Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Dancing and backbending; Has Ashtanga blogging jumped the shark? Is there even a shark to be jumped?

Practice this morning was... actually, I can't quite find one or two adjectives to describe how it was, so I guess I'll just describe what happened. Well, here's what happened. First, in Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana, I found myself dancing all over the place. The excessive amount of dancing today may have something to do with certain extraneous thoughts I may have been having in my head at the time, or it may not. Who knows? In any case, I kept dancing so much and losing balance on the first side (the side where you balance on your left foot with your right foot off the ground) that at one point, I almost started yelling at myself. I did not end up, because it would have been pretty silly: Just who would I be yelling at, anyway? A specific body part (which one?)?

Something very nice happened in Kapotasana. Today was one of the rare days when my breath in Kapo was (relatively) long, even, and unhurried. It almost felt like I could pull a Kino, and actually talk in an even tone while in the posture (have you ever seen that video where she talks you through Kapo while doing Kapo herself? If you haven't, you can see it here.).

In any case, my breath felt so even and relatively relaxed that I ended up staying in Kapo for a few extra breaths, just to see how staying in it longer would feel like (not bad). I also noticed that my inhale was longer than my exhale, and tried to lengthen the exhale; but I also tried not to try too hard, because with something like the breath, if you try too hard to make it one way, you might end up creating strain in the body and the nervous system.


Some time ago (it may have been last week, but I cannot be sure), somebody (I can't remember who) wrote a blog post on the question of whether Ashtanga blogging has "jumped the shark." I was going to to go read and maybe comment on that post, but it got taken down before I could do either (did somebody with clout in the blogosphere get offended?). But like a shark that would not stop swimming (are you laughing yet?), this question has stayed in my mind ever since. So, at the risk of offending somebody myself (like I have never offended anybody...), I have decided to blog about it myself.  

In any case, this is how Wikipedia defines "jumping the shark":

'In its initial usage, it referred to the point in a television program's history when the program had outlived its freshness and viewers had begun to feel that the show's writers were out of new ideas, often after great effort was made to revive interest in the show by the writers, producers, or network.

The usage of "jump the shark" has subsequently broadened beyond television, indicating the moment when a brand, design, or creative effort's evolution loses the essential qualities that initially defined its success and declines, ultimately, into irrelevance.'

Wikipedia also adds that this turning point usually occurs after a particular episode/installment/blog post where the show/magazine/blog's writers resort to some type of gimmick in order to try to keep viewers'/readers' interest (and fail).

Well, so much for pseudo-jumping-the-shark scholarship. The million dollar question here, of course, is: Has the Ashtanga blogosphere actually jumped the shark?

I'm not sure. I can only say a few obvious things here. I have recently found myself blogging less (say, once every few days, rather than everyday). There are a couple of things that can explain this reduced frequency in blogging: (1) While there is always news in the Ashtanga world to blog about (or at least report on), I don't find myself having much desire to do this (this is a blog, not a newspaper); (2) If I don't blog about things in the larger Ashtanga world (or the yoga world at large), I can always blog about my own practice. But while there is probably something I can say about my practice every single day, if I bother to sit down and think about it (like I just did in the earlier part of this post), I don't feel that it is necessary or even desirable to put my own practice under a microscope and dissect it for all the yoga world to see on a daily basis.

I could also, if I want to, turn this blog into a sort of space where I blog in general about all things "spiritual", whatever that means. But then it will probably become this toothless entity that talks about everything and nothing at the same time. And who wants that?

So I guess what I'm saying is this: If there is a connection between a reduced frequency in blogging and the quality of the blog itself (and by extension, to the quality of the blogosphere to which the blog belongs), then perhaps it is true that Ashtanga blogging has jumped the shark. By the way, I have also noticed that a few prominent Ashtanga bloggers have also seemed to reduce the frequency of their blogging. I'm not sure what their reasons are for this reduction, so I shall say no further. But I can at least have the dubious comfort of not being alone in my... plight (?).

But perhaps frequency has nothing at all to do with the matter at hand. Perhaps we are blogging less, but continuing to produce blog posts of high-quality ("Yoga in the Dragon's Den... a reliable producer of high-quality blog posts since 2010!" Cue catchy-sounding jingle.). Well, I don't know about that...

Before I stop ranting and let you go, I'll like to leave you with one more thought: Is Ashtanga blogging even supposed to be a creative endeavor in the first place? Although I like to think so in my more grandiose moments, in my more sober moments (which are not many), I have this nagging feeling that all Ashtanga blogging is is an informal extension of our practice: The Ashtanga blog is supposed to serve as a sort of honest mirror/journal of things that come up in the course of practice. People read the blog, comment/respond to it, and from there, the Ashtanga blogosphere is formed. Seen in this light, any creative activity is at most a byproduct of this honest reflection and journaling. And if Ashtanga blogging is not a creative endeavor, how can there be a shark to jump over?  

Ah well... What do I  know?


  1. The Ashtanga blogging jumping the shark idea was one of mine Noble. I wrote it after seeing that a post elsewhere on Ashtanga and music had received 72 comments. Ashtanga and Music, groan. Plus I'd petty much stopped posting anything of my own, mostly just sharing videos or guest posts, I'd start a post and then not bother to finish it. Thought perhaps it was all getting a little old and asked the question if there were any original Ashtanga voices out there with a new take on the practice or approach to reflecting on it. But then I thought tha perhaps sounded critical of all the other Ashtanga blogs when I was really mainly questioning my own....so I took it down so as not to offend friends........had a picture of the Fonz and everything.

    1. Actually, I remember it was your post, Grimmly; I just didn't want to "out" you without your consent, since I wasn't sure if you wanted to be "outed." :-)

      But yes, I do hear your groan about Ashtanga and music; but then again, I have written similarly if not more plebeian posts in the past, so I should probably not be so harsh on others...

      Ultimately, I think the only way to have a new take on the practice or a new approach to reflecting on it is to talk about your feelings about practice as honestly as you can. But I don't think one can do this everyday without dissecting the practice to death, or adding a certain spin on things that wasn't in the original experienced phenomenon. Actually, come to think of it, this is one major reason why I have been blogging less of late; I felt that I had gotten to a point where I couldn't resist the temptation to add a certain spin on things just to get people's attention or to generate some discussion.

      Perhaps, in the end, authentic Ashtanga practice is Wittgensteinian in nature: "Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent."

      See, I'm putting a spin on things again, courtesy of Ludwig :-) Oh well.

  2. Thought you probably knew it was mine, thank you for being discrete : ) Wasn't really being critical of the Music post it was fine of course but somewhat of an epiphany all the same. But your right, this only makes sense if we write honestly about our own encounter with the practice and not think or worry too much about the sensibilities or interest of the reader.

    Never bought into that Ludwig quote ( why are all his best or at least pithiest quotes in the first book ) what else should one seek to speak about if not that which cannot be said, why just say what can be uttered over and over. Perhaps that's where it gets interesting, after we've written about kapo to death and whether you should or shouldn't wear tiny shorts or start 2nd before coming up, perhaps then we get to consider....to throw the dust of words in the air and discern if nothing else the merest outline of the sacred in our practice.......but hey, about those yellow shorts, too much? oh And yeah you do get to do 2nd whether you can come up or not...just sayin'.

    1. "...perhaps then we get to consider....to throw the dust of words in the air and discern if nothing else the merest outline of the sacred in our practice......."

      Nicely said. Perhaps the Ashtanga blogosphere is now at the point where the dust of words is in the air, and we are all waiting for the dust to settle and see what emerges.

      At any rate, we can hope :-)