Saturday, January 15, 2011

A little practice report, and a follow-up to my previous post

Started my practice later than usual this morning. I usually start practicing between 6 and 6:30 a.m. on weekdays. My rest day is on Sunday, so I practice on Saturdays too. Having to start my practice later (woke up late this morning) made me appreciate the importance of starting early. When I start my practice later, it's harder to bring myself to the mat. There are all these voices in my head clambering for my attention ("Hey, it's already 10 a.m., shouldn't you maybe skip practice today, or at least cut it short? There are so many other things waiting to be done... You sure you have time for this Ashtanga thing?") When I start early in the morning, my mind is somehow quieter.

Did full primary today. The voices in my head started quieting down as I headed into the standing sequence, and the entire practice flowed smoothly and seamlessly. Still can't lift fully into handstand from navasana, but at least I didn't fall on my face :-) Will continue working on it.

Last night, I made a trip to the local Barnes and Noble to read that Yoga Journal article ("Measure for Measure") that Anna Guest-Jelley of Curvy Yoga was so up in arms about (I gave up my YJ subscription years ago). I really don't see what is so shame-inducing about the article. The article starts with the author making a trip to the office of Linda Bacon (yes, the Linda Bacon who is the founder of HAES; apparently, she's a nutrition professor at the City College of San Francisco, and also has a clinical practice as a health/body image consultant.).

Anyway, Bacon tells the author in the plainest terms what nobody has had the guts to say to her face thus far: She is fat. (Yes, she actually uses the "f" word.) This starts the author on a journey of self-reflection about her eating and lifestyle habits. She changes her yoga practice from an Iyengar-style-long-holds-in-postures-type-practice to a vinyasa flow practice. In the process, she listens to her body more, and realizes that she had been eating more food than her body needs (she realizes, for example, that she had unknowingly gotten into the practice of eating out of sheer habit rather than out of hunger). In order to change her lifestyle to one that is more in line with what her body needs, she starts to monitor and keep track of her food intake more closely; keeping a food diary, measuring out her portions (hence the title of the article). And she ends up losing more than 20 pounds. In the process, she also discovered that asanas which she used to find very difficult (twists, inversions, etc.) became much easier.

As I was saying, I don't see where the shame-inducing/humiliating part of the article is. If anything, the article is a nice blend of both yogic and scientific common sense. Somebody comes up to me and says I am fat. I can choose to blow that person off, or I can choose to consider whether what that person says is in any way reflective of the reality of my situation. Either way, I have to face the consequences for my choice. Choosing to blow somebody off for calling me fat isn't going to change certain very basic things about how reality works. Whatever words we choose to use to describe body shapes, the basic scientific truths remain: Biology doesn't care whether I am "fat", "curvy", "round-bodied", "chunky", "big-boned", "[insert your favorite euphemism]". The more pounds I pack on, the harder my body has to work, and the harder my body has to work, the more likely premature wear-and-tear of the internal and external biological systems will occur. We can choose to accept this basic scientific reality, and work with it as best as we can; or we can choose to deny this reality at our own peril. It seems that somebody we know may have chosen the latter path.          


  1. Yeah. Your last few sentences kind of sums it up. If I can elaborate on my last response to your previous post, one of the loveliest gifts that yoga provides is being able to be mindful about mundane decisions, such as what to put into your mouth and it's consequences. I was able to release 39 lbs. last year by asking myself what was the best food choice in order to ensure a not too painful half primary the next morning.

  2. hmmm...your last two posts have been swirling around in my mind a bit.
    As a scientist (in my day job I'm a biologist), I'm aware of the health consequences of carrying excess weight. Your posts point out the logic of doing the obvious, taking steps to address the weight by making better food choices, measuring out portions, etc. No problem, right?...simple, logical.

    ...except that I know from experience that food issues can have very deep roots....and that logic and common sense often don't take you far enough to get at those roots. I'm guessing that long-term food/weight issues are not issues you've ever met face to face., while I actually agree with you as far as the health consequences of carrying excess and the need to address it as opposed to living in denial, I also think you should give the girl a break until you've spent some time living her shoes.

    My practice has totally transformed my relationship with food and it really had very little to do with all the logical reasons to improve my health. It had much more to do with other deeply rooted fears and vulnerabilities.

    Thanks for digging in to topics that keep me thinking Nobel! ...and sorry this is so long. I'm inspired to write a follow up post and not take up more space in your comments! :)

  3. Hello sereneflavor, thanks for sharing. Yes, I think Kino said the same thing at her workshop too. In theory, it is possible for me to have a big steak dinner every night and then do the practice next morning. But then practice will be quite hard, because the body has to work so much harder. So most people who stick to a daily practice eventually end up making dietary and lifestyle changes that are more practice-friendly. It looks like this is exactly what you did. Wonderful!

  4. Thanks for your insights, Christine. Yes, I can definitely see that food/weight issues are probably much more deep-rooted and emotional in nature than they are logical/rational, at least as far as the person himself/herself is concerned. So yes, I think you are right that I should give people a break. I have just been going on a telling-shit-like-it-is spree recently, I guess...

    Hmm... I guess I have never had any really long-term weight issues (depends on what you define as "long-term"). However, for about 4 years (from the time I was 24 to the time I was 28), I was about 20 to 30 pounds heavier than I am now. That was before I even knew you. Then I started to work out (and then I encountered yoga), and I slowly began to lose all that excess weight. Hmm... maybe I should write a post on this. Or maybe I shouldn't: How many more people can I afford to offend? :-)

    I look forward to your follow-up post on this topic. Might help to take some of the fire away from me :-)

  5. Hi Nobel, Did you used to teach yoga at Sanctuary in Gainesville, FL? If so, I was one of your students.

    Anna Guest-Jelley

  6. Yes, I did use to teach yoga at Sanctuary. I'm now at the other end of the country (Moorhead, MN).

  7. P.S. Anna, if you are still going to Sanctuary, please tell Melissa I said hi.