As I've written, I don't really make New Year's Resolutions. Not in the classic sense, anyway. But I do make goals. And, just like everyone else, my goal is to get into shape. I've lost weight before. I've even gotten into (a slightly better) shape before. But nothing has stuck. I've done different sports and routines and I always get bored. I hope this time will be different.
Yoga has been popular for decades, but in the past ten years or so, it's hit a new high of people doing it all the time and recommending it to you so often that you just don't want to hear another word about it. I blame YouTube. The number of channels and practitioners using YouTube to both teach and sell you on lessons is approaching the infinite.
So, for those who are sick of their friends telling them they should just give yoga a try, I sympathize. I'm not going to be preaching to you in this issue, I'm just going to tell you why I've started, what I hope to gain, and point you to the resources I'm using in case you have been unsure of starting too.
In this issue:
What We're Learning: Yoga me, baby!
What We're Reading: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Down the Rabbit Hole: Alternatives
Let's get to it.
What We're Learning:
Yoga me, baby!
What is yoga?
Everyone kind of knows what yoga is, right? You do some stretches and breathe a lot and some dude who smells like he bathed in patchouli oil lectures you about all your bad choices in life.
Yoga is a group of physical, mental, and spiritual practices or disciplines which originated in ancient India. Yoga is one of the six orthodox schools of Hindu philosophical traditions. There is a broad variety of yoga schools, practices, and goals in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. The term "yoga" in the Western world often denotes a modern form of Hatha yoga, which includes the physical practice of postures called asanas.
Riiiigghht. I understood some of those words…I think the key is in the last sentence - Western yoga is usually a form of Hatha yoga. However, following the wiki is not very helpful in this case as it goes into a lot of detail about where the tradition comes from and what it means, when all we’re really concerned about right now is that most of the yoga classes you see offered at your gym (or on YouTube) are based on this form and, in modern, practice, it is more physical exercise than spiritual teaching.
Why did you choose yoga?
Three different things converged in my head over the course of last year that finally convinced me to try yoga.
The first is that a good friend of mine went from being thin but not fit to being climb-up-every-mountain fit over the course of a year, all by diligently practicing along with a YouTube series.
The second came out of my obsession with Korean reality t.v. shows - one of the ones I watched featured a Korean pop star who badgered everyone in her life into practicing yoga with her. To a person* they all walked out of the experience feeling better.
And third, I watched a bunch of these videos. There, Diamond Dallas Page teaches his own brand of yoga originally designed to help athletes with long, sustained traumas (wrestlers, football players, etc.) overcome their injuries. He progressed to helping people with disabilities and the severely obese. And, man, those success stories are inspiring.
Now, all of these come with caveats. In the first case, my friend was not fit, but he was not fat either. He ate fairly healthily and already went for long walks on a regular basis. But, yoga helped him with joint pain and his flexibility and stamina. In the second, it's a t.v. show. It's possible that everyone was edited to look like they enjoyed the experience, but I'm assuming a lack of malice and taking it at face value. In the third case, many of the people who found success also worked a diet and did additional exercise, so it wasn't just yoga, but I'm pretty sure it helped.
What are the benefits of yoga?
Depending on who you ask, yoga can do everything from decreasing your stress to making the dead stand up and sing. But the truth is, there are two kinds of answers you’ll find: the testimonial and the lowered expectation, depending on your source. Keeping that in mind, here are some interesting articles I found:
The Benefits of Yoga - (Osteopathic dot org)
The Benefits of Yoga - (Gaiam)
But, here’s the TL;DR: Yoga can reduce stress, strengthen muscles and bones, strengthen circulatory and respiratory systems. None of which should be surprising. After all, any daily exercise combined with a healthy diet should provide many of the same benefits. The difference between yoga and other forms of exercise (aerobics, weight lifting, etc.) is the focus on flexibility and breathing.
How to start?
If you’ve made it this far and are really keen to start your own practice, here are a couple more resources you can check out:
What We’re Reading:
by Douglas Adams
“Forty-two,” said Deep Thought, with infinite majesty and calm.
The preceding quote is, as anyone who’s read the 6-volume trilogy knows, the answer to the question of life, the universe, and everything.
I first read the Hitchhiker’s Guide when I was about 14. I’ve read it several times since and enjoyed it all over-again every time the series is changed into yet another t.v. show, radio show, or movie. And, in another few years, when it’s been re-shaped into a virtual, choose-your-own-adventure, Netflix-only, live stage-play, I’ll enjoy it once more. In the meantime, if you haven’t read these books, do yourself a favor and do so at once. If for no other reason than this handy bit of advice regarding towels:
“…it has great practical value – you can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a mini raft down the slow heavy river Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or to avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a mindboggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you – daft as a bush, but very, very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.”
Fine. I’m off to go read it again…
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Down the Rabbit Hole:
Big Fat Quiz of the Year
It’s a very short rabbit hole this week as there’s really only one entry due to my annual obsession with Channel 4’s The Big Fat Quiz of the Year, hosted by Jimmy Carr.
What you need to know:
This is a panel show, a type of variety common on U.K. t.v. in which comedians and celebrities discuss various topics while throwing in as many jokes and witty observations as possible. It’s like a cross between a late-nite show and a game show in a lot of ways.
Jimmy Carr is the British comic who’s laugh sounds like a drunken seal.
That’s it. Stay safe, stay healthy. Learn something.