If yoga weren’t a good workout, would you still do it?

July 31, 2009

When I started yoga, it was a substitute for running and biking, which at the time, didn’t feel good to me anymore (probably because I was 15-20 pounds heavier than I had ever been, due to chemo and inactivity). The type of yoga I came for was Bikram. When that got boring, being the same thing day in day out, I went to a class at Jivamukti and was shocked that there was singing (chanting) and lecturing (dharma) about things like “do no harm” (ahimsa) and “eat no meat” (whatever).

I admit it: I got caught up. I sang the Hare Krishna song. And I worshipped Hanuman, sort of. Well, I wouldn’t say “worshipped” exactly. But I dug the story. I bought all the must-listen-to music – the Krishna Das, the Donna Delory, the Dum Dum Project, the Drala.

And as I tend to do with anything about which I become passionate for any length of time, I grew disenchanted and began to find flaws, nitpick, get annoyed.

But one thing that I can never say about yoga is that it isn’t awesomely good for the body. The stretching mixed with isometric strengthening cannot be beat. If all yoga were were sitting and thinking, or not thinking, as it were, I would be done with it in a heartbeat. But yoga is what got me back in shape and what has kept me in shape ever since.

So, I know the answer to my question. Wondering how others feel.


People, I would like to introduce you to a self-professed "Intellect":

July 30, 2009

She calls herself “Owl”. Here is a sampling of her literary jewels:

“The Empirical Self of each of us is all that he is tempted to call by the name of me. But it is clear that between what a man calls me and what he simply calls mine the line is difficult to draw. We feel and act about certain things that are ours very much as we feel and act about ourselves. Our fame, our children, the work of our hands, may be as dear to us as our bodies are, and arouse the same feelings and the same acts of reprisal if attacked. And our bodies themselves, are they simply ours, or are they us?”

One might say that this is incomprehensible drivel. One might go so far as to say that she doesn’t know how to write, if writing is about coherently communicating thought. But then, one might say that the Emporer’s clothes were his birthday suit. And one wouldn’t want to be revealed as “not getting it”.

I once knew a guy who stole just under $ 1,000,000 from from some trusting investors. Curious as to how this might have gone down, I did a quick google search and found the answers in the publicly filed litigation papers. He had solicited his marks by faxing them a proposal that communicated no coherent thought at all. My knee-jerk reaction was, “Wow, he was intelligent, way beyond my comprehension,” but then it occurred to me: it wasn’t that he was intelligent at all; rather, it was that he concocted something that made no sense and sent it to people hoping that they would feel insecure about not being able to understand what he was saying.

He COUNTED on these people believing that “If I can’t understand what I am reading, then I must be stupid. And the guy who wrote it must be really really smart.”

And the wallets flew open.

People are smarter than they realize they are, except for the few posers out there who pass as “Intellects” by peppering their paragraphs with five-syllable words that don’t generally see the light of day outside of the SATs. Those people are far less smart than they seem and a little less smart than they think they are.

Pompously mangling sentence construction does not an “Intellect” make.


UPDATED: yes, I now know that Owl lifted the quoted text from William James, and I note that my failure to comprehend that ALL of her text was attributed to James speaks volumes about (a) Owl’s communication skills and (b) her propensity to plagiarize. Indeed, Owl plagiarized me yesterday, specifically the comment made above about “pompous mangling of sentence construction”. I described her writing as such, and she proceeded to use my exact words on her own blog, without attribution. Anyway, here is a sample of what I believe to be Owl’s own words, although you never know. They could be someone else’s:

“In that context, light waves that move exactly like water across tree leaves is sense pleasure. Undulation, beautiful shapes, colors. The senses mix with emotions and thoughts: delight in body and company, plus a knowledge that all this is special in time and place: the experience is historically unique, so I mark it as precious. An aesthetically perfect moment, a collector’s item.”

Owl takes herself seriously, of this much I am certain.

The COOLEST thing about having a blog…

July 29, 2009

is that you can say whatever you want on it.

I’m just saying.


Pet Peeves of the Day

July 29, 2009

People who try to appear “intellectual” by writing in a way that fails to communicate coherent thought. You’re not fooling anyone.

People who use Britishisms incessantly. You’re not British. If you were, you would know that using “shag” to mean “have sex with” is the British equivalent of an American using “groovy” to mean “cool”. You know who you are.

People who are ashamed to be angry. Anger is totally acceptable. Even for a yogi. When you figure that out, you will feel less angry. Ironic.

People who tell you how smart they are. If you’re really smart, we’ll figure it out. If you were smarter, you would know that.

That’s all for now.


Realities of Aging

July 26, 2009

I do not have the same body I had when I was 15. Or 25 or 35 or 40. Or even 42. In some ways, it’s a much better body now. In some ways, worse. Mainly, it’s just different. My weight has shifted upwards, away from my hips and legs. My arms have gotten stronger. Sometimes I am amazingly flexible. Sometimes, I am amazingly stiff. Some days, my wrists hold me up effortlessly in backbends. Some days, they can’t tolerate the slightest pressure. Some days, I bound around. Some days, I drag ass. It’s unpredictable mostly, attributable to phantom factors like diet, sleep and the weather.

If my body is different every day and changing with each passing year (month, week, day), then how can one yoga practice sustain me each and every day of each and every year? Trying to fit my yoga practice into a box, or even my exercise program as a whole, is just a form of denial. Denying my age. Denying my health history. Denying my needs. And that has to lead to suffering: unmet expectations, daily disappointments, physical pain.

Yesterday, it was terribly humid out. When I got on the mat out on my back porch, I felt leaden. My broken hand felt worse than it has been feeling. I couldn’t bear to put any pressure on my hand at all. And I couldn’t bear to do yoga without vinyasa. I was feeling sorry for myself. But I pulled myself up off the mat, got some hiking clothes on and went off to a 90 minute hike in the cool, tree-canopied woods. It was delightful, no surprise, and when I came home, I came back to the mat and did most of standing, effortlessly just because I wanted to. Then I threw in a couple of Second Series backbends and called it a day.

I look back on the days when I wouldn’t have thought of picking and choosing poses, when I wouldn’t have thought of running or hiking or otherwise using my legs in a way that might tighten them up for the next day’s yoga practice. And it strikes me as a form of masochism. But then I realize, there was a time when it worked for me. Of course, that was then followed by the time when it wasn’t working as well, but I tried to pretend otherwise. And then there is now.

The other day, I was talking to an Ashtanga-practicing friend of mine about the possibility of meeting for a practice at Yoga Sutra. She was like, “I thought you were done with Ashtanga.” I was like, “Well, I still practice YOGA.” Sometimes I do it at home, sometimes I do it at Bikram, sometimes at Jivamukti, and sometimes I go to a Mysore-style practice space.

Why try to define myself? Why try to confine myself with a definition of what I do and what I am? And why base that identity on a workout anyway?

I don’t know why.