On the Om Front The days are getting longer. The college kids who live next door are throwing parties seven nights a week instead of the usual four. Your dog is asking to be walked so early in the morning that you're not certain you've ever actually gone to sleep. It's summertime! And it's the perfect time to get out of town for a few days, and do what yogis (and defeated armies) do best: retreat.Read more »
ON THE OM FRONT Every Tuesday evening, hundreds of people flock to the Grace Cathedral Labyrinth to practice yoga with local teacher Darren Main. With Easter around the corner, I talked to Main and the Reverend Jude Harmon, who manages the program, about how this unlikely class came to be, and why it works so well in San Francisco.
San Francisco Bay Guardian Darren, how did you wind up teaching the class at Grace Cathedral?Read more »
I teach a weekly employee yoga class at a hospital where my students are all women. Every week, a young man peers curiously into the classroom. I asked him once if he’d like to join us, and he said, “Yes, but what would my friends say? Yoga is for girls.”
This odd societal notion that yoga is an emasculating, status-reducing activity is bad enough. But to make matters worse, people like William J. Broad, the so-called New York Times science writer, have publically espoused that yoga is actually harmful to men. Why? Because, he says, men have a tendency to push themselves too hard, and their bigger muscles are more injury prone.
Every year that I go to the Yoga Journal Conference in San Francisco, which just ended on Monday, I come away with the same realization: Yoga is so many different things. It can be a practice for health, fitness, philosophy, acrobatics, community, self-realization, deity worship, or empowerment. While traditionalists sometimes frown at what they call the misuse of the word “yoga” and declare that it’s meant to be practiced in a particular way at a particular time of day in a particular sequence and with a particular teacher, I admire modern yoga’s scope. This is because yoga, to me, is not just a mat practice -- it’s a way of raising consciousness in life.
I’ve attended the conference for the past six years (often as a correspondent for Yoga Journal, itself, and this year as a correspondent for Om Front) and I’ve always found the event to be a window into every possible avenue and expression of yoga.
Yogis love the New Year. It’s not that we love to party till 4am and then vomit on the neighbor’s front stoop, or sing Abba songs in a frighteningly loud bar as the timid January sun makes its way above the horizon. Most of us are actually in bed early on NYE, after some Indian chanting and a decaf chai. The reason yogis love the New Year is because of the resolutions. The ultimate goal of yoga is transformation, so what yoga devotee doesn’t love the opportunity to make a positive change? There is even a term in Sanskrit for a heartfelt resolution or intention: sankalpa.
You can make an intention or sankalpa around anything: your health, your money situation, your love life. So, on December 31, just after midnight, sitting around two tea light candles and a bundle of sage in my friend’s LA apartment, I made an intention for enthusiasm.
You know yoga has arrived when yoga teachers are up at the mic giving a TED talk.
This past October, the Bay Area’s very own yoga teacher-rapper-extraordinaire MC Yogi took the stage at Madrone Studios in the Mission to address a room full of movers, thinkers, and shakers as part of an event called TED X City 2.0. The event was created to bring together bright, urban visionaries to speak about how to create more sustainable cities. I caught up with the MC Yogi this week to ask him about the experience, and how yoga teaches us in the Bay Area to be more sustainable.
If you are part of the yoga community, here’s what you probably see when you log on to Facebook: invitations to expensive yoga retreats in exotic locations, photos of friends or teachers modeling seemingly impossible yoga poses atop striking mountains, snippets of inspiring poetic wisdom that have garnered varying amounts of likes, and YouTube videos of 95-year-olds, sexy young things, and domesticated animals doing yoga.
The yoga community definitely has a strong presence on Facebook. But is it a good thing for the spiritual path?
During a discussion in a meditation group I went to last year, a woman confessed that Facebook was ruining her life. Every time she’d hop on to the site, she never ceased to become anxious, depressed, and lonely. Why wasn’t her life as cool and exciting as that of all of her “friends”? Why was she just sitting at home, viewing this unrelenting news feed of her acquaintances’ accomplishments, international sojourns, and glamour shots?
Humans are funny creatures. We don’t need to be reminded to complain or judge someone else (or ourselves)—that’s so easy. I mean, things always go wrong and people are constantly screwing up, right? So who needs a reminder to begrudge or kvetch? But to feel deep appreciation for what you have in this moment … that’s hard. We need reminders for that. In fact, we need a holiday.
Why is a simple thing like gratitude so difficult? It’s not because we’re self-centered people who are intentionally fixated on what’s wrong rather than what’s right (though certainly this is what it often feels like). It’s because, and recent research by neuroscientists supports this, our brains are simply wired to solve problems. And if your brain really wants to solve a problem, and a problem does not currently exist, your brain will create a problem to solve. You’re probably trying to solve a problem at this very moment. You just can’t help it.
I’ve heard it said that the best test for how enlightened you’ve become is to see how calm you are while spending an entire week living in your parents’ home. I think election time is an even better test. All of the non-judgment and non-violence we’ve been cultivating all year in our yoga practices seems to go out the window once politics jumps in.
Though politics has become a 7000-watt Technicolor light show of power play and ego (and maybe it always was, short of the glowing billboards and the nationally televised verbal gladiator-style showdowns), it is not inherently corrupt or evil. Government, at its best, is an attempt for all of us earthlings to live peaceably together. To create some kind of system that will help us co-exist on this planet from which we sprung sans guidebook (or even, apparently, access to more than 10 percent of our own brains). Politics, stripped to its bare essentials, is a way for us to determine who writes that guidebook.
If you’re a goddess or know one, this is your week. Not because the presidential debate on Tuesday night revolved around (devolved into?) a two-ring circus of male presidential candidates each trying to out-woman the other. That was just comedy. I’m talking about Navaratri.
Navaratri is an Indian holiday that worships the divine feminine. The nine-night holiday actually happens several times a year, but the one that occurs in autumn is known as Maha Navaratri. (“Maha” means “great” or “the biggest, baddest one.”) It’s a Hindu holiday, but it’s celebrated by yogis everywhere—because, let’s face it: There are few better ways to spend nine days than worshipping goddesses.
We’re all about girl power in San Francisco, but what does it really mean to celebrate the divine feminine? It doesn’t mean we all get our nails done and read People magazine for 9 days straight (though if that’s your thing, no judgment). The divine feminine is neither flighty nor fanciful. Rather, it’s fickle, fabulous, and fierce.