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What’s that popping in my knees?

December 22, 2014

This “Ask Well” piece at the New York Times doesn’t explicitly address an asana practice, but name me someone who hasn’t had cracking and popping happen and I’ll point out to you someone who isn’t practicing asana properly. Part of the answer:

The crackling or popping sound you hear is known as crepitus. In some cases, it may be nothing more than bubbles of gas popping in your joints. It can also result from the cartilage in your knees losing their smoothness, causing bones and tissue to rub together noisily when you bend your legs.

“Crepitus is extremely common,” Dr. Stuart said. “Our joints make a lot of noise.”

If things hurt, it could be arthritis or a meniscus tear.

Merry Christmas, if that’s the case. Ugh.

Posted by Steve

Ashtanga and marijuana — an authority’s point of view

December 21, 2014

Yesterday’s post noted the expected media pile-up on a story by the San Francisco Chronicle about people smoking pot before practicing yoga.

A quick digression into a reminder: We post stories that, in our minds, reach a certain critical mass in the mainstream media just to provide those of us more deeply involved in whatever the “yoga community” is a window on how others are seeing it.

OK, back to yoga and pot.

I recalled that Richard Freeman addressed the issue in an “Ask the Experts” a while back:

When relationships, details of everyday life and one’s own yoga practice are dealt with under the influence of marijuana the result is often a lack of completion, an absence of external feedback and an inability to postpone pleasure. Yoga practitioners who smoke during, or after their practice on a regular basis, tend to plateau in their practice and gradually lose their, “edge,” their intellectual capacity and brilliance.

You can click on the link to get his full thoughts.

Anyone have a different take? I’m not suggesting there’s no benefit; I’m just suggesting that way people in the story/stories about it this week talk about it seem to be missing the point of practicing yoga (as I understand it).

Posted by Steve

Yoga on high. Pot yoga. Call it what you will

December 20, 2014

This story seems to be getting picked up everywhere, for all the obvious reasons:

Controlled breathing has always played an integral role in mindful yoga practice. But a small number of classes on the West Coast are now choosing to inhale controlled substances.

You’ve heard of hot yoga? Well, welcome to pot yoga, where students are encouraged to take a puff before assuming various postures to increase their level of relaxation and flexibility.

“Historically, cannabis has been linked to really early use with yoga in ancient Shiva cults,” said Dee Dussault, 34, a 20-year yogi and instructor of Ganja Yoga in San Francisco, which launched this October. “Back then, they weren’t smoking it, but drinking it in a milk beverage and burning it as an incense. But if you’re burning incense, you’re essentially hotboxing the temple as a result.”

At Ganja Yoga, students are responsible for their own high: Those who possess medical marijuana cards can participate in a 15-minute smoking session before class, at which point everyone will form a circle, state their name and share their inspiration for attending.

“A lot of students are consuming it before yoga anyway,” said Dussault. “So a big benefit that I am hearing is the community aspect. The first thing they want to do after consuming cannabis is lay down and stretch. And, depending upon the dosage and strain, it really encourages people to relax.”

Yeah, how can the media resist?

I’m of course trying to resist reacting to someone talking about “hotboxing” a temple. (Having been inside such a temple, I understand the comparison, I just can’t help thinking Dussault is trolling to the lowest common denominator.)

Here are other pick-ups of this story. It was this SF Chronicle piece is the one that got the bong ball rolling. It has a classic journalism end:

For Cole Short, 24, an advertising art director who was not a yoga enthusiast before attending Dussault’s classes, the marijuana was the big draw.

“This is the only way you’d get me to do yoga,” he said.


Posted by Steve

New site sets out to interview Ashtanga teachers

December 19, 2014

There’s a new site that’s come online (this week, I think) with this mission:

Ashtanga Parampara is a collection of interviews with authorized/certified practitioners and teachers of Ashtanga yoga as taught by Shri K. Pattabhi Jois (KPJAYI). This platform seeks to archive the background and history of teachers that have been blessed by Pattabhi Jois or his grandson, R. Sharath Jois, to teach and spread the Ashtanga method. This effort is born out of sincere gratitude and devotion to the practice and seeks to illustrate and highlight the wide diversity of dedicated teachers across the world.

You can find the site here. The first interview is with Jessica Walden.

And here’s a little more from the person behind the project:

The seed of this project was inspired and born out of reading Guy Donahaye and Eddie Stern’s book, Guruji, years ago. Like others, I was fascinated by the rich tales and stories of each individual highlighted. I never wanted the stories to end. Some found Guruji and the practice through a search for something transcendental in their lives; others, sought healing from traumatic injuries or diseases. Regardless, each person had their story to share with the world. My goal is to simply record the teacher’s voice and their experiences with this practice. There are hundreds of teachers across the world. As far as I am aware, no platform exists that archives their voice. I would like to do that.

This project is 100% focused on the conversation with the teacher. It may also include their writings. This project will receive no monetary compensation. It is seva to the Ashtanga community. I hope it inspires new and current students.

I like the simple web design.

Posted by Steve

Breakfast, and a few questions, with Manju Jois

December 18, 2014

Below is a short video that went up this week. It’s a quick Q&A with Manju Jois over breakfast:

The voice off screen belongs to Pranidhi Varshney. We know her from the Ashtanga scene — oh what a horrific phrase! — here in Los Angeles. You can check out our posts on her chanting CD and her thoughts on practicing with Nancy Gilgoff at this link.

Posted by Steve

Mercury Day poetry: The Waste Land

December 17, 2014

Regular readers will know that Bobbie teaches a college writing course; for the past couple of years, the central text has been T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land. You may have suffered through enjoyed it at some point during your own schooling. Or maybe not.

I re-read it last while flying back home from a business meeting. It’s a bit long, true, but all together wonderful. Below is the last lines, which end with three familiar words. The full poem is at the link above:

Then spoke the thunder
DA  400
Datta: what have we given?
My friend, blood shaking my heart
The awful daring of a moment’s surrender
Which an age of prudence can never retract
By this, and this only, we have existed  405
Which is not to be found in our obituaries
Or in memories draped by the beneficent spider
Or under seals broken by the lean solicitor
In our empty rooms
DA  410
Dayadhvam: I have heard the key
Turn in the door once and turn once only
We think of the key, each in his prison
Thinking of the key, each confirms a prison
Only at nightfall, aetherial rumours  415
Revive for a moment a broken Coriolanus
Damyata: The boat responded
Gaily, to the hand expert with sail and oar
The sea was calm, your heart would have responded  420
Gaily, when invited, beating obedient
To controlling hands
                      I sat upon the shore
Fishing, with the arid plain behind me
Shall I at least set my lands in order?  425
London Bridge is falling down falling down falling down
Poi s’ascose nel foco che gli affina
Quando fiam ceu chelidon—O swallow swallow
Le Prince d’Aquitaine à la tour abolie
These fragments I have shored against my ruins  430
Why then Ile fit you. Hieronymo’s mad againe.
Datta. Dayadhvam. Damyata.
      Shantih    shantih    shantih


As it says, these are just fragments. The whole is even greater than the sum of its pretty incredible parts.

Posted by Steve

A reminder of why we do yoga

December 16, 2014

It comes — as it has before — from Robbie Norris, who teaches yoga with a firm grounding in Ashtanga, to those in the Richmond City Jail and at his own studio:

Three years later, on October 21, 2014, while sugaring my coffee at Starbucks, I heard a voice, “Hey, I think you taught me yoga at jail a few years ago.”  I turned and was so pleased to see Logan.  Imploring him to come to Richmond City Yoga, I got his commitment to come the next day.  The following morning when I arrived, he was there waiting.  That boy from jail is now a promising young man.  He wants to acquire the education and credentials to become a mental health therapist; hopefully, he will get help with this ambition, because the occupation would suit him well.  Logan is dedicated to working hard and doing the right things.  He’s funny, intelligent, attentive, and humble.  And his disciplined daily yoga practice is bringing him physical strength, mental resolve, and deserved confidence.

You need — really have to — to go the above link and read all of Logan’s story, including this part:

My wish is that anyone who reads this, who is so inclined and who has the means, will please contact me so that we can join forces to help further this young man’s dream.

Many thanks to RCY student Stacey Scott for paying Logan’s second and third month’s dues.  Thanks to the anonymous donor and theCommunity Foundation for supporting my work at the jail.  Thank you,Eddie Stern, for being the fiscal agent for the grant, and for being a continuous source of inspiration and education.  Thank you, David Swenson, for your generous donations of books and supplies to help inmates and indigent ex-offenders.

It is incredibly fun to complain about one’s yoga practice, to write about how or why you’re giving it up, to joy in the triumphs and to curse the challenges. But it always is critical to remember how lucky you are you can complain in such a way — a real first world problem, no?

Read through Logan’s story and think about contacting Robbie, if you’re so moved. You can reach him via the contact link on his blog.

Posted by Steve