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Monday, August 25, 2008

who me, yoga?

it was a little over a year ago when i first heard about arthur klein's documentary about the yoga world, y yoga movie. it's clearly been a labor of love for him; from the time i first viewed a roughcut version of the film until the time he pronounced it ready for release, he continued to travel around the country to share his work and to spread the gospel of yoga. at every venue, he'd listen to what the audience had to say then use their comments and suggestions to fine-tune his offering to the yoga community.

soon after i heard that copies of the movie were finally available for purchase, i bumped into arthur at a local kirtan, and sure enough, he happened to have a stack of DVDs with him. i ended up buying my own copy just to see how it had evolved since my first review. it had clearly undergone some nip and tuck -- tighter editing here, extra footage there -- but it was basically the same answer to the same question: why yoga?

for me, listening to what everyone in y yoga had to say was pretty much preaching to the choir. i'd taken classes with most of the teachers interviewed in the movie, so not only had i already been fortunate enough to practice with them and learn from them, but all our stories were very similar. we discovered yoga. we discovered ourselves by doing yoga. and we continue to discover more about ourselves and the world around us through yoga.

but what about those who just aren't into yoga? if, after watching the movie, would they then perceive us as spiritual fanatics? or as overly health-conscious human pretzels? or would it spark in them a curiosity to find out for themselves what yoga's all about?

luckily, it didn't take long for me to find a yoga outsider who'd not only be willing to sit through the entire movie but who'd also give me her honest opinion... my younger sister, gigi.

gigi's outlook on health and fitness is so diametrically opposed to mine that people sometimes wonder if we're really related. while i'll spend hours sweating profusely in a yoga studio or out on a marathon course, she finds the thought of working out and being drenched in sweat utterly repulsive. and while she understands how exercise does contribute to one's sense of well-being, she's still waiting for the day when she can just pop a pill to achieve the same result. but then again, she can't understand why i'm oblivious to the latest fashion trends and have absolutely no problem wearing the same shade of eyeshadow week in and week out... ok, so maybe i'm not that bad...

one thing we do have in common is that we both blog. you probably already know that i write about the LA yoga scene -- surprise, surprise -- at the accidental yogist. so if you want to balance things out and catch up on what's new in the fashion and beauty scene -- and i suppose i should -- check out her thoughts at gigi goes gaga.

so here's gigi's review of arthur klein's y yoga -- and just know that the sushi dinner i bribed her with last night did not influence what she wrote in any way :)

When I was about six years old, my mother enrolled me in a ballet class, hoping that I might develop some kind of grace. Instead, my teacher announced that I was too fat to do splits. I never took another ballet class again, and have always been too frightened to do any kind of strenuous stretching, always thinking that my body just doesn’t want to go there, and therefore won’t.

I took a few yoga classes, but always quit with the mindset that I’d never be good at it because I found it impossible to touch my forehead to my knees (truth is I’d be happy if I could even touch my toes). I convinced myself I simply wasn’t yoga material: my classmates were usually lean, flexible types who looked great in tank tops and whom I was convinced ate nothing but vegan or raw food. So NOT how I’d describe myself. Plus I’ve never liked to sweat, and yoga classes always seem to take place in warm, crowded rooms.

But now I’m in my early 40's and I feel my body giving up on me. I’m diabetic and usually feel too tired to exercise; during the weekends I prefer to sleep. I was recently thinking of re-exploring yoga, partly because I’ve seen what it’s done for my older sister. She practices every single day, anywhere she can find a class. At first I thought it was simply her compulsive nature taking a new form, but then I realized something inside her had changed and that she was now radiating a sense of wellness and openness. It was something, I decided, that I wanted and needed for myself as well.

Tonight she brought Arthur Klein's DVD, "Y Yoga Movie," and wanted to know what I thought of it. Let’s get the bad news out of the way: it’s a bit disjointed and doesn’t flow, the same way I think yoga itself is supposed to. It tries to be everything to too many people, and I think there could be at least two or three different films in there. For instance, the portions regarding the music and musicians felt -- to me -- out of place.

But there’s more good news than bad. I came away understanding more about yoga and how the end goal is not being simply able to master a bunch of poses. I was inspired by how yoga had changed the lives of so many people -- how it made them find themselves, respect and honor their bodies, make them want to give back as a result of what they had been given, and be healed in ways they had never imagined.

I had been turned off at what I saw as the growing commercialization of yoga these past few years and was wary of jumping on what might merely be another fitness trend. But seeing all these people who have integrated yoga into their lives made me see things a bit differently. It’s not about who can do something better -- it’s about becoming better, from the inside out. Now that’s something I can believe in.

After two weeks of watching the Olympics, of hearing athletes talk about not being able to maintain the intensity of their training for many years and then juxtapose that with the constant messages in the film about how yoga is a lifelong practice that keeps you stronger and healthier as you age...well, it really is a no-brainer. It might take me a lifetime to be able to touch my forehead to my knees -- though I suspect I might surprise myself and learn how to make my body stretch in ways I never thought it could -- but at least I’d never, never be too fat to do it.

by the way, there'll be a screening of y yoga at the yoga health festival in denver tonight followed by a Q&A with director arthur klein. so if you're lucky enough to find yourself in that neck of the woods, treat yourself to an $8 double feature at the neighborhood flix cinema and cafe -- catch yoga unveiled: yoga as therapy at 6pm, then y yoga at 7:30pm. enjoy!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just for the record, I went to the gym right after work today -- the first time in 10 months. I was trying to focus on my posture and breathing and perhaps even achieve some form of Zen state doing so, but found it very difficult with these two guys beside me running a race on the treadmills and splashing buckets of sweat all around. They must have thought all the ducking I was doing was some form of advanced leg work on the Elliptical.

And, yes, there was a bit of glistening going on with me, too -- though I still refuse to sweat. Unless I can look as elegant and poised as the yoga teachers on the video when I do (I'm not talking about the Yoga for Guys dude, though).

11:01 PM  
Blogger joni said...

it's a start! besides, not all yoga classes are necessarily sweaty. you can take a restorative yoga class and reap the benefits while lying perfectly still :)

11:16 AM  

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