Thursday, September 3, 2015

Ashtanga, being beautiful in an 80s kind of way, yamas and niyamas

Earlier today, I had just finished teaching my morning class at the University. Walking down the hallway toward my office, I overheard one student telling another student that her sister has a flat butt, and that somehow made her beautiful "in an 80s kind of way." I, of course, have no idea what it means to be beautiful in an 80s kind of way, although I think having big hair might come into the picture at some point.

I also just read Erica's latest post at Ecstatic Adventures of the Exuberant Bodhisattva. In it, she talks about how her pen pal is worried that practicing Ashtanga will make her butt disappear. I now have this mental image of a person with a missing butt wandering the streets of some major Canadian city. (Headline in a major Canadian daily:" Ashtanga did this to me...").

But anyway, put what I said in the last two paragraphs together, and what do you get?... Ashtanga makes you beautiful in an 80s kind of way! Now, do I have a flat butt? Is it disappearing? I'll go look at the mirror after this...

**************

Speaking of Erica, I skyped with her on Monday night. It was very pleasant. From her, I learned a lot about her wonderful time in Mysore, and about Sharath's charismatic presence. She updated me about a lot of the gossip that is going on in the Ashtanga Facebook-Twitter-sphere. A lot of this news is really new to me, as I don't have either a Facebook or Twitter account. No particular reason for this; I just never felt motivated enough about being a part of either social media community to make myself sign up for an account.

Anyway, the gossip was interesting, and it showed me that we Ashtangis like to gossip just as much as anybody else on the planet. In fact, we can probably hold our own against the most vociferous marketplace/workplace-water-fountain gossipers. Nothing wrong with that. I think gossip is like the verbal equivalent of junk food; indulge, but don't indulge too much, and certainly don't consume only that to the exclusion of all other sources of intellectual nutrition.

But since this is (still officially) a yoga blog, I also need to play the being-a-PC-yogi card, and pose the eternal question: Does gossip violate any of the yamas or niyamas?... Argh, how the hell would I know? Am I a yogic sage? And speaking of which, what is so bad about violating some of the yamas and niyamas at least some of the time anyway? Ernest Hemingway, for instance, was really into bullfighting and drinking a lot. I don't know about drinking a lot, but bullfighting certainly violates ahimsa. Now imagine if Hemingway were to take up yoga during his lifetime and then decided to give up watching or writing about bullfighting because he wanted to be a good yogi and observe ahimsa... wouldn't that be a loss to the world? Can you imagine The Sun Also Rises minus all the bullfighting and bullfighters?

So what am I trying to say? Maybe the yamas and niyamas are a bit overrated? Ha! That's probably why I've kinda stopped blogging seriously about yoga for such a long time... maybe, in some corner of my mind, I've always had this suspicion that as wonderful as yoga may be in many ways (which is why I am still practicing), there's really such a thing as too much of a good thing, even with yoga. Maybe a universe with some ahimsa violations in it is a better place than one in which everybody is a perfect ahimsa-observer?...

What do I know? :-)   

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