Made a foray into the world of flower arranging today, which is I think a fitting activity for the nearly-40-year-old I am.
I’ve not consumed any Easter eggs, meat or alcohol.
The decision was not a conscious one, it’s probably because I’ve been doing other stuff like mooching about, paddling in the harbor and this morning a bit of yoga.
As my appetite for contact sports has diminished with my advancing years, so has my appreciation of the discipline of yoga increased.
I like it because it feels good.
Sure, there are tough bits but there are no crunching noises, there’s no straining against your cardiovascular limits.
When I was younger I thought yoga was full of crap but I think I was just put off by prejudice and chanting.
A decade ago, inspired by an entertaining afternoon dancing along to Ministry of Sound’s ‘Call On Me’ jazzercise video, I had a brief period of collecting other exercise vids in the markets in east London.
I picked up this yoga one containing shots of people in leotards stretching in the desert, which looked like it would be good for a laugh. It was.
“Now breathe,” said the teacher dude in a nasal American accent. Everybody in the desert breathed. I breathed.
I felt great afterwards, and the next day, but assumed it was a coincidence.
I did yoga in India once, on the roof of a guesthouse in Goa. It was super and again I felt great afterwards but failed to make the connection.
Then about six years ago I did an introductory course of Bikram, or “hot”, yoga, still in east London.
Ten sessions cost £10 but to take advantage of the offer you had to do the sweaty 90-minute classes on consecutive days.
Because it was around Christmas and New Year they weren’t open every day so I did it over about two weeks.
It was a revelation.
Slow yet intense, afterwards I felt drained but not in a bad way.
I listened to my body, which told me to stop running without warming up.
I downloaded the poses from the internet but only really ever did the breathing exercises and the first few standing poses.
But even that did a lot for me. Pretty much every day since I’ve done the breathing exercises and most days I’ve done half an hour or more.
If I’ve got a cold it opens up my sinuses, if I’m sore from some other exercise it helps with rehabilitation. If I’m stressed it relaxes me.
If I’m full of beans I get excited, find a nice little downhill and blast it as fast as possible.
If I have a puff on my vaporizer first I find I take longer over the poses.
Sometimes I get this tourniquet-release effect where the blood rushes back to wherever it was and I feel high.
I’ve tried to use aspects of its philosophies in my life, application of gentle but sustained pressure in particular.
Bikram was quite expensive so I never went back however I’ve recently invested in 35 classes with MYOGA, a studio in Marion Street in downtown Wellington.
The teacher is Melissa Billington whom I’ve interviewed for GUDFL.
Melissa Billington @ Marion St - March 2013
GUDFL: How long has MYOGA been going?
Melissa: At this space, about four and a half years. MYOGA - as a particular brand - the same length of time. I am MYOGA and we’ve also had two rounds of apprentices programs, 200 hour teacher training, that is recognized by the yoga alliance so it has all of the different areas that you’re meant to study such as anatomy, physiology, ethics. I’ve had five women graduate from each of those, so there are other teachers that are also MYOGA. I was looking for a brand that wasn’t my name and wasn’t exclusive, that was more inclusive. I like the idea that if people say they’re going to ‘myoga class,’ it’s also the brand within it and there’s that sense of ownership that people bring to the class.
How would you describe the style of yoga you teach here?
I usually describe it as a fusion. It depends on who I’m talking to and how much they know about yoga. People know different styles, so I try to relate it to the style they know. It’s accessible because we have lots of levels now, so people can step into it if they’ve never done yoga or if they’ve been injured or spent decades being stiff. Or they can step into something like flow yoga which assumes a greater familiarity with their own body as well as the particulars of MYOGA. The two main styles that make MYOGA - Kundalini and Kripalu - are both noted for being about awareness and Kundalini yoga in particular is about the movement of energy through the body. And Kripalu means ‘being compassionate.’ So MYOGA is about compassion and awareness, which doesn’t mean there’s no rigor in it or no intensity and strength building! A lot of people say to me ‘I can’t do yoga because I can’t touch my toes’ I say ‘you’re not going to get any closer to touching your toes by not doing yoga’ but it’s a balance of strength and flexibility. It really depends on where the person is.
I didn’t know at the time but I now particularly like the fact that this is the transvestite street and there’s a prostitute [painted] on the building that makes it particularly easy to find. And there’s something about reclaiming the feminine power in that that is important to me. A lot of the people that come to yoga are women, yet the history of yoga is very male-based. It’s only in the past 20-30 years that more and more women have come into the practice and more and more female teachers have emerged, which has changed the face of yoga as well. I spent about a year casually looking and then six months intensively looking for a space and was looking for something that felt yogic, that felt spacious and also nurturing. That had a sense of nature even though it’s in the middle of the city. It took me a while to find that.
What kind of people come?
There’s a wide range of people from 18 to 70. In terms of the age it’s quite broad. It tends to be more women. Occasionally the brave man like yourself. I think in New Zealand it’s still a young industry. When I first moved here seven years ago people were still concerned it was a cult so it’s only really been with Bikram and Hot yoga that people’s minds have been changed. I think because they’ve been able to step into it as more of an athletic pursuit then they’re able to move from there into the more spiritual aspects without fear. I find MYOGA students tend to be more mature and open-minded in the sense that they’re more open to the spiritual elements. As much as we do physical practice, I don’t shy away from the spiritual practice so it takes somebody who’s ready for that and also someone who sees the benefit of slowing down and being more precise as well as adding in an element of something bigger than the ego itself.
So that’s Giving Up Drugs For Lent done for 2013.
How do I feel? Ok.
First half of Lent physically I felt pretty great. Lungs good, Achilles a bit sore, slept well. Kinda bored as usual, and felt clumsy and stupid, particularly when doing new things.
Second half my back went, got some bug, smashed myself up a bit on the hill race. Achilles much better after my doc prescribed me some calf-raises.
Re: levitation, I didn’t really explore it that much altho I’ve got a bit more of my interview with Melissa to post in which we discuss the subject.
Re: Hinduism, they’ve some really cool shit going on that warrants further investigation. Next year Sikhism!
Shantih shantih shantih