Small victories, distant defeats

Today — I mean, yes­ter­day — I made myself go to the fit­ness cen­ter on the first floor of my work­place and put in an hour on the sta­tion­ary bike and the ellip­ti­cal trainer. I had already put in a full day of work, plus an hour of online train­ing, so I told myself I could not let myself slide another day with­out get­ting some exercise.

Or I could keep going down to the base­ment garage  and drive off to restora­tive yoga class and chill out. But I would prob­a­bly talk myself out of restora­tive because I should really get my prana flowing.

So get­ting out of the ele­va­tor, I turned left, walked down a long cor­ri­dor and ended up in the fit­ness room., watch­ing the depress­ing news on CNN about Isreal/​Palestina and Ukraine and…  I worked up a sweat and did not attempt to read or lis­ten to music.

Then, I got home, had din­ner and found myself sit­ting in front of the TV, sucked into watch­ing Front­line: Endgame about our wrong­headed adven­tures in Iraq over the past decade. I wanted to go upstairs to do some­thing pro­duc­tive, or med­i­tate, or do some restora­tive yoga, or my pranayama, or my bed­time sequence of ten­sion releas­ing stretches.

But I sat there par­a­lyzed by the sheer grav­ity of America’s involve­ment in Iraq and the scars that it’s left on our men, this coun­try and the Mid­dle East. And in my small way, I had sur­vived that tragedy.

I finally climbed the stairs, sat in my study, and started office busy-​​work. Mid­night and I started writ­ing this blog. What can I write about?

I did not go to my yoga class today. I did put in an hour of aer­o­bic train­ing. I made appoint­ments to get new glasses and check my teeth. I did put in a pro­duc­tive day at the office, turn­ing another professional’s tor­tured tech­ni­cal prose into some­thing that made sense. I did not dis­cover any shin­ing truth in my journey. I did not fuck up the world in any trau­matic way. For most humans, that daily entry in life’s ledger would yield a profit.

Amen. Shalom. As-​​salamu alaykum. Namaste. Hallelujah!

Thieves in the Temple

This is not the first time that I’ve heard of theft in DC-​​area yoga stu­dios, but Amy Dara gives a first-​​hand account of con­fronting a team of purse thieves while teach­ing a class:

Maybe you’ve heard the chat­ter in the Wash­ing­ton, D.C. yoga com­mu­nity: there are two young women steal­ing wal­lets from stu­dents’ bags dur­ing yoga classes at D.C. Metro Area stu­dios. They’ve struck in Ten­ley­town, Bethesda, and Kens­ing­ton. They entered the stu­dio while I was teaching.

When stu­dents are on the mat, they are espe­cially vul­ner­a­ble because their focus is on their prac­tice, not their per­sonal belong­ings that may be stashed out­side the room, in the hall­way, in shelves or the dress­ing room. Stu­dio oper­a­tors may not turn up their alert­ness until the first inci­dent hap­pens; they trust their clients, too. Because most stu­dios have lim­ited space, it’s not always fea­si­ble to allow non-​​yoga items to clut­ter up the floor.

When I used to go to yoga in down­town DC after work, I arrived with my work para­pher­na­lia, includ­ing a lap­top. Now, I’ve got­ten into the habit of leav­ing my wallet, smartphone and non-​​essential items in my car when I go into the yoga stu­dio, not because of fear of theft, but a desire to lighten my load phys­i­cally and men­tally when prep­ping for class. Of course, that’s not pos­si­ble for peo­ple who don’t drive to class.

Some explaining to do….

What sparked my inter­est to get into frac­tured fairy tales as a writ­ing assignment?

Graphic: fairy godmother with wandI was raised on the Rocky and Bull­win­kle Show and I loved the “Frac­tured Fairy” Tale seg­ment. There are 91 car­toons in this series, all writ­ten by A.J. Jacobs (not the cur­rnt jour­nal­ist and best-​​selling author by that name), accord­ing to Brown­ie­locks. You can also find the orig­i­nals on YouTube. I loved the play­ful­ness with lan­guage and lib­er­ties taken with the stan­dard plots of the fairy tales. Just a quick Google search reveals many writ­ing prompts using the con­cept as a start­ing point, most for ele­men­tary school level, but not entirely.

In my teen years, I watched a Jew­ish come­dian (the face is in my head but not his name) who retold Bible sto­ries in a “frac­tured” style and I even took a few stabs at writ­ing comic scripts along those lines. It got me in trou­ble with sev­eral peo­ple in my dad’s con­gre­ga­tion who did not like the irreverence.

In col­lege, I ran into a free-​​spirited hip­pie who used ver­bal ren­di­tions of fairy tales to enter­tain young women (they loved him). I saw in him the seduc­tion of heroes, adven­tures, ogres and happy end­ings. As soon as our ways parted, I adopted the trick of telling sto­ries in fairy/​folk tale for­mat to influ­ence young women. I even used the fairy tale style in some of my poetry.

Years later, I returned to fairy tales after read­ing Bruno Bettelheim’s The Uses of Enchant­ment: The Mean­ing and Impor­tance of Fairy Tales. The Freudian psy­cho­analy­sis prob­a­bly served to put a more intel­lec­tual veneer on my fas­ci­na­tion for children’s sto­ries that tell big truths and hid­den plots. By then, I had my own kids. I bought a multiple-​​volume col­lec­tion of fairy tales from a fab­u­lous British mail-​​order book­store and read from them to my kids. The books still have their place in a book­case in my home.

This entry is turn­ing into a thread with beads knot­ted at dif­fer­ent dates on the time­line, half stream-​​of-​​consciousness, half the mean­der­ings of Googling ref­er­ences and char­ac­ters. What I really wanted to say is that I enjoyed the process of tak­ing a sto­ry­line and inter­weav­ing dia­logue and plot twists, tweak­ing the stiff orig­i­nal ver­sion to make it more res­o­nant to a 21st cen­tury mind. Update: for that mat­ter, each fairy tale can have so many ver­sions (bowd­ler­ized, sim­pli­fied, country-​​ and region-​​specific) that there is no real virtue in remain­ing faith­ful to the sin­gle plot. It is the story-​​telling that appeals to both the writer and the audience.


A fractured fairy tale: Rumpelstiltskin

I have not been writ­ing much here recently because other affairs are keep­ing me busy.  As a lark, I want to include a writ­ing assign­ment that I dreamed up for my work colleagues:

Frac­tured Fairy Tales: retell a fairy tale in the first per­son from the per­spec­tive of one of the char­ac­ters (Cin­derella, a bear in Goldilocks and the Three Bears, the wolf in the Three Pigs). To add another level of dif­fi­culty, the writer has to include ref­er­ences to all five senses in the nar­ra­tive (sight, smell, hear­ing, touch, and taste). The fairy tale plot only serves as a start­ing point, and the writer can alter it to adjust to the char­ac­ter or make it funny or shorter, or give it a mod­ern twist . The story may have a dif­fer­ent end­ing than the orig­i­nal version.

Obvi­ously, this task is a change of pace and style from writ­ing tech­ni­cal pro­pos­als, but that was the point.  I pulled “Rumpel­stilt­skin” out of a bag, and the writ­ing process took on a life of its own. I will save the expla­na­tion of why I chose this writ­ing assign­ment for another entry because this one is going to go a bit longer than post blog entries.

So here goes. Con­tinue read­ing

On year after yoga teacher training

This MSNBC arti­cle comes one year after I started my sum­mer inten­sive yoga teacher train­ing at Thrive Yoga.

Yoga teach­ers: Over­stretched and under­paid
In many respects – the low pay, the gig-​​based nature of the job, and the unpaid over­time – yoga is lit­tle dif­fer­ent from other free­lance pro­fes­sions in the new, service-​​based Amer­i­can econ­omy. More than one per­son inter­viewed by msnbc com­pared teach­ing yoga to being a part-​​time adjunct pro­fes­sor, with all the job inse­cu­rity and irreg­u­lar pay that implies.

The arti­cles dri­ves homes the mes­sage that it’s tough to turn yoga teach­ing into a viable pro­fes­sion in a com­pet­i­tive mar­ket­place. Obvi­ously, I decided that I did not want to pur­sue teach­ing even part time or as a fall­back option. I’ve made a cold­blooded deci­sion to work on a career track that builds on my accu­mu­lated expe­ri­ence and skills — and brings a salary and ben­e­fits. I am in awe of those who decided to fol­low their heart down the yogic path.

Too many distractions for my own good

This past month I’ve been absorbed in work mode, with a cou­ple of writ­ing assign­ments that  exceeded my ini­tial esti­mates and required over­time and week­ends. But that sta­tus has been com­pli­cated by the World Cup soc­cer (foot­ball) games that are avail­able in my employer’s break room. I’ve had sev­eral top­ics to write about for this blog, but I never had time to develop them, and it was more impor­tant to do yoga than write about it. So I’ve had to pri­or­i­tize my activ­i­ties and avail­able time.

I’ve became increas­ingly aware of how over-​​committed I ‘ve become: just to cite all the train­ing activ­i­ties that I have the­o­ret­i­cally lined up: (1) study­ing for the the Infor­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy Infra­struc­ture Library (ITIL) Foun­da­tions cer­ti­fi­ca­tion (part of my tech­nol­ogy refresh 10 years after get­ting my mas­ters), (2) tak­ing some online courses from to catch up with MS Office pro­duc­tiv­ity tools (my old job was still on ver­sion 2003, now I’m using 2011), (3) learn­ing to take advan­tage of Adobe Cre­ative Suite, espe­cially for online and e-​​publishing, (4) watch­ing some videos about some of the other soft­ware pack­ages I’ve invested in (the delu­sion that a few apps will make me more effi­cient), (5) tak­ing some online courses to revive my writ­ing and edit­ing skills (that’s what they pay me for), and (6) stop­ping the count there… because it’s become ridicu­lous. Even when I had idle time after leav­ing the OAS, I could not fit in that much time for skill devel­op­ment and self-​​improvement.

I’ve been able to tackle these tasks in fits and starts, in evening hours when I don’t have the energy or focus to get the most out of the courses. Reg­u­lar vis­its to yoga class and the fit­ness cen­ter have been my way to increase my capac­ity to extend my func­tional time and ward off the lethargy of brain work in front of a key­board. What’s clear is that I have to elim­i­nate my evening TV time, just as soon as the United States team is elim­i­nated from the World Cup.

DC Council to lay tax on yoga studios and other fitness businesses

The issue of how to treat yoga stu­dios under the DC tax code has come to the fore­front again:

Wash­ing­ton City Paper Yogis Go Mad Over Pro­posed Yoga Sales Tax
Although the pro­posal doesn’t just tar­get fit­ness stu­dios, the tax has been dubbed the “Yoga Tax” by peo­ple who oppose it. The Coun­cil gave pre­lim­i­nary approval this week to charge the city’s 5.75 per­cent sales tax on ser­vices like health clubs and tan­ning stu­dios that pre­vi­ously haven’t been sub­ject to it. The sales tax would also extend to bowl­ing alleys and bil­liard par­lors, bar­ber and beau­ti­cian ser­vices, car­pet and uphol­stery clean­ing, car washes, con­struc­tion con­trac­tors, and mini-​​storage.

Since this mea­sure is part of the annual bud­get­ing process for 2015, the time frame is going to make it hard to alter the deci­sions already made by the DC Coun­cil. Many crit­ics say that the mea­sure is a tax on healthy behav­ior, but yoga stu­dios are still busi­nesses that are sub­ject to other Fed­eral, state and local taxes. Mayor Vince Gray is a lame duck and has already lost a lot of his pet ini­tia­tives so he could not influ­ence this deci­sion one way or the other.

There was also an arti­cle in the Wash­ing­ton Post. Here’s the Face­book page of the cam­paign against the new “yoga” levy.

Yoga, kirtan and the special child find a sangha in Sterling

I’ve been mean­ing to write an entry about Gita’s Dreama Kir­tan group led by Gita Krista Zem­ber and her hus­band, Christo­pher. It runs out here yoga stu­dio, BE Yoga, in Ster­ling, Vir­ginia (think Dulles Air­port). They hold chant­ing ses­sions at yoga stu­dios around the DC area, includ­ing Yoga in Daily Life in Alexan­dria and lil omm in DC. Last year, they par­tic­i­pated in DC Kir­tan Fest; there’s more to the kir­tan scene in DC than you might think. She picked up kir­tan in 2007 and it’s blos­somed into a root of her yoga prac­tice and teach­ing. Check out the sched­ule of per­for­mances; there’s a cou­ple of things almost every month.

“I now have a Yurt stu­dio out here  teach­ing Hatha Yoga, Med­i­ta­tion, Liv­ing Yoga, Reiki, Yoga for Chil­dren with spe­cial needs and a whole lot of Kir­tan! All of the money earned from our kir­tans is donated to girls in India res­cued from sex traf­fick­ing that I go visit and work with there in Kolkata.”

Gita is trained in the Kri­palu and Inte­gral Yoga tra­di­tions, and has been influ­enced by other teach­ers.  She leads yoga ses­sions for spe­cial chil­dren, which is def­i­nitely an under-​​served group.

I will add her to my DC yoga direc­tory as soon as I can. By the way, a yurt is a portable dwelling typ­i­cal of nomadic tribes of Cen­tral Asia steppes, but in the States it’s come to be an exam­ple of sus­tain­able buildings.

DC Yoga Week is upon us again!

It’s that time of year again: DC Yoga Week (9th time around). It stretches from Mon­day, April 28 to Sun­day, May 4.  The crown­ing event will be Yoga on the Mall, Sat­ur­day, May 3, 10:00 am – 12 noon.  It’s a big, pub­lic dis­play of yoga, led by some of the best teach­ers in the Wash­ing­ton Met­ro­pol­i­tan Region, as well as mas­ter teach­ers such as Shiva Rea.

You can find more infor­ma­tion on the DC Yoga Week site or its Face­book page. The event is orga­nized by the DC Yoga Com­mu­nity and 30-​​plus yoga stu­dios and instructors.

Other Resources

New yoga listing for DC

The Wash­ing­ton, DC area just got a new yoga stu­dio direc­tory: DC Area Yoga. It looks that it has been oper­at­ing since the start of the year, accord­ing to its blog. It also cov­ers well­ness and apparel. More power to them.

The oper­a­tors seem to have a rela­tion­ship with a Philadel­phia direc­tory and a Chicago one.  But if they want to feel inti­mated, just check out the other Chicago direc­tory and print mag­a­zine: illu­mine. It has more than 200 stu­dios listed, fea­ture arti­cles, com­men­tary and a newsletter.