Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Age of Instant Gratification and the Modern Yogi

Is the yogic path inherently at odds with modern life?

A few years ago, when I was younger and more of a zealot, I would have said yes to that. Before I moved to an urban environment, out of the pastoral utopia of rural southern Indiana, I would have claimed that off the grid was THE only way to effectively transcend this plane of existence. As life would have it, I was brought to a very urban environment, with all of the distractions and seething bits of humanity one would expect here. There is early morning construction and abrasive late-night neighbor noises. There are gun shots, earth quakes, and every pathogen expected in a buzzing hub of immigration and tourism, high-speed internet and HD cable. One might think so many wonderful and awesome distractions would make my meditation practice more challenging, my quest for peace and detachment from materialism, futile. But does it?

Short answer: no. Think about it and give me your own thoughts in the comments.

A more interesting question is HOW meditation and moderation fit in a world of one-click buying and being able to indulge one's every whim, given the resources. Yoga and the Middle Way emphasize the detachment from grasping and I think the issues yogis take generally take with the modern world is the unfettered grasping, the way our culture rewards greed and cruelty in the pursuit of ever-more. The Middle Way provides the antidote to grasping through mindfulness. Being mindful of one's desires can go a long way to minimize your own impact on humanity's carbon footprint and limit your contribution to the ugly habit of modern consumerism. Meditation is one tool that can help cultivate the mindfulness necessary to navigate the urban setting as a yogi. Even the Christian Bible supports mindful living with God imploring us, "Consider your ways." Consider your every purchase, your every meal. Yes you can get anything you want as fast as you want if you have enough money, but do you need it? Does it nourish your soul? Is there a way to get the same thing with less environmental impact? Are your choices depriving someone else of their human rights? Is there a more ethical use for your resources? These are the questions we must be vigilant in asking ourselves amidst the many-splendored temptress of the urban environment and one-click technology.

We need peace and meditation and we can get tap into it anywhere. On the bus, in the financial district, in the ghetto, anywhere we find ourselves, if we are mindful of our thoughts, we can be a force for peace. The world is beautiful and miraculous no matter where you are, no matter how concrete your neighborhood is. We are constantly enveloped by the awe-inspiring vibration of the divine in the universe, pushed towards nirvana and expansion as we embrace open hearts, open minds and the throbbing, raw expanse of existence that transcends environment.


Friday, August 21, 2009

Of things to come

I'm putting together a post on being a yogi in the age of instant gratification and it's taking a while since I've been besieged by a migraine for the past few days.

So, in the interim, please consider and discuss this question:
Is the yogic path fundamentally in opposition with modernity, urban environments and one-click culture?

Talk amongst yourselves!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Why "fat?"

I'm Grace, the Fat Yogini, and I welcome you to my new cyber-home.

The name of a blog is very important, so why did I choose such a polarized and loaded adjective as "fat" to describe myself and brand my blog? Because, well, a little fat isn't a bad thing! In the West, we have been trained through our socialization to recoil from "fat," to be repulsed by even a few extra pounds and associate it with laziness, gluttony, and any number of other moral failings. The cultural fixation on thinness (not to be confused with healthiness) promotes the idea that there is but one paragon of physical perfection, and it doesn't involve any extra padding. Instinctively, we all know that every person has a different body, with a different metabolism, different needs, and different physical manifestations of "healthy," yet that doesn't stop us from buying into the idea that we should be thin, no matter the cost. We can see the psychological repercussions of this toxic social pressure in the epidemic of eating disorders, rates of cosmetic surgery, and the fact that the sale of anti-aging products and diet "tools" are a multi-billion dollar industry.

BUT WHY?! Fat isn't bad. We need fat to survive and to procreate. BMI is an antiquated arbitrary calculation that has been proven an inadequate measurement of health, seeing as it does not take into account bone or muscle mass. What is important is not some arbitrary ratio or pant size, but instead eating to live at the ideal size for YOUR body, not someone else's standard.

What is shocking to me is that this unhealthy obsession with healthy-equals-bone-thin is leaching into the American yoga industry. Yoga is being advertised more and more as this awesome "new" weight-loss trick, the magic bullet for fitness and the fountain of eternal youth. The popularity of Bikram Yoga, despite embodying a philosophy wholly antithetical to yoga's purpose, only highlights the industry's wholesale embrace of thin and "pure" by any means necessary. Is it that the wider American audience is not interested in a yoga that is meditative and welcoming to people of all sizes or is it that we just don't know what to do with a physical pursuit that isn't thin-driven? (I don't have the answer to that, but please feel free to voice your opinion in the comments section.)

Full disclosure: I am a yoga instructor and I have been practicing various types of yoga for almost 13 years. I am technically overweight (say it with me now, screw you, BMI!). When I am at my healthiest, which means nurturing my own yoga practice, teaching yoga and/or working out moderately 5 days a week, practicing poi, running after my nephew, and eating a low-fat, vegan diet, I am consistently 5-15 pounds "overweight." I'm not going to lie and say that I'm entirely okay with my naturally stocky build, trying to thrive in an industry chock full of naturally lithe and beautiful women, but really, what the heck am I going to do about it? I can't change my body type. I can't change my passion for yoga and my desire to help people. I can only work to be the healthiest, most energetic version of me possible and to help others do the same. This is what this blog is about: to promote, in the spirit of the yogic philosophy of non-harming, an embrace and a love of our bodies at all stages, working towards a goal of health that is not wrapped up in how thin we become. We are here to be strongest, healthiest version of ourselves, mentally, physically and spiritually, and yoga is an invaluable tool in that pursuit. Thanks for reading and I hope you stay.

Be well.

Where I've Been!