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.

16 minutes of truth on broken bodies, healing, yoga

Yoga teacher Shan­non Paige deliv­ers a mov­ing TED Talk about her bat­tle against can­cer, depres­sion and the dam­age they brought to her body and mind. Her talk, Mind­ful­ness and Heal­ing, took place at the 2012 TEDxBoul­der event so it’s not seen a lot of expo­sure. She owns Om Time Yoga Cen­ter.

For Shan­non, the bat­tle with depres­sion was actu­ally as hard as bat­tling can­cer. Through this, Shan­non dis­cov­ers that while, yoga can’t heal depres­sion, get­ting into your body can change the mind and cre­ate a state of empow­er­ment, sta­bil­ity, and release.

Sharon also reminded me that I had failed to main­tain a dia­logue with myself and who­ever else wants to lis­ten to tales from the jour­ney down the path of prana. This will have to do for now.

Another bout of bronchitis confines me to home

On Thurs­day, my boss ordered me it of the office and back home because my cold threat­ened his health (we share a small office space). On the way, I stopped at an urgent care cen­ter to have a doc­tor look at my con­gested chest and sinuses, plus my swollen neck glands and fatigue. I was pre­scribed another round of antibi­otics and rest.

This win­ter seems to have been one long con­va­les­cence from bron­chi­tis, sinusi­tis and the whole immune sys­tem. I and my first round of antibi­otics in Sep­tem­ber, a sec­ond in Decem­ber, and then weak­ened con­sti­tu­tion. No won­der I’ve lost my dis­ci­pline for yoga prac­tice. I am always try­ing to pick myself off the fig­u­ra­tive floor.

Yoga as medicine gets a bad review

Brian Palmer is Slate‘s chief explainer and tack­les the claims that yoga is med­i­cine for many med­ical conditions.

Slate Does ther­a­peu­tic yoga work? The best stud­ies say no, but they don’t get much press..
Doc­tors even­tu­ally real­ized — most of them, at least — that prayer didn’t fit well into a clin­i­cal trial. Yoga doesn’t, either. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do yoga. By all means, do yoga, pray, and eat lemons, if those things bring you con­tent­ment. Do yoga espe­cially if it’s your pre­ferred form of exer­cise — exer­cise is a health inter­ven­tion sup­ported by thou­sands of clin­i­cal tri­als. But rec­og­nize the “yoga as med­i­cine” craze for what it is: an indi­ca­tor of the zeit­geist, not a sci­en­tific discovery.

I’ve com­mented on the trend towards pre­scrib­ing yoga for all kinds of ills and flaws. Much of it goes back to the incep­tion of mod­ern yoga in India when its early advo­cates wanted to val­i­date yoga within a West­ern, med­ical­ized frame­work. In the States, the appli­ca­tion of yoga as a ther­a­peu­tic tool has also help it makes inroads into main­stream cul­ture. There’s been a lot of bad sci­ence done around yoga ther­apy, which has com­pounded the prob­lem. It’s hard to run stan­dard­ized, double-​​blind stud­ies on a mas­sive scale on a prac­tice that should be tai­lored to indi­vid­ual bodies.

But I also think that all this talk about yoga address­ing med­ical con­di­tions is wrong­headed. The prac­tice of yoga is aimed at well­ness, the holis­tic uti­liza­tion reg­u­la­tion and bal­anc­ing of bod­ily sys­temic func­tions (myofas­cial, neu­ro­log­i­cal, cir­cu­la­tory, lym­phatic, and oth­ers). You could focus a ses­sion exclu­sively on lower back pain, but the asanas and vinyasas would not affect just the lower back, but the whole body. The effects would be accu­mu­la­tive over time, not some­thing like a round of antibi­otics. In addi­tion, yoga addresses men­tal states that Western-​​style exer­cise ignores and have a huge impact on well-​​being.

This arti­cle is the lat­est wave of skep­ti­cism about yoga, mind­ful­ness and other things vaguely New Agish. You should also check out The Mind­ful­ness Racket: The evan­ge­lists of unplug­ging might just have another agenda by Evgeny Moro­zov, a senior edi­tor at The New Repub­lic. He’s actu­ally talk­ing about another trend, the rec­om­men­da­tion that peo­ple should unplug from their stress-​​inducing devices because West­ern soci­ety is too hyper-​​wired and needs to stop mul­ti­task­ing. The mind­ful­ness thing gets lumped in because unplug advo­cates fre­quently cite that mind state as the coun­ter­weight to multitasking.

Yoga Poses in Israel

Love the photos.

NYTimes.com Yoga Poses in Israel.
Their stu­dents, taught in single-​​sex classes, are encour­aged to come as they are, even in day clothes or long skirts, if nec­es­sary. The Kol­bergs say yoga helps peo­ple who spend long days in prayer and study and aren’t phys­i­cally active. But, Rachel says, “in our stu­dio, we will never have prac­tices that con­tra­dict our reli­gion, such as mantras and chanting.

I guess they are not going to have any “naked yoga” classes.

Slipping into the American life style

It’s the last day of Feb­ru­ary. I’ve made four entries into this blog and prob­a­bly gone to four yoga classes too. I’ve gained five pounds, set­ting off per­sonal health alarms, which con­tributes to not get­ting to the yoga stu­dio or the gym. The weather has been chilly, if not frigid for most of this month, with a few balmy breaks, so I have not been lured out­side. My wife is away vis­it­ing her fam­ily in Peru, and I am home tak­ing care of the dogs.

And of course, there’s the job. Things have been going great  at DMI. I feel priv­i­leged to be clear­ing a new career path at this stage of my life. My work as a tech­ni­cal pro­posal writer strikes the tricky bal­ance between exploit­ing my skill set and expe­ri­ence and mak­ing me stretch to com­plete the assign­ment with the qual­ity needed. If I run into dif­fi­cult, I don’t get down on myself because I know I have a team back­ing me up. I’ve also noticed that I am more resilient — when I run into a prob­lem, I usu­ally  bounce back with a solu­tion the next day, after sleep­ing on it.

Writ­ing responses to Fed­eral requests for pro­pos­als (RFPs) and sim­i­lar doc­u­ments is not going to win me a Pulitzer Prize, but it is dis­ci­plined writ­ing. Lessons can be applied in other for­mats. The assign­ments require sprints of one or two weeks to fin­ish. I am being given more inde­pen­dence, not hav­ing to check in with my boss. I’ve even been asked to teach a young copy edi­tor how to write, men­tor­ing him for the day when he can take on pro­pos­als him­self. It’s harder to find solu­tions archi­tects (the pro­fes­sional who pulls together the parts of a pro­posal) that can write than it is to find writ­ers who can han­dle IT sub­ject mat­ter, accord­ing to one of my supervisors.

Now the bad news

Becom­ing so absorbed into my work has meant that it is hard to get myself to a yoga class or to the fit­ness club. I put in longer hours to meet dead­lines. I even work on weekends. I find it hard to go to the fit­ness room on the first floor of my work place. At the end of the day, I am emo­tion­ally and phys­i­cally squeezed dry. If I go home after work, I can’t get myself out again.  The con­ve­nient loca­tion of my job, only a 15-​​minute drive from home, means I don’t have a long com­mute, but I don’t get the ben­e­fit of walks to and from the Metro. The more out of shape I become, the harder it gets to get back in shape, the slower the recovery.

The per­sonal habits and pat­terns that served me well over the past 10 years or so are bro­ken, and the end result is good, but I’ve got to find a way of read­just­ing my life so that it’s phys­i­cally and emo­tion­ally sus­tain­able. Oth­er­wise, I will fall into the mold of the Amer­i­can office worker — dri­ves to work, sits in front of a key­board, eats more than his body needs, devel­ops a paunch and fails to get enough exer­cises. After three months on my new job, I real­ize that I could end up that way.

Feel the earth breathing

Erica Pare makes this video possible.

Wind = Prana

Videos of DC seminar on yoga and visual culture now online

The Freer Sack­ler Gallery has brought out the videos of the two-​​and-​​a-​​half day con­fer­ence on Yoga and Visual Cul­ture, which took place in late Novem­ber last year.

If you could not make it to Wash­ing­ton, DC, to see the Yoga: The Art of Trans­for­ma­tion exhibit and related events, now’s your chance to get an eye-​​ and ear-​​full of the pro­ceed­ings of the first seminar.

Yoga and football players! What about the desk jockeys?

In the wake of the Sea­hawks’ Super Bowl vic­tory with the “aid of yoga and med­i­ta­tion,” I unphased by the chat­ter on blogs and online media about this being a turn­ing point for the accep­tance of yoga into main­stream America:

NY Times Title for the Sea­hawks Is a Tri­umph for the Pro­file of Yoga
Men and ath­letes doing yoga is not new. Basketball’s Kareem Abdul-​​Jabbar was an early pro­po­nent, as was the ten­nis star John McEn­roe. Most recently, Andy Mur­ray cred­ited part of his recent ten­nis suc­cess to Bikram yoga. Stanford’s foot­ball team has incor­po­rated yoga into its train­ing program.

Every train­ing sea­son for every major sport has a surge of news arti­cles about coaches, train­ers, phys­i­cal ther­a­pists and the play­ers them­selves tak­ing to yoga to gain an edge or pre­vent injury. Even if asanas may not be explic­itly part of a train­ing rou­tine, you just have to look at the warm-​​up  exer­cises (stretch­ing)  to see that yoga has been assim­i­lated by the mod­ern phys­i­cal con­di­tion­ing disciplines.

Photo: yoga class in Warrior 2 pose

Jenny St. Clair leads her sequence of poses, includ­ing War­rior 2, a pose that is a lot harder than it looks.

I am far more deeply con­cerned about grand­mas, plumbers and desk jock­eys who would have to catch on to the glar­ing truth that phys­i­cal exer­cise — prefer­ably yoga, but even a 30-​​minute walk — would insti­gate a dra­matic shift in their qual­ity of life. One of the most eye-​​opening expe­ri­ences dur­ing my yoga teacher train­ing this past sum­mer was the demo class that we put on for “friends and fam­ily.”  Bless their souls for ven­tur­ing into a yoga stu­dio in sup­port of my class­mates. Many of those novices had seri­ous dif­fi­culty get­ting down to and up from the floor, much less doing a downward-​​facing dog or tri­an­gle pose. Sev­eral of them had to leave the room after 20 minutes.

I am not look­ing down my nose at them because I’ve been prac­tic­ing yoga for 10 years or am a few hours away from being cer­ti­fied as a teacher. The past six months have been a hum­bling expe­ri­ence for me because I have seen how eas­ily my “com­mand of yoga”  slipped into a ten­u­ous toe-​​hold on the mat. For any one, an injury or ill­ness pro­voke a sharp drop-​​off in well-​​being and resilience.  For­tu­nately for me, I could fall back on med­i­ta­tion, pranayama, self-​​massage, restora­tive yoga and other approaches to keep a han­dle on my mind-​​body con­nec­tion. I had an acupunc­tur­ist, body worker, chi­ro­prac­tic, ayurvedic healer and physi­cians to help me.

Who should yoga evan­ge­lists be preach­ing to?

Yoga advo­cates don’t need to get giddy about which sports team or star ath­lete is sweat­ing in a Bikram class. They need to con­vince senior cit­i­zens and key­board (white-collar) workers  that even sim­ple rou­tines can improve their flex­i­bil­ity, bal­ance and body aware­ness, as well as assist the body in fight­ing off dis­ease and the brain in hold­ing off cog­ni­tive decline.

By the way, yoga may have given some kind of com­pet­i­tive edge to the Sea­hawks over the Bron­cos, but it won’t com­pen­sate for the fact that the play­ers are bash­ing each oth­ers’ brains out and twist­ing their limbs in con­fig­u­ra­tions that exceed any asana’s poten­tial to mor­tify the flesh. Any for my own defense, I did yoga while watch­ing the Super Bowl came until I became so bored with the game that I decided to sort my socks (I was far more focused match­ing pairs).

Yoga DorkSeat­tle Sea­hawks Chang­ing Future of Foot­ball with Yoga and Med­i­ta­tion and Offi­cial Super Bowl XLVIII Yoga Game! and Super Yoga Bowl XLVIII: Sea­hawks vs Broncos

Yoga Con­flu­ence: Yes, the yoga team won the Super Bowl

Looking aging in the face and on the mat

Photo: Michael moves into full wheel pose, with aid from friend and Desirée

Urd­hva Dha­nurasana or wheel pose. My friend Glenn Buco helps move deeper into the pose. One of my bet­ter days from three years ago

I’ve been a bit swamped by my new job, to the point that I haven’t made it to many yoga classes, vis­ited the fit­ness cen­ter or stepped up my home prac­tice to make up for these short­com­ings. I’ve been swept up in the new work demands, the fresh chal­lenges, my enjoy­ment of accom­plish­ing my tasks and exceed­ing my goals. Just because I am happy at work does not mean that there’s no stress jazz­ing my metabolism.

Last week­end, I went to a cou­ple of yoga classes and it came crash­ing down on me at the end of class. It was hard! My jammed wrist kept me from doing any but the min­i­mal weight-​​bearing on my arms.  My months-​​long bat­tle with bron­chi­tis and sinus infec­tion has sapped by sta­mina and strength. The hol­i­days had pro­vided fur­ther dis­trac­tions, with my son vis­it­ing from Cal­i­for­nia and fam­ily cel­e­bra­tions around the din­ner table. I added another five pounds, weight that was resis­tant to remove in a quick and pain­less way.

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