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My world on the surface is a canvas of colourful polka dots… and thrashing waves. “McYoga” is the brightest dot this week

By September 7, 2018 No Comments

A friend recently came clean with me.

I cannot read your blogs, no matter how hard I try. You lose me after the first few sentences. I find it hard to connect the many dots you draw.

He is right. I do have lots of dots. My world on the surface is a canvas of colourful polka dots, in fact. (If my friend knew the extent of the dot maze, he would be seriously reconsidering our friendship.) What appears to be random on the surface conceals an intricate network underneath. These dots come from a place that is beyond my control. I imagine it to be the depths of the ocean, where all is calm, serene, and peaceful. (Can you feel it?) Science has a name for it: the prefrontal cortex. The seat of wisdom for non-science speakers like myself.

I spent the first couple of weeks in August in the most beautiful place on earth, enjoying just as beautiful yoga classes. Everyday, I would make it a point to attend a different class led by a different teacher. 75-90 minutes of me time, diving into the bottom of my ocean, once or twice even reaching depths of equanimity lasting hours beyond the yoga mat. I may have even occasionally exhibited hints of patience with the kids and other true tests of nature.

 

The depth of my ocean is a place of equanimity and refuge.

 

On my last week of vacation, I made it a point to swim to the surface. Observation is an essential component of growth both as a yoga student and teacher. This thankfully was a dry experience involving opening my eyes and ears to study the yoga class: teachers, participants, and environment. I convinced myself that my observations were simply that: observations. In my view, judgment is a human flaw that has been the source of most evil in this world. When we judge one another, for whatever justification, we immediately downgrade and dehumanize the other, and in the process aggrandize and glorify ourselves. Simply put: when -I think- you mess up, I look good -I think.

So here is my caveat before I go on: I am aware I am judging. But this is not a personal attack on anyone. This is a lamentation of the modern-day McYogaing of a 10,000-year-old tradition, of which I am a willing participant.

Yoga is hurting people. On a fast-moving scale. It is no surprise that the practice of yoga asana (postures) touted as a healing therapy for musculoskeletal pain has in recent years instead caused a rise in injury, particularly in the upper extremities like wrists, forearms, shoulders, and neck.

The traditional downward-facing dog pose alone a common posture in every yoga practice if repeatedly performed incorrectly can cause serious physical, mental, and emotional damage. This yoga resting” pose is a very intricate, advanced pose that requires body awareness, correct alignment, and impeccable cuing. Contrary to McYoga downward dog practice, the legs and core are doing most of the work.

It is likely that one or more of the following has gone through your head in your first 1000 yoga classes:

Are you kidding me? [Looks around the class as the teacher continues to suggest a focus on the breath, a clearing of the mind (!!!) as you ease the body into this pose.]

I have gained so much weight, my shoulders cannot physically hold my mass and ass.

I need to workout.

I dont think yoga is for me.

I am never eating again.

Only 45 minutes of torture left.

50+ yogis and yoginis in one room. 50+ different ages, body shapes and sizes, and yoga experience. The teacher is expected to keep an eye on everyone to avoid permanent damage and find a way to make the class challenging enough for experienced practitioners and beginners at the same time, all the while looking fabulous [insert clothing brand], spiritual [insert beads/inspirational tattoos], and qualified [insert lithe frame and yoganese speak].

I find myself flailing on the surface of my ocean, waves beating loudly.

It is a certainty that all of the following goes through my mind:

The lovely woman in front is going to bust her shoulder. It is clear she is not resting, breathing, or surrendering to anything.

Why am I here? [Yoga studio and earth in general].

This man is warming up with a forearm stand before class. Hmm.

X looks like he is birthing a child in pigeon pose. The teacher is standing right next to him and not suggesting a modification.

Escape routes involve sipping water and/or going to the bathroom.

Why am I here? [Yoga studio and earth in general].

At least 50% of the people in the class are beginners. 75% have tight hamstrings. 100% are attempting a full split 15 minutes into the class.

Why am I here? [Yoga studio and earth in general].

Yoga makes us better human beings, better at living and being. It is also one of many traditions and practices that share the same gifts. I learned recently about a Japanese Buddhist sect that believes enlightenment can be achieved through long-distance running. I dont know about enlightenment, but I have had some really good ideas during some glorious runs. The process of learning is complex. It cannot happen effectively following the discipline of monkey see, monkey do / monkey speak, monkey follow / monkey dress, monkey revere. An average person cannot learn the piano by watching someone play. (Believe me, I tried. For 45 years.) I recently attended a class of a new fad of exercise where the music blared loudly, the teacher was admiring herself in the mirror silently, as everyone was expected to copy her moves. I thrashed on the surface of my ocean then too. Please see above for thoughts.

Forgive the yoganese speak, but the undeniable truth is that it is profound and ageless when absorbed deeply. Our body is a sacred temple. It is a gift we are given that we alone are responsible for. The prize of taking good care of it is immeasurable, invaluable, and sacred. That care means honouring every aspect of our existence, which entails speaking up, inquiring, and opening our hearts and prefrontal cortexes to activate the never-failing, innate intuition. We must not confuse suffering and a few beads of sweat with challenging ourselves.

Above all, it means honouring the uniqueness of us, including the clothing brand, beads, tattoos, and speak we choose because they make us feel good and better beings.

McYoga is no different from any exercise fad practiced superficially because it is fashionable. Exercise is good for everyone. Until we get injured and are forced to sit it out on the bench because it is done carelessly on a shaky albeit fashionable foundation.

Yoga changes lives. Learned well, it has the potential to upgrade our performance at life. Dont let yourself be exploited or fooled by incense and a few Sanskrit words appropriated to legitimize mediocrity.

I love my friends. They are my fiercest critics. Occasionally, I take their advice.

 

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