Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Wednesday, May 18, marks the two-year anniversary of the passing of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. The man had a big impact, both subtle and overt, on my life.

All told, I only spent perhaps 8 months in daily practice with him in Mysore, India, and on various tour stops, and he and I certainly never had more than a cursory relationship. I like to think he knew me because he always seemed to be on my mat during my least cherished postures. But then, how much of that is projection and wishful thinking?

Still, his firmness, his solidity, his weight, the twinkle in his eye, his blending of both humor and sternness into some strange alloy, have been and continue to be a huge influence.

The subtle pull he still exerts is of course due to the passion and love he inspired in Tim Miller and all the other wonderful teachers with whom I've practiced, people like Rolf Naujokat, Chad Herst, Tarik Thami, among others.

Indirectly and on a personal level, I would not have met my wife or had my daughter if we hadn't met at Tim's studio, and the discipline and self-inquiry that have sprouted from my practice of Ashtanga Vinyasa has let my marriage grow broad and deep.

Now that Pattabhi Jois has passed, of course, there are no more World Tours, when the Ashtanga Vinyasa community would come together from near and far to reaffirm old friendships and forge new ones, pay our respects and have a good time.

So I saw this flier today on Tim's blog and I almost teared up. I don't know how the event will be run, with led or Mysore-style class, lectures or discussions, maybe all of the above.

But it ought to be a beautiful event. One-hundred-plus like-minded people in one room, all celebrating Ashtanga Vinyasa. Ekam, dwi; inhale, exhale ...

I hope to see you there.

Friday, May 13, 2011


Reality 86'dApropos of my last post, I just found Reality 86'd online!

It's a road documentary shot from the inside of the last Black Flag tour ever, the 1986 "In My Head" US tour. Heavy and brutal!

What's crazy is that those dudes look like kids to me; but when I was young, they all seemed like grown-ass men.

Also, watching concert footage like this reminds me how much I dislike live music. Hardcore and punk shows were the worst.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


Even though I haven't owned a record player since 1994, I still own a couple records, and for some reason I still own this, one of the first I ever bought. I bought it in either 1988 or '89; I was either 13 or 14 years old. In case you can't tell, it's Everything Went Black by Black Flag. The flag bars and every instance of the band name on the sleeve and on the record label itself have been rubbed out.

The yellow sticker is the price tag. I paid 1200 drachma for it, which I think at 1989 rates would be about US$7.50. I lived in Athens, Greece, at the time, and Eddie Barnes and I had found a series of record shops down near Monastiraki Plaza. Of course, it's more than 20 years later, so I could be misremembering this shit, and if it wasn't Monastiraki or nearabouts, it was a neighborhood just as old. We had our skateboards, and the streets were so narrowly and unevenly paved we couldn't ride 'em.

I might've been 13 when some older kid I used to skate with, an older, cooler kid with a bleached skater-flip hairdo who lived in the international student boarding house, gave me a tape with the Dead Kennedys on one side and the Descendents on the other.

The cassette-tape label was a rectangular oval sticker with graph-paper lines, and instead of writing "Dead Kennedys," the kid had drawn the DK symbol. It was the first time I'd ever heard punk rock, and Jello Biafra's crazy voice, the ominous scraping guitars and vibrating bass sound and above all the pure goddamned anger blew my mind.

Still, no one had anger like Black Flag, and the crackle of vinyl only made it more apocalyptic. Discovering Black Flag was discovering a sonic thermonuclear meltdown. This suited me fine, because at the time I was absolutely furious, just filled with a vast, black anger so much of the time.

I definitely didn't know why then, and I'm still not entirely sure why now: hormones, family trauma and abuse, insecurity and fear, poor choice in friends and poor company, negative attitude, ignorance for what I put in my body ... maybe some, maybe all. We get "anger" from an Old Norse word that also implies grief and sorrow, so maybe there was grief and sorrow there, too.

There were the typical Black Flag crowd-pleasers like Keith Morris' "T.V. Party" and "Jealous Again," which I thought were great, but I really went in for the Dez Cadena hammers like "Depression," "Damaged II," and "Padded Cell."

Black Flag is one of those bands I can't really listen to anymore. They're wedded very tightly to a time, place and emotion that's hard to casually revisit, yet is no less part of me now — the choices I make, from the mental attitudes I adopt to the emotions I share.

Man, just looking at the cover again, with those shears ... that is some scary shit right there.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Contortionism, Yoga, Thomas Kurz

The following from a post by Thomas Kurz, an influential and renowned expert on flexibility and fitness:
"To excel at contortion one has to have certain predispositions:
1. For hip mobility--the more open the angle between the neck of the thigh bone and the shaft of the thigh bone (angle of inclination of femur) the greater the side range of motion. The more open this angle is, the more it delays the contact of the tops of the necks of the thigh bones against the cartilage collar at the upper edge of the hip socket.
2. For back bending and twisting--high intervertebral discs to keep vertebrae from jamming into each other.
3. For shoulder mobility--high coracoacromial arch to keep it from impinging on tendons and joint capsule as the arm is being raised to a vertical position.
If you do not have those predispositions, yet attempt contortion stunts, you will suffer the consequences."
Are there certain postures in the Ashtanga Vinyasa system the standards of which might fall in the realm of contortionism? 

Where does eka pada sirsasana and dwi pada sirsasana fit with regards to #1 above? Kapotasana with regards to #2?

Standards are necessary to insure safety and rigor, to provide structure and meaning ... but how flexible should those standards be?