Archive for ‘Doh!

October 11, 2012

Do Yoga! (Just Don’t JUST Do Yoga!)

“Just get on your meditation cushion; just get back on your mat.”

If I’ve heard that once this year I’ve heard it a sigh-inducing number of times.

Just get on your yoga mat! Get on your meditation cushion! Just do your practice and you shall become a kinder, more evolved human being! Practice Hatha Yoga and excel at clarity!

Practice Hatha Yoga in order to become less susceptible to:  general fucking up; eating too many donuts; crying jags; fights with your partner; professional dissatisfaction; driving like an idiot; snapping at your mother; problems in your relationship; fury with yogalebrities who behave like Ghengis Khan; vocal moral outrage; smoking pot; general unhappiness, etc.

Yoga fixes everything. It’s common knowledge, right?


May I be straightforward? (I’ll take silence as assent.)

Expecting yoga to single-handedly solve all your problems is worse than magical thinking. It’s a downright bad idea. In fact, it’s complete and utter bullshit.

Hey, don’t get me wrong–I love Hatha Yoga! Hatha Yoga changed my life! I am a believer!

I teach Hatha Yoga for a living. That’s because it has been an quintessential component of my personal evolution. I think that anyone who has even the slightest inclination to do so should practice it.

Hatha Yoga has provided me–and countless others–with a glimpse of both my own enormity and my infinitesimalness. Those glimpses were sparks that ignited. They were an impetus to grow in countless ways.

But it has taken well over a decade.

My question for you–how much time have you got?

Yoga is a catalyst. It may well send you on a life changing journey. I absolutely believe the  inner and the outer can impact one another, and vice versa. I am, after all, familiar with that rumor about the mind and body being connected.

Hatha yoga can help to repattern old, automatic, unfruitful conditioning but it is the scenic route.

Your yoga mat, or meditation cushion, can also be the place where you opt out of dealing powerfully with your life. It can become the place you check out, or hide out. Watch out for that. It’s a peril of the practice and it’s real. You would do well to take it seriously.

If Hatha Yoga is an ambling back road, coaching–or therapy where appropriate–is a super highway.

If you’ve got shit you want to accomplish in this lifetime while here on Planet Earth–and personally I do-work with someone who has good off the mat strategies to help you. Deal head on with your crap, powerfully. It will serve you better than will Hatha Yoga alone.

The combination of yoga and coaching works on the same principle that makes it clear that while praying for world peace is sweet, it is never going to take the place of getting of your butt, getting to the poll, and casting your vote.

Yoga with coaching will take you further, faster, than yoga without coaching. It’s more efficient than decades exclusively spent on your yoga mat or cushion.

So, what do savvy yogins know?

They know when to get on their mat.

But they know when to get off of it, too.  










May 11, 2012

Very, Very Interesting

Blogging is bizarre.

When people say things like, “Oh, you’re so brave to put yourself out there,” which they often do, it is so decidedly not my experience. Finding a rare moment to myself to sit and type into the WordPress box doesn’t feel the least bit brave. It is, in fact, an over-scheduled introvert’s wet dream. I know that what I write will be out there once I hit “Publish,” but the act of writing–at least while I’m doing it–is mine. It’s just for me.

I am in no way abdicating responsibility for what I write. When you put stuff on the internet, like I do, you have to be prepared to take responsibility for it. I have to be prepared for fallout, and I get some. 99% of the comments made on my site are pretty loving. They’re mostly left by people who know me personally, or who feel like they do cuz they’ve followed my blog for a while.

Sometimes people don’t agree with me. Duh. I’m okay with that. Fair’s fair. If I put it out there, I have to expect people to have their own opinion:  to disagree, to concur, to be under-impressed, over-impressed, pissed, bored, you name it.

Dissenting comments, I publish. Every now and then–pretty rarely, actually–someone gets nasty. I consider myself lucky that it’s the anomaly, not the norm. Usually, the nasty stuff is left by someone writing under an obvious pseudonym. The first time it happened, the venom knocked the breath right out of me. I was all boo-hoo-hoo hurt, astonished, and indignant. I mean, why would someone who doesn’t even know me–sniffle–want to be so mean?!?!

After 24 hours of feeling victimized and misunderstood I decided that, since sensitive people have no business writing on the intarnets, I had better hurry up and develop a tougher skin. Now, mostly, I try to let stuff like that roll off my back, usually pretty successfully.

Anyway, a few zingers here and there are probably good for me. They keep me honest, and from believing my own hype.

(Oh, for the record:  I feel zero obligation to post the nasty stuff on a site for which I personally foot the bill. No apologies there. Go ‘head and get your own site, though, and good luck to you.)

On Wednesday, I published a post with my thoughts on the the value that I place on advanced asana (bendy, stretchy stuff done on a yoga mat). Yesterday, it was featured on Yogadork. I like Yogadork. I have felt very fairly treated by the site.

Reading the comments is interesting to the point of surreal for me.

It’s fascinating–to me–to see commenters interpret my post. Some claim that my post is my way of distancing myself from my former professional affiliation. Okay. I have already done that in the most overt way I could think of, but okay.

Some people took exception to the gallery of asana photographs on my website. I get why they might. I want to reiterate that I don’t have a problem with advanced asana. I find the pursuit of advanced asana interesting to the degree that I do.

One commenter felt that the photo on my website of me in Hanumanasana made my post hypocritical. I get why someone might feel that way. I don’t agree but I get it. To the point, I am certainly bendier than the average human. For my body, Hanumanasana is not an advanced asana. I could do it long before I began an earnest asana practice. That doesn’t make me virtuous or accomplished. It just makes me long muscled on the backs of my legs.

There are plenty of other poses that don’t come naturally to me, and I am only so interested in logging the hours that would be required in order to “stick” them. That was really the point I was trying to make.

I have zero problem with this:

In fact, I think it’s exquisite. I admire the discipline it requires. I dig it. It is one beautiful expression of a sadhana. It’s just not my expression.

I’m not calling for people to disavow advanced asana. I’m calling for people to invest in what’s truly valuable to them–whether that includes advanced asana, or not.

Anyway, I’m not complaining about the Yogadork comments. I’m not outraged.

I’m interested, I guess.

The internets are very, very interesting.

May 9, 2012

Being an Asana Rockstar Doesn’t Necessarily Mean You’re Not an Asshole

This post is overdue.

I’ve been wanting to have a conversation about asana–the bendy stretchy stuff that happens on a yoga mat–for a while now.  Specifically, I want to talk about advanced asana. Advanced asana is the hard stuff. Y’know:  freestanding handstands, floaty armbalances, super deep backbends. It’s foot-behind-your-head kind of stuff. Jaw dropping demonstrations of physical prowess. The visually impressive.

Honest to god, just writing about feats of physical accomplishment, I’m yawning.

The truth is that don’t care all that much about physical virtuosity these days. To be really honest, I care less and less.

For over a decade I chose to be part of a community that, in my opinion, put far too great a value on the pure  physical prowess. Want to get close to the man behind the curtain? Better make sure you can stick your handstand on demand!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti physical prowess. I’m just pro reserving the right to decide for myself how much value to place upon it, and reserving the right for you to do the same. I’m a lot more interested in doing my best to live with integrity than I am in standing on my hands.

I’m not even suggesting that living in integrity and standing on one’s hands are mutually exclusive. In fact, I’ve actually invested a fair amount of time in learning to stand on my hands–something quite unnatural, and difficult, for me. I still give handstand a whirl most days that I practice. But I don’t spend hours and hours on it because, well, I just don’t care all that much.

It’s not that I don’t care at all. It’s just that I care to the degree that I do–neither more nor less.

Do I think a disciplined practice of physical rigor can offer insight and make spiritually, emotionally stronger, less rigid, kinder, more aware people? Yes. Do I think it automatically does those things? Not on your life.

Fact:  some of the biggest assholes I’ve ever met have had some of the most physically impressive practices I’ve ever seen.

(No offense intended to the physically proficient. Some of the loveliest people I know have advanced physical practices, too.)

I want to be really clear that I don’t object in the least to anyone caring about physical prowess more than I care. I am not suggesting that it is somehow superior–or more spiritual–not to care about physical mastery. What I object to is mistaking physical prowess for doing the work of determining what value it has for one’s self. I object to mistaking physical prowess for being a yogi–or even just a decent human being.

My burning interest in yoga lies in being a Nancy Drew of Consciousness. I yearn to sleuth out every crazy, beautiful, fucked-up part of myself–and of this crazy, beautiful, fucked-up world–and figure out what it’s good for. I came to yoga because I wanted tools. Now I have them, and I am passionate about sharing them. That’s what gets me out of bed in the morning.

I practice asana because I need to move my body, and its particular way of moving the body with the breath works magic for me. It moves my blood. It shifts, for a while, my focus from mental chatter to embodiment. It reminds me of my creaturely nature. It emphasizes that I am a physical being every bit as much as an intellectual being. The physical invites additional inner experience. It pushes back against my tendency toward ennui. 

It just makes me feel better.

That’s more than enough for me. That’s plenty.

Part of a good working definition of yoga, as I see it, is knowing the value of things. What do I want, and how much do I want it? What am I willing to invest in it? An investment of resources–of time, effort, breath, money–in something that’s valuable to me–a practice, a relationship, a passion–is a good investment. An investment of more resource than something is actually worth to me is a poor investment. Failing to invest in what matters to me would be another poor investment.

There’s a Sanskrit expression, “yatha tatha,” that means, “as much, so much”.  Know the value of things, including a physical practice, and invest that much. Not more. Not less.

I don’t care enough about rocking my asana to make a greater–or lesser–investment of time or effort. I won’t be logging in the hours on my mat to take it the to the next level. Instead, I will be busily becoming the best consciousness super-sleuth that I can be.

I’m not an asana rock-star, and I’m not planning to be.

There. I said it.

How much is advanced asana worth to you? How much are you willing to invest? What are you unwilling to invest? Speak up or speak out. Leave a comment below.