to engage in creative expression.

What I write here is, for better or for worse, creative expression. Like it or not, like me or not, if you are reading this blog, it is because I entertain you. If using my mind to spin creative riffs on whatever happens to be flitting around in my fertile mind is wrong, then I don’t want to be right.


Since we’re on the topic, I’m thinking about doing some suing myself…

September 29, 2005

First on the list is Mr. and Mrs. Ashton Kutcher, a/k/a Demi and Ashton. I was flipping though one of this week’s rubbish rags and saw a photo of the two of them in full costume, dressed as babies, to celebrate PURIM at the L.A. Kabbalah Center. Neither of them is Jewish, and yet they are blatantly using the Jewish religion’s holiday to garner publicity. Do they even know what Purim is? Do they even know that it’s not one big secular costume party? Do they understand that Purim is a RELIGIOUS and JEWISH CULTURAL celebration of Jewish triumph over potential holocaust brought upon by the words of a biblical-times Hitler character named Hamen?

I think that might call for a lawsuit.

And that reminds me – I noticed last spring that Hot and Crusty, that ubiquitous so-called “bakery”, was selling “Hamentashen”, a special triangular-shaped, fruit-filled cookie eaten by Jews traditionally on and around Purum. The cookie is intended to work as a mockery of Hamen’s tri-cornered hat. But it also tastes pretty damn good, especially if you are partial to apricot jam. So, Hot and Crusty, which is not a Jewish institution is profiting from the suffering of the Jews and the triumph of the Jews over Hamen, thanks to one hot-chick named Esther, who knew how to “work it”.


Yes, Esther used her feminine wiles to talk the Ahasuerus, King of Persia, who happened to be her husband, out of exterminating the Jews of Persia. Pretty, sexy Esther, who neglected to tell said husband that she was a Jew, but who took her life into her hands by approaching her husband, the King, without a “summons” (an act punishable by death, even if committed by the King’s wife). Which brings me to Madonna. Does she realize what she is co-opting when she decides that her spiritual name shall henceforth be Esther?


And going off the topic of theft of Jewish intellectual property, let’s not forget that Madonna has been known to appropriate the British accent as well as a British way of life as a bid to better her image?


The only problem with suing in these cases is that everything we’re talking about here is in the “public domain”. Even ACTUAL copyrighted works end up in the public domain eventually. I believe the duration of copyright is life of the author (whoever created the work, regardless of whether it is a book – the word “author” is used by the U.S. Copyright Act to indicate anyone who creates a copyrightable “work”, whether music, art, performance piece, movie, etc.) plus 100 years. Or something like that (I don’t feel like doing the research on this – I am so done with that part of my life. In any event, copyrights eventually expire. So, I am kinda thinking that the story of Purim has probably reached its expiration date. And I’m kinda sure that no one can claim ownership of a Hamentashen anymore. Or the rights to the name, Esther. Or the right to use a British accent or to live in the Cotswalds with a couple of hounds and a horse.

Even if it just feels WRONG!

On the other hand, let’s say that someone opened up “Joe’s Jew Temple” in Toledo, Ohio, and let’s say that the Temple hosted “Cheeseburger Fridays” and “Sunday Clambakes” and celebrated Christmas and Labor Day as its highest holiest of days. I would say that there would be some issues there of misrepresentation. And SOMEONE might have a leg to stand on in suing Joe for misrepresenting his “Temple” as an actual place for Jews to worship. I am not sure if there is a governing body for the Jewish people who could do so, and I am quite sure that Israel wouldn’t have standing to sue Joe. But someone, perhaps “congregants” who were “misled” into worshipping at a place that turned out not to be a Jewish house of worship, might be able to sue. Is it a trademark claim? I don’t think so. Trademarking is a way of identifying a product (Servicemarking is a way of identifying a service). It has to be unique, and it has to be owned by someone in order for anyone to sue anyone for an infringement. I just don’t think that applies here.

Does it apply to the government of India attempting to create ownership rights in poses that are probably in the public domain? Does it apply to the supposed appropriation of Hindu (or Buddhist or Sikkh, for that matter) customs being used in the U.S. to enhance what may or may not be essentially a really good workout? It just doesn’t seem to make sense.

OK, kill me now.


What are we to make of this?

September 29, 2005

Apparently, India is thinking about suing our asses for theft of their intellectual property … and by intellectual property, I mean yoga.

From an article published by the Washington Times:

“We know of at least 150 asanas [yoga positions] that have been pirated in the U.S., the UK, Germany and Japan,” he says. “These were developed in India long ago and no one can claim them as their own.”

In an effort to protect India’s heritage, the task force has begun documenting 1,500 yoga postures drawn from classical yoga texts — including the writings of the Indian sage, Patanjali, the first man to codify the art of yoga. The data is being stored in a digital library whose computerized contents will soon be made available to patent offices worldwide.

“This is a very good idea,” says B.K.S. Iyengar, the 86-year old yoga guru credited with having introduced yoga to the West in the 1970s. “Yoga is an essential part of our heritage, and India has to protect it.”

The worst “culprits” are Indians based in America, where yoga has become a $30 billion-a-year business — a growth fueled by celebrity adherents such as Madonna.”

For once Yoga Chickie is speechless. What is there to say? Surely something is missing here, something has to have been taken out of context…surely no one can sue anyone on the basis of copyright or trademark infringement for using yoga poses or the teachings of Patanjali…



Do all "days from hell" start out with an "I feel fat"?

September 28, 2005

No one, other than an anorexagenic modeling agent could look at me and call me “fat”. Yet today, the Chatterer did just that. And by “Chatterer”, I mean my “mind”, the part of me that is not my “essence” but, rather, a home-grown, life-experience-enhanced pretender to the “Self” resting calmly within me and patiently observing this poser, this pretender, this Citta-Vritti-manufacturing “Chatterer”.

So, the Chatterer took one look at my body today, and condemned me for eating six Mallomars last night. The Self looked on with equanimity, knowing that this too shall pass. The Chatterer set about trying on clothing at 7:15 a.m., checking to see if anything had grown tighter (subtly, but definitely, yes). The Chatterer began concocting plans to turn this problem around fast, ways of eating, ways of exercising. The Self calmly watched, knowning full well what she needed.

The Chatterer took my Self and my Body on a stressful trip downtown to Shala X today, that began with the good intention of not driving when there is a national call for gas conservation. Good intentions aside, it doesn’t help when you are so scattered that you can’t remember what you did with your Metro Card. And it doesn’t get any easier when the Second Avenue Limited busdriver grinds the bus to a halt while you scrounge around in your wallet for loose change, causing all of the other bus riders to begin grumbling loudly, preparing for mutiny. Not wanting to be the cause or the object of any violence, I skulked off that bus and began searching for a newstand that sold Metro Cards.

Ticktock, ticktock, time goes so quickly when you can’t get your act together, and the Chatterer was plenty angry at herself for allowing this to happen. Finally, she found a store that sold Metro Cards, and she got herself onto the Second Avenue Bus.

The Chatterer fell into a brief delusion at that point, one in which she believed that all would be well, and nothing would now stand in the way of her getting to Shala X by 9:30 a.m. Delusion quickly gave way to suffering, as the reality of heavy traffic made itself apparent. Still not ready to surrender to having done all that she could do and simply letting the rest happen, the Chatterer, sat on the bus, annoyance boiling over as a woman in the front of the bus began harassing a woman who was standing in front of her. What did this have to do with the Chatterer? Why nothing! Of course! But suffering can manifest itself in many forms, and in this case, it was irritability. When 9:30 a.m. had come and gone, with the bus was still crawling down Second Avenue, and the bus stopped to pick-up a wheelchair rider, the Chatterer threw up her hands in aggravation and stormed off the bus. She figured, it’s time to cab it.

Ah, more delusions. There were no cabs, and as the Chatterer kept shooting her cuffs to look at her watch, and as the time kept crawling toward 9:45 a.m., and as the Chatterer approached the next Limited stop, the Chatterer began to fret about how she was going to practice yoga with all of her stress, with all of the aggravations of the morning piled up into her consciousness. How was the Chatterer going to practice if she only had 45 minutes in which to get adjustments, and she had wanted to have a nice, slow, MELLOW practice (which would take closer to an hour before Finishing)….?

The Self finally spoke kindly to the Chatterer: Come as you are, the Self said. Come as you are. You don’t wait to be in the right mood for yoga. You don’t need for the “ride” to be smooth. You lay down your mat when and where you find it, and you practice yoga in the moment. If you do that, what is happening here and now won’t matter in THAT here and now.

The three of us (Self, Chatterer and my Body) got to the shala at 9:45 and had a nice, slow, calm, 8-breaths per pose practice. There was no adjustment in Mari C as a result (Sir left the room at 10:30, and class was officiall over, although the students are allowed to finish on their own), and yet the Body found its own way to feel the twist, to open the shoulders, to touch the fingers together behind the back. The Self was more present than the Chatterer could ever remember in an Ashtanga shala, although it is hard for the Chatterer to say, since the Chatterer was fairly quiet during the entire practice, making space for the Self to emerge.

Sir did walk back into the room at one point to reprimand us for continuing beyond Mari C (as research FOR Mari C). The Chatterer was a bit miffed by that because as far as the Chatterer was concerned, Sir had left the room before the Body had even gotten to Mari C, so what business was it of Sir to stop the Body once class was over? Nevertheless, the the Chatterer got hold of the Body (the Self was nowhere to be found) and made the Body be obedient. We went right to Finishing Series, which was nice and relaxed (so, apparently the Self quietly padded back in), and then we left.

There were several messages on my phone when I (we!) emerged from the Shala. One was from a photographer who wants me to come to a casting call for asana modeling. I laughed and told him, “Do you realize I am only five foot one inch tall?!” He said he thought so, from the photo he had seen of me (the one that New York Yoga is still carrying on their web site). They pay $75 an hour, and the photos are used as stock footage for wellness programs at banks and other large companies. If The Husband doesn’t need the car tomorrow, I guess I could go down to Brooklyn to my very first (and probably ONLY casting call ever).

The other was David Kelman at Yoga Sutra, who asked me to take over the Thursday morning 10:00 a.m. Vinyasa class! Hooray! A daytime class!! A quality studio!!

But as Ralph Waldo Emerson would say (and I am paraphrasing as I am simply too lazy to go get the actual quote), “Your fortunes turn, you get a job, some other good thing happens, and suddenly, you think your life is made! Well, think again. Only YOU can bring yourself peace.”

Ah, shucks, having said that, I felt compelled to go and get the actual quote. Here it is:

“A political victory, a rise in rents, the recovery of your sick, or return of your absent friend, or some other quite external event, raises your spirits, and you think good days are preparing for you. Do not believe it. Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles.”

from “Self-Reliance”


More Lance Backlash…it’s not about the juice…

September 27, 2005

I stumbled upon this excellent blog called Cancer News Watch this morning as I procrastinated from getting my butt to practice, and I wanted to share the link as well as an incredibly thought-provoking Post about Lance Armstrong and why he is not necessarily fit to be the “poster boy” for cancer survival. This has nothing to do with his supposed (and completely unconfirmed) use of athletic performance-enhancers and everything to do with the type of cancer that he survived (testicular, which is one of the most curable cancers known to man) and his access to the state of the art of state of the art medical care.

It’s funny – I have ALWAYS thought this about the Lance Armstrong mythology, especially when people kept dropping off copies of “It’s Not About the Bike” and expecting me to get inspired to open my own can of WHOOP-ASS on the beast. I appreciated the thought, I really and truly did. But truth be told, I never identified with Lance because while testicular cancer is considered completely curable, breast cancer is not (even if one survives long term). To illustrate, one need only look to The Husband, who is a testicular cancer survivor. He sometimes even FORGETS that he is a cancer survivor. So, all else being equal, and assuming that you don’t KNOW my husband and his ability to compartmentalize and rationalize, that is pretty telling…

Unless you’ve been living in a cave (and some of you have, or at least wish to, right?) you must have seen enough pink in store windows and enough advertisements featuring older women wearing bandannas to know that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. And even though I HATE being beaten over the head with pink, pink, pink and more pink, and I generally shun all the majorly folksy breast cancer events because I don’t feel particularly sisterly about being a member of this “sisterhood”, I do think it would be interesting to share some information here over the course of October about breast cancer, and perhaps cancer in general. In my own style. So, don’t expect big hugs….although I might surprise you.