Yoga being about unity, we’re all supposed to understand (and teachers more than anyone perhaps) that its gifts will be better distributed through community. Here in Newcastle, yoga teachers are starting to get together so that we can find out about each other’s classes and work collaboratively, sharing practice and recommending to practitioners the best classes for them. In this way we can make sure that there’s a class for everyone and that we can all work together.
How sad then to hear of a teacher knowingly disregarding this union by invading personal and teaching space with no attention to the respect for oneself and others that yoga actively generates. If we can’t achieve community and collaboration through yoga, what hope for everything else?
Although we mustn’t forget that ‘Namaste’ has a range of meanings, it is generally accepted as acknowledgement of respect, in both greeting and farewell. Let’s remember, then, every time we bow or speak it, to recognise respect – and then to walk the talk.
A friend of mine is reportedly most unhappy with me. Having recommended Ucci’s beginners’ courses to him, he turned up for his first class in a pair of baggy football shorts and I (allegedly, and most probably) looked disapproving.
‘Loose and comfortable’ is the common advice given to people wondering what to wear for their first yoga class. But ‘how loose?’ is the question. Yoga asanas require of us some unfamiliar postures. In an inversion, a loose top can reveal more than just the pound of flesh that Shylock was after and leave you thinking someone put the lights out. In aesthetic terms, gravity isn’t kind, and comfort as well as dignity and warmth can be maintained by some light lycra, perhaps sported underneath your favourite kit. But chaps, football shorts in dog tail or baddha konasana just aren’t kind to anyone nearby, least of all your teacher who is required to look at you to check that you’re positioned correctly. This concern only stretches to major parts of the anatomy. Really.
So I hereby apologise publicly for the offence caused by a fleeting (if rather chilly) look of disapproval. But better than the alternative I’d say, for all concerned. There’s no picture to go with this blog. Naturally.
Image courtesy of cranky caregiver. wordpress.com
It happened again this morning. At the end of the Today Programme (after the ‘real’ news) there was a feature on mindfulness in UK schools and its usefulness in helping young people to be aware of their conscious minds and of the stories they tell, and to be able to listen without judgement, focusing on the silences in between. (Actually, the Head who spoke about it claimed it to be more like a self-taught CBT but to be fair, it’s not an easy concept to understand or to explain in the briefest of broadcast moments.)
But it was the presenter’s attitude that I noticed the most – one John Humphrys, known for his misplaced assumption that listeners’ understanding would be incomplete without his take on the news he relays. He first scoffed at mindfulness as ‘some kind of yoga’, in a voice that betrayed his scorn, later expressing his incredulity that a practice aimed at improving young people’s thinking should be considered by the school head as ‘essential’.
Yoga classes are now so widespread that we could be forgiven for thinking that it has become a mainstream practice. But beyond asana practice, yoga’s philosophy still appears to be little more than madness at the margins. Mindfulness and meditation remain the preserve of the old hippie. What a pity. What a waste. What a relief for those of us who know. And what a job we have on our hands to encourage others to share our focus and our peace!
We’re still a very little start-up business but we’re trying to be ‘green’ and to keep our carbon footprint to a minimum. We’ve published our first book and all our suppliers have been local to the City. We’ve used paper only from sustainable resources, and as little of it as possible. And we’re just embarking on a fair trade project with Marzipants. We’re publishing the MyogaManual as an iBook soon (once the grim and painstaking reformatting is done) and are looking at an audio book/CD for our next publication. And pretty much all of our marketing is done via the web. Smugness isn’t something that sits well with yogis but we thought we were getting it right – at least a bit.
But now I read that the power consumption of one Google search is equal to half that needed to make a pot of tea (a figure contested by Google of course) and someone’s avatar in second life (and I tried this once so I know what it’s about) uses as much energy as a real-life Brazilian! Well I don’t know about you but I’ve yet to see a carbon footprint calculator that asks you to include browsing and parallel living in the estimate of the number of planets we each consume.
So, what to do? No bloomin’ idea. But I’m pleased to say that, as it’s Thursday again tomorrow, the afternoon will see us easing off on Google and using our quota of energy to heat the tea. And if we have more ‘board meeting’ cake, I’ll post a photo, wondering how much energy that consumes. And I used to think the biggest problem was the kilojoule . . .
Is yoga the most misunderstood practice in the world? Possibly so. The Daily Telegraph today, while commenting on yoga as a way of ‘toning the limbs and soothing the stresses of everyday life’, reports on the Vatican’s view that it is evil. And earlier this month, the same newspaper published an article entitled ‘green’ yoga teachers could kill’ – by putting students in ‘life-threatening’ positions. At best, then, yoga is a sort of keep fit for the burned-out-at-work brigade; at worst, a Satanic ritual. And either way it’s dangerous.
What exactly is it we’re afraid of in this most compassionate practice that brings a shared experience of peace, wisdom and contentment? How can we, from within our fast, mindless, competitive and materialistic worlds belittle ancient wisdoms that aim only to improve the quality of our collective lives?
I’d recommend to anyone who is tempted to follow the poor thinking behind this media coverage to do two things: (1) Read ‘How Yoga Works’ by Gesne Michael Roach and Christie McNally and (2) Roll out your mat and get on with it.
Choose compassion. Because you deserve it.