Friday, December 29, 2006

We Lost Another One
Faster than you can snap your fingers, faster than you can blink, in the space between the thud of the heart in your chest, he's gone. Just like that.

Sean was always light-hearted, quick to smile, and had a contagious passion for the yoga.

My deepest condolences to his ladyfriend, his family, his friends. Much love and light to you all.
Mike Watt Spiel
If you can thread through the microscopic font size, Mike Watt's tour diaries make for great reading. Watt was the bassist for the Minutemen and firehose, and goddamn if "Jesus and Tequila" off Double Nickels on the Dime didn't change my life. He's since released several solo albums, none of which I've heard, and plays bass with Iggy and the Asheton brothers in the rejuvenated Stooges.

(Apparently Steve Albini has produced their new album, too, all of the above guaranteeing I'll give it a listen. Thank you, Bittorrent.)

Watts hammered out his own San Pedro, California-based punk-rock patois, which is charming and self-effacing. He doesn't have conversations, he spiels; he doesn't play the bass guitar, he "works the thud staff." His home page,, is also filled with daily journal entries from his various tours.

The headache-inducing microdot font size is abetted by the fact that the long entries are all crammed on the page in long, single paragraphs, but there's a realness to be found and treasured in his words. The Minutemen straddled the worlds of punk rock and hardcore, but were neither nihilistic like the former nor as strident as the latter, and after reading Watt's journals, you understand why. He is genuinely excited and interested in the world.

If you can find them, his descriptions of the Stooges live gigs are revelatory, beyond the fact that Iggy Pop still sounds like an absolute madman on stage. With the Stooges, Watt oscillates between two extremes: the first, more common, extreme has him fighting a self-conscious and anxiety-ridden battle to keep time with the band, keep his bass in tune, and stay on top of the sound equipment. The second extreme are those moments when the band locks into a thunderous groove, and Watt falls to his knees and bows his head in worship in front of his bass amp, the better to somatically absorb the thunder pouring forth. He writes of "disappearing" into and "taking off" with the music.

Sarvikalpa samadhi? Call it the yoga of the thud staff.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Yoga at Altitude
“If some people are telling you they had their climax on Mount Everest, they lied,” says Reinhold Messner in the November National Geographic. “It is an awful place.”

Caroline Alexander, the article’s author, asks: why risk everything to go there?

“Without the possibility of death,” says Messner, “adventure is not possible.”

The article, from which the following information and quotes were taken, hails Messner as the world’s greatest mountaineer. In 1975, Messner ascended, with longtime partner Peter Habeler, the 26,470-foot summit of Gasherbrum I, called Hidden Peak; Gasherburm I is one of the giants of the Himalayas. Most remarkable of all, though, was that Messner and Habeler ascended without porters, camps, fixed ropes, or oxygen.

Messner and Habeler then scaled Everest without oxygen in May of 1978, a feat that National Geographic says “took climbing to the absolute limit.” Three months later, Messner climbed Nanga Parbat, the ninth highest mountain on Earth, solo. Two years later, he again climbed Mount Everest without oxygen, equipped with a single small rucksack — and alone.

Messner was the first climber to ascend all 14 "eight-thousanders," or peaks over 8,000 meters tall.

The yoga of Messner’s climbing — and make no mistake, it is yoga — involves intense practice and dedication. “If I am well-prepared,” says Messner, “and if I’m living a long time in my visions, in my fantasy, with my challenge, before doing it, I’m living with it, I’m dreaming about it, planning, preparing, training.”

The residue of his practice is a fierce, consuming, and single-pointed state of concentration. “So when I start to climb,” he continues, “especially when I’m on a big wall, whatever the difficulties — I’m so concentrated that there is nothing else existing; there’s only a few meters of wall where I am hanging and climbing; and in this concentration, everything seems quite logical. There is no danger anymore. The danger is gone … But the concentration is absolute.”

As Messner says, without the possibility of death, adventure is not possible. It must be understood, however, that for Messner, the idea of “life” and “adventure” are inextricably intertwined, for it is true, too, that without the possibility of death, life is not possible. That’s the word “life” as opposite to the idea of merely subsisting, which is the ceaseless reaction to external stimuli — avoiding discomfort, seeking its opposite — eternally buffeted by the mind's internal chatter and its cherished anxieties and neuroses.

For Messner, that internal chatter is stilled in the face of absolute danger, a danger for which he has rigorously practiced.

“There are moments in difficult situations, far away, that there is no more doubt,” he says. “There, the questions are gone. And I think these are the important moments. If the question is gone, I have not to answer. Myself living — I am the answer.”

Messner has paid heavy dues to the mountains: frostbite has claimed five toes and three fingers, and during Reinhold's first Himalayan expedition in 1970, Nanga Parbat claimed the life of his younger brother, Gunther.

Is it possible to become Messner’s “myself living,” to become one’s own “answer," without stumbling to the summit of Everest, half-mad with oxygen deprivation, at the edge of starvation and dehydration?
Samadhi at Three Paces
I dipped into a Peet's two Fridays ago for a pre-practice double-banger of espresso. In the three paces between the front door and the counter, nirvikalpa samadhi arose, and I disappeared into that timeless gap between thoughts. The conscious brain, the I-maker, the ahamkara, as it’s called, scrabbled for purchase, dug in its heels, and did what it does best — that is, think — and so, facing the counterperson, I thought, "Wow! I am experiencing a moment of pure timelessness and formlessness!"

Which meant that at that point, of course, I wasn't.

The irony being I then went to practice the yoga.

The yoga will not create or bring about such moments, but in my case, at least, it has refined my ability to recognize such moments when they arise, and further refine the tools, techniques and skills that allow one to pay attention to those moments for longer and longer.

The irony, in this instance, is that there is no “one” paying attention to any “thing.” Words are just too slippery for descriptions.

You will doubtless be pleased to know, too, that it was a strong, hearty espresso, one which did most of the work of the practice for me.

Saturday, December 2, 2006

Can ashtanga vinyasa yogis cop to looking at pictures of Britney Spears' vagina?

Can ashtanga vinyasa yogis admit to being more intrigued by Britney Spears' C-section scar than her vagina?

What does Britney Spears' vagina have to do with yoga?

Oh, if only we could live in a cave in the jungle, wear a loincloth, grow our hair and beards, practice the asanas, the pranayama, the meditation, chant the Gita and the Sutras, and know nothing of Britney Spears' vagina.
Frawley Comes Alive!
I just crept out of a talk given by Dr. David Frawley called "Ayurvedic Psychology." Dr. Frawley’s a prolific author, and has published books on yoga philosophy, jyotish, or Hindu astrology, and ayurveda. He’s one of the few Westerners recognized in India as a Vedacharya, or teacher of the ancient wisdom.

In person, he's articulate, intelligent, and soft-spoken. For all you groupies, he’s trimmed his wild-man beard and hair and now bears little resemblance to the renunciate staring out of his dust-jacket photo.

A question I might have asked him, had I not snuck out before the group mantra meditation in order to make the Encinitas Christmas parade: Are we, in fact, a chronically overstimulated culture, country and civilization? Are we heaping on more and more undigested and undigestable sense-impressions, and therefore bloating on the ensuing karma?

But how to untangle that idea — illustrated by Frawley's example of the escalating number of car-crashes in movies — from a thinly veiled romantic yearning for a prelapsarian Eden, an unmediated “pure” state of existence, which, we all know, never existed?

I'd have liked to discuss the other thread woven throughout his talk: existence as a perpetual sickness, disease, or imbalance, forever in need of an eternal healing, an idea also prevalent in much New Age thinking.

(You say you aren’t “imbalanced”? That’s a sign of a vata imbalance.)

My attendance at this talk comes hard on the heels of my completion of Daniel Pinchbeck’s latest opus, 2012. Pinchbeck has eagerly picked up where Terence McKenna left off, as regards to psychedelic shamanism, alien abductions, and the machine elves who live on the other side of a DMT-generated boom tube.

Interestingly, in 2012, Pinchbeck glosses right over the work of Ken Wilber, and in fact dismisses it as a complicated series of “charts and graphs,” when in fact much of Wilber’s work addresses most of Pinchbeck’s central questions, chief among them the ways the different wisdom traditions turn the insights gained during certain peak (and psychedelic drug-induced) states into permanent, everyday qualities and characteristics. In other words, how to stabilize the insights Pinchbeck received while chugging ayuhuasca at Burning Man and therefore experience transformative growth.

(Although undoubtedly Wilber would be unable to save Pinchbeck from his own shrieking harridan writing style. Daniel Pinchbeck never met an alliteration or assonance he didn’t like. 2012 is awash in their pulpy corpses.)

The other, more obscure author who might most help Pinchbeck, in addition to Wilber, would be Patanjali, author of the Yoga Sutras, from which Pinchbeck might heed Patanjali’s suggestions to find one single practice, one truth, and then stick to it, without interruption, for an extended period of time, with faith and vigor.

But the cross-pollination of Frawley’s talk tonight and with what Pinchbeck addresses in 2012 — chiefly, the quantum-jump into a new human consciousness set to take place in the year 2012, said date coinciding with the termination of the third (fourth?) Mayan age — was the idea that yes, perhaps our era is marked by an exponential acceleration, of communication, of thought, of sense-impressions. All of which are characteristics of an increasing heat. Pinchbeck maintains that this heat is cooking us, a la Rumi’s chickpea in the pot.

Maybe this acceleration is part of a great quickening of consciousness, and the sensory overload is only signaling the onset of a massive shift, a quantum jump, in human evolution? Perhaps this friction and its heat is first driving us out of our minds — and then, through practice, through ayurveda, through yoga, through meditation, through tapas, forcing us back, back into our minds. Only when we get there, we’ll find everything new and different, yet older and more familiar than our own faces.
Frawley Comes Alive!
I just crept out of a talk given by Dr. David Frawley called "Ayurvedic Psychology." Dr. Frawley’s a prolific author, and has published books on yoga philosophy, jyotish, or Hindu astrology, and ayurveda. He’s one of the few Westerners recognized in India as a Vedacharya, or teacher of the ancient wisdom.

In person, he's articulate, intelligent, and soft-spoken. For all you groupies, he’s trimmed his wild-man beard and hair and now bears little resemblance to the renunciate staring out of his dust-jacket photo.

A question I might have asked him, had I not snuck out before the group mantra meditation in order to make the Encinitas Christmas parade: Are we, in fact, a chronically overstimulated culture, country and civilization? Are we heaping on more and more undigested and undigestable sense-impressions, and therefore bloating on the ensuing karma?

But how to untangle that idea — illustrated by Frawley's example of the escalating number of car-crashes in movies — from a thinly veiled romantic yearning for a prelapsarian Eden, an unmediated “pure” state of existence, which, we all know, never existed?

I'd have liked to discuss the other thread woven throughout his talk: existence as a perpetual sickness, disease, or imbalance, forever in need of an eternal healing, an idea also prevalent in much New Age thinking.

(You say you aren’t “imbalanced”? That’s a sign of a vata imbalance.)

My attendance at this talk comes hard on the heels of my completion of Daniel Pinchbeck’s latest opus, 2012. Pinchbeck has eagerly picked up where Terence McKenna left off, as regards to psychedelic shamanism, alien abductions, and the machine elves who live on the other side of a DMT-generated boom tube.

Interestingly, in 2012, Pinchbeck glosses right over the work of Ken Wilber, and in fact dismisses it as a complicated series of “charts and graphs,” when in fact much of Wilber’s work addresses most of Pinchbeck’s central questions, chief among them the ways the different wisdom traditions turn the insights gained during certain peak (and psychedelic drug-induced) states into permanent, everyday qualities and characteristics. In other words, how to stabilize the insights Pinchbeck received while chugging ayuhuasca at Burning Man and therefore experience transformative growth.

(Although undoubtedly Wilber would be unable to save Pinchbeck from his own shrieking harridan writing style. Daniel Pinchbeck never met an alliteration or assonance he didn’t like. 2012 is awash in their pulpy corpses.)

The other, more obscure author who might most help Pinchbeck, in addition to Wilber, would be Patanjali, author of the Yoga Sutras, from which Pinchbeck might heed Patanjali’s suggestions to find one single practice, one truth, and then stick to it, without interruption, for an extended period of time, with faith and vigor.

But the cross-pollination of Frawley’s talk tonight and with what Pinchbeck addresses in 2012 — chiefly, the quantum-jump into a new human consciousness set to take place in the year 2012, said date coinciding with the termination of the third (fourth?) Mayan age — was the idea that yes, perhaps our era is marked by an exponential acceleration, of communication, of thought, of sense-impressions. All of which are characteristics of an increasing heat. Pinchbeck maintains that this heat is cooking us, a la Rumi’s chickpea in the pot.

Maybe this acceleration is part of a great quickening of consciousness, and the sensory overload is only signaling the onset of a massive shift, a quantum jump, in human evolution? Perhaps this friction and its heat is first driving us out of our minds — and then, through practice, through ayurveda, through yoga, through meditation, through tapas, forcing us back, back into our minds. Only when we get there, we’ll find everything new and different, yet older and more familiar than our own faces.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Yoga Blog Topics I'd Pay to See More Of
1. Stories about farting, loudly and repeatedly, in class.
2. Pussy-farts.
3. Humping in general.
4. Humping someone from your shala.
5. Breaking up with someone you've been humping from your shala.
6. Putting your mat down right next to someone you were humping, but are no longer humping, from your shala; putting your mat down and, as a matter of fact, doing your whole practice and not saying a goddamn word to that person you were humping for four months, even though it was going somewhere nice, maybe not somewhere overly serious, but there was definitely potential, and at the very least you were spending a lot of time together, until one day, out of the blue, while shifting nervously in his seat at the coffee shop and scratching his wispy facial hair in a distracted and put-upon way, he said, "This isn't working for me — I'm sorry," and that was it, no more humping, no more post-practice coffee, no more phone calls, no more e-mails, and you were left to wonder what the hell happened, and fuck it, you're putting your mat down next to his every goddamn day until he says something to you.
6. Narcissism.
7. Overcoming the novelty factor of a daily ashtanga yoga practice.
8. Eating disorders at your shala, and in yoga in general, i.e., the skinned rabbit-woman look.
9. Thoughts both general and specific on the abandonment, the dissipation, like so much steam, of every conscious thought, the very dissolution of every idea of good bad, fat thin, strong weak, stiff bendy, sore warm, front back, top bottom, all of it, until only the in-breath, the out-breath remain, and then that disappears, too, and there is only a swelling sense of warmth and love, and that, too, disappears, and then there is no "I," no difference between you and the wall, the pillar, the statue of Hanuman in the corner, the mat, the rug, the whirring of the heater, the floor, the woman across from you, the sweating, grunting man next to you, the beams of sunlight lancing through the fogged window; there is no past, there is no future, there is only the breathing, pulsing now, only you are not breathing it, it is breathing you.
10. As per above, heart cracked and overflowing, weeping in savasana, eyes wide, water flowing freely down the cheeks.
11. For the real psychenauts: ashtanga vinyasa plus DMT.

Thursday, November 9, 2006

What Up, Cycle Suckas
Basso to Disco; Armstrizza made it official on Tuesday!

'07 is gonna pop, from a pro-cycle racing perspective: Disco versus Astana versus CSC.

Monday, November 6, 2006

The ashtanga vinyasa yoga practice being what it is — an experiment in observation — the people who practice it regularly naturally begin to track correlations between their eating habits and their yoga practice. As a result, many people have either adopted or imported their own rather esoteric eating and dietary examples. In some cases, people don't adopt or import eating habits, regimens or philosophies so much as they use the practice to fine-tune their own food-related neuroses and eating disorders.

So we can put anorexia and bulimia on a far, far end of the spectrum — it's rare but I've seen it — other food philosphies and ideas I've encountered and/or tried directly myself include vegetarianism, veganism, macrobiotics, raw foodism, fruitarianism, breatharianism (or, as an old teacher of mine called it, "male anorexia") and uropathy (the drinking of one's own urine).

There are a myriad of variations and minute differences. Some of the more extreme and hilarious include eating more (and more!) ghee, eating more chapatis, eating less chapatis, and the complete removal of certain and specific foodstuffs from one's diet, such as deadly nightshades (i.e. potatoes, eggplants, strychnine), sugar, wheat, mushrooms, or eggs.

A woman once asked Guruji if eating dark chocolate would make her more flexible, and Guruji responded with a vigorous "Yes!" Milk chocolate, with its milk and sugar, seems to be a very sattvic food. Guruji, it should be added, has a legendary sweet tooth. The next several mornings, before class, at 5 a.m., the woman showed up at the shala gates hurriedly gobbing down bits of dark chocolate before heading in to practice.

I don't know if the chocky made her more flexible, but if you can work out a way to have the consumption of chocolate legitimized and endorsed as part of your yoga practice, I say go for it.

Unfortunately, at this point I can't say with any certainty that eating certain kinds of food affects in any way my experience on the yoga mat. But I'll head out on a limb here to list the few food and diet generalizations I can make.

1. The daily consumption of generous amounts of water. I don't exactly measure it out, but I'm getting at least 64 ounces a day. The tapas of the daily exertions of the practice refined my discrimination to the point where I realized I was often eating when I was thirsty, misinterpreting my body's signals, and therefore walking around perpetually dehydrated. A can of Mountain Dew and two cups of coffee a day isn't enough liquid.

2. A daily practice. It's obvious (as is most dietary advice, right?), but I'll state it anyway: consistent practice is the mother of skill.

It also forced me to take a long view of things, because once you start practicing every day, the body's more minute and heretofore unnoticed tics and nuances suddenly become readily apparent, and this, in turn, is when the practice becomes a true practice; that is, when you've abandoned accomplishment in order to get through it. A bad physical day — a day of physical discomfort and unease — will quickly wipe out the novelty factor of yoga. The novelty factor: "Look Ma, I'm a yogini! I'm wearing my yoga capri pants, I have my yoga mat bag, and I have my mat! Wow, I just put my leg behind my head!" Injuries also have the same effect, but that's a whole different post.

3. Caloric restriction, especially at night. I'm not going to make any generalizations about what sorts of diets ashtangis should be adhering to, although Pattabhi Jois will highly recommend a vegetarian diet, which is also what I personally believe in and practice, but for those Inuits and Tibetans out there — that is, those of us genetically predisposed and raised to consume either whale blubber and baby seal, or yak meat and radishes — an all-veg diet may not be ideal, and in fact may rot out your teeth, destroy your immune system, and make you crabby and irritable.

But I have noticed a consistent sense of clarity and lightness, as opposed to sluggishness and density, when I began to reduce the amount of calories I consumed in the evening. Many ashtangis adopt this habit while in Mysore, where we get up so early to practice that a heavy Indian dinner, eaten late at night, feels like a real gut-bomb. Over the years I've shifted towards eating big lunches and smaller dinners. The idea being, though, that even during lunch, my portion sizes are reduced.

The ashtanga practice, more than any other system, has built-in failsafes to ensure you're not over-eating or under-eating. If you stay out late with the work crew for an extended happy hour re-mix, horking down margaritas, baskets of free garlic bread, and a dinner of spinach and garlic raviolis, odds are you'll feel a bit sluggish the next morning.

If you under-eat, you feel bendy and light for a day or so, but this degenerates into a physical weakness, as the ashtanga vinyasa practice requires equal amounts of strength and flexibility.

This is why, incidentally, I'd be interested to know how those anorexic and bulimics out there manage to pull it off, although I'm guessing the physiological checks they're writing on their bodies will get cashed that much sooner due to the demands of the ashtanga practice.

We could also speculate about the efficacy of eating less towards evening, too, by taking into account Sharath's practice schedule. Tim mentioned that when he lived with the Jois', they would eat two big meals a day: at 3 and 9 p.m. He would finish those heroic practices the Old Guys used to do (three, four hours alone in the room with Guruji) and then, after waking up from resting pose/black-out, rove the streets of Lakshmipuram like a ravenous bear, looking for something to eat.

So if Sharath is eating a typical south Indian dinner at 9, and then practicing at 2 or 3 a.m., that pretty much blows my observation out of the water, but what the hell.

4. Finally, the other factor that affects my practice with any consistent regularity is the amount and quality of sleep. The less sleep, the more flexible and strong I feel. This, too, is a slippery slope, because while I've had brilliant practice after two hours of sleep, it's simply not sustainable on a day-to-day basis.

Nina and Olaf have a great questions-and-answer page on their site,, where they answer some of the most common questions they're asked. Although they're asked about diet separately, their answer to the question, "Can I do other sports and practice yoga?" really applies here, as they answer that yoga is supposed to bring awareness to the other aspects of our life. Eating is no exception. The idea being, whatever it is you're eating, eat with consciousness.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Divine Stability
I posted this on the EZ Board months and months ago, but I'll resuscitate it here because the ashtanga vinyasa practice is woven with stories, and who doesn't love a good story?

Vishwamitra is one of Hinduism’s most venerated rishis. He was a kshatriya warrior-king by birth, but became a rishi through thousands of years of hard penance. He is also known for discovering the Gayatri mantra.

In the Ramayana, Vishwamitra trains Rama and Lakshmana in the use of the devastras, or celestial weaponry, and guides them to kill powerful demons.

Although “Vishwamitra” means “friend of the universe,” one of the rishi’s chief faults was his short temper. He was quick to anger and often cursed hapless victims, thereby depleting the yogic powers he’d obtained through much tapas.

As per a reader's edit, "it should be noted that Visvamitra became a brahmin-rshi, not just a rshi. A significant difference is there. As for his name, it can mean "friend (mitra) of the universe" or "enemy (amitra) of the universe."

Vasishta was chief of the seven venerated rishis and the preceptor of the Ishvahu clan, also referred to as the Surya dynasty. He was thus the guru of Rama and Rama’s father Dasaratha. Vasishta is Brahma’s manasaputra, or “wish-born son.”

Pattabhi Jois highly recommends reading the Yogavasishta, an Advaita Vedanta text in the form of a dialogue between Vasishta and his student Rama.

According to the Mahabharata, the Ramayana and the Puranas, Kasyapa was the son of Marichi, the son of Brahma. Kasyapa, which means “tortoise,” was one of the seven great rishis. He had numerous and diverse offspring, including demons, nagas, reptiles, birds, and all kinds of living things. He was thus the father of all, and as such is sometimes called Prajapati.

According to the legendary history of the Chan and Zen schools of Buddhism, a monk named Kasyapa received dharma transmission directly from the Buddha at the famous flower sermon. The Buddha silently held a flower before his students and only Kasyapa smiled. The Buddha remarked that Kasyapa alone of all his students had received his teaching for that day, and thereafter should be known as Mahakasyapa.

Alectoris graeca, the Himalaya partrdige, lover of the moon, said to feed on moonbeams. A favored pet of Lakshmi. The eyes of the chakora are said to turn red when they look on poisoned food.

Bhairava (the “wrathful”) is one of the more terrifying aspects of Shiva. He is often depicted with frowning, angry eyes, sharp tiger's teeth, and flaming hair, stark naked except for garlands of skulls and a coiled snake about his neck. In his four hands he carries a noose, trident, drum, and skull. He is often shown accompanied by a dog. Bhairava is the embodiment of fear, and it is said that those who meet him must confront the source of their own fears.

In one version of the Bhairava myth, Brahma and Vishnu were disputing with each other for the status of supreme god and appealed to the testimony of the four Vedas, which unanimously proclaimed Shiva as the Ultimate Truth of the Universe.

Brahma was scornful of that answer, however, and his fifth head taunted Shiva: "I know who you are, Rudra, whom I created from my forehead. Take refuge with me and I will protect you, my son!"

Overflowing with anger, Shiva became Bhairava and severed Brahma’s head with the nail of his left thumb.

In another version, Brahma lusted after his mind-borne daughter and grew four heads in order that he might continually see her. Embarrassed by his attentions, his daughter ascended heavenwards. Brahma then manifested a fifth head and reached out to 'cohabit' with his daughter. Upon seeing this, Shiva became Bhairava and cut off the fifth head of Brahma with his sword.

The severed head immediately stuck to Bhairava's hand, where it remained in the form of the skull and served as his begging-bowl. Shiva as Bhairava then roamed the world as an ascetic, pursued by a female fury, to atone for the sin of brahminicide.

Skanda is more commonly known as Kartikeya. He is a son of Shiva and was born without the assistance of a woman. The universe was being terrorized by the asura Taraka, and only a son of Shiva could destroy the demon. The other gods orchestrated Shiva’s marriage to Parvati, yet no child was born of the union.

Finally, Shiva handed over his semen to Agni, the only god capable of handling it, but even Agni was tortured by the semen’s heat, and was forced to hand it over to Ganga, who in turn deposited it in a lake in a forest of reeds, from whence Kartikeya was born. As he was born from the life-source that slipped (“skanna”) from Shiva, he is named “Skanda.”

The child Kartikeya was born in this forest and then suckled by the six Kartikas, or Pleiades. He developed six faces for this purpose, and has twelve arms, hence the name Kartikeya, by which he is commonly known and worshipped. He was made head of the army of gods, and, according to the Mahabharata, defeated Mahisa and Taraka, who through their tapas were threatening the gods.

One of the major Puranas, the Skanda Purana, is dedicated to him. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna, explaining his omnipresence, says, "Of generals I am Skanda, the lord of war."

According to the Shiva Purana, Durvasa was an incarnation of Shiva. When Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva were sent by their wives to test the chastity of Anasuya, the wife of Atri, she turned them into three infants. Pleased with her, they granted her a boon, and she chose that the three gods should be born as her children. In due course, Brahma was born as Chandra, Vishnu was born as Dattatreya, and Shiva was born as Durvasa.

Durvasa became a great rishi in his own right, although he was infamous for his extremely short temper. When he became displeased, which was often, he would curse the person who caused him anger, and his curses were frequently potent. People dreaded his arrival.

In the Ramayana, Rama has an important meeting and asks his brother Lakshman to stand guard at the gate. In the William Buck version, Lakshman in his zeal declares that whoever intrudes on Rama’s private conference would be slain.

Unfortunately, Durvasa appears and demands admittance, and rather than disobey the rishi, Lakshman himself is forced to disturb Rama. True to his word, Lakshman surrenders his life and goes to heaven.

Urdhva Kukkuta
Urdhva: “upward,” kukkuta: “rooster.” The kukkuta can symbolize the eternity of time, and also adorned Kartikeya’s pennant.

Galava was a rishi and pupil of Vishwamitra. According to the Harivansa, Galava was Vishwamitra’s son, and that rishi, in a time of great distress, tied a cord round Galava’s waist and offered him for sale. From his having been bound with a cord (gala) he was called Galava.

Eka Pada Baka
Eka pada: “one foot,” baka: “crane,” a kind of heron or crane, Ardea Nivea. Also a name for Kubera, and also the name of an Asura said to have assumed the form of a crane and subsequently defeated by Krishna.

Koundinya was a rishi and the author of a commentary on the Pashupata Sutras. Also, the kingdom of Funan in Cambodia was founded in the first century A.D. by a Hindu named Koundinya. The Koundinya gotra exists in India today.

Incidentally, one of the five ascetics who became the first disciples of the Buddha Shakyamuni was named Ajnata Kaundinya. In the Lotus Sutra it is predicted that he will become a Buddha called Universal Brightness.

While still in his mother’s womb, Astavakra would listen to his father’s recitation of verses from the Rig Veda, and at one point, he told his father, “You’re reciting mere words. There’s no substance!” Astavakra’s father became angry, and he cursed his unborn son.

Thus, when Astavakra was born, he had eight distortions in his body — eight, astau, and crooked, vakra.

Despite his father's cruel curse, Astavakra remained a faithful son. When the boy was 12, his father lost a priestly debate and was banished to the watery realm of Varuna, lord of death.

Astavakra then undertook an epic journey — is there any other kind? — and traveled to King Janaka’s court to challenge the man who had bested his father. Janaka and his courtiers saw Astavakra’s deformed body and ridiculed him — but only until Astavakra opened his mouth, at which point the King and his court discovered Astavakra was a true sage.

Astavakra debated the priest who had bested his father and triumphed, winning his father's freedom. The people who once mocked him became his disciples, including King Janaka.

Pattabhi Jois also highly recommends reading the Astavakra Gita (or Atavakra Samhita). It’s an important treatise on Advaita Vedanta that consists of a dialogue between Astavakra and Janaka on Vedanta philosophy.

Purna Matsyendra
“Purna”: full or complete. Matsyendra, “Lord of the Fishes,” appears to have been an actual historical person. Born in Bengal around the 10th century c.e., he is venerated by Buddhists in Nepal as an incarnation of the bodhisattva of compassion, Avalokiteshvara. As with most Indian myths, there are many versions of the story of Matsyendra's metamorphosis into a realized adept.

In one popular version, the infant Matsyendra is thrown into the ocean because his birth has occurred under inauspicious planets. Swallowed by a giant fish, he overhears Shiva teaching the mysteries of yoga to Parvati in their secret lair at the bottom of the ocean. Matsyendra is spellbound. After spending 12 years in the fish's belly exploring yoga's esoteric practices, he emerged as an enlightened master.

A name of Brahma, with a suggested translation of “vira,” great, and anchy, “five,” “Great Five Elements,” which were generated by and are contained within Brahma. This may be folk etymology.

Viparita Danda
Viparita: “inverted,” danda: literally “staff” or “stick.” A staff given during investiture of the sacred thread. A staff or sceptre as a symbol of power and sovereignty.

In the Devanagari script, the danda is a punctuation character. The glyph consists of a single vertical stroke. In Hindi, the danda marks the end of a sentence, a function which it shares with the full stop (period) in many written languages based on the Latin, Cyrillic, or Greek alphabets.

Because of the shape of the danda glyph, the word danda is also a slang term for penis.

Eka Pada Danda
Eka pada: “one foot,” danda: “staff” or “stick.”

Viparita Salabha
Viparita: “inverted,” salabha: “grasshopper” or “moth.”

Ganda Bherunda
Ganda: “whole side of the face, including the temple,” bherunda: “terrible, formidable, awful;” in the Mahabharata, “a species of bird," the garuda pakshi or the eagle. A mythical two-headed bird that fed on elephants. The gandabherunda was used as an insignia by the Mysore royal family.

Durgaam kaj jagat ke jete
Sugam anugraha tumhre tete

Supta Trivrkrama
Supta: “prone” or “lain down to sleep (but not fallen asleep),” Trivrkrama: A name of Vishnu. A demon named Bali had conquered the four directions and driven Indra and the devas before him. Due to the peculiarities of his powers, he could only be defeated if and when his guru cursed him for disobedience. It was a situation that could only be contrived by Vishnu the preserver.

Thus Vishnu was born the youngest son to the rishi Kasyapa and his wife Aditi. The baby grew to be a dwarf and was named Vamana. Vamana visited Bali, who promised to give the short-statured Brahmin anything he could.

Vamana said that he wanted as much land as he could take in three steps. Bali agreed. His guru Suracharya, however, realized that Vamana could only be Vishnu, and begged Bali to retract his promise.

Bali replied that there could be no greater glory than if Vishnu himself were to seek alms from him. Suracharya became angry and cursed Bali.

At that moment, Vamana grew and grew in size — his first step encompassed the Earth and his second measured the heavens. He asked Bali where to take his third step. Bali bowed low and offered his head.

Digha: “long.”

Incidentally, the Digha Nikaya is the first division of the Sutta Pitaka in the Buddhist Pali Canon. The name literally means the “long” or “longer collection,” based on the fact that all of the suttas contained in are typically longer than their counterparts in the other sections of the Sutta Pitaka.

The Digha Nikaya includes a number of prominent and well-known teachings, as well as a significant amount of biographical information about the Buddha.

A name of Vishnu. See above.

A name of Shiva as raja, “lord,” of the nata, “dance.” Nataraj, the dancing form of Lord Shiva, is a symbolic synthesis of the most important aspects of Hinduism, and the summary of its central tenets. This cosmic dance is called 'Anandatandava,' meaning the Dance of Bliss, and symbolizes the cosmic cycles of creation and destruction, as well as the daily rhythm of birth and death.

Raja Kapota
Raja: “king” or “lord.” Kapota: “a dove, pigeon.” In the Vedas often a bird of evil omen.

Eka Pada Raja Kapota
Eka pada: “One foot.” Raja: “king” or “lord.” Kapota: “dove, pigeon.”

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Ingenuity of Absolute Poverty
Some pre-practice perspective.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Elephantiasis, Redux
"Who does not begin practice as a white elephant?"

Are some more inherently termite than others?

"It depends on the maturity of the disciple," said Ramana Maharshi. "Gunpowder catches fire in an instant, while it takes time to ignite coal."

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Oh Shit!
I know "Leaping Lanka" is sometimes an outlet for some real obscure shit (i.e. yoga, Roland Barthes, Axl Rose, PCP, constant and worrying references to muesli, comic books and crack-cocaine), but I'm so sparked on the news that Ivan Basso has left CSC.

Armstrizza and the boys at Disco better step up to the plate with a blank check or I will be sorely vexed. I mean really, you're gonna put Leipheimer on as your number-one stage racer?

I know road racing (on velocipedes, you heathens) rates just below organized professional booger-flicking in the sports consciousness of the American public, but trust me, Ivan drops nothing but hammers on the bike, and you should see the man climb! Ah, it'd bring a tear to your eye. In fact, I'm getting a tear in my eye right now thinking about stage 12 in the '04 Tour de France, a mountain stage in the Pyrenees, when Ivan, looking minty-fresh, edged past Lance for the stage win.

(Of course, Lance crushed Ivan several stages later by passing him — passing him! — while climbing up Alpe d'Huez during the individual time trial. But I digress.)

You may now return to your favored sports, Americans. These sports undoubtedly involve watching cavemen lining up and hitting each other in between commercials, watching grown men stand around on grass fields, scratching their balls and spitting tobacco as thousands of people in the stands fall asleep, or else watching rednecks speed around an oval for the upteenth time.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Programming
We'll be back to tales of yoga asana, crack-rock, and naughty (yet satisfying) teen sex soon enough, although be warned: I've still got some sick Roland Barthes/yoga itch that begs to be scratched in a future post.

Carry on.
White Elephant versus Termite Yoga Practice

White elephant or termite practice?

Manny Farber is one of the most important critics in movie history, a legend who penned classic pieces for The New Republic, The Nation, Art Forum, and Film Comment. He was an early champion of the American action film, as well as of Hollywood stylists like Howard Hawks, Don Siegel, Samuel Fuller, Preston Sturges, and even Chuck Jones. He’s most famous for the essays “Underground Films” and “White Elephant Art Vs. Termite Art.”

In the latter piece, Farber introduced and championed what he called “termite art,” a phrase he used to describe any unpretentious movie that “goes always forward eating its own boundaries, and, like as not, leaves nothing in its path other than the signs of eager, industrious, unkempt activity."

The tapeworm film is in contrast to “white elephant art,” or “masterpiece art,” which was “artificially laden with symbolism and significance.” The white elephant films of Michelangelo Antonioni, for example, “pin viewers to the wall and slug them with wet towels of artiness and significance.”

Dramatic, histrionic flourishes coupled with a rasping ujjayi breath might characterize a white elephant yoga practice, as each vinyasa and each asana is a neon sign blinking seriousness and “significance.” A key characteristic of white elephant art, according to Farber, is that it’s filled with “overripe technique.”

In contrast, the termite practice is laconic, workmanlike, efficient; a termite practice, as Farber defines termite art, “nails down one moment without glamorizing it, but forgets this accomplishment as soon as it has passed.” The termite practice is epitomized by an economy of expression.

To engage in a termite (or tapeworm-moss-fungus) practice, as the very name suggests, is to concern oneself with a burrowing into the many layers of the self, each layer as fine as onion skin, and not peeled so much as enveloped, chewed, swallowed, and digested, until one is left to confront the paradox of the self-devouring uroboros, the ancient Greek depiction of the snake or dragon eating its own tail.

You will not notice those termites at your studio as their economy renders them invisible. They will arrive, practice, and depart without drawing your attention. A termite’s practice is entirely separate from physical ideas of flexibility and strength; it is compact and internal.

Among the ways to cultivate the termite aspect of one’s practice, as Matthew Sweeney suggests in Ashtanga Yoga: As It Is, is to practice alone for an extended stretch of time. An unintended benefit of the solitary termite practice, as those around the world who practice alone know, is the deep and overwhelming sense of gratitude that arises, from deep in the core of the body, when one once again is fortunate enough to practice with a true teacher.

On a mundane level, a termite practice favors the rooting and grounding of the out-breath, while the white elephant practice favors an upward and expansive in-breath. The key difference is that both sides of the termite’s breath are directed internally, while the white elephant allows the breath to dissipate externally.

The stereotypical white elephant inhales and exhales with thunderous momentousness, and each movement up and down, forwards and backwards, is rigid with overwrought concern for perfection. It is over-burdened with floating fireworks and a concern for rubbery circus flexibility.

The white elephant is entirely dependent upon the strict division between the practitioner, the practice and, most critically, a sense of “spectators” who are “viewing” the practice. But it is this sense of performance that transmutes the white elephant. While practicing “on-stage” and acutely aware of the gaze of others, the white elephant self-consciously activates and engages each and every body part in a steady diffusion of consciousness.

So there is value in the white elephant practice, as true to its name, it inevitably lumbers inward: the relentless focus on the performance and perfection of each asana, and the interlocking vinyasa between, can only lead to the white elephant dissolving in the performance. From there, with a little grace, any sense of separation between performer, performance, and audience dissolves entirely. One thinks of Shiva’s aspect as Nataraj, whirling through his never-ending dance of destruction and creation. The dancer, the dance, the audience: all are one.

Who does not begin practice as a white elephant? Who does not enter a new studio or workshop as a white elephant? A key characteristic of the white elephant is its own self-consciousness, and who has never felt self-conscious? Whose practice does not flip-flop between white elephant and termite stages, sometimes even in the tiny space between the in- and out-breaths? The transition from white elephant to termite comes as one continues to practice: thoughts arise, one observes them, and one returns to the breath.

Sunday, October 8, 2006

Espresso is that Crack
I've switched up my medication. I'm on this new Peruvian shit, Green Mountain Farms' light roast. All your liberal eco-conscious sensibilities will be assuaged, hippies, by the knowledge that yes, it's organic, shade-grown, and fair trade.

Some years ago, I used to read this guy's blog — I can't find it right now to link to it — that was concerned solely with coffee, chocolate and yoga. In fact, I think it was even called "Coffee, Chocolate, Yoga." Brilliant. And I mean really, what else is there?

To paraphrase Guruji, a.k.a. Big Boss, with one cup of coffee "even lazy man is coming full energy!"

Two cups? As I discovered last Sunday, two cups means a lazy man is a twitching, vibrating, and sweating mess of pinwheel supernova consciousness. To paraphrase Blake, I found out what was enough by discovering what was more than enough.

Wednesday, October 4, 2006

These Items of Footwear Have Been Crafted For Perambulation
Despite what I tell myself I want to be doing, my goddamn subconscious mind and my body meet in secret and conspire to tell me what I really want to be doing. They start with subtle messages, faint tugs and twinges of intuition, which, naturally, I ignore, thereby forcing the sneaky bastards to gradually increase the frequency and intensity of their missives, c.f. anxiety dreams, mood swings, back pain, and all-around physical tightness and constriction. When I've ignored all that, they unveil their piece de resistance, a motherfucking cold sore.

The point being, yesterday I walked off a job I didn't want and shouldn't have taken.

Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Today's Topic
Is there a correlation between a stress-induced cold sore and reduced spinal flexibility?

I say yes.


Monday, September 18, 2006

Speaking of celebrity yoga students, there was a brief pulse in time when I was impressed if a yoga teacher had, at one time, taught Madonna.

Not that I'm now expertly jaded, it's just that over the years I've met at least 10 people who have taught her yoga.


Sort of takes the gilding off the lily.

I mean, Christ, who hasn't taught Madonna yoga?

But you don't care about that. Your immediate thought at the mention of "Madonna" and "yoga" was "Yes, but how was her practice?"

Apparently it was very focused and intense, as one would imagine.

Although the few people I've met who've taught her private lessons have all mentioned that she demands an enormous amount of energy and attention from her teacher, so much so that one guy remarked that when the session was finished, he felt like he'd just done the two-hour yoga class.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Sherrie was teaching a class at an Orange County gym; her glance kept catching on this light-skinned black guy who'd dropped in to practice with his cookie-cutter blonde bombshell girlfriend and/or wife. There was something very familiar about him, but she was teaching and didn't have time to think about it. The class ended and she approached the guy.

"Say," she asked, "you look very familiar." Then recognition dawned. "Are you Tiger Woods?"

Sure enough, it was Tiger Woods himself. The Wood-man had just hacked out half primary. "That was a great class—thanks a lot!" he said.

Sherrie related the story over sushi on Friday night. It doesn't matter who the celebrity is—Madonna, Mike D, Willem Dafoe, Gwyneth Paltrow, Parker Posey—because the who isn't as important as the answer to the question that is unfailingly asked the instant after someone reports a celebrity yoga sighting. That question: How was their practice?

Apparently Tiger wasn't flashy, but he held his own.


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Screw yoga—is anyone following the Vuelta de Espana?

We're in week three, and I've had to strap on the Depends for the last two days of mountain stages, lest I once again wet myself in excitement. And there's another mountain stage to go!

Hello? Anyone? Anyone?

Just the chirping of crickets.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Speaking of pre-practice bong-snaps, I probably should write a post about that one kid who used to come to the shala at 5 in the a.m. banging Guns 'n' Roses at max volume on his iPod—one could hear Axl howling "Welcome to the jungle—you're gonna die-yeeeee!" right through his headphones—and after stowing his gear, he would then hammer out a full and rather spectacular physical practice, all this while riding two or three tabs of the lysergic acid diethylamide.

The mind positively melts at the thought.

Thoughts of Axl also taking me back to a bike ride I went on three weeks ago with a buddy—we chugged north up the 101 through Malibu, and passed Latigo Canyon Road, which, as all die-hard G 'n' R fans know, is the street on which one Axl Rose, neé William Bailey, resides.

I hear what you're saying—given my profound hatred of Guns 'N' Roses, how am I privy to such an obscure G 'n' R factoid?

This is itself another interesting story, which took place several years prior, and began when I piled into a rented limo with 10 friends to journey from San Diego to Los Angeles.

The limo's max capacity? Six. I should have known the journey was cursed from the get-go.

An acquaintance was due at a skateboard video premiere, as he had a starring part in said video. HIs sponsor footed the bill for the limo. I'm not sure who paid for all the goddamn Jack Daniels that was consumed on the north-bound journey, but that was definitely the drink and food of choice for the night.

When I say Jack was the drink of choice, I don't mean that it was the featured mixer, because I don't remember any Coca-Cola anywhere in the car—just crazy motherfuckers skulling amber-colored fire straight from the bottle.

For some reason, the wanton consumption of Jack brought to full intensity my friends' recent obssession with Guns 'n' Roses, so much so that all other music was officially banned for the duration of the evening, and the volume of the G 'n' R in the limo was set to an ear-bleeding level.

This evening was also, interestingly enough, the genesis of my blood feud with Guns 'N' Roses. I should also note that the limo driver and I were the only sober people on board.

We made it to the premiere. As is usually the case when people are drinking copious amounts of Jack Daniels, several predictable Jack-Daniels-inspired happenings occurred at the club where the premiere was held. These are the exact same events that take place wherever Jack is skulled straight from the bottle.

In no particular order: whlie waiting in line for the bathroom, a grown man pissed in his pants; a guy passed out in a booth and was forcibly ejected from the club by the bouncers; a guy threatened to smash a bartender in the face for not serving drinks after last call; the same guy had to be forcibly restrained from fighting said bartender, and was then ejected from the club by the bouncers; last but not least, a different guy knocked out a kid (with one punch!) out front of the club.

The one-punch knockout, for those who've never had the privilege to see a fistfight, was comprised of the sound of a fist striking a jaw and an unconscious head striking the pavement. Contrapunto: girls screaming and crying. My stomach flip-flops just thinking about those sounds.

We somehow avoided the squad cars, SWAT van, fire engines, paramedics and roving ghetto birds that converged on the club after said one-punch knockout, and regrouped in the limo. The Rainbow Room on Sunset Boulevard was the next destination, chosen because the Crue (as in Motley) either sang about the joint and/or used to party there.

True to the place's apparently legendary reputation (I say "apparently" because it was legendary to my friends, while I had no idea what was going on), we ended up hanging out with Lemmy from Motorhead, who is, you will be pleased to know, as ugly as everyone has ever said.

As the bartenders called last call, someone suggested going out to Malibu to "fuckin' ring Axl's doorbell!" Displaying a rather Holmesian feat of intellect, one of my friends had deduced the location of Axl Rose's house based on a few scant scraps of information and a fair bit of mindless and insane leg-work. The clues: Axl had bought the house so prominently featured in the video for "November Rain;" said house was located in Malibu; said house was located somewhere on Latigo Canyon Road. The leg-work: my friend had driven, ever so slowly, up and down Latigo Canyon Road, until he recognized the backyard from the video.

Did I mention I was sober the whole night?

The drive to Malibu from Sunset Boulevard was long, and it was the time of night when the booze began to wear off, and people became weary, cranky, and mean-drunk. We were, it should also be note, riding 10 or so people in a 6-person limo, which meant for 5 or 6 hours we had been sitting in each other's laps and at each other's feet on the limo floor.

At this point, too, due to the shenanigans at the club and the ear-splitting volume of G 'n' R piping at all times from the cabin, the poor limo driver was staging an open revolt, and repeatedly threatened to dump us all by the side of the road.

The idea began to sound increasingly appealing to me.

By the time someone sighted Axl's house the party was over and the hangovers had begun.

As an aside, and an example of my own particular obsession, I was beginning to worry about making it to practice the next morning.

A group of us assembled around Axl's buzzer, but no one had the stones to ring the bell. It was, after all, 5 in the morning, and anyway, what the fuck was I going to say to Axl Rose? At that point I not only disliked his music, but would have gladly strangled him for making it in the first place.

We all piled back into the limo, heads hung low. My friend Rich, God love 'im, was the last guy aboard. But before he climbed in, he shouted "Fuck it!" and ran to the doorbell. He jammed down the button for 30 seconds, long enough for all of us in the car to begin panicking, then ran back to the limo, dove in, and shouted, "Hit it!"

In hindsight, pulling a ring-and-run on Axl Rose from a limo is pretty fucking funny, although I imagine Axl himself would not, and did not, find it funny, in part because I bet that during the last 15 years, scores of drunken heshers have pulled ring-and-runs on his house. I imagine groups of tipsy and stoned teenagers, the gawky and rawboned guys in their tuxes, the lumpen unformed girls in their dresses, all of them laughing and giggling, the craziest among them holding down Axl's buzzer before dashing back to the open doors of the limo, which had been rented to take them to and from their senior prom.

After the ring-and-run, the mood went from hungover to downright maudlin; an exhausted, weepy feeling permeated the car as we drove back to San Diego. This feeling was only heightened by the fact that G 'n' R was still playing at an ear-splitting volume. We listened to "November Rain" on repeat during the 3-hour ride back to San Diego.

It was the longest fucking ride of my life. I got home as the sun rose, and I probably did make it to practice that morning, although I don't remember.

While we had huddled around Axl's doorbell, unbeknownst to us all, my friend Rich had opened Axl's mailbox and stolen several pieces of mail. The next day he proudly showed us a postcard from the San Diego Zoo. It was addressed to one W. Axl Rose.

Friday, September 8, 2006

On a less vitriolic note, apparently I flipped some switch on my Blogger control console that turned on a moderator control function. I just clicked "Moderate comments" and discovered a ton of backlogged comments. If you're trying to get your name up so you can go all-city with your tag, don't worry, I'll be publishing all feedback for future posts.

Here're some random thoughts based on your feedback:

1. I love Mark Millar---sure Ultimate X-Men is filled with teen angst. After all, Millar is consciously attempting to engage teen readers. G-Mor is my all-time fave, though, although Joss Whedon is up there. Chris Clarement wrote a General Hospital/space opera melodrama crap-fest and I don't care for his run. That's right, I said it---The "Dark Phoenix" saga was crap. And you know what? I don't like Wolfman and Perez's Teen Titans, either.

2. 9-and-a-half inches.

3. No, no, Warren Ellis the author; although I do love some Dirty Three.

4. Response #2 is a bald-faced lie.

5. You know what else goes good in a yoga teacher's backpack? That Himalayan pain balm, the stuff that is, upon first application, cool and innocuous to the skin, but that, as a practice progresses and the body heats up, turns into molten lava/napalm.

I used it a few times in India and had to interrupt practice to jump into an ice-dip at the shala, screaming "I'm burning! I'm burning! God help me, I'm burning!" Tara swears by the stuff, though, and bought out the entire supply from the Himalaya vendor next to Green Leaf.

(We would pull up to Green Leaf on our motorcycle and I would sing "When I first met you, didn't realize,
I can't forget you, or your surprise---I love you Green Leaf! Dee dee dee!" to the tune of Sabbath's "Sweat Leaf." The last bit---the "dee dee dee"---simulating Iommi's thunderous chords.)

6. Perhaps one day I will publish my list of musicians who should have gone down in that plane with Skynrd. I try to take the long view of Paul's and the Rolling Stones' careers, which is that the great stuff is only great in relation to the sketchy early formative work and the hollow later-years work.

But it still stings a little, doesn't it?

It stings to remember them young and beautiful and spilling forth genius, especially now that so many artists are in their Vegas years.

Bowie, I'm talking to you.

Here's some advice, Aging Pop Stars: You've had the spotlight for so goddamned long. It's time to let it go. Take your money and head for the fringes---that's where the interesting shit is being done, c.f. David Byrne, Leonard Cohen. It's not like you'll ever go hungry again, nahmsayin'?

7. Also for the record, Ian Svevonius (of Nation of Ulysses and The Make-Up) prefers Paul to John.

8. Although I do recommend merlot and roboflaxin, I do not personally practice this form of post-practice relief. Chiefly because I lack the roboflaxin.

9. Thanks for the suggestion, but I can't smoke pot to save my life. Or ingest it for the matter. It turns me into a monosyllabic vegetable with a hankering for buttered Stouffer's croutons (from the box!) and root beer.

So someone else should blog about the effects of a pre-practice bong snap combined with a powerful double-shot of fine light-blend espresso.

10. That bit about your Supreme/Prana one-off mat bag wasn't a diss on all you yogis out there with the Lululemon Wallies and the Yohji Yamamoto tiffin boxes. Hell, I've been vibed in Supreme, too, but then, that's the point of the store---it's a little container of vibe with some real expensive and cool t-shirts for sale.

(Among my favorites: the ones that just said "Knowledge Reigns" and "Clientele." Ouch, hurtin' 'em.)

11. Finally, and I do mean this, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Duty Now for the Future

I figure that because Warren Ellis and Billy Gibson (William to you, punk) are all up on this blogging/Feedburner shit, I gotta be up on it, too.

So now the readers of "Leaping Lanka" (which I think are pretty much just my lady-friend and my Mom, god love 'em) have the option to subscribe to my shit so they can instantly cop the latest posting before it hits the streets!

Now the Pilates/power yoga housewives in Des Moines practicing to their Rodney Yee videos can get "Leaping Lanka" at the same time as those Lafayette Street yoga hipsters, with their one-off Supreme/Prana mat bags and their limited-edition woven banana-leaf-and-dosa Dunks.

This Internet shit is true equality for all, I tell you.

Click on the orange icon in the sidebar, and/or bookmark that shit. Truth be told, I'm a little hazy as to what happens after that.

Anyone else think the orange Feedburner logo looks a lot like a mutated Limpies logo? What're Limpies, you say? Christ.

Just to keep it crispy, I suppose I ought to fire out a post, at least to keep my editors, publishers, and throngs of fans (some from as far away as Leucadia!) happy, so here goes. And today, just for a treat, how about an asana-related posting?

"Practice was totally awesome today, although I had a re-cock-ulous time lumbering forth from bed after downing that entire fifth of Old Crow last night! I managed to insert my heel into my cochlea with minimal effort, although afterwards my gracilis was slightly itchy and I experienced a burning sensation when urinating.

On a positive note, I finally managed to palpate my sigmoid colon by wedging my wrist past my rectal shelf! At least, that's what the doc at the emergency room said.

My teacher—who, for the purposes of this blog, I'll henceforth refer to using the clever pseudonym 'Frank W. Arbuthnot, 525 Seabluff Lane, Oceanview, CA, 92404, phone: (760) 613-3067'—is wizened and inscrutable, and never fails to lavish upon his students profound spiritual chestnuts, some of which have the dense imponderability of a Zen koan. Today was no exception! As the EMTs carried me from the studio, he leaned over me and said, 'Sweet Christ, you're bleeding from the ass!'

I wonder what he meant?"

Monday, August 21, 2006

A Peripatetic Yoga Teacher’s Backpack

Tiger Balm
Soothes the aches.

Eases the pains.

Secret-brand Deodorant
Masks the coffee-sweat smell; also, clogs pores and cause Alzheimer’s.

Feuerstein’s Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras
The book you refer to students.

The Ultimate X-Men, Volume 4
The book you are reading; a hardback compilation of Ultimate X-Men 34–45.

Banana, Promax Bar, One Liter of Water
Lunch. (Honey peanut crunch is best, but cookies ‘n’ cream will do in a pinch.)

Clipse We Got it 4 Free, Volume 2, Thom Yorke Eraser, Lil Wayne Dedication 2
Car-ride iPod.

Krishna Das Door of Faith, DJ Cheb I Sabbah Sri Durga, Hari Chaurasia
Savasana CD; crack-rap is not widely accepted savasana music, but should be.

Ekam, Inhale, Dve, Exhale
So it goes.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Sartorial Stretching
As I am frequently asked by the editors of the various fashion magazines---Elle, Bazaar, Vogue (US and British versions), W, Cat Fancy---how my current yoga look has evolved, I thought I'd share with you, my loyal readers, the same sartorial timeline my publicist faxed to those august publications. (For your information, Tom Ford has dubbed my fall/winter 2006 look "The Yogi Roué." But I digress).

First Class Ever
A t-shirt and sweatpants, both cotton. I drenched both garments absolutely. I sweated through sweat pants, for Christ’s sake. Although maybe it was only fitting---they are called, after all, sweat pants, and one would assume they are in fact pants to be sweated in. But certainly they were never designed to be sweated through.

More than establishing me as profligate sweater---who knew?---my first yoga class, at some yoga studio in Los Feliz, somewhere on Sunset, was also a banger because, while the class rested in savasana, the teacher read aloud a section from an animal rights book that described, in graphic detail, how pigs were killed at a slaughterhouse. I recall something about an abbatoir, a conveyor belt and a bolt gun.

The Casual Skateboarder
In subsequent yoga classes I unveiled my “casual skateboarder” look: board shorts and wife-beater. I had one pair of board shorts (dark blue, Stüssy) that had a 36-inch waist. My waist size was a few inches less than that, so consequently my ass crack clambered forth to hang from the rafters like a naughty pet monkey. Additionally, the shorts were only washed once a week.

Eventually I ditched the wife-beater. I would sweat through every square inch, and after an hour of yoga it was akin to being wrapped in wet newspaper.

This was in San Francisco, so believe it or not, my sandwich-bread flat ass, attendant ass crack, and shall we say musky scent---which, I maintain to this day, has a fantastic bouquet that is at worst intensely pleasurable and at best a powerful aphrodisiac---went largely unnoticed at our local studio, which was situated in the heart of the Mission district. I recall once or twice practicing next to a fellow my age who wore baggy raver-style blue jeans, and whose sweat was crusty and jaundice-yellow, and who emitted the pungent ether smell of someone sweating out a high-grade crystal methamphetamine.

Collegiate Look
I went and upgraded to these dark blue gym shorts I got for $6 a pair at some sports outlet store. They were cotton, and I would also sweat entirely through them---it should be obvious that at this point issues of perspiration and water management were paramount to my yoga practice. How to collect, funnel, transport and then disperse the prodigious and surprising amount of water being produced? I'd need plumbing, sewage piping, treatment plants---we're talking water management infrastructure here, people. The other drawback to the gym shorts was that they required boxer-briefs underneath, or else the class got full-frontal twig and berries.

The Dolphins
I wasn’t quite ready to make the jump to tight, spandex-type shorts, so I invested the ungodly sum of $40 in a pair of Nike runners’ shorts---they were synthetic, unlike the cotton gym shorts, and they featured an inner lining that gathered up and protected the cash and prizes from the ever-prying eyes of yoga babes.

Unfortunately, disaster struck---I lost this pair. The cotton gym shorts were also proving to be disadvantageous as, over time, the constant shimmying, prancing, and floundering that took place during yoga resulted in the stretching of all three pairs. I could handle a bit of stretch around the waist … but the leg holes were stretching, too, which naturally led to a bit of anxiety about my fundamentals burrowing into the light of day unbidden, as is their wont, like a sand-worm in Dune.

Thankfully, around this time Prana hosted one of their seasonal warehouse-clearing sales and I picked up some thigh-length boxer-brief shorts. For some reason, I was still demanding cotton, which, in hindsight, makes no sense, given a) the vast quantities of sweat that jet forth, Old Faithful-like, from my pores, and b) the fact that cotton doesn’t wick away or disperse moisture---it absorbs it.

Corp-o Shorts
It was at this point that I abandoned all sense of shame and went to Swooshtown and plunked down $70 for two pairs of tight matte-black running shorts made of material also used somewhere on the space shuttle. When I say tight, I mean tight---grape-smugglers, banana hammocks, meat-pockets, jewel-bags, coin-purses, what-have-you.

(To be fair, many of those terms are really only applicable to Speedo-style shorts. You hear me, Ray Rosenthal-in-that-video-with-Chuck-Miller, circa ’87?)

Cinch the Package
It had been a long and trying journey to reach spandex, or at least a high-tech spandex derivative. When I say “spandex,” I’m really thinking of the shorts the Big Guns wore back in those ’93 Yoga Works videos.

(I have much love for those videos, and not just because El Gran Jefe Tim Miller shines forth as a bronzed, muscle-bound Southern Californian alien crash-landed amidst pale, sun-starved twig-men and hairy-pitted women unsexed in drab, shapeless unitards, but because it appears someone had the gall to color-coordinate all the dudes’ spandex shorts.)

Watching the old videos, you get a sense that, despite the many companies that have sprouted up to sell us cooler, more (or less) athletic yoga wear, what really matters at the end of the day, for ashtanga yoga people, at least, is that their clothes be functional to a fault. Of course, how functional is too functional? I can’t help but think of that one nice couple in Mysore who both wore such short-shorts that the round, jiggly flesh of their upper, upper thighs and the lower quarter-moon of their ass-cheeks bobbled on display for those of us fortunate enough to practice behind them.

(Guruji says, “Keep your mind on God!” So I repeated “The ass cheeks are God! The ass cheeks are God!” over and over again during practice. It didn’t work. I switched spots.)

Maybe I’m in the middle of a parabola---as I get older and fatter, I’ll begin to bundle up again, and reverse the evolution---moving from tight shorts back to cotton gym shorts, and finally, in my old age and infirmity, ending up sweating through cotton sweat-pants while grabbing for gnarled toes in a white “Who Farted?” T-shirt.

Monday, August 14, 2006

The worst yoga injury
A friend threw out his back in yoga class, maybe one, two years after he began practicing. It was a serious injury. He remembers looking up from the stretcher at the faces floating overhead---the bored, amused paramedics, the panicky teacher, the horrified fellow students.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Paul turns 64 today. He has, over time, ripened to take the pole position of My Favorite Beatle.

True, John is the one you're supposed to like; you'll tell all the leather-jacketed kids smoking behind the gym that he's your favorite, citing the ratchety scrape of "Helter Skelter" and the clap-trap backbeat of "Instant Karma," which balances out the hippy vibe of "we all shine on" by threatening that "pretty soon you're gonna be dead."

Yet despite Paul's maddening bourgeoisie sentimentality and embarassaing high-brow aspirations, he wrote the treacly confections that linger: the muted enthusiasm of "Blackbird," the anthemic sap of "Golden Slumbers," and of course, the exuberance of "Hey Jude" and "Let It Be," well-nigh unlistenable these days due to their heavy rotation on classic rock radio, reduced as they have been to so much sonic wallpaper and commercial jingle.

(The Red House Painters did establish the brilliance of "Silly Love Song" by washing it out with feedback and barbituates.)

John is still the author of Best Beatle Song Ever ("All You Need is Love"), but he turned his back on the game, testaments to love and peace engaged in a tug-of-war with the vitriol. And we can't forget George's late-era blooming, although he opted for esoteric, less-traveled Eastern paths, and never quite made good on the promise he showed on "Let It Be" and "Abby Road." Steadfast Paul is the one knocking on your door, begging to be let in, flowers in one hand, heart-shaped box of chocolates in the other, a candy-pop paean to love on his lips.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Some Advice for that One Girl at Our Studio Planning to Go to Mysore
There are only two simple steps.

One, buy the plane ticket.

Two, go.

The rest is incidental---parental freak-outs, vaccinations and immunizations, the yoga, transportation, accommodation, etc, etc. There’s tons of advice on those subjects on EZ Board, various other Web sites, and in all the travel books that you can take notes on at the large corporate bookstores in our area.

Probably the best tip on getting to Mysore I can offer that's different from any of those sources--and which, upon hearing, you’ll realize is completely obvious, and what’s more, is applicable to all facets of life---is this: transcend lottery mentality.

Don’t make the fulfillment of your dreams contingent on the acquisition of some “thing”---usually money. Don’t wait to win the lottery. As they say, “Wish in one hand, shit in the other---see which fills up first.”

You eat a pizza one slice at a time---I guess for you yoga people, you eat that bowl of brown rice one grain at a time. Figure out how much money you need, and then break that amount down into small, manageable chunks.

Figure out how much money you can save per month---even if it’s only $10---and start saving it. As Patanjali says, “Atha yoga anusanam.” “Now begins the study of yoga.” Not yesterday, not tomorrow, but now, today, at this very moment.

You have developed the inner resources to get out of bed to make it to morning Mysore class every day. Now it's time to flex those the hard-earned muscles, sometimes also called “character” and “fortitude” and “tenacity.”

There’s never going to be the “perfect” time and you’re never going to have the “right” amount of money. Your parents are always going to freak out, the car will always need new brakes, you’ll always be too young (until you’re too old), and there are always going to be 40-minute commutes to cubicle jobs in well-manicured office parks.

Once you make it to Mysore, stay tuned for part two, “Some Advice for Your First Mysore Meltdown.”

Friday, May 26, 2006

Dear Ashtanga Yoga Blogger,

Thank you for subscribing to Ashtanga Yoga BlogBot™!

We’re the automated ashtanga yoga blog creation service that makes it a snap to generate those exhausting blog entries, leaving you with more valuable free time to do your yoga practice, think about your yoga practice, talk about your yoga practice, and obsess about those difficult asanas.

We ask you a few simple questions to determine your blog’s overall content, tone, and look, and then we feed your answers to our Blog-O-Matic™ supercomputer, which generates candid, interesting, and utterly unique blog entries that are specifically tailored to you!

Let’s get started! We’ve enclosed a blog entry form for you to fill out and return via e-mail. In addition, we require you to answer a few simple introductory questions.

We’ll process and automate your responses, and within 5 business days, your new blog posts will be read by the ashtanga yoga world!

Welcome aboard!
—The Ashtanga Yoga BlogBot™ Crew

Introductory Questions

1. I would like the overall tone of my blog to be:
(Choose at least 3 but not more than 5.)
Filled with doubt and self-loathing
Filled with gratuitous drug references

2. I would like my blog to appear:
3 times per week
4 times per month
(Please note: If you upgrade to our Ultimate Ashtanga Yoga BlogBot® plan, you have the option to publish 4 times per week!)

3. I would like the look and feel of my blog to be:
Commodore 64

4. I would like the personal pronoun “I” to appear in my blog:
10 times
25 times
No limit

Sample Blog Template
We’ve included a sample blog template below to help get you started! Simply choose the most descriptive words and publish!

1. Oh my god, I had so much _____ getting out of bed today!
1. difficulty
2. energy

2. It was so _____ in the house!
1. nipple-hardeningly cold
2. heat-rash inducingly hot

3. It was so _____ at the yoga studio this morning!
1. nipple-hardeningly cold
2. heat-rash inducingly hot

4. My body felt so _____.
1. stiff
2. open
3. sore
4. achey
5. strong
6. weak

5. The _____ practicing next to me was so _____.

1. guy
2. girl

1. stiff
2. flexible
3. bendy
4. floaty

6. Their _____ looked very _____.

Asana name
1. jump-backs
2. janu sirsasana C
3. marichyasana D
4. supta kurmasana

1. floaty
2. bendy
3. stiff

7. I did _____ and it was so _____.

Asana name
1. jump-backs
2. janu sirsasana C
3. marichyasana D
4. supta kurmasana

1. floaty
2. bendy
3. stiff

8. My _____ felt _____, and my _____ are so _____.

Body part
1. hips
2. hamstrings
3. knees

1. tight
2. sore
3. open

Body part
1. hips
2. hamstrings
3. knees

1. tight
2. sore
3. open

9. (_____ is when you _____.)

Asana name
1. Jump-backs
2. Janu sirsasana C
3. Marichyasana D
4. Supta kurmasana

Asana description
1. pick up off the floor and jump your legs back to a push-up position---without touching down
2. twist one foot and put the arch against the inside of the thigh on the other leg
3. put one foot in half-lotus, flex the other leg, twist, and wrap the arms.

10. My teacher came by to help me, and said _____.
1. “Better luck next year.”
2. “Having a fat day?”
3. “Body flexible, mind stiff.”

11. My teacher is so _____.
1. wise
2. mean
3. inscrutable
4. not interested in my personal story.

12. I am so _____ to be able to _____.

1. excited
2. happy
3. self-involved

Asana description
1. press up into handstand
2. put my leg behind my head
3. grab my calves in backbend

13. After practice, I was talking to some _____ and I realized how _____ ashtanga must sound to people who don’t do it!

1. co-workers
2. friends
3. family

1. crazy
2. stupid
3. cult-like
4. narcissistic

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Sports Therapy
The idea of a spiritual experience as a peak performance in a sport is hardly a new one, as you can read in accounts about mountain climbing, skiing, snowboarding, even the more mundane sports such as football (both Euro and US varieties), baseball, basketball, golf, et cetera, et cetera.

(The novel The Legend of Bagger Vance, for example, is a mind-numbing, ham-fisted Bhagavad Gita on the golf links. Stephen Pressfield, there will be an accounting.)

I’m culturally marooned in a surf town, so at this point, articles, books, movies, and videos that center on the spirituality of surfing (“I’m, like, at one with the wave!”) now trigger projectile vomiting.

But the unexpected encounter of a fresh take on a physical experience that transcends the physical to become something other, something spiritual, something, dare we say, yogic, is still an exceptional moment.

“I can’t determine precisely the instant in which my thought escapes its object to become a thought of pure effort,” writes avid cyclist and author Paul Fournel in Need for the Bike.

“The moment the rhythm speeds up, the moment the slope becomes steep, the moment fatigue gets the upper hand, thought doesn’t fade away before the ‘animal spirits;’ on the contrary, it’s reinforced and diffused throughout my entire body, becoming thigh-thought, back-intelligence, calf-wit. This unconscious transformation is beyond me, and I only become aware of it much later, when the lion’s share of the effort is over and thought flows back, returning to what is ordinarily considered its place.”

Perhaps “superconscious transformation” would be more fitting.

So the class’ homework assignment, typed two-page minimum due Monday, is to answer the following question: How does a form of stretching that features synchronized breathing and proscribed gazing points differ from gymnastics, calisthenics or aerobics? Or, for that matter, golf, football (both Euro and US versions), and cycling?

Ye Olde Musick Downloade
Geinoh Yamashiro, Akira OST
Jacques Lu Cont, Fabriclive 09
Eagles of Death Metal, Death by Sexy
The Flaming Lips, At War with the Mystics
Mozzer, Ringleader of the Tormentors
Editors, The Back Room
Neil Young, Prairie Wind

Sunday, April 23, 2006

"After long enough, you abandon your masterpiece to sink into the real masterpiece."
---Leonard Cohen

Friday, April 21, 2006

Tokyo Sento Versus the Encinitas YMCA
The Japanese are generally very reserved, and so in the sento (or sauna) I visited in Tokyo, I sat and sweated in silence with my fellow sauna-goers, not least because I couldn’t speak Japanese, and if anyone spoke English, they hid it well.

I visited the Encinitas YMCA last week to recreate the sento experience and sweat out the jet lag. The dingy and under-lit wood-walled sauna at the Y is a closet-sized room just off the showers in the men’s locker-room. And o, sweet heavens, there was no piped-in Muzak! I sat in blissful silence for about 10 minutes---before being blindsided by Leonard Baxter.

Leonard entered, climbed to the top bench, and introduced himself. He appeared to be in his late 60s or early 70s. “I was watching the Masters on TV,” he told me. “I’m a golf pro.”

With what seemed to me to be a blatant lie, he immediately grabbed the conversational rudder and proceeded to steer the ship into the deep, uncharted waters of madness.

We talked about golf. Actually, Leonard talked while I listened and nodded. I don’t know shit about golf.

“I was the California Golden Gloves champ!” Leonard then declared, changing tack with a subtle non sequitur. “But I had to retire---you ever seen an old boxer? They’re practically retarded!”

“But I still got it, though. Once a boxer, always a boxer!” Leonard climbed to face me and assumed a boxer’s stance.

The sauna floor at the Encinitas Y is about two-feet square, so as a result, I had a rather intimate view, from about 6 inches away and at eye-level, of the helmeted nub of Leonard’s penis, which sprouted mushroom-like from a tuft of white pubic hair.

Any concerns I had over my sudden and unexpected proximity to Leonard’s antediluvian reproductive organs vanished, however, when he began to fire off a series of one-two punches that stopped just short of my face.

I did a fair-to-middling Spiderman impression and clambered backwards and upwards, as one does when confronted by a nude septuagenarian demonstrating his boxing prowess.

I put my hands up. “Yeah, yeah. Pretty good, man, pretty good.”

At that point, Leonard took in my tattoos and assumed I was a Self-Realization Fellowship devotee. Paramahansa Yogananda’s Self-Realization Fellowship has been a fixture in Encinitas since at least the 1930s. Accordingly, Leonard pulled the pin on another non-sequitur hand-grenade and rolled it into the conversation.

“I did all that meditation shit back in the 60s!” he said, glancing up and down my arms. “I had a girlfriend at the time, this wild broad, she was into all that TM stuff. I can do samadhi if I take five long, deep breaths!” He pronounced it “sa-ma-dee.”

“Wow,” I said, “that’s incredible!”

“Yeah,” said Leonard, “it’s pretty easy.”

I stretched out on the top bench and feigned death.

Leonard was still standing, and began telling me how he felt about religion in general and the Old Testament specifically (he didn’t like either).

“Jonah!” he said.

“What a crock!” he said.

“You get eaten by a whale, you know what happens?” he said. “You die!”

He hopped from foot to foot and gesticulated wildly. Rivers of sweat streamed down his face and body. I couldn’t tell if the fluid spraying from his lips was frothy saliva---he was pretty worked up about the Old Testament---or if it was sweat that had run down his face.

The beauty of sauna polemics is that the heat will wilt even the staunchest zealot. But still, Leonard held on with the tenacity of the cockroach.

I thanked my lucky stars I’d spent time in Tokyo building up tolerance to the heat. Plus I figure that the sauna’s heat-level had been set to a temperature determined by the YMCA’s lawyers to be “safe,” and therefore I found that the room wasn’t close to the thermonuclear heat of a Japanese sento.

So my heart leapt when Leonard placed one hand on the sauna door handle: Here was a sure sign he was about to pull the ripcord! I wasn’t quite on the verge of blacking out, although I’d been pinned in the sauna for more than 45 minutes.

Leonard wasn’t quite done. “Some guy wrestling with an angel!” he said.

“You think anyone ever wrestled an angel? What a load of B.S.!”

And on that note, he opened the door and ducked off to the showers.

For the next 15 minutes, Leonard would walk over from his shower, all soaped up, open the sauna door, stick his head in, and let me know how he felt about various other stories in the Old Testament.

I waited another long 10 minutes before emerging.

When I did, Leonard Baxter was in the locker room, shaving and arguing with another man about Governor Arnold Shwarzenegger.

My total cost: the $10 day-use pass, 5 pounds of water weight, and a strange homesick longing for the tattooed and silent yakuza of my local Tokyo sento.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

As those who read my weekly column “Yoga Hustla” know, I have the thumb, index, middle, ring and pinkie fingers of my left hand grasped firmly around the carotid artery of the yoga world. There is not the slightest tremor on Indra’s many-jeweled net that is not picked up and published by yours truly, and even as you read this, I’m working the right arm around the head for a crushing sleeper hold.

So doubtless all will be as excited as I am with this week’s veritable treasure find---the contract rider of one of the world’s biggest celebrity yoga teachers!

A contract rider accompanies a performing artist’s or celebrity’s contract to appear in public, and includes specifications on stage design, sound systems, lighting rigs, as well as the artist's wish list---from transportation and billing to dressing room accommodations and meals.

What does this big-time yoga celebrity, who I shall call “YOGA TEACHER” for fear of both legal and physical retribution, require to show up at your shala to teach the kids downward dog? And who could it possibly be? I'll never tell, so read on, o yogi …


This rider to the contract date _____ by and between YOGA TEACHER (hereinafter referred to as "THE ARTIST") and _____ (hereinafter referred to as "THE YOGA SHALA") for the engagement is made part of the setting-forth of additional terms and conditions to attached contract.

1. One LARGE BASKET of WHITE FLOWER PETALS (any genus) to be strewn at ARTIST’S feet during the “Grand Entrance.” Shala owners responsible for flower petal clean up.

2. One NEW LARGE MANDUKA BLACK MAT, to be laid at front of shala, surrounded by AMBER-SCENTED CANDLES and wiped down with scented SANDALWOOD OIL.

3. Photographs and videos will be allowed in special "MEDIA AREA" to be set up facing ARTIST'S LEFT SIDE. All photos or video must be approved by ARTIST’S PUBLICITY AGENT.

4. Pyrotechnic requirements during ARTIST’S bandha demonstration to be paid for by shala owners and to include:
One smudge pot
Three M-80 firecrackers
Smoke machine with dry ice

5. Workshop accommodation requirements include a dressing room separated from main yoga shala by a door with lock (henceforth to be referred to as “VIP ROOM.”)

6. TOUR MANAGER to be supplied with five “VIP PASSES” to permit entry to “VIP ROOM.”

7. At ARTIST’S discretion, select workshop attendees may be invited to “VIP ROOM” for specific and individual bandha adjustments and to participate in various Tantric practices.

8. VIP ROOM craft services table to include:
One bowl of M&Ms---all red M&Ms to be removed!!! [Sic]
One vat Tiger Balm, large
12 bottles de-ionized, charcoal-filtered, glacier-drip water served at room temperature
6 unbleached organic hypo-allergenic cotton towels with thread count of 500 or greater
One large bowl (two cups) brown rice
One bowl steamed veggies, to include broccoli, chard, burdock root, carrots, beets, kale
One extra-large bag of chocolate chocolate chip cookies
One extra-thick bar of Toblerone dark chocolate

8. Workshop organizers will arrange an autograph signing to take place immediately after workshop and not to exceed 15 minutes.

9. Workshop organizers will provide 100 prints of ARTIST’S headshot, to be purchased at $5 per photo prior to workshop, and 100 copies of ARTIST’S 2006 calendar, to be purchased at $10 per copy.

10. The following items are the ONLY that ARTIST will sign:
Yoga mats
ARTIST’S head shot
The current month’s LULULEMON ad featuring ARTIST (Note: But NOT any previous months'!)
ARTIST’S 2006 calendar
ARTIST’S book.

11. Questions NOT TO BE ASKED of ARTIST at any time during workshop:
“Are you Certified?”
“Are you still teaching Madonna?”
“Can you do kapotasana?”

Thursday, April 6, 2006

The cherry blossom trees uncurled their gnarled winter fingers during the last week of March, offering Tokyo the delicate pink and white flowers of the sakura, or cherry blossoms.

Japanese friends had talked about the apparition of the cherry blossoms with a zeal bordering on the religious. Now I see why.

Snow-banks of the gauze-thin white blossoms draped across the green banks of the moat at the Imperial Palace. On some streets, the trees lining the sidewalks were bent and bowed under the weight of the hanging cherry blossoms, or shidarezakura, so that entire city blocks were enclosed in thick pink tunnels. One day, I rounded the corner to my flat to find the neighborhood playground dwarfed by a cherry blossom tree that had sprouted a towering corona of white flowers.

The appearance of the cherry blossoms is an event in Japan that nearly everyone eagerly tracks, as news programs feature daily bloom forecasts like weather reports. The flowers’ appearance in Tokyo marks the start of spring, at which point the Japanese go on hana-mi outings. “Hana-mi” means “flower watching,” although a more adequate definition would be “drunk picnic.”

Last Saturday, a few of us gaijin ("white devils") walked through Yoyogi Park, a massive public park in Tokyo that sprawls through Shibuya and neighborhoods beyond. Certain areas are thick with sakura trees, and when the flowers bloom, hana-mi-goers picnic under a dense snow-white canopy.

That Saturday, thousands of Tokyo dwellers unrolled plastic tarps under the trees, unloaded cases of sake and beer, and removed their shoes to sit down and get to business. The air was electric with an intoxicated anarchic madness, the beautiful sense that anything could happen. People talked, laughed, sang songs, and stumbled into each other, and on one blue picnic tarp, a group of friends took turns donning and then capering about in a strange blue bear outfit, complete with giant blue bear head.

It was the cathartic heaving off of the heavy mantle of winter, and I swear I saw Bacchus, wearing a red Adidas warm-up jacket, winking at me from behind a tree. Although it may just have been a drunk Irishman.

Part of the beauty of the cherry blossoms arises from their sudden appearance after months and months of soul-freezing winter weather, and part of their beauty arises from their fleeting life-span: the flowers only last a few days, until the rain and heavy winds scour clean the branches. Their end is as stunning as their appearance, though---the wind drives the flowers off the trees, and for a time it snows pink and white.

Such a wind blew through Shibuya's Hachiko Square on Monday, and the cherry blossom tree by the Hachiko statue shed its blossoms, which spiraled and immelmanned onto the commuters rushing about below its branches.

That wind carried me out of Tokyo. April 3 was my last day in Japan.

The farewells were much more difficult than I anticipated; three months is a long time to visit a place. I also bid a fond farewell to Katsu. His passion and intensity are humbling and beautiful, and remind me of, well, me, when I first began ashtanga.

“You never know what is enough,” said William Blake, “unless you know what is more than enough.” I hope Katsu can build the practice into his life in a more wholesome manner. When I left, he said, in broken English, “I will see you in Mysore!”

I hope so, Katsu. I hope so.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

My Nemesis!
Tokyo Yoga is on the fourth floor of a building in the neighborhood of Shibuya, which is just like the city in Blade Runner, only cleaner and more organized. The front entrance is locked until 8, so students use the rear entrance.

On Tuesday morning I cruised around the back to see a Maserati, an all-white Brabus G-Wagon, and a Ferrari Testarosa parked on the curb. Across the street, a crowd of wasted Japanese kids screeched and hollered in the blue neon light and heavy bass that spilled from the doorway of the newly opened Club Camelot.

Motherfuckers were still partying at 4:30 in the morning on a Monday night!


Katsu was already practicing when I got up to the studio. He finished by 5 and laid down for savasana. It was a deep, deep savasana, as he began snoring. Katsu slept for a whole hour.

(I was in the middle of practice at 5:30 when Club Camelot closed, a fact I deduced from the sounds of 100 wasted people milling around on the street below.)

Part of the reason Katsu got a key to the joint was because Chama hired him to work the front desk, a good deal for Katsu because he gets a key to the studio and gets to practice for free.

After I finished, he asked if he could talk to me.

"I practice twice yesterday," he said, "and today I am tired and sore! What can I do?" He's finding that banging out the double practices takes quite a physical toll. He asked me how often I practiced. "Once a day is enough!" I said.

I told him to keep practicing, and either the soreness and exhaustion would go away or he'd have a complete mental meltdown.

I don't know how much he understood.

I got home later to find my flatmates huddled around their laptops. "You told Katsu you practice once a day?" they asked.

"How do you guys know that?" I said, and peaked at their screens---only to find that Katsu has a blog! He's blogging about me in Japanese!

Ye gods, what is this strange mirror universe into which I've fallen?

Katsu is my doppleganger, a Japanese Bizarro-Jason.

He must be destroyed.

My Least Favorite Authors, Musicians, Artists and Iconic Marxist Guerrillas
In no particular order.

Aleister Crowley
William Burroughs
Jack Kerouac
Charles Bukowski
Salvador Dali
M.C. Escher
Bob Marley
The Greatful Dead
Che Guevara

A Baby Angel Dies
Did you know that a baby angel dies every time Paul McCartney releases a record or the Rolling Stones take the stage and launch into "Start Me Up"?

It's true.