Tag Archives: Ed Staskus

Throwing Up a Stonewall

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By Ed Staskus

“I’m all lost in the supermarket, I can no longer shop happily, I came here for their special offer, a guaranteed personality.”  The Clash

In the United States Congress is made up of two chambers, the House of Representatives and the Senate. They are both in Washington D. C. The chambers are filled by direct elections in the fifty states by the American voting public. Statutory law is proposed and created by Congress, with the White House stage-managing business as usual.

Many of those laws have been progressive, from the activism at the turn of the 20th century to the New Deal in the depths of the Great Depression to the Civil Rights bills of the 1960s.

Most of them have been regressive, such as the marriage and property laws of the 19th century, the Smoot-Hawley Act of 1930, among other protectionist laws, and just about everything the GOP has done in living memory, bad laws in lieu of good ideas. Many lawmakers live on the wrong side of fear.

Some of them have been bone-headed, from the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 to Prohibition to the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, the last based on glib lies eagerly believed by the eager beavers ready to make a buck on waving the flag.

There are laws Congress makes that are homeland lifestyle laws. They are about America, about our allegiance and attachment to its ideals, interests, and traditions. They are about embracing a way of life. When they address the way we live now, they are about what makes life liberty and the pursuit of happiness a real way of life, not just foggy notions from long ago.

They are stale toast when they try to recreate the past.

The most up-to-date attempts to fossilize American values are from the font of the Make America Great Again Wall of Shame Rantings of POTUS. The Big Man in the Oval Office is a race-baiting tax-dodging whore-loving atheist mouthing Christian platitudes, of all things, although it doesn’t seem to matter to his zany supporters. They rally around the ranting and red hats. It’s spooky Americanism in the Haunted White House.

Homeland legislation has often been the purview of the good old boys in love with the good old days. Their guiding principle is “In God We Trust” and God forbid anything change anytime soon. Even though change has accelerated by leaps and bounds in the past one hundred years, and even though Orange Julius can’t keep his mouth shut, the conservative order in the United States is not very much different today than it was one hundred years ago during the reign of Silent Cal.

Thank God Congress is coming back into session next month, the week of Labor Day. They may only work 138 days a year, but they have their work cut out for them. If the United States stands for anything, it stands for free enterprise. It stands for capitalism. It ultimately stands for consumerism. In the mid-1950s the President of the National Sales Executives was already blithely declaring, “Capitalism is dead, consumerism is king.”

Even President Trump, with his crazy fast thumb on social media, and incredibly busy with issues such as body-shaming Senator Elizabeth Warren, trying to remember his wife’s name, and the mental health menace of xBox, is cognizant of what really makes America great.

“The WTO is BROKEN. NO more!!! Today I directed the U.S. Trade Representative to take action so that countries stop CHEATING the system at the expense of the USA!”

Make America Great Again!

“I built the greatest economy in the World, the best the U.S. has ever had. Best stock market, economy and unemployment numbers ever! Most people working within U.S. ever! Low interest rates, very low inflation! Country doing great!”

Make America Great Again!

“Did you hear the latest con job? President Obama is now trying to take credit for the Economic Boom taking place under the Trump Administration. He had the WEAKEST recovery since the Great Depression, despite Zero Fed Rate & MASSIVE quantitative easing. NOW, best jobs numbers.”

Make America Great Again!

President Trump has raced Air Force One to one trade junket after another over the past year, burning up the carbon, and sent proposals to Congress, and taken to Twitter, going hard after Europe South America China with tariffs tariffs tariffs to protect American jobs workers businesses, humping the notion that the business of America is business. He has gotten on top of the mountain of nationalism and shouted his message for all to hear, both prophet and salesman and head honcho of the lunatic fringe.

“I have the absolute right to PARDON myself!” he tweets again and again.

It is hard to believe incredible bewildering just about impeachable that he hasn’t focused his tweeting laser-like eye on yoga. It might not be long, though. When Dhvani, an athletic-wear company from Oregon that makes yoga clothes, put up a 30-foot billboard in Times Square criticizing the president, the response was swift and sure.

“You’re just full of shit,” said Donald Trump Jr.

There are many things that threaten the American economy, from unemployment to energy prices to fiscal crises to cyber-attacks to data fraud to extreme weather events to large-scale involuntary migration to illicit trade to asset bubbles. There’s always something. If there is one thing that is a clear and present danger to the well-being of Main Street and Wall Street, it is yoga.

Although yoga pumps tens of billions of dollars into the economy, it is only one of the arms of the practice, the arm that is the spigot, the physical aspect of it, from studios to mats ‘n’ stuff to groovy lulu outfits, as well as ancillary products and services like seminars supplements physical therapies alternative regimens and R & R.

The danger yoga poses to the American economy lies in the other seven arms of the practice, some of which are so antithetical to the American way of life as to be nearly treasonous. Even though the commodification of yoga is a done deal, even the body beautiful, the face on the myth of beauty health success, is on shaky ground, since one of the aspects of traditional yoga is acceptance of one’s body, to be at one with it, in all its imperfections.

The body can be improved upon, but it’s not a lump of clay in search of aesthetic perfection. At least, not if you exist outside the star-studded world of the stars and pro sports. They’ve got the dough to work on the clay they are. Its objectification only serves the merchandiser, not necessarily the consumer. It is buyer beware, just like it’s always been.

Tom Brady, the star quarterback of the New England Patriots, makes about $40 million a year. His football fans far and wide ultimately are the ones who fork over the dough. When it comes to being careful with the merchandise, Tom Brady pays all the attention in the world to his body. Practicing yoga is partly exercising the body, but the million-dollar part of the practice is exercising the brain.

Practicing yoga is having a fan base of one, you.

Old-school yoga is a stuck in the craw problem for the United States. If it ever gains a foothold it could be dangerous. If it got out of hand it could threaten the consumer society that makes America as great as it is. At the very least, Aparigraha – meaning non-covetousness – should be outlawed immediately. The consumer society is predicated on coveting a bigger house bigger car bigger clothes and the newest devices, never being satisfied. The new minimalism is the old maximalism. It’s a wild goose chase, but it’s what makes the world go around.

“There’s nothing I’d ever buy, but I love consumerism,” said Johnny Rotten of the punk band the Sex Pistols. “I like being there, in the shopping malls. It’s wacky.”

What is hare-brained, and what Orange Julius and Congress need to understand, is that buying into non-consumerism is the same as throwing the flag into the mud and trampling on it. The American government has often intervened interfered intruded into life in the United States in order to advance and preserve what it considers the aims and ambitions of its people. The country may be doing great now, business is booming, but if the growth of yoga is left unchecked, and its precepts go invasive on native soil, it could cast a spell, causing a downward spiral in the economy.

The virtuous cycle is all about disposable income demanding more stuff and manufacturers ramping it up to meet the demand. Business spending on technology, productivity, and capital goods is a significant factor in sustaining the economy and raising the standard of living, but the mainstay is consumer spending. It is 70% of gross domestic product. It is the most important driving force of the economy.

When consumer spending drops off growth slows, prices fall, and deflation creeps in. If it goes on too long, and the economy steadily contracts, the result is hard times, recession and depression. The White House, and all our houses, start looking ragged at the edges.

The ground rules of yoga are anathema to capitalism and consumerism. It’s not just Aparigraha, either. The eight-fold path is meant to lead to a purposeful and meaningful life, by way of truthfulness and continence, among other things. There is little in the way of truthfulness on Madison Avenue and almost no continence. Self-discipline and spiritual observances are a big part of yoga. They’re a big part of going shopping. Samtosa is defined as contentment. If that concept ever got adopted, there would be hell to pay at Amazon. They would have to resurrect Stonewall Jackson to fight that battle.

In the United States, society is structured in such a way that many people are regarded and regard themselves as profit-generators. Everyone else is either helping or hindering you on the yellow brick road to Fort Knox. It is a selfish way of life, but a way of life that has led to the good life.

No one wants to go back to the Great Recession, much less the Great Depression, or any bust of any kind. President Trump has got his quick thumb on that button. His arch-enemy Hillary Clinton practices yoga, which he has pointed to as unacceptable.

“She does a lot of yoga, right?” he said. He mocked her for justifying deleting e-mails as an ethical result of yoga practice. “I think that one of the great crimes committed is Hillary Clinton deleting 33,000 e-mails after Congress sent her a subpoena.”

Yoga has been integrated into the fabric of life in the United States, but only the get up stand up part of it. The other parts don’t fit well. They fit so badly, indeed, that alarm bells are clanging coast to coast. Parents and school boards in Georgia, Alabama, and California have gotten yoga expelled from programs in their states, for good reason. They understand the treat at ground level.

Orange Julius and Senator “Moscow” Mitch McConnell and the rest of the GOP need to take a hard look at the Russian city of Nizhnevartovsk, where yoga in all its forms was banned in 2015, under the rubric of it being foreign and subversive. The owners of the city’s yoga studios received letters telling them to close up shop and “stop spreading new religious cults and movements.”  Classes at a stadium and public meeting hall were suspended. Schools and local physical culture centers were advised in no uncertain terms to cut out the asana and meditation practices of “an occult character.”

That’s the spirit, comrade!

President Trump has torn more than one page out of the Russki playbook. Ronald Reagan said “Tear down the wall” in the 1980s, referring to the Berlin Wall. President Trump has repurposed the phrase, saying “Build the wall” in our own times. It is time he includes the practice of yoga, and its foreign influences, to the same blacklist where all the other foreigners his wall is designed to keep out of the homeland are listed in black and white.

Bad ideas are as bad as bad people. The president knows that. The Trump Wall is meant to keep bad people out of the United States. The president needs to build it higher. It needs to be built higher to keep out bad ideas. The ideas and beliefs that make up the practice of yoga are a menace to the zeitgeist of the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave in the 21st century.

The Trump Tower might fall like the Tower of Babel, for Christ’s sake!

The activist Alyssa Milano has called on removing the president from office with “the power of yoga.” She proposes chanting a reality-altering mantra every day for throwing him out. That’s going to backfire. President Trump knows a bugbear when he sees one.

Consumerism and affluence may be a corruption of the American Dream, but it’s all we’ve got. Yoga would have us believe it’s best to never buy anything you can’t carry in your tote, the tote your children are carrying. They think that’s the future, but there’s no future in that. Bigger is better and more is more, not the other way around. Loyalty and permanence are undermined by consumerism, but that’s the way it is. It’s every man for himself and God against all.

Get to work, Congress. Do the right thing by the homeland. Send a bill up the hill. Since the commander-in-chief is still the commander-in-chief, at his command yoga can go back to where it came from. With a tweet and a fountain pen President Trump can outlaw yoga and restore American values.

Build the blockade make the stonewall make the country great again make the mats go away bust those yoga blocks to bits no more standing on your head and ban foreign ideas foreign ethos foreign beliefs, once and for all!

 

 

 

Monkey On My Back

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By Ed Staskus

On the northeastern coast of the Atlantic Ocean, the town of North Truro is on the Outer Cape, on the other side of Route 6, on the other side of the ocean by about a mile, and looks across Cape Cod Bay. It is 20 minutes past Wellfleet, and 10 minutes to Provincetown, which is the last town at the end of the line.

US Route 6, once known as the Grand Army of the Republic Highway, runs from Bishop, California to Provincetown, Massachusetts. Before Dwight Eisenhower got the federal interstates built, it was the longest highway in the country.

Going into town for scallops and an IPA is as easy as pie. The road from North Truro to Wellfleet rolls past scrubby trees, while the road to Provincetown narrows, tucked into sand dunes. The National Seashore, from Race Point to Marconi Beach, ranges for many miles.

When President John Kennedy created the new National Seashore in the early 1960s, he created something old by leaving it alone. From the overlook at Marconi there is a broad view of the Atlantic Ocean. Down the steep sand dunes is a long wide flat stretch of beach. Hotel and resort developers and real estate interests haven’t been able to turn the seashore from Orleans to Provincetown into their version of hellish happiness.

Although Provincetown gets jammed to the gills in July and August, the summer before summer and the summer after summer are laid back on the Outer Cape. It’s laid back, but there is plenty to do.

There is plenty of green space on the Outer Cape.

There is the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge, almost 8,000 acres of dunes, salt and freshwater marshes, and an old lighthouse. There is a nine-mile long sandbar accessible by kayak. Nickerson State Park is several thousand acres of woods, home to fox and deer, and hiking trails. Walk or jog or ride the Cape Cod Rail Trail.

Explore Provincetown’s Commercial Street, chock full of restaurants, funky shops, and art galleries. There are street performers, although not all of them are official street performers. Some are in the flesh performance artists. There are comedy clubs and night clubs.

At the Wellfleet Drive-in, starting in September, old school movies like “Jaws” and “Grease” and “Back to the Future” are shown on the big screen. Families back their pick-up trucks in, flip the tail gates down, and spread sleeping bags out on the bed of the truck. Teenagers bring gigantic flamingo lounge pool floats and flop on them between the cars.

Or, don’t do much. Grab a book, a folding chair, a tube of sunscreen, and head to the beach. There’s plenty of sunshine. It’s always chill on the sand. There are always clams, mussels, and oysters afterwards.

There is some yoga on the Outer Cape, a very nice studio in Wellfleet, and several in Provincetown. They are smallish and on the small side spaces. Yoga East on Race Point Road might fit a dozen people on their polished sunlit floor. In the summer, unless it rains, they are half empty.

There is plenty of air and space to do yoga outside, on the shady grass behind the North Truro Library, at spots all over in the parks, and on the seashore. Not many do, however, an opportunity lost. Unless it is a class that has moved outside, spotting a yoga mat on the Outer Cape is like spotting Moby Dick.

Thar she blows!

Not that you need a mat to get it done. If you want to practice poses on the beach, it’s best to ditch the mat, anyway, and go natural. The hard sand closer to the water is great for standing poses and the soft sand farther back is great for floor work.

If yoga is a personal practice, meant to get you to go inwards, the ocean shore and many of the beaches on the bay side are great places to go solo. They are easy to find, all of them have parking lots, and either stairs or tracks down to the beaches. Almost everyone is usually tucked in within a few hundred yards of one another. Go in either direction, go a few hundred yards, and you will suddenly find yourself alone.

It’s where to go to get the monkey off your back.

You may be able to see Head of the Meadow Beach over one shoulder, and Coast Guard Beach over the other shoulder, but it will be just you and low tide and the seagulls and gray seals somewhere in between the two. The gray seals ply the shoreline, their way of steering clear of sharks, who stay away, aware of the shallow water and the dangers of getting stranded in the sand.

Although most yoga is practiced in group settings at studios, gyms, and community centers, back in the day yogic fundamentals recommended practicing alone. The idea was to connect with your breath and body without anybody else breathing on you or sweating up a storm in headstand on their mat inches away from you. Practicing yoga in a group setting, with somebody at the head of the class, is a structured ready-to-wear way to get your yoga in, but it’s somebody else’s structure.

Going it alone, there’s no need to keep an eye out for anybody tilting swaying and falling over on top of you. There isn’t any shake and bake, keeping up with the vinyasa, staying in step with the playlist. There’s no list of any kind.

Practicing alone means there aren’t any teachers telling you what to think, making sure you don’t have to think for yourself, since that is what you are paying them for, anyway. Practicing alone means you are free, on the loose to think for yourself, instead of ingesting received wisdom. Practicing alone means you can make yourself up, steering clear of holiness and hipster cant.

On the bay side of Cape Cod, from North Truro, where there are always front row seats to sunsets over Provincetown, it is about four miles south down the beach, past Pilgrim Beach Village, Cold Storage Beach  and Corn Hill Beach to Pamet Harbor in Truro, where the sand abruptly ends at the mouth of the harbor. For much of the walk, as far as Cold Storage Beach, houses are perched high on the sea cliff, out of sight, squatting quietly at the top of long steep weather-beaten stairs.

At the base of the escarpment, all along the narrow beach, the Atlantic Ocean stretching three thousand miles on the backside and Cape Cod Bay seventy-some miles into the distance, is a good place to practice yoga alone, walking the line, except when it isn’t.

“Are you all right?”

They were an older couple, out for a walk. He was wearing a snap brim straw hat and she was wearing a Boston Red Sox cap. There was a concerned expression on her face.

“Yes, it’s just a yoga pose. It’s called Twisted Monkey. I do it for my hip flexors and for my lower back.”

“Oh, we thought maybe you had hurt yourself.”

“I did hurt myself, but that was an accident, and now I do this to get better.”

“Does it help?”

“It does help, in more ways than one, even though it’s not the be all and end all. It helps my backside, and it helps keep my head on straight, too, which is a good thing.”

“Did you hurt your head, too?”

“No, but I get headaches sometimes in this crazy world.”

“I’m with you about the craziness,” the man in the old summer hat laughed. “Maybe I should try some of that yoga.”

“Take some classes, learn the fundamentals, what have you got to lose?”

Take a step to the side, around the billboard, and there’s a different way of looking at things on the other side.

Yoga classes, under the direction of an accredited teacher, are the way to learn the practice. They are also a way to be in a community. They engender and reinforce a sense of purpose and place.

At the end of the day, at the end of the line, everyone practices on their own, even when they practice cheek to jowl in a crowded yoga studio. Unless they don’t like being alone, and the class is a way of pretending everyone in a crowd is on your side. They are, of course, as long as you stay in the crosswalk.

Practicing on your own internalizes what you’ve learned. Yoga isn’t rocket science. There is a bucketful of learning to it, but it’s as much horse sense as it is wisdom. Going it alone, without anyone bending your ear, listening to your own breath, shucking shellfish, walking on sunshine, can be the best way to get to whatever fresh clear air thinking is out there.

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Ed Staskus is a freelance writer from Sudbury, Ontario, and lives in Lakewood, Ohio. Click here to see more writing between fiction and non-fiction.

Lord of the Fishes

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By Ed Staskus

The North Rustico beach slivers itself at the mouth of the harbor of the town, on Prince Edward Island, Canada’s smallest province. The crescent shaped island is tucked into the shoulders of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, across the Northumberland Strait. On the far side of the Gulf of St. Lawrence is Newfoundland. Europe is the farther landfall across the Atlantic Ocean.

North Rustico is on the north-central coast, on Route 6, between Cavendish and Rusticoville. Some of it can be seen from the deck of Pedro’s Eatery, where Route 6 dips and curves through the middle of town, the market and gas station, the bakery and the credit union, the lobster restaurant and the post office. The rest of it is within a few minutes, down the harbor road and up some side roads.

It’s all within easy sight of the flocks of seagulls who fly up and down the coast.

Frank and Vera Glass, staying at the Coastline Cottages just outside of town, drove the mile-or-so from their cottage along the parkway, past Rollings Pond to the parking lot at the back of the beach, where a creek empties, up the dirt road to the other lot, parked in front of a sign saying the beach was unattended by life guards, walked up and then down the path to the beach, and made fast at a nice spot on the sand not far from the shoreline.

It was sunny and fair, the sun behind them, as they unfolded their low-slung blue canvas chairs, plopping into them, pulling books from their Pedro, a yellow and black re-purposed bicycle messenger bag.

Vera was reading an autobiography of Agnes de Mille.

Frank was reading “The Durrels of Corfu.” He interrupted Vera every few minutes with something funny he had just read. Vera thought, you’re slowing me down, dude, even though she was a slow reader, anyway.

“Did you see that sign?” she asked Frank.

“No, what sign?”

“The sign beside the lifeguard cabana, the one that said, ‘Caution! Attention!’”

“There are no lifeguards, not until next week,” said Frank. “I saw that sign when we parked.”

“It’s the North Rustico Beach welcome sign, the big red and white sign when you walk onto the beach, the one that says rip currents, strong offshore winds, beware of large surf, and don’t use inflatables.”

Frank looked out at the flat quiet water, the spaghetti surf, and the wide sky dotted with puffy clouds standing still.

“No, I didn’t see that sign,” he said. “Anyway, it seems beside the point today.”

“It does, doesn’t it,” said Vera, smiling at her husband.

They read their books, watched couples walking by barefoot, children running, and a head down in a cell phone shuffling past. A family set up camp nearby, Vera took a nap, and Frank rolled out of his canvas chair and practiced a half-hour of yoga on the warm sand. He didn’t have a mat, but it didn’t matter. He turned and pulled and released and twisted one way and the other.

When he was done he rolled back into his low-slung chair.

“That felt good,” he said.

“I’m glad, honey,” said Vera. “What was that last thing you did, the twisty thing? I haven’t seen you do that before.”

“It’s called Lord of the Fishes,” he said. “It’s supposed to be good for your lower back.”

Vera didn’t do yoga in any of its forms, although she was glad Frank did. He had a bum back and the exercises kept him on his feet. The thinking behind the practice – Frank liked to call it that – also seemed to be good for him, keeping him on the tried and true straight and narrow.

“Do you remember the last time we had dinner with Barron at Herb’s Tavern, and he spent coffee and dessert railing about how steady as it goes has gone big top high wire?” Frank asked Vera.

“Yes, I do,” said Vera, remembering the carrot cake she had not been able to fully enjoy.

Barron Cannon owned and operated and taught at a small yoga studio near where Frank and Vera lived in Lakewood, Ohio, an inner ring suburb on the shores of Lake Erie, west of Cleveland. He was between young and middle-aged, married but divorced – what woman could stand living with him, Vera wondered – a post-modern sensibility with a PhD in philosophy, but a yoga traditionalist. He taught the exercise poses, but always in the context of the other arms of yoga, which he considered the essential parts of the practice.

Whenever he was in high dudgeon he complained about the 21st century western emphasis on the physical aspects of yoga.

“Everywhere you go, everywhere you look, it’s asana on the mat, in a hot room, an hour of hard work and it’s back to whatever else you are up to. When did yoga become work hard, no pain, no gain? When did it become just another something on the checklist, getting fit, staying ahead? When did it become competitive, a race to the finish, another rat bastard in the rat race?”

Barron was Frank’s friend. Vera tolerated him for her husband’s sake. She didn’t dislike Barron, but she disliked it when he said things like, “Nobody worth their salt is nice.”

“I was going to tell Barron about Eric Young, mention his ideas, but I didn’t,” said Frank. “We would never have gotten out of Herb’s, at least not until after closing time, if then.”

“Who’s Eric Young?” asked Vera.

“A Baltimore guy, a lot like Barron in some respects, teaches some yoga, aerial style, a big fan of the Baltimore Orioles, which is too bad,” said Frank.

“Why were you going to bring him up to Barron?” asked Vera.

“Because he’s on the other side of the teeter totter,” said Frank.

“What’s too bad about the Orioles?”

“You don’t want to know.”

“Competitive yoga started in India, not the west, but that’s a minor detail,” said Eric. “I am curious, though, at the idea of the physical becoming the more dominant focus, and so many people feel the need to tell other people that’s not yoga when there is no agreed upon definition. If we are all properly practicing an inward journey, shouldn’t that remove the need to be concerned what others do and what they call or label the activity in which they are doing it?”

“That makes sense to me,” said Vera.

“There’s more,” said Frank.

“Setting aside the definitions of yoke and some of the more deeper translations and interpretations of yoga from the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, and setting aside the atman and seer ideas, for the average practitioner they will have no understanding, or care to,” said Eric.

“In my yoga teacher training class, I would say half had no idea there was anything beyond the physical. To many, yoga is a down dog, a bird of paradise, with a glass of wine after, and for some, a puppy or a baby goat wandering by. I say more power to them, for at least two reasons. First, if they are truly in the present, they are doing a lot of the work, even if not labeled as such, and if they do it enough, the work will pay off one way or another. Second, if I am doing my yoga, in whatever form that means to me, then I should not be bothered one way or another. As no one owns the term and there are so many different facets, it’s arrogant for me to say you’re wrong.”

“I’m not sure Barron would be good with that,” said Vera.

“You know how Barron is. He would have plenty to say,” said Frank.

“I will concede if your business is teaching, and I set up shop next door spouting I know as much and am as good a teacher, which I don’t and am not, you have every right to be bothered by this, but that’s business, not yoga,” said Eric. “I don’t think the gurus of yore were bothered by what another one did on the other side of the country. But for those who say because it’s not four thousand years old, only two hundred years, and it’s not authentic, I call that bullshit.”

“He speaks his mind,” said Vera.

“There is wisdom and there is gray hair,” said Eric.

“I wouldn’t put Eric and Barron in the same room,” said Vera.

“I don’t know about that,” said Frank. “They’re both on the same yoga planet.”

“What planet are you on?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, don’t put them in the same room, for God’s sake. They may be on the same planet, but they’re not coming from the same place. That would be a head-on collision.”

Vera and Frank heard a sudden loud squarking from the shoreline, and when they looked towards the sound, they saw a herring gull dragging a rock crab out of the surf. The crab latched onto the bird with large claw, swinging side-to-side as the seagull flapped up. The bird shook the crab off, dropping it into the surf, and going after it again, pecking and pecking. When the seagull dragged the crab out of the water it began to slash at it, killing it, if the crustacean wasn’t already dead, pulling it landwards whenever the surf rolled it back towards the ocean.

“I thought their shells protected them from birds,” said Frank.

“Maybe the shell was cracked already,” said Vera.

“One of the guys at the harbor told me that gulls will pick up shellfish, fly them up in the air, and drop them on rocks so their shells crack when they land.”

“I didn’t know seagulls had it in their pea brains to be able to think that out,” said Vera.

“It’s a dog eat dog world,” said Frank. “Seagulls are intelligent. They can unlock trash bins. They’re omnivores and they’ll eat anything. I read about a black-backed gull down on Cape Cod that snatched up a miniature chihuahua, right off the beach, and the dog has not been seen since.”

They watched the seagull rip legs off and pull goopy innards out of the crab, until there wasn’t anymore left to be had. The big white and gray bird arched its neck, cawed several times, and flew away. The remains of the crab slowly but surely rolled back into the ocean.

“What time does Doiron’s close?” asked Vera.

“Six,” said Frank.

“What time is it now?”

Frank looked at his iPhone.

“Quarter of six,” he said.

“Drive me over me there” said Vera. “You can drop me of and I’ll walk back to the cottage.”

“All right, maybe I’ll drive up the parkway, go for a walk around Orby Head, and we can meet back at the cottage,” said Frank.

He dropped his wife off at the fish market.

Doiron Fisheries is on the wharf on Harbourview Drive. It’s been there since the 1950s.  It’s a small storefront with a big sign over the door, a long shallow front room chock full of haddock, hake, halibut, salmon, mackerel, oysters, mussels, scallops, and cooked crab.

Frank drove up Church Hill Road, past the Stella Maris church and the graveyard, and down to the National Park kiosk. They had a seasonal pass attached to the stem of the rear view mirror of their Hyundai Tucson, and when the attendant in the kiosk glanced up and waved him through, Frank swung the car to the left up the hill into the seashore park.

He had once stopped and asked the teenager in a National Parks shirt behind the drive-through window, “What do you call this building?”

“We call it the gate,” she said.

“The gate?”

“That’s it, yup, the gate.”

Frank drove past Doyle’s Cove and the Coastline Cottages. The cottages are in the Prince Edward Island National Park, but aren’t a part of the park. The Doyle’s kept their land, in the family for a dog’s age, not selling it to Canada when the park was established. There are a handful of their houses, one nearly a hundred years old, another one newly built last year, within sight. They are the only homes in sight.

He drove the two miles-or-so up the Gulf Shore Way, pulled off the road at Orby Head, and went for a walk along the red sandstone cliff. He lay down face forward on the other side of the rope fence and looked down at the waves churning and breaking on the narrow rocky landing far below.

A group of cormorants in a v formation flew past, nearly at eye level. He closed his eyes and breathed evenly for a few minutes. He heard a car pull in, its tires crunching on the gravel. He opened his eyes, got up, and walked back to his car.

When he stepped into the cottage the lowering sun was lighting up the kitchen window, and Vera was at the stove.

“What are you making for dinner?” he asked.

“Crab cakes,” she said.

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Click here to see more writing between fiction and non-fiction by Ed Staskus

 

 

Bad Boys of Yoga

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By Ed Staskus

Keep your breath to cool your porridge.”  Jane Austen

There’s nothing new about scandals, be they political academic corporate celebrity religious personal financial. They are a dime a dozen. The reason they are so cheap is because there are so many of them. Crack open a newspaper, remote on a TV, open a browser, and there they are, today and every day. They take all shapes and sizes, not just nowadays, but way back when, too.

Back when the Olympics were the Greek Olympics, an Athenian pentathlete bribed his opponents to secure victory. He was found out and both he and his hometown were fined. He paid his fine, but Athens refused. It took the Delphic Oracle threatening there would be no more oracles for Athens to get them to pay up.

Five hundred years ago the Borgia’s, two of whom ruled the Holy City as Popes, were conniving entrepreneurs who bought their way to the top, poisoned friend foe and family alike, and at the Banquet of Chesnuts at the Vatican in 1501 encouraged their guests to enjoy the “fifty honest prostitutes” they had procured for dessert.

More recently, during the Gilded Age, there were more corporate shenanigans than you could shake a stick at. Somebody should have beaten James “Jubilee Jim” Fisk with a stick, but instead he became entangled in blackmail and was shot to death in broad daylight in the lobby of New York City’s Grand Central Hotel.

Everyone’s always got their reasons for falling into the tar pit. Even the bad have their good reasons. More often than not it’s not anybody’s fault, either, especially in our own exculpatory day and age.

“It’s because as a child Cinderella got home after midnight, Pinocchio told lies, Aladdin was a thief, Snow White lived in a house with seven men, I saw Tarzan practically naked, Batman drove 200 MPH without a license, and Shaggy was a mystery solving hippie who always had the munchies,” we explain in song and dance about how we became good-time Charlies.

Sex scandals are nothing if not more than everything else never new. They are the bedrock of dirty linen. Many a man has fallen into the hamper.

Grover Cleveland fathered a child out of wedlock and during the 1884 presidential campaign was dogged by Republican chants of, “Ma, Ma, where’s my Pa?” After he won, Democrats answered, “Gone to the White House, ha, ha, ha.”

Bill Clinton had sex out of wedlock on top of the father of our country’s desk in the Oval Office, was almost impeached, but shrugged it off as though the disapproval was a misunderstanding.

When Donald Trump lays down with whores, it’s not a skeleton in the wedlock closet, for several reasons. First, he’s done it many times before, so there isn’t anything scandalous about him doing it again. Second, he’s a consummate dickhead, so there’s nothing unusual about it. Lastly, no one cares, not his evangelical brain-addled conservative base, nor the country’s liberals, for whom it’s the least of his foibles, nor the rest of the world, for whom it’s just a punchline.

No one holds him to any kind of standard, anyway, high or low.

When yoga masters teachers gurus, on the other hand, go sex crazy, it is a scandal, for many reasons, not the least of which is they are held to a higher standard. They are expected to hold firm to the ethical high ground, not rut around in the trough. Stand above reproach. Steer clear of the web of corruption. Practice what you preach, for God’s sake.

It isn’t necessarily what everybody calls you, but what you answer to. Rules guide the everyday. Right conduct guides the better man. Nevertheless, stick to what it says in the job description.

“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be,” observed Kurt Vonnegut.

If you can’t trust a yoga teacher, who can you trust?

It’s a long list of bad boys, sometimes a common vice, antics in the back room, sometimes darker. It can be a crime punishable by law, at other times simply an offense that outrages the public conscience. It ain’t the Hall of Fame. It’s more along the lines of the Wall of Shame.

It includes Kriyananda, Rodney Yee, and Akhandananda Sarswati, who was charged with 35 counts of sexual abuse in 1987, convicted, and sent to prison.

It includes Osel Tendzin, Dechen Thurman, known as the “yoga gigolo,” and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi – whose relationship with The Beatles came to a sudden end over allegations he tried to rape the actress Mia Farrow. The “Giggling Guru” got away with it, expanded his TM empire, and ended up living in his own 200-room mansion, where he could transcendentalize whatever he wanted in whatever bedroom he wanted to.

It includes Satchidananda, Muktananda, and Rama, founder of the Himalayan Institute of Yoga Science and Philosophy, whose estate had to pay almost $2 million in 1996 to a woman who claimed she was forced to have sex with him.

Easy come, easy go, seems to have been the philosophy.

It includes Sathya Sai Baba, K. Pattabhi Jois, and Amrit Desai, who founded the Kripalu Center in Massachusetts, and was compelled to resign after confessing to several affairs in 1994.

Kripalu still takes a low profile on the whole sordid business, stating blandly for the record, “Yogi Desai resigned as spiritual director of Kripalu.”

It’s like saying he had other things besides the spirit on his mind, or loins, as the case may be.

It includes the royal family of yoga.

In 2012 allegations of emotional and sexual abuse were made against Kausthub Desikachar, the grandson of the godfather of modern yoga, Krishnamacharya.

The next year Desikachar confessed, “I realize that some of the decisions that I have made in the past have not been consistent with the high standards that I usually set for myself. I also fully understand and acknowledge that these have had far reaching effects, way beyond myself. There is no way of changing the past. I wholeheartedly repent for what has happened.”

There’s nothing like slapping yourself on the wrist.

It includes Osho, John Friend, and Bikram Choudhury.

During his lifetime, Osho, a self-proclaimed spiritual guru, was otherwise known as the sex guru. He made no secret of it. Osho was always on the pull, day and night. He did make a secret of everything else, including allegations of drug-running and a prostitution racket.

He was deported from the United States in 1985 as the result of complicity in a murder plot, among other things. He was arrested on board a Learjet in North Carolina with $1 million in cash and valuables on board, trying to escape to Bermuda. Although 21 other countries denied him entry, India finally took him back.

He was welcomed by his disciples with a clap on the back. “We must put the monster America in its place,” he declared. He complained of being the victim of “evil magic.” He died five years later of a heart attack, the victim of clogged arteries.

Amazingly enough, he is more popular today than he was then.

John Friend, who studied long and hard with B. K. S. Iyengar, and who labored long and hard to create and establish Anusara Yoga, a new kind of heart-centered practice, stepped down from his leadership role in 2012. Two years earlier The New York Times had proclaimed him the “Yoga Mogul.” Thousands of teachers and hundreds of thousands of people around the world practiced his style of yoga.

A year later it was all gone, gone up in smoke.

The yoga gear supplier Manduka got stuck with a warehouse full of John Friend-branded mats.

Besides smoking a boatload of pot, which was illegal at the time, and slyly dipping into pension funds that weren’t his, which is still illegal, he slept his way through his closest female acolytes, married and otherwise. He dreamed up a Wiccan coven, calling it Blazing Star Flames, to keep things on the up and up, at least in his own mind. It was a kind of tantric dodge to explain himself.

Tantric sexual expression is said to be a God-like weaving and expansion of energy creating a mind-body connection leading to powerful orgasms. If only we could be gods is the idea behind the idea.

“On a chilly New Year’s Eve in 2009, John Friend—the popular and charismatic founder of Anusara Yoga—lay naked on a bearskin rug in front of a blazing fire at his home in Texas while three underwear-clad women hovered over him, massaging his body with sweetly scented oil,” Lizzie Crocker wrote in the Daily Beast.

“One rubbed his head, neck, and shoulders, another worked on his hands, while a third rubbed his inner thighs and pelvic region, her whole body writhing sinuously to the new-age sitar melodies playing in the background.”

He didn’t see that what he did with his friendmates was anybody’s business.

“The Anusara scandal to me, was focused on my sex life,” explained John Friend, who has since resurrected himself with a new kind of alignment-based yoga called Sridaiva. “My sexual relationships with women were private and consensual in my eyes, but the community considered my private life as something that they should judge. So, it was like a 21st century social media witch trial, which judged me as being unfit to teach yoga.”

Not everyone agreed.

“Attending a yoga class where a teacher is generating bed-buddies while expounding on spiritual matters is like attending church only to find out the priest is bonking the altar boy,” countered Kelly Morris, founder of Conquering Lion Yoga.

Sometimes you have to change yoga teachers, when they just rub you the wrong way. In the event, Anusara Yoga went by the board.

Bikram Yoga was the brainchild of Bikram Choudhury, born and bred in Kolkotta, and transplanted to Beverly Hills, where he founded the Yoga College of India. In time it became a big success. He claimed his one-size-fits-all system cured everything from arthritis to cancer, although the talk was largely snake oil. By 2006 there were 1,650 Bikram Yoga studios worldwide. He was training thousands of teachers at $10,000 a pop for the privilege.

He attempted to copyright the poses that constituted his modus operandi, but it was thrown out of court when the judge determined touching your toes wasn’t copyrightable.

Bikram owned more than forty Bentley and Rolls Royce automobiles. He jet setted with the beau monde. He toured Las Vegas, dressing like a gangster, claiming to have testicles like “atomic bombs.” In 2013 it started to unravel, when several women accused him of false imprisonment, sexual battery, and rape.

In 2016 Bikram lost a civil lawsuit in California for sexual harassment and was fined $6.8 million. In response, he closed up shop, sold off everything he could, and went back to the sub-continent. The judge issued a warrant for the lothario, but to this day he’s gone, good riddance to bad rubbish.

“You find out who your real friends are when you’re involved in a scandal,” said Elizabeth Taylor, who was involved in her fair share of them.

During his reign of steam and sweat, many studio owners said they loved the 26-pose take-it-or-leave-it regimen, even though they were equivocal about the man on the platform, turning a blind eye.

It was the king’s new clothes, white silk suits and fedora.

“If you look at his values and his lifestyle, there’s nothing spiritual about it. The cars and the watches and allowing people to fawn all over him, it’s disgusting,” said Stephanie Schestag, “He treated people like shit. But the truth was, he was like the Wizard of Oz. It was all a smokescreen.”

When push came to shove, Bikram Choudhury found out he had few real friends. Most of the world’s Bikram Yoga studios have either closed or changed their names to something else not-so-hot. His wife divorced him. It is rumored even his gold Rolex found another wrist to call home.

Sometimes it seems like only our dogs will never betray us.

It can take a scandal, or two, or a dozen, to bring about reform. Maybe yoga will be practicing what it preaches from here on out. It’s not rocket science. The culture isn’t corrupt, even though some of the culture’s icons were and are. Trying to get it right isn’t like trying to dam up Niagara Falls with toothpicks. It’s about living for a principle, not always trying to make yourself the principal of swinishness and the gimmies.

Love of men women humanity in general may be part and parcel of yoga practice, but not necessarily gimme your lovin’ you sweet lookin’ thang.

One thing all the sex-crazed yoga masters of our times have had in common is they all claimed they were somehow someway the bestest divines and what they were doing was divining the sacred word intent purpose for the way we live today, for your greater good, especially if you are a babe in the woods.

The hand of the man will show you the way out of the woods and down the garden path. The path can get thorny, though. Hero worship ain’t always everything it’s cracked up to be.

“I’m breaking eggs to make an omelette because I see the big picture, and you don’t,” they all say, sly and sincere, straight-faced if not straight-laced, Tricky Dick’s to a man. It’s the classic refrain of self-styled masters of the universe, lady-killers one and all, but what can one say in the breach?

One can only say, don’t be a four-flusher, don’t be a Donald.

Stay in your lane bro’.

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Ed Staskus is a freelance writer from Sudbury, Ontario, and lives in Lakewood, Ohio. Click here to see more writing between fiction and non-fiction.

 

 

 

Paint It Black

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By Ed Staskus

“Everybody needs a helping out, if that ain’t what it’s all about, tell me what.” Amy Grant

Going 9000 miles anywhere is a taxing no picnic undertaking. All roads may lead to the same end, but if you are an Iowa farmgirl since transplanted to Cleveland, Ohio, going to India is not the same as going to Seattle or Boston or someplace in between. It’s going halfway around the world to another continent culture world view.

Despite economic progress, India remains a poor country. Someone is always begging you for a hand-out. Pushing and shoving is a way of life. Personal space isn’t personal, it’s public. There are a billion Indians. Pick pocketing is common. Grab and go is even more common. Getting anything back after the fact is uncommon. Sanitation and hygiene are lacking. Among other things, Delhi Belly is a pain in the butt.

If you are a Western woman, staring and unwanted attention are par for the course anyplace anytime day or night.

When Deanna Black went to India last month, she made the trip look easy. She didn’t stand still for anything. She kept her eye on the prize.

“I’m not surprised,” said Frank Glass.

“The first class I ever took taught by Deanna was by accident, it was the hardest yoga class I ever took, and I had to sit out going to Inner Bliss the rest of the week.”

This from a man who three times a week for three years went to Bikram Yoga classes until he had no more sweat to give.

Deanna Black is a yoga teacher and holistic fitness trainer. Her point of view is far and wide. She studies engages practices aerobics, Prana Flow, Ashtanga, strength training, TRX, kettle ball, Insanity, Zumba, spinning, West African Dance, hoop dance, slacklining, stand up paddle board yoga, and “any other movement and activity that connects you with your body, your mind, your soul, and the nature around you.” She also assays positive psychology, which comes in handy when you are at the front of the room.

“Deanna was subbing that class. No one expected what we got,” said Frank. “She wasn’t bossy or demanding. She was actually encouraging, but she kept at it. She’s nothing if not relentless. I remember wondering if I was going to make it.”

She has studied with Shiva Rea and her Prana Vinyasa teacher training program since 2004. “The classes I create are designed to empower you to do more than you thought possible,” she says. “The benefits are more than meet the eye.”

She is an old-fashioned modern kind of gal, “balancing and aiming for what I want while leaning on the history of what worked and did not work from the past.”

The class was a mix of sheer effort vinyasa, endurance strength work, and baling hay, even though Deanna Black has done undergrad and grad coursework in advanced exercise physiology and psychology at Iowa State University. Making your way in the class, however, wasn’t about classwork and observation reading study reflection.

“It was about peeing on the electric fence for yourself,” said Frank Glass.

She can back off the pedal to the metal if she has to, as when she volunteers for teaching dance fitness to seniors at the Westside Community House.

Born and bred in a small town in Iowa, living in the big city of Cleveland since 1995, Deanna describes herself as a “farm girl whose DNA is filled with farmers, teachers, trailblazers, and travelers, and an adventure yogini, thrive activist and bucket list catalyst.”

It’s a lot to be. It’s a lot like mixed farming.

Mixed farming is a blend of multiple crops and livestock, maximizing light, moisture, and nutrients, complementing land and labor demands across the year. Erosion is minimized, biodiversity is maintained, water is conserved, and habitats preserved. Monocultural farming may better increase production levels, but capitalism isn’t always the bottom line.

She goes back to Iowa often, especially during harvest time. Although she isn’t Old McDonald Had a Farm, she helps out in her own way.

“I can’t even call it a job, it’s so much fun,” she said. “I am taking care of the farm animals, which includes emceeing pig races and goat yoga. I am recess patrolling jumping pillows pedal karts apple slingshots and mazes. I am lifeguarding the corn pool, which includes acro yoga sessions. I am making delicious apple cider donuts and taste testing from our scratch bakery. And I have a team of farmtastic people to help.”

When she went to the subcontinent she went on behalf of the 88Bikes Foundation.

“They continue to be instrumental in my trips to India,” said Deanna. “For all the work they do with girls who are survivors or at risk for human trafficking. It is the timing of me doing this work with them on International Women’s Day, to empower, to educate, to let the world know that the female spirit is not to be suppressed. It is to be respected and honored.”

She arrived in Allahabad in early March. It was the day after the Kumbh Mela wrapped up. It had been going on since January 15th, although it’s been going on for centuries. The Kumbh Mela is a mass pilgrimage. In 2013, the last time it was staged in Allahabad, an estimated 120 million people came to it over a 2-month period.

“Flags were still flying from each country represented,” she said. “Even with many tents and porta potties still up, the area felt abandoned. Still, a feeling of peace washed over me, particularly after I stepped into the Ganga with prayers and gratitude. Afterwards, I visited the birthplace of Indira Gandhi and learned not only how remarkable she was, but how the women of India stood strong all together and made a significant difference. It was an inspiration for leading into International Women’s Day.”

Indira Gandhi was the first and only female Prime Minister of India. Even though a politician, she had once been a child revolutionary, leading the Monkey Brigade at the age of 12 as part of India’s struggle against the British Empire for self-determination. Despite often criticized as a “goongi goodiya” – dumb doll – she was twice prime minister and was named “Woman of the Millennium” by the BBC.

She was assassinated by her bodyguards in 1984.

The brainchild of Dan Austin, a writer, filmmaker, and one-time bicycle deliveryman, the non-profit 88Bikes was born in 2007. In return for a sponsorship of $88.00, a bike is delivered to someone somewhere in the developing world. The child gets a photo of the person who donated the bike, and the donor gets a photo of the child who received it.

“We feel strongly that you can connect people across the world like this,” he has said. “I think that’s the root of what 88Bikes is about, this one-to-one connection.”

It’s many thousands of bikes going to Peru, Cambodia, Mongolia, Ghana, India, two wheels at a time.

Deanna is aware of how much awareness it takes to get a bicycle into the hands of a kid with little chance of scoring one for him or herself. That’s why she goes halfway around the world. “It’s joy-based philanthropy,” she said. “What brings us joy? Connection!”

“The happiness they deserve is now within reach,” says Dan Austin.

Before she could get 88Bikes on the road, however, she found herself speaking in front of a large group in Allahabad gathered for the Run4Niine.

“The race is in recognition that thoughts and views on menstruation in India need to change,” said Deanna. “To say that this conversation is taboo is to say a conversation about women is taboo. To say menstruation is dirty is to say a girl or woman is dirty. It is beyond time to change this thinking.”

Even though menstruation is a natural phenomenon, like blinking heartbeats hairiness and breasts filled with milk, it is problematic in many parts of India. “Close to 70% of Indian women risk getting severe infection, at times causing death, due to poverty, ignorance, and shame attached to their menstruation cycle,” said Swapna Majumdar, a New Delhi journalist who writes on gender and development.

When they are menstruating, Indian women are not supposed to touch a holy book, handle kitchen utensils, or look at pickles. Demystifying what is supposedly taboo about periods and creating awareness about hygiene has been an uphill struggle in the country. More than 30% of girls in northern India drop out of school after they start menstruating.

“It is connection with birth and the cycle of life,” said Deanna. “It’s not something to be left unsaid. It’s part of the sacred flow of womanhood.”

The next day was the day to get into the flow of pedal power.

“I’m super excited,” she said. “Tomorrow one hundred girls are getting their own bicycle.” She and her companions, Ruby and Ramon of the Blossomy Project, were outside Kolkotta. About 500 miles east of Allahabad, on the Bay of Bengal, it used to be Calcutta, once an East India trading post, now the capital of West Bengal state, India’s third-largest city with nearly 5 million inhabitants.  It is regarded as the artistic, cultural, and intellectual center of the country.

It’s also the home of Mother House, headquarters of the Missionaries of Charity, founded by Mother Teresa, who is buried there.

The Blossomy Project is a non-profit organization that works to empower survivors of human trafficking through art-based programs. Since riding a bike is as much an art as a skill, they were partnering with 88Bikes.

Deanna had a big envelope full of donor cards.

“Each card is one of who donated to 88Bikes. I am taking a road trip to meet these girls and give them their cards with their bikes.”

It was bright day in the 90s. March is the sunniest month of the year on the northern east coast of India, although it is also one of the wettest. A heavy rain and hailstorm had passed by a few days earlier.

“Watch out boys,” said Deanna, giving a donor card and bike to the first young girl. “This girl has got a bike with things to do and places to go.”

The first girl hopped on her bike and raced away.

“She took off immediately to school to take a Sanskrit exam. With her bike she can get to school much more easily. These girls also use their bikes to patrol the neighborhood and visit communities and bring awareness about how to stay safe.”

Ruby and Ramon and Deanna exchanged high fives.

“Each time I come to Kolkotta, these two have been instrumental in getting me and the bikes connected with girls,” said Deanna. “So happy to have the Blossomy Project. Shout out to Ruby acting as translator and all-out rock star making things happen.”

“I can go anywhere,” said another girl, getting on her bike.

Deanna showed her the back of the donor card that came with the bike.

“You can go anywhere,” it said.

“I love moments like this,” said Deanna.

Sunday night was Funday night in Kolkotta. Everyone went out to a show by Tanmoy Bose, a percussionist and tabla player. A native of the city, he was one of the first Indian musicians to meld folk songs and tribal drumming into a large band setting. His own band, the Taal Tantra Experience, signifies worship through rhythm. The music is nothing if not spilling over with life.

“I’m still amazed with that violin,” said Deanna. “If anyone in Cleveland knows of concerts like this, let me know, I wanna go.”

After the bikes were distributed, it was time to go home. The return flight to the United States from India doesn’t take two three days, but it might as well, when you’re on the way back to your own digs. Once on native ground, she exclaimed, checking out the run-up to the NCAA tournament, “Yeeeaaasss!!! Nothing like coming back to the States during March Madness!”

A few days later she got a Facebook message from Amita Gour, one of the girls who had gotten a bike.

“Thanks for your visit to Allahabad, Deanna,” she wrote.

“So happy to spend time with you and your family,” Deanna wrote back. “Thank you so very much for all the time you spent with me showing me around. And thrilled about your new bike.”

The thrill is in lending a helping hand.

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Ed Staskus is a freelance writer from Sudbury, Ontario, and lives in Lakewood, Ohio. Click here to see more writing between fiction and non-fiction.

 

Talk to the Fist ‘Cause the Face Ain’t Listening

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By Ed Staskus

Attendance at church services in the United States has been steadily declining for more than sixty years. Today, scarcely one in four Americans go to church, at all. When they do go, they don’t go, since more and more of them are going to online rites by way of app. Churchome Global – the brainchild of celebrity pastor Judah Smith – has set everyone free to worship in their bathrobes, thumbing bright icons and releasing glowing hearts to float around their laptop screens.

Jonathan Edwards, the Colonial Christian preacher who declared we are all sinners in the hands of an angry God, is rolling over in his grave right now. “What the hell happened?” he cries out. “What happened to the Wrath of God?”

In Europe and Australia fewer than 20% say religion is relevant to them. The Japanese and Chinese barely even respond to the question. Only in the Middle East and Third World countries do more than less respondents believe religion is important in their lives.

The yoga project, on the other hand, has been growing by leaps and bounds the past half century in the United States, Europe, Australia, and even Russia, once the motherland of godless Communism, where it has ballooned to a billion-dollar-and-more industry. Even though India, the birthplace of the practice, remains a hotbed, the rest of the world, especially the Islamic World and the Third World, has kept its cool.

When bead-wearing hippies began doing yoga in the 1960s they were drawing on a vibrant yoga culture that had thrived in the USA in the early 20th century, but which by their time had run its course. In the 1940s and 1950s the practice was nothing if not holding down the fort, what there was of it.

In the next 50 years the fort would grow to an arsenal overflowing with blocks, straps, and yoga mats, until today almost 40 million Americans say they do yoga. Nine out of ten of everybody say they have heard of yoga, no doubt far more than have ever heard of Jonathan Edwards, or want to hear anything he ever had to say.

Older Americans, the kind of people who once filled pews, are more likely than most to be found on mats. The number of them over 50 tromping to studios has tripled in the past five years. They believe “yoga is good for you.” They do it for their aches and pains. They do it to smooth out the rough patches, to tamp down the stress, to slow their breathing. It’s a way of counting to ten. They do it because it makes their lives better.

Even though yoga is a good fit when it comes to improving health, from flexibility to cardiovascular fitness, from reducing stress and pain, from overall quality of body to overall quality of life, they might be fooling themselves that yoga in its overall aspects is compatible with the way we have structured our lives and fortunes in the modern world.

Yoga made a lot of sense when it washed up on the shores of America in the Progressive Era, during the progressivism of the New Deal, and when Flower Power was free and easy, but it is questionable whether it is or ever will be relevant in our own age of post-modern capitalism, an age long since devoted to the idea that nature is a commodity to be marketed and consumed, that consumption must be encouraged at all costs, that unrestrained competition is a free market fundamental, and accumulation of wealth is the best of all possible worlds.

Talk to the cold hard cash fist full of money ’cause the face ain’t listening.

When the Grand Coulee Dam was proposed in the 1930s, there were myriad problems, not the least of which was that there were long-standing Native Americans living on the land that would be flooded, there were no manufacturers who needed the power and barely any farmers who needed the water, and the salmon and steelhead that ran the river would end up being cut off from their spawning grounds. It was the mid-30s, too, the middle of the Great Depression, and money was tight.

But the power that would be generated, its promoters promised, and the irrigation created would stimulate a need for itself. It would, just like the cutting-edge economists of the day said, create its own demand. And it did. The fish ended up swimming with the fish.

Fifteen years ago, as we were rounding into the new millennium, the richest 10% of the world got 55% of the world’s income, according to the World Bank. The poorest 50% got about 6%. Since then the only thing that has changed is that wealth concentration, especially among older Westerners, has grown faster than poverty reduction.

Non-greed and non-possessiveness are markers and moral guidelines on the path of yoga practice. Nevertheless, who wants to give up their two cars in the garage, their flat screens and stainless steel, their expanding portfolios and growing non-limit line on their credit cards. The good life has become what you’ve got in this life, not what you might get by making a life meditating on the mat.

Cold hard cash can buy you a fine warm purebred puppy. It’s uncertain a king’s ransom can make him wag his tail. You can offer your dog $10 million dollars and he might or might not wag his tail. Offer him $50 million and he might or might not do the same thing. Pat him on the head and say “Let’s go for a walk” and you will get his tail wagging, for sure.

In the same way that one of yoga’s core principles is non-violence, one of the core principles of today’s world is funding armed forces. United States defense expenditures are projected to rise from $682 billion dollars to $1335 billion dollars in the next 25 years, China’s from $251 to $1270 billion, India’s from $117 to $654 billion, and Russia’s from $113 to $295 billion.

When you add nine zeros to a number, you are talking real money. The human brain has approximately 100 billion neurons. Putting a gun to your head puts every one of those neurons in mortal danger.

Every neuron in every brain is connected to ten thousand other neurons. The aim of yoga is to get all of them firing in unison, all on the same page, all together now. The aim of the world’s armed forces is to keep their hands steady on the butts of their guns.

It’s talk to the gunhand ‘cause the face ain’t listening.

The essential aims of military might and yoga practice aren’t on the same page, no matter that the same millions of people who do yoga also pay for and support their armed forces. Everyone rallies around the flag. Nobody wants their patriotism questioned, no matter what. Wrong may be wrong, no matter who says it, but when it comes to patriotism, it means supporting your government and country all the time, no matter what anybody says.

“A patriot is the person who can holler the loudest without knowing what he is hollering about,” said Mark Twain.

Yoga is about finding your own way to knowing what you are all about. It’s not about hollering it up. It’s not about getting on a soapbox, or taking the word of some blowhard on his soapbox. Patriots are enemies of the rest of the world. The practice of yoga is about becoming a compatriot to the rest of the world. You don’t necessarily have to love everybody else, but you don’t necessarily have to hate them, either.

If yoga is about letting go of judgment, it is a problematic undertaking today. The rise of social media has led to the rise of a judgmental culture. It has long been thought judgment is inherently genetic, along with free will and the ability to choose, although it is much more probable that it is a learned behavior. It’s a way of living that goes back a long way, back to when we had to protect ourselves from harm on a day-to-day basis.

It was talk to the fist ’cause the face ain’t listening.

Even though snap judgments are no longer necessary for survival, at least not most of the time, it has morphed into our social behavior. Yoga advocates empathy and compassion. Social media is as much about pigeon holing as it is about cross-culturalism. For every curious explorer there is an angry nationalist. The practice of yoga is about creating a purposeful existence. The practice of judgment is living in lockstep with prejudice and bigotry.

Yoga isn’t a religion, there aren’t any churches or cathedrals, there are no martyrs or jihads, no shrines or wailing walls, no holy men or holy books. It is, however, a spiritual practice. It wasn’t a bad fit a hundred years ago, but it’s awkward today. The best thing that could have happened to the business, stripping it of all its aspects except for the physical dimension, is what has happened, and is why it is as popular as it is in the modern world.

It flies in the face of reason to believe that yoga can make it in the new world, at least not old world old school old fashioned yoga. It has little to no chance of making it in the Amazon Wall Street White House Big Oil Big Banking Big Corporations Big Ego scheme of things. When you throw in Big Tech, it becomes a Big Scheme.

Almost all of the principles of yoga are at odds with the way we live today. Something had to give. What gave was the last five thousand years. What broke into the open the past fifty-or-so years is the yoga we know works, the yoga we need, and the yoga we deserve. “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometime you find, you get what you need,” the Rolling Stones sang at about the same time the 1960s Flower Children got yoga going in the USA.

The future of yoga was always uncertain because the future ain’t what it used to be. But, there’s no living life backwards. We all have to look ahead, because that’s where from here to eternity is. Maybe the memory of what yoga was, and might be, will be the key not to the past, but to what is in the future.

After all, no fist can stay clenched forever, not in the face of the Wrath of God, which might be forever, or just simply more than the Hand of Man, just like every face has to face up to what it really wants and needs when rafting down the big river of time space and your own backyard.

 

 

 

 

Gone Gun Crazy

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By Ed Staskus

 All in all, it was all just bricks in the wall.”  Pink Floyd

For half a century, from 1916 until 1966, when Charles Whitman, an ex-Marine, shot and killed 16 people, injuring 31 others, shooting from atop an observation deck at the University of Texas at Austin, there were just 25 public mass shootings in which four-or-more people were killed. The young ex-soldier redefined homegrown massacres. He brought to bear a Remington 700, a .35-caliber Remington, a M1 carbine, a Sears semi-automatic shotgun, a .357 Magnum, a Luger, a .25-caliber pistol, and a big knife.

During the rampage a police sharpshooter in a small plane circling the 27-story building was repeatedly driven back by return fire. The first person killed was the eight-month-old not-yet-born baby of an 18-year-old pregnant student leaving the Student Union. She was shot in the abdomen.

Finally, two policemen stormed the observation deck, one firing his revolver, but missing, and the other killing Charles Whitman instantly with two blasts from his shotgun. The policeman with the revolver emptied his gun into the body at point-blank range, to make sure. He ran to the parapet yelling, “I got him, I got him.” He was almost shot himself by the police on the ground, who didn’t at first realize he wasn’t the shooter.

It remains to this day one of the deadliest mass shootings in the United States.

In the 1980s, the FBI defined mass shootings as four-or-more people (not including the mass murderer) being killed in a single incident, typically in a single location. Since 1966 there have been thousands of them. Before 1966 there was a mass shooting about once every one hundred weeks, There is today a mass shooting about once every day.

Between 1999 and 2013 there were 31 mass murders per year on average. In 2015 there were 220 days of mass shootings and only 145 with none. In the first ten months of 2018 there were 307 mass shootings, almost as many as there were days.

It doesn’t bode well for 2019, with the White House still occupied by a crazy person, the National Rifle Association still staffed by crazy people, and millions of crazy Americans still armed to the teeth. The NRA, with reasoning crooked as a corkscrew, has re-interpreted the 2ndAmendment to suit their agenda. They and their supporters equate their success with goodness.

It doesn’t matter that rightness ends where a gun barrel begins.

There are more guns than people in the country, by far. There are almost 400 million guns in the USA. There are 12 million guns in Canada. There are 3 million guns in England. There a fewer than half-a-million guns in Japan. US citizens own 40% of all the guns in the world, more than the next 25 countries combined.

Until last year yoga studios seemed immune to the violence. Who ever saw a security guard at the front door of a yoga studio? At least, until last November, when Scott Beierle walked into Hot Yoga in Tallahassee, Florida, and shot to death Nancy Van Vessem, a physician and faculty member at Florida State University, and Maura Binkley, a student at the same university.

Maura Binkley’s father said his daughter had planned on becoming a teacher. “She truly lived a life really devoted to peace, love, and caring for others,” said Jeff Binkley. She didn’t live long. She was 21 years old.

It doesn’t take long to go packing in Florida. There is no waiting period to buy an assault rifle. In Iowa no one needs a license to sell guns online. If you plan on selling lemonade, however, even if you’re a 7-year-old and your storefront is your front yard, you need both a food license and a business permit. In Texas, if you want to sell guns, go right on ahead, partner. It is the most heavily armed state in the country.

But, if you want to cut hair in Texas, you have to log 1,500 hours at hairdressing school. Scissors don’t kill people, people do.

Buying a gun almost anywhere in the United States is easier than getting a license to drive, filling out your tax return, or talking to tech support. It’s harder to pay off student debt, which typically takes about 21 years, than it is to buy a gun, which typically takes about 10 minutes. Anyone can walk into a gun store, pass a background check in record time, and get your gun. In some states no one has to even do that. They can buy a gun from a private seller or online, no background check required.

The United States has gone gun crazy. It’s not just mass shootings, either. In 2016, there were 15 people murdered with a handgun in Japan, 26 in England, 130 in Canada, and 11,004 in the USA.

Mass shootings have happened at casinos, nightclubs, hotels, military bases, music festivals, libraries, factories, airports, malls, courthouses, sorority houses, apartment buildings, Waffle Houses, backyard parties, Planned Parenthood clinics, movie theaters, churches, synagogues, the Empire State Building, nursing homes, baseball fields, grade schools, high schools, community colleges, and universities.

In Dangerfield, Texas, a man walked into a church and killed 5 people and wounded 10 others after members of the congregation had earlier declined to be character witnesses for him at a trial.

Besides the mortally shot, four others were wounded at Hot Yoga, a neighborhood studio, and one, a young man who, among others, fought back against the murderer, was pistol-whipped.

“Several people inside fought back and tried to not only save themselves but other people,” said Police Chief Michael DeLeo. “It’s a testament to the courage of people who don’t just turn and run.”

One of them was shot nine times.

The shooting spree broke out on a Friday night as the yoga class was starting. Scott Beierle pretended to be a student, but then pulled a semi-automatic handgun from his duffle bag and started shooting anyone and everyone in sight without warning.

When the gunfire momentarily stopped, Joshua Quick took action.

“I don’t know if it jammed, or what,” he said. “So, I used that opportunity to hit him over the head. I picked up the only thing nearby to hit him with, which was a vacuum cleaner, and I hit him on the head.” The shooter was staggered, but recovered his footing, and pummeled Joshua Quick on the forehead and nose with his gun. The yoga student fell to the floor, bleeding, but got back up

“I jumped up as quickly as I could, ran back, and the next thing I know I’m grabbing a broom, you know, anything I can, and I hit him again.”

“Thanks to him,” said Daniela Albalat, who was shot in the thigh, “I was able to rush out the door, slipping and bleeding. I want to thank that guy from the bottom of my heart because he saved my life.”

Joshua Quick did what the Dalai Lama would have done, except the Dali Lama would have gone heavy. Arguably one of the most peaceable men on the planet, when asked by a child at the Educating Heart Summit in Oregon what he would do if someone came to his school with a gun, he replied without hesitation, ”If someone has a gun and is trying to kill you, it would be reasonable to shoot back with your own gun.”

By then, three minutes after the first 911 call, sirens were wailing, and the police were showing up at Hot Yoga. Scott Beierle cleared the gun’s chamber, turned it on himself, and shot himself dead and straight to hell.

He lived in Deltona, Florida, about 250 miles from Tallahassee, and had no apparent prior connection with the yoga studio or anyone he gunned down. He had lately been a substitute teacher at the Volusia County Schools, even though he had a bachelor’s degree from Binghamton University in New York and a master’s degree in public administration from Florida State University. He had been arrested several times for battery for groping women on the FSU campus.

“He just gave off a psychopathic vibe, like someone crazy,” said Samantha Mikolajczyk, who had him as a teacher when she was in eighth grade.

He was fired for unprofessional conduct, which meant he had been inappropriately touching teenage female students. Five months later he checked into a Tallahassee motel, and on November 2, 2018, walked into the Tallahassee yoga studio he didn’t know anything about, and started shooting people he didn’t know anything about, except that some of them were women.

“I really didn’t know him,” said his neighbor, Rachel Rodriguez. “He was quiet. He was like a loner.”

He was an amateur musician who posted his songs online. One was “American Whore.” Another was “Homicidal Impulse.” In “American Massacre” he sang, “If I cannot find a decent female to live with, I will find many indecent females to die with. I find that if I cannot make a living, then I will turn, to be successful, I will make a killing.”

Mass murderers are all different, except almost all of them are men. They have their reasons for doing what they do, although none of them are good reasons, and many, if not all, mass murderers suffer from baseline mental problems. Mental health is not compatible with murdering people.

Although they and their reasons are variable, the one constant among them is the semi-automatic firearms they deploy. None of them carries a musket. None of them carries a Colt six-shooter. They bring their AR-15’s. They bring the blessing and imprimatur of the NRA and our self-serving rulers, the NRA that has successfully lobbied one Congress after another for decades to severely limit research by the Centers for Disease Control into gun-related violence

A few days after a mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, in March 2018, then House Speaker Paul Ryan said his ruling Republican Party planned on keeping restrictions on gun research in place. “We don’t just knee-jerk before we have all the facts and the data,” said the longtime opponent of gun measures.

As long as his kneecaps aren’t getting popped, he’s not going to knee-jerk it.

“We are saddened and angered by the senseless shooting at Hot Yoga Tallahassee,” said Tasha Eichenseher, Yoga Journal’s brand director. “Studios are sacred places where we go for self-care and to feel safe.”

After Sandy Hook and Tree of Life Synagogue and First Baptist Church, it is doubtful there are any sacred places left. It is undoubtedly true there are no safe places left. If even Fort Hood, the biggest active-duty armored army base in the United States, couldn’t prevent Nidal Hasan, an Army major and psychiatrist, from going postal and fatally shooting 13 soldiers, while wounding more than 30 others, it’s doubtful there is safe and secure anywhere.

“It was only a matter of time that gun violence would touch our community,” said Amy Ippoliti, co-founder of 90 Monkeys. “This should be a battle cry to take up the charge. The only way to change gun violence is through policy and politics. If you think yoga isn’t about politics, you need to think again.”

“You have a whole generation with this being more and more normal,” said Jeff Binkley. “That cannot happen.”

Nevertheless, as long as the crazy people we elect to rule in our state and national legislatures, and the crazy people we elect to our state and national capital houses, are the same wallet-stuffing vote-stuffing people allied with gun manufacturers and Second Amendment propagandists, gun-reform legislation and public-health funding are not going to happen.

They don’t give it a second thought.

President Trump performs by way of Twitter to the grass roots that believe they need their guns to make it in this world. They put their faith in his Punch and Judy show even though his grass roots were watered at a thousand country clubs where a thousand-and more gun manufacturers dine and drink and play 18 holes. The security guards carry guns, since Orange Julius no more believes in responsible gun rights than he believes in the Constitution.

Two-and-a-half centuries later we don’t live in 1780s buildings anymore, we don’t travel in 1780s horse and buggies anymore, and we don’t turn on the lights with 1780s whale oil anymore. We don’t read one-page pamphlets and the penny press anymore. We don’t use 1780s medicine, like arsenic and leeches, anymore. There is no reason why a 1780s amendment to the Constitution, written to enable a militia, should enable mass murderers to buy whatever guns whenever and wherever they want.

But that’s the world we have made and the world we live in.

Coming Soon! to a neighborhood near you. Maybe even your own neighborhood. Maybe even your own backyard.

Gun Crazy! Not to be missed! Get your tickets to Hell soon!

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Ed Staskus is a freelance writer from Sudbury, Ontario, and lives in Lakewood, Ohio. Click here to see more writing between fiction and non-fiction.

 

 

 

Riding the OM Bus

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By Ed Staskus

“It was twenty year ago today, Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play, they’ve been going in and out of style, but they’re guaranteed to raise a smile.”  The Beatles

It was twenty years ago that Cyndi Lee opened the OM Yoga Studio. It prospered and grew to 25 teachers offering 65 hatha vinyasa classes weekly. The sunlit wood floor space took up an entire floor of Manhattan real estate near Union Square. It was the union of a faraway and long ago tradition with modernity. The trendsetting crowd had long since been won over to bending.

It was no mean feat. “In New York City people have way more opportunities to take classes than in most other cities,” she said. If you don’t enjoy a challenge, the Big Apple isn’t what you want to try sinking your teeth into. There are more than 8 million people speaking more than 200 languages in the 5 boroughs. It’s hard getting them on the same page.

The page turned fifteen years later when she lost her lease. “The landlord didn’t give us the option to renew,” said Cyndi. “She just didn’t want a yoga studio there anymore.” The only thing harder than winning shrewd New Yorkers over to your yoga studio is staying on the winning side of shrewd New York property owners.

She took it well.

“Yoga has a sly, clever way of short-circuiting the mental patterns that cause anxiety,” says Baxter Bell. Yoga practice is filled with exercises in respect to balance, not just physically, but inwardly, too. It’s all about holding on and letting go.

“Honestly I feel fine,” she said at the time. “I’m just super grateful that the conditions arose for me to build that yoga studio and that the community grew and developed. I feel proud because there has been no badness, only goodness.”

Only there was more around the bend. Her marriage of almost twenty years was coming to an end, too.

When you come to a fork in the road, take it. Or, as Cyndi Lee has said, “Everything we’re doing is planting a seed that will come to fruition at some point.” Never mind about making plans that hit the nail on the head, better to make options.

“The opposite if being active in yoga is not being passive,” she said. “It’s being receptive.”

She met someone who became her boyfriend. She and Brad moved to Ohio. It didn’t get off on the right foot. “I was a hardcore New Yorker,” said Cyndi. “What the hell am I doing?” she thought. New York is a fast-paced around-the-clock lifestyle. It’s the city that never sleeps.

“Ohio was so quiet and the food was terrible.”

They moved to Virginia. Her boyfriend became her husband. The energy and the food got better. She didn’t open another yoga studio. “We do need more yoga, but when people say to me, can you give me advice about starting a yoga studio, my advice is, don’t. Instead of making places where people have to come to us, we need to go out.”

She got her footing back on solid ground. Cyndi is a longtime Buddhist. Buddha was an aimless wanderer when he started out, but once he got his clear thinking together he devoted forty-five years to traveling and teaching the Dharma to anyone who would listen. Cyndi has been traveling and teaching all over the world the past six years, since OM closed, except last year when she wasn’t.

“When the orthopedist says, ‘You have no cartilage left, you’re bone on bone, that’s why it hurts so bad,’ that’s called end-stage arthritis, and you need a hip replacement,” said Cyndi.

Or two hip replacement surgeries, as the case might be, slowing her down that year. At least, until she was back on her own two feet. And back on the mat, back in action.

“I was a professional dancer for almost twenty years,” she said.

Twenty years of two-stepping is a long time. Dancers often sound like a box of Rice Krispies, snap, crackle, and pop. Ankles click and knees go crunch. In the morning, on the way to get a bowl of cereal, their joints click, clack, and squeak on the way to the kitchen.

“I wasn’t an aggressive yogi, I didn’t push it, but the vinyasa style that I practiced is a dynamic, rhythm-based movement system. There is a sense of carving space, of feeling wind and water on your face, of an earthy downward connection and an uplifted sense of goodness.”

Nevertheless, in the flow of time the on-the-go has morphed into slow flow. Cyndi Lee now offers a “practice you can carry with you for decades to come.” It has been reborn as Sustainable Vinyasa Yoga.

By the time OM Yoga closed its doors she had been practicing yoga for more than 40 years. She took her first class in 1971, her first year in college. “I don’t remember having a moment of great inspiration and knowing that I had found my path, but somehow I just kept doing yoga and meditation and I’ve been practicing steadily almost my whole life now.”

Cyndi has an MFA in Dance from the University of California at Irvine. Her graduate thesis was “Women, Spirituality, and Indian Dance.” She won an Art History Fellowship at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

She moved to Greenwich Village in 1978, footless tights in hand, to an animated dynamic dance scene. It wasn’t just the Funhouse, Club 57, and Paradise Garage, either, although you can’t beat clubs full of late 70s pointy-toed hipsters and girls in thrift-store stiletto heels at three in the morning. It was Twyla Tharp and Merce Cunningham and the modern dance scene.

“Yoga started out in dance, both in-depth studies of the integration of body, breath and heart,” she said. “They are opposite, too. As a performing dancer, the goal is to offer a visceral experience. But yoga is a personal practice, always.”

She became a professional dancer. She had been dancing since she was a tot. “I learned the waltz by standing on my dad’s feet,” she said. Hoofing it became her life. She danced up a storm. She became a professional choreographer. She performed with XXY Dance/ Music and Cyndi Lee Dance Company/Big Moves. In 1994 her own dance company staged its last performance. The show was called “Dharma Dances.”

It was influenced by meditation philosophy and the choreography referenced yoga poses. The performance featured Allan Ginsburg singing songs and accompanying himself on harmonium. The word of mouth about the show was good, although Allen Ginsburg’s singing was left unsaid. The less said the better, God rest his soul.

After “Dharma Dances” Cyndi Lee kicked up her heels and became a professional yoga teacher.

OM Yoga was a successful studio in arguably the most opinionated and competitive city in the country because it was authentic, clean and bright, with a diversified schedule, offered special events and teacher trainings, and featured a snazzy retail space. The teachers were hard-core enough to specialize in their craft and soft-core enough to connect one-on-one. The studio became a community and the community became the studio’s dedicated core. Over the years many people unrolling their mats at OM Yoga became the studio’s heralds and evangelists.

“Whenever I am feeling like crap I don’t mind making the long commute to OM because I know I will feel peaceful and happy afterwards,” said a woman from the Upper West Side.

“One of the better, more genuine experiences I’ve had in the city,” said a Manhattan native. “The instructors are knowledgeable and not pushy. If you’re a newcomer to yoga, take the beginner classes, as the intermediate classes are very, ahem, thorough. And they have showers!”

“Keeping this place open and going,” said Cyndi when the studio was open and going. “I get wrapped up in the business of it. But just having a yoga studio, it’s a real Dharma community, it helps a lot of people.”

“The only negative comment I have is that this place is a little too business-like, which, in my opinion is not very Buddha-like,” said a young woman across the river in Brooklyn, where capitalism is occasionally frowned upon.

“Work out your own salvation,” said Buddha. “Do not depend on others.”

But even he had to eat so he could get his message out. If most successful businesses are owned and operated by people who are the first to get to work and the last to leave, then OM Yoga was a successful business because someone did that, and Cyndi Lee was the person who opened the doors in the morning and turned off the lights at night.

As home away from home wrapped up its tenure, the e-mails started rolling in. “I’ve gotten hundreds,” said Cyndi after word about OM Yoga’s sign-off hit the streets. “I’m sitting there crying. The things that people are saying and sharing. I’m just feeling the love.”

When one door closes and your brick and mortar has been mortar and bricked up, it’s time to open a new door.

“We’re excited about our online presence expanding. We’re excited about putting classes and trainings online and developing an app. We’re going to go full speed ahead on that and develop our teacher network.”

At the same time the Cyndi Lee bus was moving ahead full speed, gathering momentum going from here to eternity, it was slowing down to Buddha-time. Between gangbusters and reflection she traveled and taught and put pen to paper.

Her think pieces, write-ups, and how-to articles have appeared in Yoga International, Yoga Journal, and Tricycle. The magazine isn’t about the three-wheel bike kids ride. It’s known as The Buddhist Review, or the independent voice of Buddhism. It’s won the Folio Award for “Best Spiritual Magazine” three times, which since Buddhism is a win or lose struggle, is faith in Buddhism manifested.

She has written several books, including “Yoga Body, Buddha Mind” and ”OM Yoga: A Guide to Daily Practice,” as well as the recent critically acclaimed “May I Be Happy: A Memoir of Love, Yoga and Changing My Mind.”

It was Buddha who said, “What we think, we become.”

She has been seen frequently on TV as herself, including The Dr. Oz Show, Live with Regis and Kathy Lee, and Good Morning, America. During her days on the dance scene she worked on music videos, choreographing for Rick James, Simple Minds, and Cyndi Lauper. She choreographed the ‘Girls Just Want to Have Fun’ music video.

The video won the 1983 MTV Best Female Video of the Year award. Cyndi’s just want to have fun and celebrate. When the working day is done Cyndi Lee just wants to ride her red bike. She rides with mindful awareness, however, mindful that a bike’s passenger is its engine and that to keep your balance you must keep moving.

Cyndi got started in the practice of Buddhism in 1990. Over time she became the first female yoga teacher in the western world to integrate yoga asana and Tibetan Buddhism in her practice and into her message. When asked what her aspirations were, she said, “To get better at balancing on time and off time and to get better at understanding that they can be the same thing, if I can live like a yogi/Buddha.”

The four points of order she brings to meditation practice might as well apply to smooth sailing on two wheels like it does to mindfulness. “Sit up nice and tall. Feel your seat on the cushion. Feel the space all around you. Slowly begin to deepen your breathing, little by little, breath by breath.” Meditating when out of sorts is recommended, but meditation when out of balance and out of breath is like a fish pedaling a bicycle.

She has recently been ordained as a lay Buddhist chaplain.

“I met a man at a retreat at Upaya and we hit it off. At the end of the weekend he said, ‘Why don’t you sign up for chaplaincy training with me?’ I wasn’t interested, but then I was. I decided to do it. That guy did not take the training and I haven’t seen him again. Somehow he was the catalyst, like an angel.”

One of the ideas embedded in the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism is that everyone should take responsibility for their own lives and actions. One of the right ways on the Eightfold Path is living honestly and helping others. One of the basic tenets of the practice is that everything in life is impermanent and always changing.

“One thing I’m good at is being brave and riding the winds of change,” said Cyndi. “To keep on keeping on with a real aliveness to how life changes and how I change.”

Life isn’t lived by mottoes, no matter how trenchant they are. Travel like a pro, not a hobo, is as good a motto as any. Cyndi Lee goes like a pro.

She doesn’t live by mottoes, but one of her favorites is, “Just show up.” When you show up day in and day out, whether at your big city studio or helping a hobo on your chaplain rounds, you’re staying true to yourself, not anybody else’s version of you. “In the end you’re still stuck with yourself,” she said.

“Knowing others is wisdom, knowing yourself is enlightenment,” said Lao Tzu.

In Cyndi’s case, when she shows up, it’s her good better best real self.

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Ed Staskus is a freelance writer from Sudbury, Ontario, and lives in Lakewood, Ohio. Click here to see more writing between fiction and non-fiction.

 

All in the Family

Top Yoga Teacher Blogs

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2. All Yoga Training Blog – Yoga Teacher Training Tips

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3. Adam Hocke Yoga

Adam Hocke YogaLondon, UK About Blog Adam has been practicing vinyasa flow yoga since 1999 and has trained extensively with Jason Crandell. He offers precise, strong, and accessible classes to physically awaken the body and develop mindfulness both on and off the mat.
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7. Jenni Rawlings Yoga & Movement – Blog

Jenni Rawlings Yoga & Movement - Blog Santa Barbara About Blog Jenni Rawlings is a yoga teacher with an emphasis on anatomy, physiology, and movement science. Follow for online yoga classes, online yoga anatomy courses, and online movement science courses for yoga teachers.
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8. Jayne Becca Yoga Blog

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9. YOGA FOR HEALTHY AGING

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10. Chintamani Yoga – Mountain Top Yogis Blog

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11. Real flow yoga

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Facebook fans 1,944. Twitter followers 868.

12. The Yoga Lunchbox | Nourishment for Your Yoga Journey

The Yoga Lunchbox | Nourishment for Your Yoga Journey New Zealand About Blog Nourishment for your yoga journey with articles, books, audio, PDFs and lots of support no matter where you are on your yoga journey. Created and nurtured by yoga teacher & writer Kara-Leah Grant.
Frequency about 2 posts per month.
Website theyogalunchbox.co.nz
Facebook fans 6,522. Twitter followers 758.

13. Power Living

Power LivingAustralia About Blog Power Living Blog contains articles on yoga, meditation, nutrition & yoga philosophy. Power Living teachers and guest bloggers feature. It has studios in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide and Wellington, NZ.
Frequency about 2 posts per month.
Since Dec 2015
Also in Australian Yoga Blogs
Website powerliving.com.au/blog
Facebook fans 43,917. Twitter followers n/a.

14. The Yoga Institute Santacruz East Mumbai

The Yoga Institute Santacruz East MumbaiSantacruz East, Mumbai, India About Blog The Yoga Institute blog includes articles covering daily talks, events, and many more topics. It also provides a platform for the visitors for discussions.
Frequency about 4 posts per month.
Website theyogainstitute.org/blog
Facebook fans 44,655. Twitter followers 1,207.

15. Yoga Synergy Blog | Australian Yoga Blog

Yoga Synergy Blog | Australian Yoga BlogYoga Synergy, Australia About Blog Established by Simon Borg Olivier & Bianca Machliss in 1984, Yoga Synergy is one of Sydney’s largest and most respected yoga schools. Synergy is to teach the ancient art of yoga in a safe, fun and intelligent way.
Frequency about 1 post per month.
Since Nov 2005
Website yogasynergy.com/blog
Facebook fans 6,328. Twitter followers 248.

16. The Journey Junkie

The Journey Junkie St. Petersburg, FL About Blog A journey of yoga, travel, and life inspirations. Welcome to a community of intention setting, false belief breaking & dream making. A place where yoga, travel & lifestyle mold together to form the JOURNEY.
Frequency about 1 post per month.
Website thejourneyjunkie.com/blog
Facebook fans 25,234. Twitter followers 416.

17. Power Yoga Blog | Tips, Advice & Information

Power Yoga Blog | Tips, Advice & InformationAbout Blog I am Bryan Kest, owner of Santa Monica Power Yoga & Meditation and poweryoga.com, located in Santa Monica, CA. Check out Bryan Kest’s Power Yoga at home or on the go and take our yoga practice with you
Frequency about 1 post per month.
Website poweryoga.com/blog
Facebook fans 34,725. Twitter followers n/a.

18. Jason Crandell Vinyasa Yoga Method | Yoga Sequences

Jason Crandell Vinyasa Yoga Method | Yoga SequencesSan Francisco, CA About Blog Great yoga teachers have the ability to give clear verbal cues. Here are some tips to immediately improve verbal cueing for yoga teachers. Get information about Jason Crandell and his method of vinyasa yoga that combines power, precision, and mindfulness.
Frequency about 1 post per month.
Website jasonyoga.com/yoga-poses
Facebook fans 186,638. Twitter followers 3,911.

19. Yoga with Kassandra

Yoga with KassandraOttawa About Blog Yoga with Kassandra offers free online Yin Yoga & Vinyasa Flow yoga classes, daily yoga inspiration and yoga pose demonstration! My classes are suitable for beginners as well as advanced yogis and range from Vinyasa Flow to Yin Yoga.
Frequency about 1 post per week.
Website blog.yogawithkassandra.com
Facebook fans 10,508. Twitter followers 659.

20. Little Flower Yoga Blog

Little Flower Yoga BlogNew York About Blog LFY teaches yoga and mindfulness classes in school and youth organizations in New York, and offers a yoga alliance certified children’s yoga teacher training in locations around the country. Our mission is to provide tools that help all children overcome physical, mental and emotional barriers to learning, empower them to make healthy choices and offer a space for experiencing joy
Frequency about 1 post per month.
Since Mar 2011
Also in Kids Yoga Blogs
Website littlefloweryoga.com/blog
Facebook fans 10,349. Twitter followers 1,576.

21. Buddhi Yoga La Jolla – Blog

Buddhi Yoga La Jolla - BlogLa Jolla, San Diego About Blog Buddhi Yoga is committed to providing outstanding classes taught by San Diego’s best yoga teachers. Buddhi Yoga is a premier yoga studio located in La Jolla, California. We offer daily yoga classes, workshops & teacher trainings
Frequency about 1 post per month.
Website buddhiyogalj.com/yoga-blog
Facebook fans 1,758. Twitter followers 227.

22. Blissful Yogini – Yoga Blog

Blissful Yogini - Yoga BlogHonolulu, Hawaii About Blog Our yoga blog contains practical resources and solutions to your yoga questions and problems. Providing practical yogic tools, cutting edge business practices and ancient spiritual principles to catapult you into a life you love.
Frequency about 1 post per month.
Website blissfulyogini.com/blog
Facebook fans 1,200. Twitter followers 1,093.

23. Blog – Ahimsa Yoga Studio

Blog - Ahimsa Yoga StudioAbout Blog Through its classical yoga teachings, Ahimsa Yoga Studio is committed to improving the physical, mental, and spiritual sides of all practitioners.There are classes for all ages and levels including Beginners, Vinyasa Flow, Hatha, Gentle/Restorative, Yin and YogaKids/Teens, and a range of specialized workshops.
Frequency about 1 post per month.
Website ahimsayogastudios.com/blog
Facebook fans 366. Twitter followers n/a.

24. Upaya Yoga – Blog

Upaya Yoga - BlogGoa, India About Blog Yoga Teacher Training Course in India. Yoga teacher training School in India offering 200hrs, 300hrs and 500hrs Ashtanga Vinyasa TTC courses, Retreats workshops at Goa and Rishikesh India.
Frequency about 1 post per month.
Website upaya-yoga.com/blog
Facebook fans 5,415. Twitter followers 8.

25. Yoga For Diabetes | How to Manage your Health with Yoga and Ayurveda

Yoga For Diabetes | How to Manage your Health with Yoga and AyurvedaAustralia About Blog Type 1 Diabetic and Global Yoga Teacher of 30 years creating tools to manage Diabetes with Yoga. I have started this blog to share with the Diabetes online community how yoga has helped me to manage my diabetes.
Frequency about 2 posts per month.
Also in Diabetes Blogs
Website yogafordiabetesblog.com
Facebook fans 1,396. Twitter followers 1,728.

26. Chinmay Yoga Teacher Training in Dharamsala, India – Blog

Chinmay Yoga Teacher Training in Dharamsala, India - BlogDharmsala, India About Blog Chinmay yoga is the only yoga institute in Dharmshala opened with a pure motive of SEVA and no business of minting money.
Frequency about 1 post per month.
Website chinmayyoga.com/yoga-blogs
Facebook fans 1,088. Twitter followers 72.

27. Exhale Yoga Retreats – Blog

Exhale Yoga Retreats - Blog El Salvador, Bali & Nicaragua About Blog Exhale Yoga Retreats attracts positive people from around the globe that come together to unite a higher frequency of good vibes. Come join a fun loving crew and enjoy the company of new found friends in paradise for a life-enhancing experience.
Frequency about 1 post per month.
Website exhaleyogaretreats.com/yoga-..
Facebook fans 9,549. Twitter followers 146.

28. Noah McKenna | Yoga Teacher Training – Blog

Noah McKenna | Yoga Teacher Training - BlogGoa, India About Blog A range of interesting articles from our yoga trainers from around the world. Read our blog for more information about Yoga Teacher Training .
Frequency about 1 post per month.
Website noahmckenna.com/blog
Facebook fans 4,915. Twitter followers 61.

29. Love Light Yoga | Danielle Hoogenboom – Blog

Love Light Yoga | Danielle Hoogenboom - Blog Vancouver, Bc About Blog Danielle Hoogenboom is a yoga instructor, activist, clothing designer & urban home steader. Come and leave the stress from daily life behind, quiet the mind and listen to the sound of your heart.
Frequency about 1 post per month.
Website lovelightyoga.com/blog
Facebook fans n/a. Twitter followers 775.

30. Samyak Yoga – Mysore

Samyak Yoga – MysoreMysore, Karnataka About Blog Samyak Yoga Blog is considered as one of the Best Yoga Blog Mysore India with its wide range of subjects from Asana practice, Pranayama, Asana Anatomy, Yoga Philosophy, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, Hatha Yoga traditional Practice etc.
Frequency about 1 post per month.
Website samyakyoga.org/samyak-yoga-blog
Facebook fans 4,804. Twitter followers 954.

31. MM…Yoga! – Blog

MM...Yoga! - Blog Melbourne, Australia About Blog Find corporate yoga, family yoga and private yoga classes in Melbourne, Australia. We come to you wherever you are in Melbourne.
Frequency about 1 post per month.
Website yogainmelbourne.com/blog
Facebook fans 1,441. Twitter followers n/a.

32. Yoga Teacher Training Blogs

Yoga Teacher Training BlogsRishikesh About Blog Rishikesh yogis is a yoga organization founded by Yogi Uttam and Yogi Abhishek, Yogi Sushant in the year 2004 .After their many years of study and research on traditional they decided to share this knowledge with world with its Authentic way.
Frequency about 1 post per month.
Website rishikeshyogisyogshala.org/y..
Facebook fans 3,962. Twitter followers 27.

33. TheYogiMatt

TheYogiMattAbout Blog Your resource for Yoga, the body, teaching and anatomy.
Frequency about 1 post per month.
Website theyogimatt.com
Facebook fans 4,123. Twitter followers 4,455.

34. Yogagati | For the aspiring yoga teacher and enthusiast -Yoga Blog

 Yogagati | For the aspiring yoga teacher and enthusiast -Yoga BlogThailand About Blog Check out our Yogagati Yoga blog, updated regularly, to bring you everything they need to know about yoga teacher training and much more.
Frequency about 1 post per month.
Website yogagati.com/yoga-blog
Facebook fans 1,458. Twitter followers 1.

35. Paperback Yoga

Paperback YogaAbout Blog Paperback Yoga is a once-a-month series of feature stories, breaking news, profiles, humor, analysis and op-ed about modern yoga. PY is written by Ed Staskus, a free-lance writer in Lakewood, Ohio.
Frequency about 1 post per month.
Since Dec 2012
Website paperbackyoga.com
Facebook fans 29. Twitter followers n/a.

36. International Yoga Teacher Training Retreats – Frog Lotus Yoga

International Yoga Teacher Training Retreats – Frog Lotus YogaAbout Blog The Frog Lotus Yoga Teacher Training Course is a professional, established, comprehensive, organised and highly effective training program. It has been successfully running for fifteen years, with 7 teacher trainings offered per year. It has been registered at the 200 Hour and 500 Hour level with Yoga Alliance USA and UK since 2001.
Frequency about 1 post per month.
Website froglotusyogainternational.c..
Facebook fans n/a. Twitter followers n/a.

37. YogaYin | Youtube

YogaYin | YoutubeAbout Blog YogaYin.com was created by qualified Yoga Instructor & Therapist Allannah Law. Experience the DIFFERENCE with a Certified Yoga Therapist/Registered Level 3 Yoga Instructor. YogaYin.com was created by qualified Yoga Instructor & Therapist Allannah Law
Frequency about 2 posts per month.
Website youtube.com/user/ALYogaYin/v..
Facebook fans 3,141. Twitter followers n/a.

38. Fightmaster Yoga | Youtube

Fightmaster Yoga | YoutubeDana Point About Blog WELCOME to Fightmaster Yoga, I’m Lesley Fightmaster. I believe free yoga classes can be available to everyone! If you love yoga, come do a teacher training with me!!
Frequency about 3 posts per month.
Website youtube.com/user/lesleyfight..
Facebook fans 13,694. Twitter followers 2,277.

39. Daniel Scott | Youtube

Daniel Scott | YoutubeAbout Blog Want to get better at AcroYoga? Daniel Scott can help. Daniel Scott is yogi provocateur with a fresh alternative to the traditional “yoga voice”. His classes are a lively mix of balance cut with improv, strength and flexibility– Daniel focuses on moving into postures, not through them. An E-RYT 500 globally renowned ashtanga-vinyasa teacher and Certified Level 2 AcroYoga instructor.
Frequency about 1 post per month.
Also in Yoga Youtube Channels
Website youtube.com/user/danielscott..
Facebook fans 11,517. Twitter followers n/a.

40. Yoga Teaching Tips | The Driven Yogi

Yoga Teaching Tips | The Driven YogiAbout Blog The Driven Yogi is a California based brand that provides tips, suggestions, and advice to help new yoga teachers navigate their journey after yoga teacher training.
Frequency about 1 post per month.
Website thedrivenyogi.com/blog
Facebook fans 88. Twitter followers n/a.

41. Joe Miller | Youtube

Joe Miller | YoutubeNew York City About Blog A New York City yoga teacher and teacher trainer with a masters’s degree in applied physiology, I teach anatomy and physiology for yoga teachers and other practitioners around the country and worldwide. I’m also a Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement teacher, Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach and movement science geek.
Frequency about 1 post per month.
Since Mar 2013
Also in Teacher Youtube Channels
Website youtube.com/user/jm1081/videos
Facebook fans n/a. Twitter followers 125.

42. Ballarat Iyengar Yoga tips and advice by our Yoga teachers and students

Ballarat Iyengar Yoga tips and advice by our Yoga teachers and studentsBallarat, Victoria, Aus. About Blog A collection of useful articles written by our own teachers and students with tips on how to get the most out of your own yoga experience
Frequency about 1 post per month.
Website ballaratyoga.com.au/blog
Facebook fans 5,570. Twitter followers 214.

43. Yoga Among Friends | Insights & Inspiration Blog

Yoga Among Friends | Insights & Inspiration BlogDowners Grove, IL About Blog We teach yoga in a safe, relaxed and open environment. Here is where fundraisers are given & friendships form. Here is community. Here is yoga… among friends.
Frequency about 1 post per month.
Website yogaamongfriends.com/news
Facebook fans 1,135. Twitter followers 100.

44. Aloha and Coffee | Yoga Teacher

Aloha and Coffee | Yoga TeacherBirmingham, England About Blog Zoe Woodward is a qualified nutritionalist, life and business coach, yoga instructor, and world traveller based in Birmingham, UK. Offering weekly live yoga classes throughout the Midlands, interactive online yoga videos, private one to one instruction, and international wellbeing and lifestyle retreats. Zoe also offers one to one business and life coaching and mentoring.
Frequency about 1 post per month.
Website alohaandcoffee.com
Facebook fans 280. Twitter followers 532.

45. Cathy Valentine | Yoga Instructor – Blog

Cathy Valentine | Yoga Instructor - BlogAbout Blog For me, Yoga is not just a practice, but a lifestyle. Yoga means to “unite” or “create balance”. Practicing Yoga every day provides me with the tools to create balance in my everyday life. When my body and mind are balanced, optimal health and creativity flow into this amazing life I’m living!
Frequency about 1 post per month.
Website cavalentineyoga.com/blog
Facebook fans n/a. Twitter followers n/a.

And last, but not least:

SFIYI_Logo1

https://integralyogasf.org/blog

These blogs are ranked by Feedspot based on the following criteria:

  • Google reputation and Google search ranking
  • Influence and popularity on Facebook, twitter and other social media sites
  • Quality and consistency of posts.
  • Feedspot’s editorial team and expert review

Top Yoga Teacher Blogs

CONGRATULATIONS to every blogger that has made this Top Yoga Teacher Blogs list! This is the most comprehensive list of best Yoga Teacher blogs on the internet and Feedspot is honored to have you as part of this! I personally give you a high-five and want to thank you for your contribution to this world.

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Ed Staskus is a freelance writer from Sudbury, Ontario, and lives in Lakewood, Ohio. He writes the monthly Paperback Yoga. Click here to see more writing between fiction and non-fiction.

 

Making the Scene

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By Ed Staskus

“Now it’s time for change, nothing stays the same.”  Motley Crue

Yoga has never been what it has been or what it is. It’s not one thing, even though it doesn’t say one thing and mean another. Not everyone brings the same curiosity interest hunger to it, nor does everyone get the same thing out of it. There are a lot of drops in the ocean of it, which is apropos, given hatha yoga’s beginnings.

Matsyendranath, the founder of hatha yoga, was tossed into the ocean about a thousand years ago by his parents when they determined he had been born under a bad sign. He was swallowed by a big fish, stayed swallowed but survived, and grew up. One day when the fish dove to the bottom of the ocean, he overheard Siva and Parvati, who happened to be nearby, talking about yoga. He made notes, practiced what they preached for twelve years while inside the belly of the whale, and when he finally made it back to dry land became a yoga teacher.

Everyone called him ‘Jonah, Jr.’ behind his back, but his students called him ‘Lord of the Fishes’ face forward.

The Yoga Alliance has nothing on Matsyendranath’s credentials, since he put in more than one hundred thousand hours of groundwork compared to YA’s 200 and 500-hour teacher training certificates.

For about five thousand years yoga was largely a mind game, focusing on energy and awareness. The right stuff was life force, the vital principle, discernment and consciousness. Yoga exercise wasn’t a big part of the package. It was hardly part of the package, at all. When almost everybody was working dawn to dusk to just get by, there wasn’t a big demand for vinyasa classes.

In the Industrial Age, when machines make our machines, and we sit in cars, sit in the glow of our flat screens, and sit around telling Alexa what to do, a little get up and go has become a priority. Yoga has become primarily a physical practice, for good reason. “Birds born in a cage think flying is a sickness,” said Alejandro Jodorowsky. But, many people still crave strength and movement skills. Coupled with the mental fortitude the practice brings to bear, yoga has become a go-to for tens of millions.

In the last one hundred-or-so years yoga has become whatever anybody says it is, from Yogananda to BKS Iyengar, from Pierre Bernard to Bikram Choudhury, from Lilian Folan to Tara Stiles. In the 1970s it was Ashtanga Yoga, in the 1990s it was Power Yoga, and in the 2000s it was Anusara Yoga.

Back in the day it was build your own internal fire. Today it’s the warm and hot and very hot room. Tomorrow is up for grabs, given the implications of climate change.

In the last twenty-or-so years it has become a cornucopia, yoked to acrobatics and paddleboards, booze and barnyards, therapy and retreats. There are conferences and festivals. It’s the ever-changing life-changing magic of the practice. If yoga is about transformation, it is living up to its mission in the new millennium.

In the same way that when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change, the age-old practice is going through some changes.

AntiGravity Yoga and Fitness, developed by Christopher Harrison, a former gymnast and dancer, in 2007, is about getting hitched to a fabric swing hung from a ceiling and stretching and working out on it. The device is called the AntiGravity Hammock.

“Suspend your disbelief, and I can bring you to better health, less pain, and allow you to feel the joy of flying,” he says.

The yoga has its roots in his AntiGravity, an entertainment brand established in 1991, which has conceived and collaborated in over 400 productions since that time, from Broadway shows to the Olympics to the Academy Awards. Chris Harrison designed bungee dance technology and developed hanging silk as a performance apparatus. His AntiGravity Theater and National Aerial Performance Training Center is based in Florida.

AntiGravity Yoga has spread to gyms and studios in more than 30 countries, including Madonna’s Hard Candy Fitness. “It’s not as hard as it looks, and it’s actually not as terrifying as it seems,” observed Jessica Booth after taking a class at Studio Anya in NYC. “Once you’re in the hammock correctly, you’re so much more secure than you’d think. If you do exactly what you’re told, you’ll find yourself doing front and back flips, handstands galore, and even hanging upside down.”

Some people hang on for dear life, while others get a great workout in. You can even fly back and forth like it’s a playground swing set. Since a good part of the exercise is done upside down, everyone feels taller when they’re finished.

“It makes you feel like a total badass,” Jessica added.

AcroYoga is yoga melded with acrobatics and healing arts. It got off the ground in the early part of the 21st century, although Krishnamacharya used to do it in the 1930s, playing the role of the base, while a child played the flyer, doing asanas above him. It’s a vigorous workout usually involving three people, base, flyer, and spotter.

The base is on the ground, on his or her back, while the flyer is the person elevated off the ground, moving through a series of dynamic postures. The spotter is there to make sure things don’t go haywire, and save the day, if need be. The circle ceremony, promoting openness and communication within the group, is what everyone does before class.

Jason Nemer and Jenny Sauer-Klein founded AcroYoga International in 2003. It blended gymnastics with playfulness with yoga. They systematized the terms and training and execution of the practice. They made common poses a matter of teamwork.

It’s the yoga of trust, because you’ve got to trust the person whose hands and feet you are balanced on. You are moving up there, but are being moved from below, as well. It is move play connect. It is leaning on each other, believing your partner will always be there to lend a hand.

It isn’t easy, requiring muscles, core strength, and kinesthetic awareness. It takes long-established practice to new heights. It’s more fun than sweating your ass off at a Bikram Yoga studio, too.

SUP Yoga is doing yoga on a paddleboard, and it’s also more fun than sweating your ass off at a Bikram studio. For one thing, you’re outside, on the open water, in the fresh air, not in a steam bath of a mirrored torture chamber. For another thing, if you fall, you fall into clean water, not face first onto a Bikram-mandated moldy carpet.

Standing up on canoes and rafts and propelling yourself with the help of a pole or paddle is thousands of years old. The Waikiki Beach Boys of Oahu pioneered the modern style of stand up paddle boarding in the 1960s. Although nobody knows who actually premiered SUP Yoga, Rachel Brathen is one of the pioneers.

“My fiancée was always surfing on a longboard with big dogs, and I thought, if he can surf with a dog on a board, I should be able to do a down dog on a board,” she said.

On shore, people asked her, “Do you teach classes in this?”

“Sure!” she said, channeling her inner and outer teacher, which she is, as well as the author of the New York Times bestseller “Yoga Girl”.

A week later she started giving her first classes.

SUP Yoga is a little more complex than posture yoga, which barely requires a mat, if that. It calls for essential gear, including a paddleboard, paddle, leash, personal flotation device, and an emergency whistle. It takes some getting used to. Just about anything that is done on a mat can be done on a board, but the board is wobbly all the time, which engages on-land muscles in a different way. It demands you be intentional with all your movements, and stay in the present, every split second.

Otherwise, it’s over the side.

On the far side, from kooky to cute, is doing yoga while under the influence, and practicing with pets.

Boozy yoga got its start when studios started pairing their classes with cheese and wine tasting afterwards, cocktails at the local saloon after Friday night classes, and mimosas after Sunday morning flow classes. There’s nothing like a pick-me-up after the pick-me-up of a good yoga class, although it can get to be too much of a good thing.

One in eight American adults meet diagnostic criteria for alcohol use disorder.

Beer Yoga is happy hour on the mat. Pop-up classes get sponsored by a local bar or brewery. There are 24 hours in a day. There are 24 beers in a case. It can’t be a coincidence. It’s got to be destiny, karma. It’s also got to be a new revenue stream for beer makers. Who knew yogis would be getting into suds?

There is even Drunk Yoga, created by Eli Walker, a yoga teacher in Brooklyn, NYC, for those unconcerned about hitting the bottle hard. A plastic tumbler of wine is near to hand at every mat, although everyone is limited to one glass just before class and one glass during class. All bets are off after class.

“With Drunk Yoga, I wanted to create a safe and silly space for yogis and non-yogis alike to just have fun and move their bodies,” says Eli Walker.

“I’ll drink to that,” say her students.

“We make new friends over a glass of wine and just lighten the fuck up about yoga,” observed Jamey Powell. “And you know what? It worked for me. It is as fun as it sounds.”

Getting in the groove with pets and barnyard animals are surefire ways to lighten the mood of any yoga class. Yoga with your dog, or Doga, for short, is changing it up from a daily walk and into the yoga studio. They don’t actually do anything once they are there, except maybe keep you company and relax in corpse pose for an hour, but it keeps them from chasing squirrels.

“Dogs really benefit from Doga whether they participate, or not,” says Mahny Djahanguiri, who has been bonding with canines for about five years. “In my class the dogs are dogis and humans are yogis.” The idea is that animals lower anxiety levels and generate feel good hormones.

She has written “Doga: Yoga for You and Your Dog”. The how-to book includes pictures of how to deploy large dogs as bolsters and small dogs as hand weights.

Yoga with animals has spread to horses, cats, and baby goats. Goat Yoga got started at Lainey Morse’s farm in Oregon in 2016 when a friend suggested she host yoga classes. “I said OK,” said Lainey, “but the goats have to join in.” She had eight goats. The goats joined in. Within a year there was a waiting list to get in on the classes.

“The most fun part for me is watching people’s faces when a little goat comes up to them while they’re doing a yoga pose,” she said. “It’s a distraction, but it’s a happy distraction. It’s hard to be sad and depressed when there’s baby goats jumping on you.”

In the past two years Caprine Vinyasa, better known as Baby Goat Yoga, has grown by leaps and bounds. The goat kids might distract you with their melt-your-insides cuteness, might climb on your back when you’re in plank pose, and might leave little pools of goat pee here and there, but they are ideal therapy partners.

Jut watch out when you’re in headstand, as goats tend to butt heads.

Rooftop Yoga, Silent Disco Yoga, Naked Yoga, TRX Yoga, Broga, MMA Yoga, and Soul Flow Yoga are among a myriad of other niche practices that have suddenly sprouted on the scene in recent years. It’s always great to take risks and try new things, but new roads sometime mean superhighways and other times just mean new ruts.

On the other side of redesigned ways of doing things at your local studio, festivals and conferences drawing national and international audiences have proliferated in the past twenty years. Some of the best festivals are Sat Nam Fest, OM Yoga Show, and Wanderlust. They are launching pads for the old school that endures and the cutting edge that works.

The OM Yoga Show is a yoga gathering in London. Studio owners from around the world come to participate and network at one of the biggest such expos in the world. “If you’re in the yoga industry bring business cards with you,” said Sarah Highfield, founder of Yogarise. “Come in your yoga clothes – there are lots of classes on offer. Finally, turn up hungry, because there are plenty of tasty food stands to try.”

Sat Nam Fest is five days of asana, mantras, and meditation, revolving around Kundalini Yoga. Wanderlust is yoga by day and concerts by night, celebrations of mindfull living, living it up, summer surfing with “great nature, great food, great people, and more!” It has grown to 8 festivals annually in the USA and Canada.

Even though there are many ways to sharpen skills nowadays, from blogs to podcasts to instructional videos, one of the best ways is still the live event, workshops and conferences.  They are about meeting influencers and experts face-to-face, learning new know-hows and relearning classic ways of doing things, and sharpening the saw. Almost everybody comes home from conferences, from investing in themselves, from being in rooms with the energy of like-minded individuals, with a greater focus.

The Omega Institute hosts an annual Yoga Service Conference. “The conference is a wonderful opportunity to connect with folks whose yoga, meditation, and mindfulness practices are primarily focused on service to the world,” said Sue Julian of the Yoga Prison Project. The Toronto Yoga Conference has grown to 300 exhibitors and 700 hours of seminars and training sessions. The Yoga Journal Conferences have long been venues to experience the diversity of the practice, get inspired, work on your skills, and experiment with new ones.

The modern world is about change. Yoga is a practice of moxie and awareness. The first step in riding the wave of change is awareness.

In its own domain, yoga in the modern world has been experimenting, experiencing growing pains, shooting off in all directions. It gets hare-brained at times, shooting itself in the foot, electrifying at other times, shooting for the stars. It can do whatever it wants, even though it can’t do whatever it wants. It can only do what works, which is why it is still in business, still breathtaking.

Although new isn’t always progress, all yoga was once new.

aerial-beverage-coffee-990825-e1550878549646

Click here to see more writing between fiction and non-fiction by Ed Staskus.