Saturday, July 31, 2010


Yawn. Stretch. Mmmmmm. Yes, hello! I'm back!!

My unannounced blogging hiatus has been caused by a few things. First, I was struck down by a nasty tropical illness called dengue fever. Literally struck down - completely out of commission for an entire week, now recovering still, slowly but surely.

Second, I have been visiting the homeland. Canada. Victoria, where my paternal grandmother now lives, and island of my childhood summer escapades, and Calgary, my birthplace and where I lived until I went overseas at the age of 8.

Memory has a taste, bittersweet, strong and smoky, yet soft and infinitely complex like a fine full-bodied wine. We carry it in our own minds, but it flows deeper than that. It is in our blood, the collective memory of our ancestors, the culmination of the roads they travelled weaving the societies that shape us, coursing through our veins. A family photograph, my grandmother, my father, and myself, our heads all tilted at exactly the same angle, our faces reflections of one another. An evening spent with relatives unseen for years, uncovering the similarities that bind us through our blood: "oh, I do that too, oh, yes, that runs in the family". This land has always been my homeland but long not been my home. It is an alternate reality that nearly defined me - who would I have been, had I stayed? Yet some things do stay, like the knowledge of my ancestors - pioneers, prarie settlers, survivors of the long, dark winters. The sound of my own voice lapsing into an accent as familiar as a lullaby yet a surprise as it rolls off my tongue.

I am fortunate to have two living grandmothers, women who were born nearly a century ago. I cannot even fathom the change they have seen in their lifetimes - World wars, the depression, the cold war. The fall of imperialism and the rise of consumerism. The automobile, the airplane, the Internet. I am proud to be related to them, to share their blood, to be their legacy. Someday I hope to be in their place, watching from my favourite chair as the future
generations carry on, smiling gently as the world speeds away, knowing that a part of me lives on.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Wherefore art thou Yoga?

Ok, before we go any further let's clear up that old misunderstanding.  Juliet is NOT asking for the current location of her Romeo (this was, after all, the days before GPS iPhones and such).  She's asking "why are you Romeo".  As in, why is he a Montague and she is a Capulet, and therefore their love, instead of being joyous and free, is forbidden and doomed.  Deep stuff, that William Shakespeare. ;)

So what I'm asking here, is, what is in a name?

Lately I have been feeling that the yoga community has picked up a pattern of being quick to judge.  Maybe it's a natural consequence of how many different styles and opinions and trends there are in yoga nowadays, but for me, this train of thought comes from a few unconnected places:
  • An encounter with an Ashtangi whose eyebrows lifted sky high as I said that most days I do an abbreviated selection of primary series poses so that I can fit in my pranayama beforehand and still start work by 9.  Maybe I imagined it, but I felt that the look said "how can you call yourself a yogi if you would rather do pranayama than a full primary practice?".
  • Snippets around the blogosphere that label yogis according to things like what they wear or what gender/race they are... as if suddenly there is this entire demography of young white women wearing brand-name yoga clothes whose pursuit of yoga is somehow made invalid by their choice of wardrobe...
  • Supposed body-love sites on which people rant against thin women, as if they had done something wrong by being born small-boned, or by working hard to be slim and strong, and that this perhaps excluded them from spiritual transformation in some way.  Of course I take this personally because I just happen to be one, both by the random accident of my DNA (thanks mom and dad!) and with a fair amount of hard work added in for good measure, too.
So my question is, why do we find it so important to define our Yoga?  To put walls around it, to make it an include/exclude club?  Why do we feel the urge go forth and proclaim that x form of yoga is not true yoga while y most certainly is because...?

Is it attachment? Do we need to validate our own practice, our own bodies over those of others, in order to make us feel safe and strong?  Do we need to create superiority in order to justify our choices, e.g. not to wear or to wear brand-name yoga attire?

Is there any way that such things can contribute positively to the larger discussion on Yoga or are they like quicksand, a mass of confusion that sucks us in that we find it hard to get out of?

When I did my YTT my teachers emphasised a principle that I have always embraced here on this blog and everywhere in my yoga life, which is never to make negative generalisations about any other person's yoga, any other style of yoga, or any other teacher of yoga.  Keeping in line with the niyama of Satya, truthfulness, this stems from the notion that we cannot project our opinions as truth.

To give an example:  I may share with someone that I read a convincing article that doing 'hot' yoga does not really lead to greater detoxification than other types of yoga because the body does not detoxify through the sweat glands but rather through the inner organs.  That much is fact.  I did read that article and that is what it said.  But I would not say that hot yoga is therefore "wrong" in some way.  Actually, not only do I really not care if you do hot yoga or not, but if you like it and it brings you what you need, then I am absolutely happy for you!

Yoga really can be a community... But not while it is fractured, divided, polarised and happy that way.  Then again, every community needs a moral compass...  Think I need to bust out my sutras again, or my YTT late-night philosophy discussion notes. :)

This is a rather rambling post and unstructured.  I'm not trying to judge the judgers or blame the blamers, just trying to muddle my way through some of these thoughts.  Maybe it reflects more on me that I am so sensitive, than it does on the people I perceive to be judgemental!

Peeps, what do you think?  Does Yoga by any name at all still feel just as sweet?