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Posting my “this week in yoga” column on a weekly basis has proven to be a challenge, but I’m happy that I’m at least doing it on a biweekly basis. However, since “this biweek in yoga” doesn’t quite roll off the tongue (nor does “these two weeks in yoga”), I’m just going to stick to the current name. Time is irrelevant, anyway.
So I’ll start off with some big news from last week: India is preparing to patent yoga poses. YogaDork summarized the news with their usual eloquence and wit. “The Indian government has already compiled a library, the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library to be exact (which we reported on last year), to document every single yoga pose from ancient texts, not to mention other bits of heritage such as ayurveda, to provide a concrete system, essentially protecting it all from bastardization and subsequent “unlawful” patenting and other naughtiness.” It’s an interesting response to the branding and corporatization of yoga in the West ~ although they might be a couple of decades too late. I’m curious to see how effective their patenting effort will actually be and how this will play out. Does this mean that American teachers will have to pay royalities on their “Shakti Kicks” and “Matrix Poses?” In this BBC news story, Swami Pragyamurti and Dr Vinod Kumar Gupta, of the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library, debate whether yoga moves should be patented and how that could be enforced.
Record breaking sailor Reid Stowe, who just returned from a 1000-day non-stop voyage of the high seas, admits to yoga and meditation being part of his daily routine on deck. And he breaks out a rocking Tolasana to prove it (see above pic). The yoga and the healthy diet obviously kept the 55-year-old sailor in top physical shape while at sea, but he also seems to have a very yogic approach to life.”I think of myself as a spiritual sailor,” he told CNN. “When you’re out here for so many years by yourself, you have a lot of time to reflect on the nature of the sea and the vastness of the universe.”
In a recent interview, Belinda Carisle confesses that she is “mad about” yoga ~ and that the practice helped her overcome obstacles such as weight issues, low self-esteem and addiction. The former Go-Go’s frontwoman shares some of her experiences with the practice in her new memoir, Lips Unsealed. She told gloss.com, “It’s really compatible with the 12-step program. Same message, different messenger. I found that for some reason I really took to yoga, especially Iyengar yoga. There’s a lot of breathing and a lot of going within. I’m a different person because of yoga. I don’t know what yoga itself is; no one really knows exactly what it is. But it’s different than going to the gym, I’ll say that!“
In the blogosphere, Renee over at Feed the Yogi shares a wonderful reflection on savasana (this will be some great inspiration for some of the people doing Bindu Wiles’ 21.5.800 project). Contemplating why we practice savasana at the end of class, she offers an interesting observation: “In some ways each yoga class takes us backward through the life cycle. In yoga asana we first learn to stand, then we learn to sit, then we learn to withdraw our senses, and then we learn to rest in awareness. Your life cycle generally goes the other way. Interesting isn’t it? We practice yoga to come back to our inherent stillness and perception, our intimacy with what is.”
In some place called Charlottesville, an “errant” truck crashed through the wall of Integral Yoga Natural Foods and demolished the vitamin section. Fortunately, the store wasn’t open when the tractor trailer’s brakes failed so nobody was injured. The incident also inspired a brilliant headline on readthehook.com: “Truck smack at Integral Yoga,” which garnered some ridicule from commentors.
Lots of interesting planetary action made for some crazy yoga news this week! And some clever (and slightly random) headline writing.
Angry clients rocket Planet Yoga: What could that combination of words possibly mean? Well, “Planet Yoga” is a yoga studio chain in Hong Kong which closed this spring due to bankruptcy. UK-based paper The Standard reported that 1,000 members who hadn’t received refunds (and whose monthly payments are still being debited from their bank accounts) assembled outside a social service centre for what they believed would be a meeting with the creditors. In the end, only 300 people were admitted to the meeting, and the management from Planet Yoga didn’t show up. The angry members went straight the police and filed an official complaint against the yoga business.
The Hipster Behind Hipster Yoga Speaks, Believes in “Hipster Recovery”: The Village Voice blog featured an exclusive interview with the creator of Hipster Yoga (and the even more genius, Hipster Kitty), Jon Raasch, who is from NYC but currently lives in Portland. So why Hipster Yoga? Said Jon, “Do you ever go to the gym and see a bunch of hipsters in their American Apparel gym outfits? I’ve always found that very funny.” Does he do yoga? “I’ve taken yoga classes and do it on the Wii Fit… I really like the Triangle pose, but the Half-Lord of the Fishes has the funniest name.”
Psyllium and Shaved Shoulders: How My Preparations for Yoga School Went Awry: Writer Neal Pollack started yoga teacher training with Richard Freeman this week (after a successful fundraising campaign), and we’re so lucky that he’s going to blog about his adventures. His first installment from Boulder is written in his typical funny and self-deprecating style.
Obama Calls On Yogis to Help With Cleanup of the Gulf: Believe it or not, this isn’t even a real news story! YogaDawg rises from the ashes to offer some brilliant satirical commentary on the current oil spill mess in the Gulf Coast.
Kirsten Davis Facts: She Used to Teach Yoga and Is Sober: The Sex and the City star (Charlotte, fyi) used to teach yoga before her acting career took off. Breaking news! She also reveals, “When I work out, I listen to the young ladies: Beyonce, Miley, Gaga, Britney.”
the good news
We all know the positive benefits of yoga, but it’s always good when scientific research supports this. The mainstream media has been all over a recent study which reveals that yoga helps cancer patients sleep better during treatment (YogaDork breaks it down here). According to the University of Rochester study, the people who were subjected to a four-week program of gentle hatha and restorative yoga twice a week “recorded nearly double the improvement in sleep quality and reduction of fatigue compared to those not practicing yoga. They also reported better quality of life overall” (via TIME).
the requisite celebrity news
Smart Water launched their new ad campaign, featuring Jennifer Aniston’s hot yogified bod. Which of course gives gather.com a reason to remind us about Jennifer’s Yogalosophy practice with yoga teacher to the stars (and Jenn’s roommate), Mandy Ingber.
the inspiring news
takepart.com celebrated Senior Citizen’s Day (May 19) with a sweet story about Frank Isaac, a 78-year-old who teaches free yoga classes to elders and retirees in San Diego. He has contributed over 7,500 hours to his community since 2003, and the outreach organization he created, Silver Age Yoga, has certified teachers in 10 states and two Canadian provinces. Frank is remarkably humble and sincere in his offering: “The rich old guys can come to the health clubs and pay a considerable amount of money for a class. But most of our clients are living on a limited income. If you’re not giving it to them for free, they are not going to come.”
the marketing news
Doing yoga turns up among the differences between older and younger female Yankees fans, in a Wall Street Journal survey of 650 baseball fans in New York City. Apparently, the younger Yankees fans (those under 45) have higher incomes and are more likely to have graduated from college than older fans. They also “tend to frequent high-end stores like Bergdorf Goodman and to have a yoga mat in the closet” – and bet on games, smoke marijuana and have been arrested. Yikes!
the old news that resurfaced this week
A couple of months ago, five women from Windsor, Ont. were denied entry to the US while en route to a yoga teacher training in Michigan. The Montreal Gazette reported that one of the women, Michelle Lam, has been barred from entering the U.S. for five years because she told a U.S. customs agent she was going shopping and did not at first admit she was also planning to study yoga. At a press conference this week, she said, “The whole yoga thing was for the soul and mind and good things. I didn’t expect it to be such a crime.” Yoga may not be a crime, but lying is a blatant defiance of one of the yamas, satya (truth).
Well, the most exciting thing going on this week was the engaging Gita Talk happening over at elephant journal. Ancient wisdom meets Web 2.0 as fearless leader Bob Weisenberg initiated a multi-platform talk on Stephen Mitchell’s interpretation of the Bhagavad Gita. The first blog post on elephant journal introduced the introduction, and racked up 144 comments and over 1000 pageviews. Not only is the quantity of comments impressive, but the depth and honesty that everyone put forward is sensational. The comments range from impressions of the themes and ideas, to uncertainty about the “translation” (which, as Mitchell explains in his intro, isn’t direct but rather filtered through others), to commentary on other versions and translations, to general feelings about the Gita.
It’s not too late to jump into the conversation ~ even if you haven’t read the book. In fact, reading the book isn’t mandatory, as the forum is a wonderful place to discuss the Gita and yoga in general. The talk continues in the upcoming week, with “Why Does the Gita Piss Us Off So Much At First?” featuring chapters 1 and 2. Follow along on elephant journal, Twitter (#gitatalk) and Facebook.
At the other end of the yoga spectrum: this week finally saw the closure of the tragic “yoga stick” murder, as Natavia Lowery was sentenced to prison for 27 years to life for bludgeoning her real-estate-agent-to-the-stars boss, Lynda Stein, to death in 2007. She used a yoga stick, although nobody is really too sure exactly what that is. The judge who sentenced Lowery to prison had a very yogic take on things, reportedly saying, ”An old and wise adage: The truth will come to light. Murder cannot be hid long.” Yeah, there’s this thing called karma, which will get ya…
The Christian Science Monitor compared the pursuit of oil to the practice of yoga in the Brazilian boomtown of Macaé. “This port was once an insignificant fishing town. Now, as an economic hub, yoga has found a niche,” said the article, which went on to quote Sanjaya Yogi, the founder of the town’s apparent only yoga studio, as saying “I asked an economist where the best place would be to go and grow up, and he said Macaé.” Whoa, is the yoga boom as opportunist as the oil boom?
Fortunately, Sanjaya Yogi set them straight in the comments section: “The oil business extracts the energy that people believe is necessary to live the modern life, fueling wars and the destruction of nature in the process. The people who work in the offshore oil industry spend large periods of their time separated from families and friends, causing at times profound stress… The Nucleo Do Yoga de Macaé is a small effort by my wife, Sumaya, and myself to serve the community of Macaé, rather than to take.”
And score one for yoga: the Washington DC yoga community rallied in a guerilla-style protest of a proposal that would add a 6-8% sales tax on yoga classes and gym memberships. The local media lightheartedly poked fun at their efforts, exclaiming “Those crazy yoga people! For the record, we don’t know what GUERILLA YOGA is, but it sure sounds like a fearsome concept.” Nevertheless, their “crazy” efforts paid off and the proposal fell flat in DC City Council today. DC yogis do have something to fear, actually, as similar proposals have gone further along the system in Virgina and NY state. In both instances, the yoga communities have fought back with a warrior spirit, just like Arjuna on the battlefield, and with considerable effort overcome the obstacles. That’s what it’s all about, baby.
Welcome to “this week in yoga,” a new weekly feature – or, as I prefer, column – on it’s all yoga, baby. Every week, there are many stories and events in the yoga world that capture my interest, even though I may lack the time or energy to make a full post. “this week in yoga” is a place to capture these stories, a roundup, of sorts. My goal is to publish the blog column every Friday – we’ll see how that goes. It’s a fun challenge to take on, anyway.
And holy moly, we just finished off a very exciting week in yoga! The big news was the NY Times article about yoga’s “new wave.” When the NY Times speaks, we all listen, and this article sent waves through the whole bloga community, provoking reactions from many bloggers. It opened up a broader conversation about the value of yoga and accessibility, with thoughtful responses from Linda’s Yoga Journey and Brenda at Grounding Thru the Sit Bones. Even other non-yoga bloggers had a say, including Jezebel and some Catholic blog.
Accessibility was a recurring theme this week. Eddie Stern wrote about how yoga is a “vital endeavor” on HuffPo, featuring Bent on Learning. Even though it made him “uncomfortable” to invite the likes of Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow to the Bent on Learning gala fundraiser event, they showed up anyway. It’s good that celebrities are into accessible yoga, I guess…
The latest lululemon ad, featuring “camel toe” and YAMA-represented Sarita Lou sparked a great discussion over on YogaDork. And somehow the intrepid bloggers at Well+Good NYC scored some top secret information proving that the slogans found in Lululemon’s recycling prove “Say No to Camel Toe” was the best choice.
Did you know that Saturday, April 24 was World Yoga Day? Me neither! I know it’s technically last week, but this overlooked news is worth mentioning. Also notable news from last week, which remained relevant this week, was a spicy blog post and discussion about “yoga in the West” on elephant journal.