Yoga: A Simulation*

Yoga: A Simulation*

&How to live in a human body … maybe. 

…i keep going back and forth on all of this social media nonsense, as well as on all of this yoga nonsense on social media. And if you are a wonderful yoga light aka a yoga teacher, please do not read this as my insistence that yoga teachers are unnecessary, absolutely not. If anything, the world needs a yoga teacher in every home. This does mean, however, that not all yoga teachers, perhaps, should make money teaching, but since the scales have been tipped for so long in white yoga’s favor, I have nothing to say about an abundance of yoga teachers except, “Support Black Yogis, and Support Black Lives.” 

This is merely an expression about my personal relationship with and to yoga. I never hope to speak to yoga as if “this is how it should be.” Absolutely not. I merely share in the name of shedding light on yoga for anyone who has or does see the practice in a similar way as I did, in hopes that they will, in turn, pick up the practice. If anything, this is another one of my attempts at persuasion, to practice yoga. 

What I am realizing now is that the very sad story of yoga in the United States (and generally speaking, i’m speaking of “the West,” but i am neither an expert nor researcher nor general carer about #facts regarding yoga because i care too deeply for my own opinion, i.e. i’m too lazy to do the hard work, so i’m going to rely on my own simulation) is a story about poor mass-marketing. 

From my perspective, yoga is/was (of course, i feel as though i’ve always been aware of yoga’s existence as some esoteric spiritual thing for monks, etc., but my first hardcore intro into yoga was through corepower yoga, circa 2008, and after a quick google, i just learned that it was founded in denver, the capital of the state in which i was attending college at the time, so that makes sense) a way to get fit through stretching. Easy enough, I’m flexible. Yoga seemed like whatever good metaphor comes to mind when something fits seemingly perfectly. 

But right from the get-go, I was thoroughly turned off. To this moment, I still cannot quite put my finger on the “problem,” or if there even was one. I just hated it. In class, I felt as though there was some sort of ideology revolving around some sort of spirituality but what any of it was or is or meant or anything was never really explained or even talked about. You enter a warm, dark room, inevitably lit with candles, the faint sounds of sounds that resonate peace, with a large mirror (why?), spread your mat out on the floor with some consideration for the other people sharing the space, everyone eyeing everyone else’s ability to buy the most_expensive_mat plus mat towel plus mat water bottle plus mat pants, etc., etc., &c.!, then someone guides you through a series of stretches while they om and whisper and attempt to create a space of peace and calm, maybe?, and mindfulness, but sometimes a pumpin’ beat and weights defines the hour. 

It all seemed like incongruous hogwash. 

And then, the rise of the yogi influencer. 

This caused more problems, I think, for the marketing of yoga. It seems as though, if you’re a woman, in search of a slim (nearly anorexic, imho, and always white, and don’t come at me with your “white passing” bc the reality is, is that if you’re able to dye your hair yellow, and think to yourself, now i’m beautiful, you’re not white passing; you’re white washing) flexible body, then do yoga!

Yoga is for the perfectly flawless who have so much disposable time and income that they need to make up new ways to create hierarchy. Obviously, I’m exaggerating, and I’m not trying to hurt anyone’s feelings. I’m trying to share my perception of yoga, yogis, and the ones who “influence” on social media. If I’m being judgy, then I apologize, but this is not my intention. My intent is to share in the name of learned experience, so that we may all create a social media yoga world, for the better, and shape it in a way that will service the wholly enormous ideology that is “yoga.” The sad fact is that social media is not going away any time soon. Perhaps reform will come, but for now, enough of us will continue to use the platform to keep it viable. If we were to all quit in enough numbers, we could “boycott” for change, but…I digress.

To this day, I still feel as though I know very little about the practice of yoga, and that’s because there’s a lot to know. It’s not one thing, and it’s not even the same thing for every person who practices it. This, at its core, is the fundamental, foundational issue of yoga on social media (not to mention the expressed documentation by Kino MacGregor in her book, The Power of Ashtanga Yoga, that [begin quote] My ninety-three-year-old master Jois once said in a group conference in Mysore, “Yoga is changing. Now some women are very strong. Correct asana performing is possible. Before, not possible. Now possible. All women are doing all asanas correctly.” [end quote p 173] … to which i wonder, “So women have never been allowed to strive toward enlightenment? Dammit. Same old patriarchy as every other everything in human history.” MacGregor does not specify her feelings about this quote, whether it projects an opening of her guru’s mind toward the equity of women [ironic] or if she felt betrayed or something else entirely. i’d feel betrayed, but i simulate).

The other, obvious, foundational problem is that in order for any sort of practice to continue, there must be teachers, but in order to have teachers, there must be text (in this 21st-century life, because of course, oral tradition has almost died, for better or worse, your opinion is yours, and i don’t care), and in order to have text, there must be … experts, e.g. gurus, i.e. people worthy of your money (or loyalty) for their time. In other words, something is for sale. 

Of course, capitalism would destroy the intent and purpose of any spiritual practice. That’s obvious. What’s less obvious is that these practitioners, students, teachers, gurus alike are all in on it. That almighty and oh-so-pleasurable circle jerk. Yum. I did not say “all,” so do not accuse me of saying “all yoga practitioners, students, etc.” The reality, on social media (the context in which i ponder yoga), is that most are in on it, the capitalistic aspiration for social media influence. #sad (but #genius)

There’s no quicker way to gain power and influence than by peddling religion, spirituality or some WAY into a “top” (again, that damn hierarchy) position in the “afterlife.” Again, whether or not you have a religious/spiritual belief is none of my business, and quite frankly, I don’t care. There are shitty people of every belief system. 

The next wave of yoga, however, is here. It is yoga for every body, because at its most basic of nut graphs, this is how I would phrase a more appropriate tagline for yoga: How to Live in a Human Body. 

The fact that some skinny white girl can fold herself into a pretzel, in a bikini, on a fake beach somewhere she was paid to fly to, is not what makes yoga awesome. #sorrynotsorry 

What makes yoga awesome is that someone (more likely, many someones all over the world at various times during prehistory and that weird time when we know things but don’t really know bc nobody really wrote anything down) took the time to really think and workout ways to make the body feel really good, run optimally, and be equipped for daily life. That’s awesome. That’s amazing. And it’s incredibly useful information that you would think we would all be equipped with from the time we enter kindergarten so that we’re not all bickering monkeys because our hamstrings are tight which is causing lower back pain that has turned into full-blown diarrhea making us very very unhappy, uncomfortable, and downright pissed. 

When yogis talk about how yoga makes the world a better place, this is what they’re talking about. They’re not talking about how the world will be better once we’re all skinny, flexible white women. 

They’re saying that the world will get better the minute we all feel better. And unfortunately, we prefer not to work, which is why this sedentary life suits all of our minds. It’s terrible, however, for our bodies, and since we live in our bodies, a sedentary life is terrible for us and our minds.

This new perception of yoga has actually made me feel really grateful for my very active childhood. Some of us are taught how to USE our bodies through childhood sports and/or activities, and we then (some of us, i imagine, myself not included) inadvertently learn how to live in said bodies. I learned how to use my body from a very young age doing gymnastics, skiing, playing soccer, swimming, and dancing. This completely leaves out any family activities, which could be anything at any time when reared by an exercise-aholic and a person more content surviving in the mountains than living in civil society. By the time I entered high school, I was a snowboarder and dancer, that’s it. I was forced to try volleyball when I quit gymnastics (see exercise-aholic parent), but that lasted only as long as the negotiation stated. 

But even with all of this physical activity I grew up with and am very familiar with, I still benefit greatly from the knowledge of yoga practitioners. Yoga is not a noun. It’s a verb. Because really, you can yoga anything. Whatever it is that you’re doing, if you are doing it with all of your attention, with an intention (no matter how big or seemingly trite), with awareness of the fact that it is you in your body doing the thing that you’re doing, then you have yoga’d it. It’s that simple. 

And if you don’t quite know how to yoga your life, then you practice a series of postures and poses on a squishy mat or blanket or rug or carpet or soft surface (for the joints and general comfort of the body). You yoga your own self. You teach your mind how to live in your body, and in turn, your body how to communicate with your mind. In this way, you become a whole person. Whether or not you can touch your toes hardly matters. You can yoga your cooking and become enlightened, if you ask me. You can yoga your real estate business and become enlightened. Obviously, there are some yoga paths that will help you reach your definition of enlightenment and/or peace that are better than others. But nobody can tell you which paths those are, except you. And that means you gotta get steppin’ and start practicing. 

Practice how to live in your body on yourself. You might be amazed at how feeling physically good makes you actually feel good. If we are our bodies, and we feel with our bodies, it’s good advice to learn how to distinguish between all of the differing feelings our bodies feel. This will also make you better at feeling all of those feelings we can’t physically feel but feel nonetheless. 

In the end, we all need to become better feelers and better thinkers, but it all starts with you and your body. If you’re miserable, you’re gonna make all of us miserable, too. But on the flip side, if you’re rockin’ and pumpin’ and feelin’ good, you just might make someone else feel the same. 

If for no other reason, learn how to live in your body by any means necessary and accessible to you. For me, practicing yoga works. For you, maybe it’s climbing mountains. The important thing, however, is that you bring your mind with you when your body does things, and when your body wants or doesn’t want to do things, it needs to know how to communicate with you and your mind that it does or doesn’t. 

When you feel good, it’s harder to make others feel bad. When you feel bad, it’s easy. I should know, I’m the one who’s practicing yoga as if her life depends on it. 


*as defined in The Mind Club: Who Thinks, What Feels, and Why It Matters by Daniel M. Wegner and Kurt Gray pp 99-103

It’s not yoga, until it is.

It’s not yoga, until it is.

…big, deep breath in…an accepting exhale out…

And now, I will be the first to admit that I have been flexible all my life (after gymnastics through my childhood, I turned to ballet during adolescence and young adulthood), and I had to reckon with myself a while back that I’m not “just flexible;” I have had to continue to work to remain flexible. But with that said, I am coming to a new reckoning, one of which I am far less proud. Okay, I am going to say it now…I’ve been using yoga as a means to an end and then, simultaneously, wondering why I am not feeling satisfied with “yoga,” in general, and honestly, I have come to an awareness that is bringing up a lot of things for me, namely: frustration, anger, confusion, bitterness, jealousy, rejection, etc., etc., etc., and the only happy thing I used to feel about yoga was my “progress”…my physical progress. Especially since I have never been a fan of the “spiritual” realm of yoga, I find now that the spiritual is unavoidable.  

For starters, my entire relationship with yoga was stretching every day so that I could reach the “heights” of those crazy contortionist “poses,” and with the proliferation of yogis on social media, my approach seemed like the point—when following westerners who perform yoga. Even the yogi whom I followed for years preached a simple lesson through her social media that seemed to say something akin to … stretch, stretch, stretch, work, work, work, and you will become flexible, better, more capable simply by stretching. Now, I know this is completely the wrong focus. Yes, I could easily blame the yogis who proliferate a bastardization of yoga. Yes, I could easily dismiss the situation entirely and delude myself into believing that I had it all right, and so, it doesn’t matter that I used to do yoga the “wrong way.” But what I’m realizing now is that I had it all wrong from the beginning. 

Toward the end of my university days, I began taking yoga classes to stay limber (dancing full-time no longer challenged me intellectually enough), and I hated them all, and the classes birthed within me a sheer annoyance at the whole system, the whole process. It always felt so fake, so contrived. So, I moved online. I watched a few YouTube videos and meandered through the IG yoga community trying to figure out not only what yoga is but also, what yoga can be to me. Ten years later, I am finally beginning to figure it out, with the help of my newly-discovered yoga light, Angelica Marie Wilson. Of course, I had no idea Angelica existed a mere two weeks ago.

After the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, which is now a new lifestyle for me, I scrambled to ditch the white yogi who made no effort to amplify the voices of her fellow yogis in need. Unfortunately (in my mind at the time), Kino MacGregor, a yogi at the top of the online yogi-sphere, about whom I have had a lot of opinions, did her duty and amplified about half-a-dozen black yogis she thought appropriate for her followers to follow (she could still do more promoting, imho, but I understand that she feels she does enough simply by being herself, and I am beginning to agree). Thus, Angelica

And then, I did the thing I thought I’d never do…sign up for (a free thirty-day to test out the process) membership to Kino’s online yoga site, Omstars. Obviously, I’ve known about the site for years, but it’s Kino, and I am not a fan, thereby, not a supporter. She has always felt a bit opportunistic, enterprising, insincere, as if yoga were a means to a wealthy end. But what’s wrong with that? I’m opportunistic and enterprising and probably insincere at times, but it’s yoga, and yoga is supposed to be…what?…exactly. 

After two classes with Angelica, I am beginning to open in a way that I have not really connected to through yoga and through my interaction with black yogis on social media. I am about to paint with a broad brush here (and I am no expert in anything, not yoga, not nothing), and I hope that it doesn’t tinge too brightly of racism, but I feel I must say it, even if I’m wrong right now, in this moment—white yogis focus on results—black yogis focus on process. As superficial as this observation may seem, it is only that, a mere observation, as I do not know any of the yogis I follow online, personally, but I can see it in the pictures they (both white and black alike) post, the types of photos they take, the image that they contrive or convey, the postures they choose and the lighting that goes optimally with each. 

And so, I suppose I do not really know what to say except, “Thank you.” Thank you to you, Kino, for being the way that you are because who you are is one who builds, and upon that platform, you’ve built more opportunities for yoga. I do not have to understand you, nor do I have to believe you or even like you, but it is my choice to have faith that you teach for the reasons that you say, and that you do what you do out of the goodness of your heart, for you truly know that yoga can change a life. But mostly, thank you, Angelica, for being the light that you are. Two classes in, and you’ve transformed my yoga practice and by extension, my life. I cannot hope to come to any further awareness or insight than I have today (in the “Crystal Ball of the Present” —AMW), but I am aware of my gratitude for the yogis who are here to guide me through life through light and a focus on all that is meaningful…through the process, with each posture a mere reflection of the work I’ve done on my mat. Thank you.

What day is it?

What day is it?

Welcome to |how.odious| Year Two, DAY ONE HUNDRED EIGHT, which happens to be Monday, February 06, 2017!

The day is actually, Sunday, but I am overwhelmed by the week’s forthcoming fiction quota and thus, have opted to write my [mediocre] Mundane Monday post today, Sunday, so that I can fucking focus solely on my fucking fiction production. *burp* Please pardon the obscenities, I am currently enacting a vodka-fueled writing session. Or don’t pardon them; I belch all sorts of obscenities on the regular.

As far as the past week is concerned, nothing much has happened. I did, however, officially begin my full 7500-word fiction quota per each metric week [ten days] with the first due date requiring 7500 words happening last week, on Thursday. I have to admit that it wasn’t actually as hard as I had initially imagined, but now that I know that, the ten-day quota will slowly become larger and larger until the ultimate end on July 2nd of this Gregorian year whereupon I must have, at minimum, 150,000 words of fiction for my second book, which will then be edited, tweaked, torn apart, and altogether unrecognizable. Ugh.

Oh, before I forget, I failed to write a coherent post last week due to inapproprio-city and the fact that it was one of the longest breaks for the lifemate, which always incites hardcore, drunken debauchery and a general lack of care for the responsibilities of adult life. Despite this, I was able to meet my fucking fiction quota! And I felt like a straight-up boss. Today, the feeling is less than desirable, since I haven’t written a single word of fiction since last Thursday. This is mostly due to a lack of inspiration and partly to do with my overwhelming laziness. I also have a pretty righteous cold, but that’s neither here nor there. The good news is that I have an idea and so, will get my ass in gear this week to pump out those godforsaken 7500 words due this coming Sunday.

Shit, I forgot to write the thing I wanted to write about before I forgot! My English student, SJ, stopped by my house last week to bring me a 설날 [Lunar New Year] gift! She and her family brought me a huge helping of black-sesame-covered rice cakes and her grandma’s kimchi! Both treats are of the utmost deliciousness! I can’t even express to you the amount of deep joy the reception of these two items of traditional Korean eats made me feel. A picture:

sjseollalgift01-17

The rest of our New Year celebration consisted of eating, sleeping, and drinking. We bought a shift ton of groceries to get us through the holiday, which essentially closes down the entire city for a few days, meaning open restaurants are hard to come by. And to think of it, we actually haven’t eaten out at a restaurant in like two weeks. I can’t even remember the last time we ate out. Snacks don’t count. We ended up making chicken soup on Friday and chili on Sunday in the crock-pot, quesadillas, fried rice, eggs benedict, chicken caesar salad, and other things I can’t remember now. Oh, we ate a lot of cheese. I can’t remember which movies we watched, and the lifemate’s too busy playing Titanfall 2 to help me figure out exactly what we watched. We exercised quite a bit too, which was lame but also refreshing. The holiday ate into much of last week, which was awesome, and then our usual routine and daily patterns filled the remaining days. On Wednesday, I started the @cyogalab February yoga challenge, #WallCall, last week and then promptly failed to continue, but I will finish it goddammit!

wallcallday01-02-17

 

Yesterday, I woke up around 0830 and got up around 0900, which was crazy! I played some online [fake-money] poker and ended my two-hour session 23,000 chips up!, woot woot!, oh and I also made myself a padded sleeve for my new Chromebook!

laptopcase2017upload

Then, we did an as-fast-as-we-can circuit at the park! Finally, the day ended with a trip to Lotte Mart to pick up more booze, french fries and dinner fixings! For dinner we had a pan full of mussels in a tomato sauce with rice and baked bread and watched two new [really bad] movies! It was fucking great! Wow, yesterday was really exciting!

Today has been a seriously lazy day filled with movies we’ve already seen before, video games, more drinking, no exercise, and some toast [the Korean version of a cheap white-bread sandwich]. The cat’s pretty happy too, ’cause we picked up new batteries for the laser pointer yesterday, so he’s been participating in a satisfactory release of energy. I guess that’s about it for this post, nothing too exciting or too boring. Yay!

I’ve already planned this coming week and must write 1500 words of fiction each day to reach this metric week’s quota, fuck! I actually only need to write about 1100 to hit the mark, but I’m telling myself otherwise in hopes of getting ahead of schedule and maybe having another day off from writing, now that I’ve already taken three days off this most recent metric week from writing the fiction. Ugh. *sigh* Ugh.

Okay, that’s all. Time to edit some pics, get some toast and make some 김치 찌개 [kimchi jjigae {like a stew made with kimchi, pork, tofu and some other delicious ingredients}] with SJ’s grandma’s kimchi!