Saturday, December 28, 2013

nuggets from the catboxx iI -- made for tv

Originally publihed here November 21, 2009.

The New York regional yoga championships?

Yes, I'm afraid it's true. Maybe you already saw this piece when it ran in the New York Times fashion and fitness section a few days back.

During the three-day workshop I took with Gary Kraftsow, the founder of American Viniyoga, in April of '08, I remember his saying several times that "this is not competitive, and it's not a performance art." But I guess there are some who would disagree.

Asana competitions, as they should be properly called*, are the brainchild of the Choudhurys, Mrs. Rajashree and Mr. Bikram, who are also the founders of a highly successful, trademarked and copyrighted sequence of 26 vigorous postures and two breath exercises, practiced in a room heated to 105 degrees and known as Bikram Yoga. They're originally from India, but have adapted extremely well to American cultural prerogatives and ways of doing business.

Considering the current and growing mass appeal of asana practice, I'm afraid that I and the Choudhurys both see where this is going: Think "American Idol" or "Dancing with the Stars."

And I suppose there's no real harm done, as long as there are those who are keeping the faith, and keeping it real. So even though my peers and I graduated from yoga school a couple nights ago, we have another assignment.

But I have to say, I always thought doing a vigorous asanas in a really hot room sounds like a weird idea.

This is one more example among many of the inherent corruption of contemporary American culture, for which I find the influence of televisionsolely responsible. TV has established the template of public and private behavior in This Modern World, and demands that all activity be reduced to entertainment, even those activities traditionally defined as sacred or possessing inherent dignity. In this country today there is nothing so sacred that it can't be cheapened, and nothing so dignified that it can't be commoditized, in the manner of gymnastics competitions and beauty contests.

*Asana, or movement through a series of postures, is just one facet of yoga, which aims at the total integration of body, breath, mind, and spirit.

New York Times photo by James Estrin.

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