Yoga In The Media

There are as many reasons to come to yoga as there are ways to shuffle a pack of cards (that’s 80,658,175,170,943,878,571,660,636, 856,403,766,975,289,505,440, 883,277,824,000,000,000,000 in case you were wondering), but I often wonder just how many people are missing out because of the way yoga is portrayed in the media?

Unless you’re really into yoga, and are doing some specific research, chances are when you come across yoga photos online it’s going to be some celebrity on a sun soaked beach performing asanas as the sun goes down, all bronzed and gorgeous and serene as hell.

yoga google screen grab

Or if not, then it’s an article on some new weird type of yoga that, let’s be honest, was probably written for people to have a good chuckle at the hippy weirdos.

You rarely get articles on the normal, average, day-to-day yoga that most of us do, the yoga that happens in a church hall in Croyden on a wet Wednesday afternoon. But in a world of click-bait headlines, with so many things vying for our attention, is that really a surprise?

Yoga
image © distelfliege, via Flickr

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve suggested yoga to people only for them to tell me “But I can’t even touch my toes!” With so many pictures out there of experienced practitioners doing advanced asanas really well people just think “Well I’ll never be able to do that, so why even bother trying?” With all the emphasis on the physical benefits of yoga that happen further down the line, people miss out on the positive mental benefits they can experience right away.

Which is why, when I come across a good yoga story that isn’t all about bendy celebrities, I like to highlight it.


image © Lee Ann Olwage, via sevaunite.org

I recently came across this story on the BBC News website, which I found quite inspiring. (NB: If you’re outside of the UK then chances are you won’t be able to view the content. If so then here’s another article on the project that I found on the Guardian website instead.)

In summary, the Prison Freedom Project is about bringing yoga to prisoners in South Africa, allowing them to learn and enjoy the benefits of yoga, and enjoy a feeling of liberation despite their incarceration. It is a voluntary, contribution driven organisation, that has already made a difference to many inmates, and will no doubt help countless more find health and happiness in their lives. To me it embodies the true spirit of yoga, and I like what they’re doing so much I decided to make a donation.

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I’m not saying we need more ‘positive’ yoga stories out there. There’s plenty of those already. What we need is more ‘average’ yoga stories out there. More stories of normal people incorporating yoga into their everyday lives. I might even go so far as to say we need to stop elevating yoga to unattainable heights, and bring it back down to earth (which, ironically, is where most yoga happens, lol).

It’s understandable people want to show off when they do something well. No one wants to share pictures of themselves being average, or, even worse, doing something badly. But, in the interests of science, and to get the ball rolling, here’s a few pictures of me doing some asanas to the best of my abilities at the moment (with examples of how they look when you get good).

my forward bend

my plough

my pigeon

There are many aspects to yoga, and many benefits to be had, some of which you have to work at, and some of which you experience from day one. Anyone can do yoga (wherever you are in life, mentally or physically, that is where you begin; that is your starting point), and everyone has something to gain, one way or another.

Each practitioner is different, each experience is different, and each benefit is different; but all of it is positive, and worthwhile, and beneficial; and if it’s not, it’s not yoga.

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A Landmark Year!

Well, I think it’s safe to say that 2012 was a landmark year in the life of the Yoga Bum.

For one thing, the Yoga Bum was invented. I started off the year working at a satellite broadcasting company, doing 12 hour night shifts in a sealed, windowless, air-conditioned room full of TVs, and I ended it in 40 degree heat in the west of Australia (at a rodeo, which I’ll go into detail about later). I’m now a qualified yoga teacher, I spent 2 months working at an ashram in the Austrian Alps, I’ve been to San Francisco, Sacramento, the Santa Cruz Mountains and Los Angeles, doing all kinds of interesting stuff, some of which I was fortunate enough to be able share with someone special, and most of which I didn’t know I’d be doing when the year started. With that in mind, I wonder what delights 2013 will bring. I mean, like last new year, I have an idea, but as we all know, anything and everything can happen (and usually does! ..lol..).

As a greeting for the new year, and to maybe inspire you to take some risks of your own and go do something ‘silly’, here’s a re-cap of my ‘Landmark Inversions’ series that I’ll be working on throughout 2013. I hope to add many more as the year goes on, and I can’t wait to see how many I get up to by the start of 2014; or indeed where they’ll be! I tell you what, it’s going to be fun finding out. 🙂

1. hahnenkamm headstand
2. twin peaks headstand
3. alcatraz headstand
4. golden gate headstand
5. hollywood headstand
6. santa monica headstand

Good luck for the next 365 days everyone. I hope you have much fun, some excitement, plenty of smiles, warm hearts to share it all with, and just an all round omming good time! 😉

Om Namah Shivaya. 🙂

Another Day Off…

…another snatched moment with someone else’s laptop.

First up, anyone out there got an iPad? I have questions and need to speak to someone who’s used one before I buy. Mail me and we’ll talk.

Baking hot here today, which is good because yesterday was freezing! It’s a country of weather extremes Austria, so it seems. But according to those that live here it’s good, coz if the weather is bad you know it’ll get better fairly quickly. 🙂 I dunno, I’m just enjoying having the day off.

Our final week starts tomorrow (and then it’s our exam, eek!) and I’ve alreayd spoken to them about staying on here another 8 weeks. I think it’s all sorted. Looking forward to getting down to my own personal practise. The course is great and everything, but I could do without the homework. Not my strong point. Mine has gone from reasonably prosaic to downright functional in the past 3 weeks. Weariness is creeping in. Still, as I say, not long to go now. Soon I’ll be all qualified and everything, hehe.

There’s definitely some improvement in my asanas, not that you can tell from looking. I go about as far down, forward or round, the difference is I’m much more comfortable doing it. Won’t be long before I can get my head on my knees! In fact I almost did a proper Sun Salutation the other day. Believe me, after 2 years, that was quite gratifying.

I could do without the nature walks. Not a fan of going up hills. But they do make a nice change from Satsang. And the ones at night are lovely. We stop and stare at the stars. The other night we meditated towards The Plough, and I saw a shooting star (yes, I made a wish) and the Milky Way. Y’know, the kind of stuff you don’t see living in a big city.

Y’know what, I always think of stuff I want to blog about throughout the day, but when I sit down to write I’ve forgotten it all, lol. Can’t have been that important eh?

So, in brief:

The course is going good, the teaching is excellent, the food is still fabulous (my belly is only slightly reduced), I love when it’s sunny, hate when it’s cold, I can’t wait to move out of the dorm and into a proper bed, I need an iPad/laptop quick, and despite how different this is to everything I was doing before, none of it feels starnge. That to me is the best indicator of all that I’m doing the right thing. 😉