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Sunday, October 26, 2014

You Move - You Learn

You move – you learn

July 2008


“I do yoga and pilates, do you think I’m satisfied?”
Madonna, Hollywood

The fattening of the human race becomes a global problem, just like the hunger (no cynicism intended). Although the ghosts of anorexia still haunt the young population, and although Fashion TV now promotes the curvy body as the new etalon of beauty, the reality tells us another thing, namely, that excessive body fat is ugly and therefore needs to be removed. Anathema to Mickey D and other fast food systems!

Veggies and fitness are the new credo, although only rich people can afford organic food. But food is food, and no matter how much money is made on diet books, no one can deny the obvious truth: the beautiful body dream only becomes reality when the owner of the body starts doing (ta-dam! What did you expect?) sports.

Yes, sports. Or fitness – whatever. Well, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a paragon of skinniness myself, so this summer I took a subscription to a premium fitness center in my city. My anthropological observations that brought me a great deal of fun and reflection are a topic for another column, I guess, so I’ll just stick to the sports, namely, to yoga.

Now, as a good friend of mine once said, yoga makes sense only when practiced 24/7/365, and it is really funny to watch these Occidental people remove their comfy yoga pants, switch on their cell phones and come back to their normal bustling active no-Oriental-bullshit-and-steaks-for-late-dinners life. I was a novice at the club back then, and I don’t really trust yoga after having an unfortunate experience (it happened a long time ago and it’s not interesting, really), so I came to the yoga class after the pilates just to see what it was like. You see, I was busy with my tiny little career, and I didn’t get to see a yoga class before. So I came, eyes shining with excitement and anticipation…

The first thing I saw (I was half an hour late) was that everyone was wearing slippers whereas I was wearing Puma sneakers. I clumsily got them off, put my protein drink on the windowsill, got myself a rug or whatever are those rubbery things called, and sat down. As I quickly found out, the class didn’t even start. They were discussing some Tibetan stuff and how much did it cost (spiritual as hell, may I say). I dared to interrupt the sensei by asking whether I could stay as I was late and therefore impolite. The sensei looked superciliously at my disgustingly Western attire (yellow shorts and a blue Lacoste T-shirt), and said calmly: ‘You weren’t expelled when you came, so why do you ask?’ I said I could actually leave if I was not welcome, but the sensei ignored me and continued talking to the group (who seemed to know each other way too well). Anyway, I didn’t get to get bored when the actual Yoga started.

We started with meditation, of course, asses on our heels, and listened to some Om Shanti Shanti music that made me drowsy, not to mention that my feet and legs ached like hell. And it lasted. And lasted. And lasted. I thought I’d die right there in that striking-tortoise-or-whatever poise, when the sensei told us the meditation was over and changed the soundtrack. I was grateful for both. Then they started tying their bodies into some incredible knots and looked more like tackle than human beings. I noticed a huge guy with a body suitable for a career in the domain of bouncing, who did some incredible things. Well, I was amazed, it’s true. But do it myself? Puh-lease.

Now, I’m actually diligent, so I did the things I could possibly do. I stretched. I put my right leg behind my left ear. I pushed and pulled, meanwhile trying to understand what good it could do to my system. But I mainly watched them imitate crazy snakes in their rut period, and say some strange things like: “Is this the raven? No, it’s the eagle”, and crap like that. I tried hard not to laugh; however, that presentation of our capabilities did awe me, but to the same extent as the Cirque du Soleil awes me. Boo fucking hoo.

Finally, this gymnastics from the Hindu hell was over, and there we go again: meditation. We all lied on our backs (the soundtrack didn’t change, mind you) and the sensei started ordering us to open our chakras, one by one, and to learn how to sleep in an ocean of light and warmth. I tried hard not to open my chakras, as the actual opening of the Kundalini is really painful (believe me, I tried it, but it was long ago and ended not too well), and I started a mental argument with the sensei and all those simple people who believed they could reach Nirvana in a heartbeat.

The East vs. West argument is an old story, and I don’t think I can really add a grain of truth and wisdom to it, being a thoroughly Western (and Christian) person myself, but I must say that globalization is a phenomenon way too young to help these two cultures blend harmoniously. We can read things, and reach things, and learn things, and eat things from other cultures, but are we really ready to absorb an alien culture when we know so little about our own? We can do aikido and smoke, we can do yoga and worry about our future, we can don geisha kimonos and not know a single word in Japanese, we can mix the unmixable and feel happy about it, but what is the net worth of an assimilated cultural element? And what role does it play in personal development?

Well, the class ended in another discussion in a tight circle (the circle of trust, like the one Robert de Niro had in Meet The Parents) where I, as a rotten Westerner and a novice, had no access to. Whoa, as if I needed it. I thanked the sensei and left, and I felt a raging desire to play Rammstein on my MP4 player, but I suppressed it – after such a spiritual “feast” Rammstein would be nothing less than a sacrilege. I went out of the “classroom”, and the hall welcomed me with a Jennifer Lopez song. I’m not a big fan of her, more precisely, I’m no fan at all, but when I heard her voice, it was Hallelujah all over the world! I moved to the beat, and then went to the cardio center, where I’ve hit the treadmill to a Propellerheads song.

I really wanted to ask the chief yogi whether he had a cell phone, but I thought it would be “du trop”, too much. The expression of my face – mocking disbelief – probably was as unwelcome as my blue Puma sneakers, but sorry, I’m totally entitled to mocking disbelief, as well as to a critical approach to something treated as worthy of veneration. Not for me, thank you very much.

Alex Fletcher in “Music and Lyrics” aka Hugh Grant says something really deep like “This Buddhism-in-a-thong philosophy just hides the desire to sell units and get seats filled, that’s why it is called the music business”. Well, in our happy and well-adjusted Occident yoga is a business idea, too, I guess. It’s great, actually – the philosophy, the body potential, the amazing possibilities for personal development – and I think it’s really unfair to refer to as “bullshit” to something that actually awes you, but is bullshit to you anyway. We’re not gonna reach Nirvana THAT easily, guys, so “Relax”, as Frankie said when going to Hollywood


Remember Sex and the City, the sixth season? The Let There Be Light episode, specifically. “Smith, in a "Fuck Yoga" t-shirt (which makes me think of Gustave), bounds over Samantha, who is reclining in bed”. This is a quote from Alex Richmond’s recap on , and I must say I’ve read her recaps before actually watching the show, and it was really long ago, but this grayish XXL-sized grungy T-shirt kept flashing before my inner eye (or my third eye?) as I’ve watched those funny people willingly mutilate their bodies. Oh, this is a start for a very interesting argument, but you see, I’m an aspiring blogger, and no one wants to hatemail me. Maybe you will.