Sometimes I have to run from political discussion, the same way people run away from plagues of communicable disease.
For close to 30 years now, political discourse in America has been noisily dominated by people of extaordinarily low moral character, chiefly apologists and mouthpieces for an imperialist, predatory, and destructive ruling class. They rationalize the corruption that class has wrought, and savagely attack anyone who disagrees.
My experience in opposition to these tools and accessories tells me I can be a revolutionary, but I can't be a revolutionary all the time. Anybody who doesn't occasionally escape having to deal with Rush Limbaugh and Dick Cheney surrogates and all the other monstrosities of the postmodern meltdown of civilized behavior is going to go nuts.
I find the healing and rejuvination I need through the personal practice of yoga. And it's very personal the way I do it, involving explorations of inner space as much as exercise. I hope to share this personal method, with all its idiosyncratic quirks, with other people close to my own age within the next few years, once I've developed the practice and aesthetic to a more mature articulation.
Yoga in America is mostly the legacy of Sri Krishnamacharya (pictured), who never left India, taught for many years, and died in 1989 and the age of 101. He taught Mr. Iyengar, who has probably been the most influential of Krishnamacharya's spiritual descendents among students in this country. Iyengar has spent much time in the U.S., teaching and lecturing. Krishnamacharya's son, Mr. Desikachar, was the primary teacher of the person whose method I follow, Gary Kraftsow of Philadelphia, who traveled to India at age 19, stayed with Desikachar four years, and returned to his homeland in his early 20's to spread the good news.
Despite its excellent pedigree, there has been a tendency for American yoga practices to diverge quite radically from the traditional teachings as they were handed down by the masters, who were Sanskrit scholars before they were anything else. Half a world away, the practice has evolved into mostly an exercise program, sometimes with a little Sanksrit chanting thrown in to lend authenticity. I recently saw a DVD where brief chants of "Om" and "Namaha" preceded a vigorous session of what is sometimes called "power yoga," a combination of Hatha yoga asanas or postures and aerobic cardiovascular exercise.
I'm not against this practice. It's mostly beneficial to those who do it, and can't hurt people who are careful (except maybe for cardiac patients), although I would think practitioners may be prone to injury if they get too carried away and vigorous with some of the ligament-stretching poses.
I've studied only a short time and learned very little. But I do strongly believe that yoga for mental and physical health is not about perfecting poses, or bending the body into specific postures. It is, as Kraftsow says, "about the practitioner, not the process," and always needs to be adapted to the needs of the indidual. "Yoga's purpose is to enhance the flow of one's life," the teacher adds.
For someone like me yoga is not about exercise. That's part of it, but not the most important part. I've been severely emotionally agitated for the last couple of years. Part of that has been personal, but part of it has been political -- profoundly political.
Sometimes I need to get away for a few hours or days, and do something to calm the troubled waters.