Saturday, February 16, 2013

Fear and loathing in Bozeman, zombie brains and human brains

I'm now in Bozeman, Montana, attending Randa Chehab's workshop at Down to Earth Yoga. Randa has recently returned from her annual studies with Lino Miele in Kovalam, and is sharing what she learned with us in this workshop. Randa is a person who is real, full of zest for life, and also full of stories. I won't share any of her stories here, not because they cannot be shared, but because I don't feel like relating them now :-)

This morning, we did led primary to her count. Unlike Sharath's vinyasa count, which is very brisk, her count is very deliberate, measured, and almost melodic. I'm not sure if this is how Lino himself counts, or if it's just her. Although the substance of the count is the same, there are nevertheless a few interesting differences between Lino's count and Sharath's. For instance, in Baddha Konasana, Sharath counts you into Baddha A, then Baddha B, then you lift up and jump back into the vinyasa. With Lino, however, there is an additional five breaths (Baddha C?) where you just sit upright in Baddha Konasana, before you lift up and jump back. I actually like this way of doing the posture. Gives you an extra five breaths to open the hips some more. Besides, when in Rome (and Lino, incidentally, is Italian), one should do as the Romans do.

Another interesting difference is that Lino incorporates pranayama into the finishing padmasana (just before Utplutih). What this means is that the ten breaths in padmasana are long breaths: Five to eight seconds inhale, five to eight seconds exhale, with a brief breath retention in the space between inhale and exhale, and between exhale and inhale. I have a feeling that Grimmly would have liked to be at this morning's session :-)

And actually, I think I got a high from doing this pranayama. After the session, I went to the local co-op to get something to eat. After I had finished my food (roasted potatoes with rosemary, assorted fall vegetables, and kale), I suddenly felt very, very calm. It kind of felt like I was sitting at the bottom of the ocean floor, and everything and everybody around me seemed to be moving just a little slower than usual. I just sat there for a few minutes, looking into space, not feeling like getting up. Eventually, I made myself get up, because I had this feeling that people around were starting to think I was a little... out of it. I think this "deep ocean" sensation may have been induced with that pranayama thing we did in padmasana, because that is the one biggest thing we did that was different from my usual practice, which actually does not include pranayama at all. Well, actually, come to think of it, maybe it could also have been induced by that unusual drink (some kind of infusion made from the flower of the Hawaiian kona coffee plant) I had with my food. Well, who knows? ;-)

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In addition to the workshop, I have also been spending my time here at Bozeman reading zombie literature. Yes, you heard it right. I'm not usually a fan of horror novels, but I picked up this book, World War Z, at a bookstore in Pocatello the other day, and haven't been able to put it down since. It's about a mysterious infection that originated in China (seriously... I think China is becoming the new boogeyman of American pop fiction) which quickly kills off its victims, and then reanimates them into flesh-eating beings with primitive brains carried around in what was once their bodies (i.e. zombies). The Chinese government, as usual, tries to hush up and contain the infection. However, thanks to modern wonders like international travel and illegal organ trade (be careful: You may unwittingly become the recipient of a zombie heart or a zombie kidney), and thanks to American complacence (most middle class Americans are too preoccupied with more immediate worries like paying the mortgage and having enough funds for retirement to worry about some distant infection from China, until it's too late...), the infection quickly spreads around the world, and soon becomes uncontainable. Before we know it, mankind finds itself finding a new world war (World War Z) against zombies.

A very compelling read this is. I highly recommend it. Oh, and here's a fun fact about zombies (you may already know this, anyway): Since zombies are basically dead people with (minimally functioning) brains, they cannot be killed by most conventional methods: Trying to destroy their hearts and other vital organs is useless, since they really don't need those organs to survive (they're dead, remember?). The only way to "kill" a zombie is to destroy its brain, either by blowing it out with firearms (come to think of it, if there really are zombies, wouldn't the NRA have a really good case?) or by smashing it to a pulp (there are many ways to do this; I shall leave this to your imagination). And this fun fact about zombies also lends itself to some interesting philosophical/existential musing. Consider this little speech by one of the characters in the novel:

"...why wouldn't destruction of the brain be the only way to annihilate these creatures [i.e. zombies]? Isn't it the only way to annihilate us as well?... Isn't that all we are? Just a brain kept alive by a complex and vulnerable machine we call the body? The brain cannot survive if just one part of the machine is destroyed or even deprived of such necessities as food or oxygen. That is the only measurable difference between us and "The Undead." Their brains do not require a support system to survive, so it is necessary to attack the organ itself."

Hmm... are we really just brains "kept alive by a complex and vulnerable machine"? If this were true, why do we spend so much time doing things to the body that are not, strictly speaking, necessary for its functioning to keep the brain alive (putting on makeup, wearing nice clothes, "looking presentable", etc., etc.)? And, by the way, do we do yoga only in order to keep the body functioning to keep the brain alive? I doubt it...

Anyway... I don't suppose you were expecting to hear this long-drawn-out treatise about zombies and the human condition. So I guess I'll stop here. Oh, and by the way, if there were ever a zombie invasion, Montana and Idaho are probably very good places to hide out. Zombies, as you know, move very slowly and have limited mobility compared to humans (which kind of makes me wonder why more humans aren't more successful in running away from them). Which means they can't climb. Which means mountains are good barriers against them. Another fun zombie fact :-)               

16 comments:

  1. Speaking of Zombies: have you watched "The Walking Dead"? I rarely watch TV and I normally don't like Zombies, but I started watching this and I literally can't stop watching (I'm at season 2 now)... it's so bad, I even go to bed later than usual to watch one more episode and risk a visit of the Ashtanga police :-)

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    1. No, I haven't watched "The Walking Dead". But I think the Ashtanga Police will forgive this transgression: Watching zombie movies is preparation for a possible crisis; or maybe it's more than possible. Maybe China really is covering up something...

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  2. World War Z coming this summer starring Brad Pitt. In the trailer those zombies move really fast.

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    1. Yes, I heard about the movie version coming out this summer... I haven't seen the trailer, but from what I have heard so far, it seems more like a Brad Pitt vehicle than anything else: for one thing, it seems that the script has been altered to make it more action-packed (including the fast-moving zombies). So, well, I'm not particularly enthusiastic about watching it...

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  3. I gather the variations you talk about are the original forms. Our teacher does both (BK C with a dandasana back/neck) and a 30 count pranayama before Utpluthi. Someone more knowledgable could confirm.

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    1. Interesting, I did not know about the original forms. Thanks for sharing. As for pranayama before Utplutih, see my latest post about the addendum to this post.

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  4. Not More knowledgeable but agree that bk c is original form. We do it too.

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  5. Yes- BK C is original form - we do it too.

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    1. Thanks for chiming in here, Anon.

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  6. Kristina Karitinos Ireland my main Teacher in Greece, she is teaches the Baddha Konasana C, which i find it so good as when i come back from B i feel very very deep connected with my breath and the C gives me the time to really stay still and deep with my breath while the prana fully cross up and down my spine.. Nadhi Shodana Pranayam comes right after the finishing breathing postures, is the way that i taught by my other Teacher ( who only i see him once per year ) Manju Jois. Is great to find a bit time before Savasana to apply pranayam, Nadi Shodana is the simplest one ( not with Kumbhaka , but u can also apply it if you wish )and strong purified one also! Om shanti

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    1. I love Baddha C as well. But for now, I have gone back to Sharath's count, which omits C, in order to "save" a little time to work on postures that I want to work on :-)

      Thanks for sharing about the nadi shodana pranayama. Interesting. When you say that "Nadhi Shodana Pranayam comes right after the finishing breathing postures", do you mean that Manju does it after Utplutih, just before savasana? Or do you mean that he does it while in the padmasana before Utplutih?

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    3. Good day Nobel,
      aaaah this time thing...i think maybe this is the thing that we have to work on and not the "correct"method or how many posture we can adapt in one practice. After all this practice is supposed that is to nourish you isn't it? Sorry , but yesterday i wrote something in my native language ( Greek ) for this thing "time in nowdays" and i am still overwhelmed..:)
      so,
      as far for what you asked, Manju in a led class is finishing with 5 breathing asanas ( 3 of them is not included in Sharath's order -as far as i know- ) , no Utplutih ( in the led class , as in the teacher's manual that Manju gives is included ) and then Nadhi Shodana just before Chanting and THEN Savasana..hmmm i think that i will make a blog post about that with a video from Manju's led class that i have recorded. I will let you know :-) Pranams Nobel

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  7. Baddha konasana is the cardinal hip opener. It has bearing on entire categories of poses. Compare with mulabandhasana for example. "Traditional" teachers will give it particular attention. Spending the extra time for five breaths for baddha konasana C is well worth it.

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  8. Great enthusiasm, interesting, and everything and everybody around not feeling like getting up.

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