First, a little practice report. I did full primary and second series up to Pincha Mayurasana this morning. Practice was great. And I did it on less than 4 hours of sleep: I went to bed at my usual time last night, but some agitating thoughts (too involved to go into here) kept me up for more than a couple of hours. So it's possible to have a great practice with very little sleep. Probably not something to be done often, though...
On a different note, I've been noticing that there has been a lot of... (how should I put this) sexualizing of yoga in both the blogosphere and in the mainstream media lately. At the risk of sounding like a highly repressed prude (well, maybe I am a highly-repressed prude, but if so, I am what I am...), I'm going to say that I find all this sexualizing both rather amusing and... unnecessary. I mean, I really don't see what all this sexualizing talk is supposed to add to our understanding of life and the practice (but then again, I might be a repressed prude, so what do I know?).
What are you referring to, you may ask. I'll give a couple of examples. The NYT style section, for instance, features a recent article by Emily Rueb about the experiences of yoga students and teachers with adjustments. The article opens by relating the experience of Claire Dederer. Remarking on the awkwardness with sexuality that can arise in a yoga class, Rueb writes:
"This is especially true in yoga class, where getting into a camel pose, for instance — thrusting your hips forward while kneeling — can feel, well, a bit “porny,” as Claire Dederer put it in the prologue of her memoir, “Poser: My Life in Twenty-Three Yoga Poses.” The self-consciousness that Ms. Dederer felt performing said porny poses is one hurdle that can get in the way of achieving inner peace."
Before I give you my humble comments on this passage, let me share another excerpt. This one is from a recent Elephant Journal article by Brooks Hall. In this article, Hall relates a couple of sexually-charged experiences she had during yoga:
"I remember discovering my nipples hardening in Warrior 2 (I was/am fascinated with how this yoga pose—shown in the above picture—activates the energy of my body!), and another time seeing a guy trying to persuade his boner to go down after a hands-on adjustment from the teacher in a Mysore-style (self-guided) yoga class. Yoga can be exciting on many levels.
Is sex totally removed from yoga and everyday life? Sometimes it seems as if that is what’s supposed to be true."
At the risk of being the yogic prude who is guilty of trying to totally remove sex from yoga and everyday life, I am going to stick a certain part of my body out (I mean my neck; gosh, what are you thinking?!) and say a couple of things. I respect everything that Dederer, Hall, and Rueb are saying. As I will mention later, I think that Hall, in particular, makes some very insightful points in her article.
At the same time, I have some... reservations about the above examples. I certainly can't argue with their experiences; different people have different bodies, and so feel different things in their different bodies. I'm just going to talk about my own experience with my own body. I have never felt "porny" (does this mean feeling like one is in a porn movie? Or feeling like one is a porn star?) in Ustrasana, or any other backbend. But now I'm starting to wonder if it might be possible for some people (or for me at some point in the future) to feel porny in kapotasana. I find that hard to imagine. When I'm getting into the posture, my body and mind are working so hard, that being "porny" is the very last thing on my mind. Well then again, I suppose anything's possible. For all I know, tomorrow's practice might feature my first ever porny kapo. I'll keep you guys posted on this.
As for nipples hardening in Warrior 2, I've definitely never felt that... but wait, I'm a guy! Okay, never mind, forget I said that. Again, I can't argue with Hall's experience, but it looks like in order for her second experience to happen, two conditions would have to obtain: (1) She would have to be looking pretty closely at said guy-with-boner, which would constitute a drishti violation (but then again, I'm not the drishti police...), (2) She would have to be looking so closely at a certain part of the anatomy of said-guy-with-boner that she actually notices the boner. Granted, not all boners are created equal. Some boners are probably easier to notice than others, for obvious reasons (need I say more?). But still, I would imagine that it must take a certain amount of attention to certain things (and a noticeable lack of attention to other things in the practice) to notice things like this. Or maybe I'm just missing out at all the action that takes place under the seemingly-placid surface of mysore classes. Well, as I said, I'm probably a prude :-)
But to be fair, Hall does make a couple of insightful points. She concludes the article by saying:
"Sex permeates life; we can use sexual energy for sex, or we can use it to fuel other passions like our good work in the world, but this energy is working in the background of all of life’s activities."
If "sex" here is simply another way of saying "creative energy", then it looks to me like the same point can be made by using the word "sex" only once. Consider this:
"Creative energy permeates life; we can use creative energy for sex, or we can use it to fuel other passions like our good work in the world, but this energy is working in the background of all of life’s activities."
Don't get me wrong: I have nothing against the word "sex" or sex itself. But maybe you already think I am a prude, and this isn't helping matters. Well, it is what it is... To me, all this just seems to reinforce the age-old adage: Sex sells. And yoga (and yoga-blogging) is no exception.