Tuesday, February 02, 2010

That's All Folks

Welp, that’s it! The yoga inbox is cleaned out, the last satirical bits have been written and published, the mat is rolled up, the yoga studio is now an art studio and YogaDawg is quitting snarky yoga blogging to concentrate on his painting (Eight years ago I laid my brushes down and I vow never again. I declare once and for all, I am an ARTIST!). Perhaps this will be picked back up sometime in the future. In the meantime, thanks to all you beautiful yogis who took the time to visit and who shared a laugh. You can always go to My Third Eye Itches to find all the original YogaDawg material from over the years.
I do want to leave you with my very first piece of writing that happens to be about my first yoga class which was written before YogaDawg was even YogaDawg. The yoga world was wide open for me then and I am convinced that it had somehow brought me back to my art.

Always my best to you,



During a particularly bleak winter, I took a yoga class. Actually, the yoga class took me as I woke up one morning with the thought, “do yoga…”. Where did that come from? What an absurd thought. After all, just the word yoga sounded goofy to me.

With curiosity, I googled ‘yoga’ and saw that there was a studio in a part of the city where I was sure I wouldn’t run into anyone I knew. I was thinking that this could promise to be a complete embarrassment to me or just another hare-brained idea of mine so I knew that doing yoga would best be done in complete anonymity.

Saturday morning, the day of the class, I drove downtown, where the studio was located. It would have been a pleasant morning drive if wasn’t for the crazed dialog that was running in my head. After all, I did feel a little stupid doing this. A gym might have been a bit more explainable, but machines and sweat (yogis don’t sweat, right?) never appealed to me.

”Yoga? You’re going to do Yoga???”
“Yeah, I’m going to do yoga, I think I need to do this”.
“You are going to make a fool out of yourself”.
“Probably, but no one knows me there and I can get drunk afterwards”…
”I don’t know, this is going to end up bad somehow…”
“Yea, you’re probably right, maybe I should turn around at the next exit!”

Somehow I made it to the yoga studio and was a bit surprised that I didn’t throw myself out of the car on the way down. As the studio was on the second floor, I made my way up the stairs to the studio door as I concurred with my other half, “Okay, this is stupid…”. Turning to leave, I heard the door open downstairs as a student walked in. The ego being a fragile thing, I knew that going into the studio would be easier than being seen fleeing with some lame excuse (“I thought this was the Starbucks, hee, hee, hee…”).

I entered the studio feeling silly and uptight. The instructor greeted me, said her name is Susie and walked me through the signup process. Not knowing what a yoga teacher should look like, I would have not be surprised if she looked like Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. She didn’t and was welcoming and smiling. Susie explains to me what we are going to do…”…a little yoga (okay), a little Tai-Chi (whatever) and learn a little Sanskrit” (Oh man, she’s going to recite the Bhagavad-Gita in the original language….). I don’t know nothing from yoga and I am definitely lost here. She tells me to grab a mat and take a seat.

Susie starts the class and has us close our eyes (…perfect… lights out…shields down!) and instructs us to circle our heads and shoulders around and do something she calls the ‘cat/cow’ pose. With a smidgen of confidence, we begin a series of poses that proved just how unprepared I was for all this. Some of the poses have English names but the others were all unpronounceable to me except for one that sounds like Chimichanga (Note to self: stop by a Mexican restaurant on the way back home).

I’m clueless as to what I am supposed to be doing. This stuff goes on forever, repeats over and over and I’m completely out of sync from looking up and around to see what everyone else is doing. I’m lost, can’t keep up, I’m dripping sweat, I’m weak and woozy, I’m hating this, want to stop, but most of all, I want a beer because I can’t take it anymore. Susie mentions, “ …and when you need to rest, go into child’s pose…” (does she see me going down for the final count?) . I flop down on my knees, face on the mat and as soon as I do, I recoil because now I realize that this mat had been yogied around the block a few times too many and was not smelling too good; kind of like an old gym sock. “This is crazy”, I think as I bolt back up and stagger through the poses for the next several repetitions.

We eventually go into a Karate Kid thing, you know, hands up like talons, standing on one leg, the other raised and bent (and I’m trying to stand on one leg, wobbling while raising and lowering my arms like some demented bird). I’m more then a bit stunned when I realize that everyone can do this except me.

Though the rest of the class was a blur, I do recall at the close blissfully lying on my back, eyes closed and grateful that all this was about to end. I talked to Susie after the class, trying to make a graceful exit; her encouraging me to take another class; me answering her but only thinking, “Flee, flee now, get out of there and back home”. And I did, thinking this was the stupidest thing that I had done in a long time. Oddly though, I woke up the next day feeling unusually ‘light’, but with some unusual aches and pains. After too many years of leading a sedentary life, I liked all those aches and pains; as if my ‘being’ was glad that I had made an effort to finally get up and start moving again. I was convinced there was something good to be had from this thing called yoga.

Over the next couple of months, I took a lot of beginner and ‘Into to Yoga’ classes with other studios in the area. Who would have thought that a yogi would need to learn how to sit (Sukasana), how to stand (Tadasana) and even how to lie down (Savasana)! I met some great teachers during this time and was thankful for their encouragement. I was also grateful to have found something that seemed to prevent me from slipping further into that winter’s funk.

I have now approached the first year anniversary of my yoga practice. Within that year, I came to take some comfort when I was faced with things like my daughter’s teenage angst, or recognized my own mortality when I saw how feeble my parents had become or when I sensed another environmental disaster or monetary meltdown always lurking around the next corner or when I heard of another kid shot dead in the District, I knew that at least for a hour or so during a class, I would forget about all that and the other negative life-stuff swirling around me…and how amazing is that!

I questioned myself a lot during that first year with what I could possibly be taking with me from this practice when I was off the mat. I wasn’t sure outside the obvious; a little more balance, a little more strength, a little more flexibility and perhaps a bit of self humor when I find myself laughing as I try to get into all those ridiculous poses. But I know now, when I find myself in yet another stressed out and screwed up situation, I would occasionally hear the collective voices of my teachers saying, as they always do when we are doing all those seemingly impossible twists, bends and binds, “… now breathe…”. And I sometimes remember to do just that, and it makes me a little calmer, if only for a moment or two, which sometimes is just enough. So perhaps that is the best thing that I take from this yoga practice; to simply breathe!

Looking forward I hope that sometime during my next yoga year, I will find myself in that old Karate Kid pose flapping my arms like a “great blue heron flying over the Potomac” and breathing more aware than ever!

October 2005

Tuscany Without Shadows - paint on paper - 18 x 24 inch - 2010

Tuscany With Shadows - paint on paper - 18 x 24 inch - 2010

YogaDawg aka Art Trip painting and thinking of bits for his new satirical art website and snarky art blog

Monday, February 01, 2010

YogaDawg’s Steps to Yoga Stardom

Step 1 - Start by seeking out trendy yoga studios in gentrified areas in either LA or NYC (sorry, but you’ll need to move if you are anywhere else. It’s just not going to happen in Iowa or Kansas). This is where all the rich and beautiful yogis are and who will become your yoga allies. They are the yogis you must befriend and socialize with as you start your ascent to yoga stardom. Of these, you’ll need to figure out who the power yogis are (look for the ones wearing high-end yoga clothes and sporting a Black Manduka yoga mat) and who are new to the game (they are the ones wearing K-Mart crap and practice on pastel colored mats). It is also very important that you figure out who the yoga nut-jobs are (i.e. they’re the ones spouting crackpot yoga theories and think yoga is all spiritual and everything). Unfortunately there are vast amounts of them in the yoga world. Befriend the former, unless one of the latter can get you introduced to one of the former. Remember that the yoga whack-jobs will always lead you astray in your rise to yoga fame.

Step 2 – You will now need to actually learn something about yoga. Have no fear though, as all yoga studios will have books and magazines that you can spy while waiting for a class to begin. No need to invest money for this (in fact your first few classes at most yoga studios will usually be free or nominal in their quest to ‘hook’ you on yoga). Concentrate on books and articles about Iyengar and Ashtanga yoga in particular. The reason for this will become clear in the next step.

Step 3 – With a bit of yoga knowledge under your belt it is now time to chat up the other yogis around you. Always mention Iyengar or Ashtanga in your conversations with them. Do this at every chance possible. Use a flip and tired tone when doing this to suggest you know all about these styles and have practiced them for much longer than you care to remember. Almost all yogis you encounter can relate to one of these as they are the basis of all the other styles out there. Look for their knowing nod of acceptance.

Important Note: Don’t try and add your own opinion of which style is better at this stage; you’ll only confuse things. The important thing to remember for now is that you are trying to win friends, not influence people.

Step 4 – Now is the time to perfect your Yogatude. This is a crucial step in breaking out from the crowd of ordinary yogis.

Step 5 - At this point you should decide what kind of yoga star path you’ll want to take. The two basic avenues are yoga studio owner player or yoga magazine/yoga video player. If you choose the studio owner path, simply go out and buy one. Don’t worry if you’re not certified to teach. You can always hire teachers who are. No one will be the wiser and the beauty is that you won’t have to pay them much anyway. If you have followed the previous steps to satisfaction thus far, you should now be able to ‘steal’ all the cool, tight and trendy yogis from the other studios you hung out with as these yogis will now follow you to your new studio. Your studio will suddenly be THE yoga studio that everyone will want to be seen in.

Note: If you have decided to take the yoga magazine/video path we trust that you have befriended the publisher or editor of a pop-yoga magazine that has offered you opportunities to appear in articles and on the cover. Strive to get into as many articles and covers as possible. Don’t waste too much time actually doing yoga for the covers; save the yoga for the videos.

Step 6 – Needless to say, you will need to develop and protect your public image (this is not the time to be caught catching a smoke in the back of your studio or being drunk while checking in your marks, umm, I mean students). Always remember that your image is what you will live off of going forward. Guard it like a yoga warrior!

Note:  It's okay to be caught doing yoga in the nude.  In fact, some yoga stars have become quite famous doing so.

Step 7 – You are now at the crucial stage in your rise to yoga stardom; the picking of your brand. Bandanas, speedos and hot pants have all been successfully used in the past. A perennial favorite is to appear somewhat exotic. People in the yoga scene love things they don’t understand (keep things mysterious) and we’re not just talking Sanskrit. On the other hand, if you have great hair and/or a great body, you will stand out from the gaggle of other wanna-be yoga stars. Use this to your advantage. Most important though is to make a point of saying that you think yoga transcends the outward appearances of great hair and great bodies while driving home that in fact, you have great hair and a great body.

Step 8 - Cultivate extensive yoga buzz about yourself. As it is impossible for everyone to be everywhere at once, use yoga blogs to your advantage. Comment on those run by snarky yoga bloggers and drop hints about your connections to past yoga stars (and hopefully dead ones so it will be hard to follow up on your claims) and yoga greatness. Banter with these yoga malcontents as you watch your yoga star shoot up proportionately as each of your comments get posted from blog to blog like wildfire.  Also don't forget to establish a Facebook and Twitter account as these are where the vast majority of your new followers will hang out in the cyber world.

Special note: Be extremely cautious about doing this on YogaDawg’s blog. Extreme bouts of schizophrenia and uncontrolled laughter have been reported from pretentious uptight yoga stars who have visited it. There is no exit there for the cunning.

Step 9 - You are now in low yoga star orbit and need to cultivate one additional trait to solidify your yoga image of those around you. Your goal now is to learn to act 'yogic' (that dreamy far away look that will give you an air of authenticity as it will show that you are have transcended your ties to ordinary daily living). Ideally, you will act this way around yoga students, yoga magazine publishers and sport clothing manufacturers who you will be vying to get endorsements from (you are trying to get endorsements at this point, aren’t you?) Be assured that after a while you’ll become so yogic that you'll forget where or who you are most of the time.

Step 10 – Create your own special “thing”. Be assured that there is always a new yoga style to be invented. As much as yoga people like to think they are practicing ancient yoga methods tied to past yoga gurus, a cult of yoga newness flourishes among them (they are all suckers for the latest yoga trend). Be inventive.

Step 11 - Now is the time to take it to the bank by having an impact on the yoga movement itself. Claim your yoga territory by creating a cause or a mission that can easily be tied to your brand using all your PR skills and contacts. Use your new found fame strategically. If it brings you riches, with, say, a rise in endorsements or ads in magazines, start a new trendy yoga foundation with a hip yoga sounding name.

Step12 – That’s it! You did it!! Good work!!! You are a yoga star. You can now om comfortably in your Malibu beach home or Park Avenue apartment.

Om Shanti and don’t forget to send in a monthly donation to the non-profit YogaDawg Foundation.