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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Found Philosophy

It’s amazing the places you can find inspiration if you just keep an eye out for it.

I’m a big fan of The Big Bang Theory. It’s my favourite show on TV at the moment. But as well as the comedy gold going on during the show, I’m also a fan of the producer Chuck Lorre’s ‘Vanity Cards’ at the end of each episode.

He’s been doing these since his first TV show Dharma & Greg, when you had to record it on tape and press pause to read what it said (they’re only up for a moment). And he’s continued to do them all through his other series – Cybill, Grace Under Fire, Mike & Molly, Mom, and (most famously) Two And A Half Men.*

*It was one of his Vanity Cards, that ended with the line “If Charlie Sheen outlives me, I’m gonna be really pissed”, that caused Charlie Sheen to have his now infamous “tiger blood” meltdown.

I like the cards because they’re fun, silly, offer insights to what the studios will and won’t allow (a character dressed as a nazi with a swastika one their arm, no; a character dressed as a nazi with a smiley face on their arm, yes), and quite often they contain little philosophical gems that really make you stop and think.

Take this one for example from TBBT Season 9 Episode 19:

Vanity Card no.524
© Chuck Lorre 2016

It is a basic tenet of Indian philosophy that we are all God pretending not to be, in an effort to amuse ourselves – in the same way that we watch the greatest actor on stage and, even though we know it’s an act, we get drawn into believing anyway (a little something I picked up from the philosopher Alan Watts). This is why we put our hands together in prayer position when meet a fellow yogi, or indeed say goodbye, to recognise the God within them, and in doing so recognise the God within ourselves.

Things like that are easy to forget, so it’s nice to get a wee reminder out of the blue now and then (like at the end of a TV program).

You also get random reminders popping out of Christmas crackers too.

cracker yoga philosophy

How’s that for a bit of yogic philosophy? Not what I was expecting on Christmas morning I can tell you. But what more perfect time to be reminded of the alternative to the excesses of Christmas eh?

And here’s one I just came across whilst looking for links for this post:

“Advice? I don’t have advice. Stop aspiring and start writing. If you’re writing, you’re a writer. Write like you’re a goddamn death row inmate and the governor is out of the country and there’s no chance for a pardon. Write like you’re clinging to the edge of a cliff, white knuckles, on your last breath, and you’ve got just one last thing to say, like you’re a bird flying over us and you can see everything, and please, for God’s sake, tell us something that will save us from ourselves. Take a deep breath and tell us your deepest, darkest secret, so we can wipe our brow and know that we’re not alone. Write like you have a message from the king. Or don’t. Who knows, maybe you’re one of the lucky ones who doesn’t have to.” ~ Alan Watts

Particularly relevant for me as writing this post is what I’m doing when I should be writing my novel! Always the reminders are there to keep us on the straight and narrow, if only we have the eyes to see. 🙂

**You only have until tomorrow to enter the Yoga Bum Giveaway. Chances are good of winning the prize as, after ten days, you can count the number of entries on one hand! I personally thought there’d be more interest in winning free stuff but apparently not. Anyway, when I get up tomorrow morning it’ll all be over, so get in there now if you want to be in with a chance of winning.**