Just chillin’ in Encinitas, nothing’s getting me down

Bobbie and I are both down in Encinitas; she’s about four hours into her first day with Tim Miller at his Second Series teacher training. I’ve spent three hours in the car getting down here; some time grabbing lunch in downtown Encinitas; about 30 minutes forgetting various accouterment needed for the beach (first a towel, then my hat, etc.), finally got to the beach for a few hours, got in a couple of swims, then skateboarded by the Encinitas Self Realization Fellowship to see what the surf was like at Swami’s.

And tonight there’s a welcome dinner at Tim’s.

Why do I tell you this? Well, obviously to make you jealous. It’s about as warm as it gets by the beach in Southern California — easily 80 — and just about the perfect SoCal day.

No, I kid. It’s because I am relaxed and thus as I just sit here, almost able to see the ocean from the couch, I’m extremely chill when I read a few mainstream media stories on yoga, which all offer a fairly dramatic counterpoint to each other.

Normally, I’d feel that wee bit of frustration I get over the ill-painting of yoga. (Yeah, I know, I need to work on that.) But today… it’s all good.

One’s in the Los Angeles Times, about the burgeoning Wanderlust festival. Then there’s a piece by Reuters on Lululemon’s suing Gap and Calvin Klein. The other, in the Globe and Mail, is about yoga activism or politicization.

I think I’m on the record as being somewhat hesitant about, as the Globe piece titles it, “how yoga is turning into a protest movement.” As I dive into the thought behind yoga (I took a commentary on Patanjali with me to the beach), I focus on how we’re supposed to improve ourselves, find our way to the Atman. But I also recognize the import of the Karma Yoga in the Gita.

Let’s just say that marrying them isn’t settled with me, yet.

I suggest these pieces are at odds not because Wanderlust isn’t politically active (I don’t know one way or the other), but because if you’re just a casual reader of the Times, I think you’d come away with an image of a big dance party gathering focused on fun. The Globe story, by contrast, touches on India’s Baba Ramdev and Off the Mat Into the World (which I know crosses over into Wanderlust):

But there also is what Roseanne Harvey, a Montreal yoga teacher and the co-editor of a new book, 21st Century Yoga: Culture, Politics, & Practice, calls an awakening of “the political body.”

“With this larger wave of commercialization, hybridization and brand identification, there is also a countercultural wave calling out for a more engaged and politicized way of living,” she says.

She also insists there is no fundamental disconnect between the deeper roots of meditative yoga and political involvement – and that a focus on compassion, truth and justice is essential for the practice to remain relevant.


The unorthodox activism, Ms. den Otter acknowledges, has sparked a backlash from more traditional yogis, who fear political ideologies may infect the spiritual sanctuary of the studio. “Our answer,” she says, “is to bring yoga into the politics, rather than politics into the yoga.”

But the reality, insists Chelsea Roff, the managing editor of a yoga blog founded by the daughter of bestselling guru Deepak Chopra, “is that we’re already engaging politically. We ‘vote’ every day. Every time I buy a latte at Starbucks, I’m supporting the way they treat people who grow their coffee. Everyone would benefit from bringing more awareness to how we’re engaging.”

Now, contrast that with this from the Times:

This four-day yoga retreat by day, dance party by night is the sort of event that could only happen if a pair of indie rock producers shared office space with an internationally renowned yoga teacher. Which is exactly how Wanderlust, which comes to Santa Monica in abbreviated form in September, was born.

Yoga is one, the other, both? Both, I’m sure we’d all agree — but, again, a casual reader might be left to wonder.

Then there’s the piece about Lululemon and lawsuits. If you are interested in the “business of yoga,” it’s a worthwhile read. But if you are either a political yogi or yogini or of the dance-party version, it could rub you the wrong way:

Founded in 1998, Lululemon took Canada and then the United States by storm with costly, colorful, fashionable workout gear targeted at professional young women. Its shares are up seven-fold since its 2007 initial public offering, and now trade at 46 times earnings.

De Beer compared Lululemon’s suit to tech sector patent wars, such as the high-profile trial between Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, now drawing to a close.

“The business strategy is to deter other people from even trying to copy designs, because it’s going to cause them legal problems,” he said.

Not exactly “yogic,” right? But I bet Lululemon is among the first thing most people would identify with yoga at this point.

One last thing to leave you with as I get ready to head to Tim’s. Two quick quotes from the stories, first the Times and then the Globe: “But this time they also raise a collective glass and call out with enthusiasm not usually displayed by a bunch of lithe-bodied Lululemon-clad yoginis.” “More practically, most of the millions of students who have lately discovered the joy of yoga are too busy perfecting asanas in hip leisurewear at hot-yoga studios to join campaigns for reform.”

That’s sort of to prove my point. It’s also the type of thing that has been known to set me off a bit. Today, though, I’m chill. And I promise, the rest of the week, recounts of Tim.

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

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