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.

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Karma Yoga, Melbourne Style

Well, it’s been an interesting couple of weeks in and around Melbourne. After the dramas of my arrival I then went and spent a week with my friends Tom and Petra, and their two little ones Lexie and Cian (more on that in another post).

Then on Tuesday (6 days ago) I came back to the city and moved in the new Sivananda Yoga Centre that has opened up here (their first in Australia).

SVYC Melbourne

Perhaps ‘opened’ is a bit of an exaggeration. The building is occupied, and it is mostly set up, but since a change of use license has to be applied for, the centre cannot officially open for a little while yet.

But still, there’s plenty to do to get things ready. I mean, downstairs is a bit spartan (we are awaiting delivery of some pictures to put up),

SVYC Melbourne, downstairs

but upstairs is starting to look nice,

SVYC Melbourne, asana hall, 1

SVYC Melbourne, asana hall, 2

and the whole place has a nice energy about it too. With all the natural light and open space it feels very comfortable, and will be a great place to do yoga once we have a few students.

Like I say, we cannot ‘officially’ open just yet, but if people want to pop by and come have a look around they are most welcome to do so. Evenings are good, Mon-Fri after 6pm; or Sat/Sun around 4pm. That’s when we’re there for sure and open to visitors. If you need more info just message me below and I’ll get back to you.

Apart from building Ikea furniture, guess what I’ve been doing most of? That’s right, cooking. 😉

SVYC Melbourne, kitchen

I have to say, it’s nice to be back in the kitchen again. I miss the opportunity to cook while I’m traveling about. The state of some of the kitchens in the hostels, you wouldn’t want to cook anything in them. So to have a kitchen all to myself, even one as compact and bijou as this one, is a real blessing.

And to have somewhere decent to stay for a while too! So nice to be able to spread out a bit and not have to worry about your stuff. I mean initially I was camped out on the floor for a day or two, as we had two Swamis and only two bedrooms,

SVYC, downstairs, Melbourne

but now that we’re down to one permanent Swami and me I get a room to myself.

SVYC, upstairs, Melbourne

Still on the floor, but I’m not complaining. Just nice to have a chest of drawers to unpack into.

Also nice to be able to do my sadhana (spiritual practice/asana) on a regular basis again. I mean it’s only been a week, but already I’m noticing a marked improvement in my flexibility. Just starting to get back to where I was, but after the last two weeks of exercising just once a week (if that) it’s great to finally indulge myself a bit.

Have to get used to the early starts again though. Satsang at 6am every day. More chanting and meditation, which is tough for me that early on. I’m a sleep in until 9am kind of guy. But it’s good to challenge yourself now and then, and it’s only for another three and a half weeks.

I’m here until the 26th of March, then I head off to Sydney. Just the right amount of time to relax a bit, get a bit more flexible, and maybe get a bit of rest (fat chance, lol). Either way, it’ll be nice to stay put for a while. All this traveling around, trying to figure out where to go, how to get there, and where to stay when you do get there can be a little tiring. It’ll be nice to enjoy a bit of familiarity for a while.

So if you’re in Melbourne do stop by! We’re at 86 Tope Street, South Melbourne. And anyone wanting to help out with a few hours of karma yoga, I’m sure we can find something that needs doing. 😉

The Sudden Revelation

We were sat in Satsang, and Swami Durgananda had just started talking about Vedanta – the yoga philosophy that says we are all one, and that our seperation from God/The Universe/Reality, is just an illusion – when someone suddenly jumped up, arms in the air, shouting;

“Oh my God! Oh my God!”

Blimey, I thought, has someone been struck by sudden enlightnement? Do we have self realisation at the mere mention of Vedanta? Is it that powerful?

Alas no. In fact it was a spider (very big and very quick, let me assure you) scurrying across the floor that had freaked her out. After some kind person interviened we were able to continue with the Satsang.

“Of course there’s really nothing to be afraid of,” said Swamiji, “You and the spider are one! It is just the illusion of separation that creates our fear.”

Everyone laughed, and whilst the girl may have agreed in theory, she was happier with the spider gone that in her lap.