I have so much to say about my life today that I actually need to post twice on the same day! Well, maybe this makes up for the fact that I did not post on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
There is a nice little locally-owned coffee-shop on the ground floor of my apartment complex. It's a very pleasant thing to have, especially at this time of year: I get to have my espresso without having to venture out into the cold weather. As a matter of fact, I am actually sitting in the coffee-shop right now writing this post. I like to come here on days when I don't have to teach, and spend entire afternoons blogging, reading and writing.
The coffee-shop also has bathrooms right next to it in the hallway. Which is a great convenience. But sometimes, accidents happen. A couple of hours ago, I needed to go to the bathroom. I stepped in the bathroom, closed the door behind me, and, lo and behold, the toilet was clogged up with human excrement! (I'm not good with euphemisms, as you can see...) Thankfully (and somewhat mysteriously), the smell wasn't exactly over-powering (note to self: not all shit is equally stinky). I was able to stop my gag reflex before it even barely started forming at the pit of my stomach. Keeping my head turned away from the direction of the excrement, I pushed down on the flushing lever, hoping to exorcise this demon of stink (even though it really wasn't that stinky). That didn't help; in fact, it almost made the problem worst, because the water level in the toilet rose, threatening to spill its unsavory contents beyond its confines (of course; the toilet was clogged up. What was I thinking?!).
At that point, I decided that enough was enough; surely I had performed my civic duty by enduring the not-so-stinky stinkiness and attempting to flush the shit down. So I went back to the coffee-shop, told the barista what I saw, and asked if I could use the ladies bathroom. She very kindly agreed.
So what has all of this to do with yoga? After all, this is supposed to be a blog about yoga. Well, on a purely physical level, I am really convinced that doing deep backbends strengthens or allows one to more easily access the deep muscles needed to suppress the gag reflex. I don't know the exact anatomical reason for this, I just feel it. Secondly, on a more existential level, I think the practice helps one to be a little more present when shit hits the fan (no pun intended), so that one is not mastered by one's most immediate visceral reactions, and is at least in a position to try to do something to help the situation. Well, actually, I'll make a little confession here: After I stepped out of the bathroom, I remembered that there was a plunger right next to the toilet. If I had been more present, I would have been able to suppress my gag reflex even more, and use the plunger to take even more productive (again, no pun intended) action. But of course, I did not: I basically fled the scene.
All of this imbues me with even more respect for janitors and toilet cleaners in general: How can they face the same shit everyday? Well, okay, they actually face different shit everyday, but you get my drift. Perhaps toilet cleaning is also a form of yoga practice: Maybe being able to stare human excrement in the face without gagging/puking is just as, if not more difficult than doing kapotasana? Hmm...
Which brings me to another thought. Why do we find human excrement so uniquely repulsive? It might be because it is stinky, but that can't be the whole reason: As I mentioned above, not all excrement is equally stinky. I suspect that if by some miracle, all the excrement in the world were to suddenly cease to be stinky one day, we would probably still experience the same level of repulsion as we do today. And, what makes this repulsiveness even less explicable is the fact that it is produced by the human body. So we are basically repulsed by something that is produced naturally by the body.
Well, I have to interrupt this train of thought now, because I suddenly need to go to the bathroom again. Uh oh...