Monthly Archives: March 2012

Shut Up And Do Your Yoga

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John was a bullfrog, he was a good Friend of mine.

I never understood a single word he said, but I helped him drink his whine.

He always had some mighty fine wine.

 

Have you been drinking the wine or the Ku-laid? For the past two months, it seems like all the yoga community has been talking about is the John Friend scandal. Allegations from jfexposed.com have sparked a virtual frenzy, and it’s been a trending topic on YogaDork, Elephant Journal, The Huffington Post, and (just today) The Washington Post ever since.  Even Anusara Inc. and John Friend himself have been sending their own newsletters to update the community on reformations within the company. Keeping up with the reformations has been a tireless process: you would find out that a select group of renowned Anusura teachers were founding an ethics committee one day, and two days later you would find out that some of those same teachers would have dropped all affiliations with Anusara altogether; you would find out that Anusara announced a new CEO, and two weeks later you would find that that was no longer the case; and the list goes on and on. And if you’ve been following along like I have, I’m sure you’re just as sick of the word “transparency” as I am.

Four years ago, the first yoga studio I stepped into was an Anusara studio. I was 19 at the time and had no idea that there were different yoga styles, and I picked the studio based on price and proximity to the BART station. I didn’t choose Anusara for its alignment principles or tantric philosophy, but I stayed with it for those reasons. In 2010, I went to my first yoga workshop: the “Melt Your Heart, Blow Your Mind” workshop taught by Friend himself. I wouldn’t say that the workshop blew my mind or that Friend isn’t a talented and inspirational teacher, but I’d say that my regular instructors have been more heart-melting and mind-blowing to me. However, some of my regular instructors have had their “hearts melted” and “minds blown” by Friend, and I get to reap the benefits from them instead.

At the end of the day, John Friend is just a regular guy with flaws like everybody else. Just as Friend’s misconduct shouldn’t be excused, his achievements shouldn’t be ignored either. Friend has created a valid system that has taken on a life of its own, so I think it’s incorrect and unfair when some people equate the end of his celebrated career with the end of Anusara. That’s not to say that the system won’t change. Change is inevitable. “Anusara” means to flow with grace. So, hopefully Anusara can ride the waves of this scandal, opposed to being swept away by it.

-The Humble Warrior

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Spring Cleaning & Awakening

Dhanurasana (bow pose) is one of those poses that requires everything I’ve got in me: I have to be aware that my shins are squeezing to the midline; I have to attempt to get my upper body into a Cobra-like shape; and on top of all of that I have to lift my knees as high as I can while my thunder-thighs are adamantly refusing to defy gravity. Luckily, after Dhanurasana most teachers provide a brief respite from their asana sequence. And since I have to use up all of my fuel to try to mimic the weapon of The Hunger Games, I accept that respite gratefully. I lay one side of my cheeks onto my mat, close my eyes, and inhale deeply through my nose… and suddenly I’m not so grateful because all I can do is focus on the funk emanating from my yoga mat, instead of settling into the brief moment of repose I worked so hard for! All I can focus on is the synergetic funk of my feet, my teachers’ feet, and my classmates’ feet on my Private Idaho of a mat. Instead of resting, my mind is elsewhere thinking, “When’s the last time I cleaned my mat?!” I know, how unyoga.

So today, I just cleaned. I cleaned my house and my mat like Annette Bening cleans on Open House day (minus the crazy mantras). I didn’t go to any yoga class (which is rare for me these days). I just cleaned. And I must admit that today, I’ve done the most “yoga” I’ve done all week. No bending, twisting, or contorting required.  Cleaning the shit off my floor and my mat was much more enlightening than learning any new pose would have been.

Sometimes we can gain the most from doing the littlest things. It seems counterintuitive because the standard paradigm typically dictates that we need to get more to benefit more: more poses, more clothes, more information, etc. But sometimes the most beneficial thing we can do is to take inventory of what we already have. Then we can clear out the unnecessary. Then we can see if more would be beneficial.

It’s easy to see a gain as a benefit because normally, when we want something, we do something to get it. But sometimes by doing less, we can see more we can declutter the unnecessary so that our vision can fine-tune on the things that really would benefit us.

Cause the last thing we need in the studios are more funky mats.

-The Humble Warrior

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The Bendy Ideal

Just recently, I’ve finished reading Susan Cain’s book about introversion titled, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. Throughout the book all I could think and feel was, “Finally someone gets it!” In a culture where extroversion is prized and introversion is despised, should we all aspire to be the ideal extrovert? That’s certainly what I’ve thought and have attempted to do for most of my life. But alas, Cain says no, we don’t have to. And thank God, because I was always the one at the club thinking, “Why the fuck am I getting drained while everyone else around me is getting more and more hyphy as the night goes on?” Quiet goes into detail about how we all have inborn temperaments and – for the most part – it’s best to stick within our comfort zones. That’s not to say that if you’re an introvert,  you should seclude yourself from the rambunctiousness of the outside world. Instead, introverts should be selective in finding a balance between solitude (which tends to rejuvenate an introvert) and social stimulation (which tends to tax an introvert).

Now, how does this relate to yoga?

In the yoga world, there tends to be an ideal body type: the bendy type. And why not? Flexible yogis who can execute difficult poses are visually appealing and make damn good cover shots for Yoga Journal. While a generous range of motion is not a bad thing (in fact it can be a great thing and a great thing to aspire to) – much like extroversion – it’s vastly overrated. Some of my greatest yoga instructors have a more limited range of motion, and those limitations have given them a better understanding of the subtle body – an understanding that might have been skipped if a generous range of motion allowed them to rest on their loins (no pun intended). Like temperaments, we are all born with a certain body type. While we can make subtle changes to our body in terms of flexibility, it can be unwise and unsafe to reach too far beyond our body’s natural range of motion; moreover, overreaching can be counterproductive to the yoga practice itself because the ultimate goal should be to gain a better understanding of your body and yourself, not to reach a certain level or series.

It’s important to see our strengths within our limitations. For instance, you might not be an ideal networker, but you may be able to delve into a task with more rigor than someone who needs more social stimulation. As for me, I can barely wrap my arms around each other in Eagle pose because of my tight shoulders, but I can hold Downward Dog for days because of the stability my tight shoulders provide. Susan Cain ends her book on a sweet note by saying, “The trick is not to amass all the different kinds of available power, but to use well the kind you’ve been granted.”

So, use your power wisely.

-The Humble Warrior

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