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.

***

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.

The Sydney Tourist

Well I’ve been the consummate tourist these past few weeks. Maybe that’s what Sydney does to you, but I’ve been to a number of sights, done lots of touristy things (including eat a lot of chips!), and got tons and tons of photos to share.

Actually I think having people to hang around with makes a big difference. You tend to do more stuff. My first week in Sydney I had my friends Sarah and Kellie to drag round all the tourist spots. And we did plenty, as seen previously.

Then last week Lena arrived, so there was more stuff to do (special items I’d been keeping in reserve just for her), so all in all it’s been a busy few weeks!

Now as mentioned previously, I did the yoga at the top of the Sydney Eye Tower. Well later that day I went along to do the Skywalk I had originally planned to do right afterwards but couldn’t because of the weather.

wet and windy

For $65 they give you a snazzy blue jumpsuit to wear in exchange for all your personal belongings (including your camera, but more on that later), then they harness you up, clip you onto the guide rail, and away you go!

skywalk group shot

kiki on the left

kiki on the right

I didn’t find it as scarey as some of the others. Personally I just found being outside that high quite invigorating. Even jumping up and down on the glass walkway didn’t bother me that much. See…

one, two, three... JUMP!

I have to say, the guy doing the tour (Stu) did an excellent job. He was fun, funny, and told us lots of interesting stuff that I’ve since rattled off to other people, much to their bemusement. He was even good enough to let me do a headstand shot, which is the main reason I went up there in the first place (that, and it’s twice as high as the Sydney Harbour Bridge at a third of the price).

25. skywalk headstand

That photo cost me $50, more or less. That’s how much for their souvenir photo pack. Considering how much it costs to print photos and burn a disc these days it was a bit of a rip-off, but what can you do? If you want a momento they’ve got you by the asanas.

It wasn’t as dark as it seems on the photos when we were out there, but it got dark not long after, and I got to enjoy Sydney at dusk once I was back inside, which was nice.

dusk from the tower

In fact I had to enjoy it, as I got the shakes a little once I was back on ‘terra firma’. I had to sit for a bit and have a cup of tea before I could head back to the hotel. Now that was a surprise to me.

All this I did the day before Lena arrived. Once she landed we had a whole list of stuff to do, including tickets (one of which was a surprise for her :)).

NB: I won’t tell the saga of the hideous ‘lodge’ we had booked. Suffice it to say I took one look and immediately went out to find something better. And I did, just around the corner! Ten times better, and at the same price. I’m telling you, don’t settle for less. Life’s too short!

The surprise I had for Lena was in fact the first proper thing we did (aside from eat, sleep, and stroll about). It was tickets to see the opera Carmen at an outdoor event on Sydney Harbour. To get an idea of what I mean here’s a view from the Tower Eye.

carmen from the tower

Not very good as I really had to zoom to get the shot, but you get the idea.

We got down there a little early and managed to take a few shots of the harbour from one of the best vantage points in Sydney.

sydney harbour at dusk

opera house and bridge at dusk

a night at the opera

I also got some shots of the spartan stage before the show began,

carmen

including one from our seats.

the view from the cheap seats

The show was good, but I have to say, I don’t think I’m that into opera. Just didn’t do anything for me. A few nice tunes, but other than that I wasn’t too bothered. Still, it was an experience, and at least I can say I’ve been.

Now even though I’d done the Skywalk, I still wanted to do the Sydney Harbour Bridge Pylon Lookout. $11 and you get to go up one of the towers on the bridge (which are purely decorative by the way. Look at the photos. There’s nothing connected to them. they do nothing to hold the bridge up!).

You get some great views of the harbour,

sydney harbour

and Circular Quay,

circular quay

CBD, with cruise ship

not to mention the bridge itself.

sydney harbour bridge

bridge climb in progress

You also get to see an upside down Englishman, but only on rare occasions.

26. pylon lookout headstand

After the Pylon Lookout we went to the Chinese Gardens near Darling Harbour. I’d been here before when I swung through Sydney for a day on my way to Perth. I’d found them nice and peaceful, a really enjoyable and relaxing place to be, so I wanted Lena to see them too.

phoenix, dragon, duck

baby buddha

through the square window

temple through the trees

clinging

yin yang

chinese gardens bonsai

the garden gate

happy smiles

I also got another headstand shot,

27. chinese gardens headstand

as well as doing a bit more yoga based monkeying around.

baby buddha crow

I love that Baby Buddha statue! I want one in my garden. 🙂

Our last day in Sydney we went to Bondi beach. Had to be done really.

bondi beach

kiki at the beach (on a very bright day)

We wanted to have a swim, but in the end it was too cold. But, we did get to sunbathe a bit, and I got this photo (one for all those who think I’ve gotten really skinny since being away, lol).

28. bondi beach headstand

We finished the day off with a ballet performance at the Royal Opera House. I really wanted to see something there, and the performance of Don Quixote is what was on.

don quixote

I think I like ballet a lot more than I do opera. The show was brilliant. Started off a little slow, but by the end the dancers were doing some amazing things, and you couldn’t help but cheer and applaud.

The storytelling was great too. I mean it was handy to have a program to get all the details, but you got a good idea of what was going on just from the performance. I’d go again to the ballet, and to the Opera House (significantly more comfortable seats than Carmen too!).

sydney opera house detail

I even managed to get a sneaky headstand shot when everyone had cleared out,

29. sydney opera house headstand

and another one outside, of the harbour at night,

30. sydney harbour headstand

which puts me up to thirty headstands so far! Not a bad haul really. I wonder if I’ll be able to get to 100 by the end of it all?

And that’s me for now. The next day we picked up our camper van and started our drive up north to Cairns (by heading west, but more about that later).

Rotto, My Rotto

If you’re in Perth, and have the time, I thoroughly recommend a visit to Rottnest Island. You can get day trips, but to have a good look around do what I did and stay for a couple of nights.

rottnest 2

It’s a decent enough sized island. About 11km end to end. Used to be a gun emplacement during World War II but now it’s completely given over to the tourist industry. And let me tell you, of all the places I’ve been these guys have got it pretty much sorted.

the main harbour

geordie bay

I got the ferry from Perth, via Fremantle, and here was the first pleasant surprise. You just label your bags with where you’re staying, they load them on the ferry, and deliver them at the other end. Brilliant! No lugging big backpacks around. As I was staying 2km from the harbour, and would be renting a bike, that worked out great for me.

10km

That’s right, I said bike. I still haven’t learned my lesson. After my previous epic bike rides cycling on an island seemed to be simple enough. I mean how far could I go? Well, as I found out, quite far enough! Actually, it wasn’t so bad. I went round the island on the first day, just for the hell of it, and it was ok. I did the ride in bits, and there weren’t too many hills, so I got round more or less in one piece.

a very aussie sign

I also got to do my first headstand pic, at what I thought was the main lighthouse.

14. rottnest little lighthouse headstand

Only later did I discover it was just the mini-lighthouse, and the main one was elsewhere. Still, no matter. At the other end of the island I got to see a tall ship coming in, which was a very welcome surprise. I love tall ships, and hope one day to sail on one for a while.

a ghost on the horizon

The sight was so unexpected I thought it was a ghost for a moment, lol. This wasn’t helped by the fact that I watched it, looked away for a bit, and then next time I looked it was gone! I managed to keep the uncertainty going in my head until the next day, when I saw it at anchor on the other side of the island. So, no ghost, but still it was fun to pretend.

Apart from all that my first day was relatively quiet, except for all the Quokkas!

quokka

Quokkas are the local bit of wildlife that give the island its name, (some Dutch guy thought they were giant rats and so named the place Rottnest – ‘Rat’s Nest’) and they’re protected, which means they’re everywhere and they’ve got no fear of man.

quokka butt

They were everywhere round the old barracks where I was staying, so many you’d have to watch you didn’t stand on them when you went outside. They were very cut, and completely harmless, and it was nice to have them wandering about. Just added to the charm of the place.

Day two saw my brother and his family come over for the day. We had a fairly decent lunch at The Bakery (I confused them with my veggie burger order – excluding the pesto, because of the cheese, left me with just mushroom and salad, and they just couldn’t quite get their head around that to begin with), went for a paddle in the sea, and then jumped the tram up to the old gun emplacement.

choo-choo

So, another day, another tram. That makes three so far this trip (I think) but I’m not complaining. We had a nice ride up to Oliver Hill. Spent most the time looking out for quokkas. Then once we got there we did a tour of the gun emplacement and underground tunnel system.

gun detail

jap killing lessons

I’m not massively into guns, but I do like being underground, and I also saw an opportunity for another headstand shot.

you are here

15. olivers hill tunnels headstand

In taking the shot my brother dropped my camera, right on the lens. If you look closely you can see the curved shadow of the interior lens in the left hand corners. We got the lens back in position so that it would close again, but it’s still not working quite right. It’ll do for a while but it looks like I’m gonna need a new camera. But at least it wasn’t completely done for. If I’d been without a camera for the Indian Pacific trip (coming next) I’d have had to practice some serious non-attachment!

uncle keith, dad mark, and nephew luke

After they’d gone I cycled out to Little Salmon Bay to take a promised photo of the West Australian sunset over the sea. It was nice to just sit there for a while, listening to Sigur Ros on my iPod, just watching the sun go down, not being in a rush to be anywhere.

little salmon bay sunset

My last day saw me seeking out the main lighthouse on the island. It was a sweltering bike ride in the midday sun, but I made it. I had a lovely tour with a lady named Jan, who’s also into yoga :), and I got to do another headstand shot.

16. rottnest big lighthouse headstand

I’m glad I got the shot, but what I didn’t think about was how hot the tarmac would be after baking in the sun all day. Now when I do the timed shots I always take three at a time, so I have some options. So, for your amusement, here’s me running away in pain after burning my hands on the hot road.

me, reacting to burning my hands on the tarmac after doing a headstand

All that left for me to do was go for a flight round the island! I’d seen it advertised, and at only $38 for a 10 minute ride, how could you say no? I had to hang around for a bit until some other turned up (two person minimum), but eventually I got to go.

a winged chariot

I love small planes. They remind you what a fragile thing flight actually is. More like skating on ice than anything else really. You get tossed around all over the place, especially at take-off and landing, and you never know how things are going to turn out. Good fun, lol.

And you get great views too. Check these out:

geordie bay, from the air

the barracks hostel

it's good to be the king

And that was it for Rottnest Island. I got the ferry back to Perth in the afternoon, spent the night there, and then next day I boarded the Indian Pacific train for Adelaide. That, of course, was an adventure in its own right, and I’ll be going into that next time.

Ciao for now.