Yogafolk v5 | Resisting and persisting through the body.
Hi hi, and solstice greetings.
The nurse bounces over to me, and like a bartender asks: “What can I get you? Moderna? Pfizer?” I think about responding, “how about one in each arm, heh.” But then I worry that I’m becoming my father and I say with a smize, “Moderna please,” while rolling up my sleeve.
Later, as I writhe with fever aches, I take comfort that the booster is teaching my body resilience and giving it (and the bodies around me, the ecosystem of which I’m a part) greater protection. I remember stoners in college taking a big rip, hacking up a lung, and cry-laughing as they affirmed, “you don’t get off unless you cough!”
This massively uncomfortable reaction, I tell myself, is a sign that it’s working.
The first round of vaccines felt like a monumental moment. Historic. Transpersonal. A big, fat pressure release.
This time around, scientifically miraculous life-saving drugs injected into my deltoid at the local Safeway surrounded by hydrangeas and theoretically jolly Christmas adornments just feels mundane. Or perhaps futile. Definitely unjust. My triple vax doesn’t help the global South. I am one lucky little wildebeest, but that doesn’t free up patents for wider dissemination around the world.
When one is unwell all are unwell, which leads me to the painful understanding that we’re (still) in deep trouble. I (so very naïvely) thought that when the storm was over we’d all fling open our doors, raise our eyes toward the sun, blink appreciatively, and feel a rush of relief that would reverberate globally; that we’d all feel renewed.
I hoped, and maybe you did too, that when the hurricane passed, each and every earth-dweller would have a polished stone sitting comfortably within our bellies, a stone that like a totem of this time, would protect and carry us forward.
But the storm we’re living through is not a singular cyclone. We live inside the storm now, and all I want for the collective is a semi-stable place in the eye to care for one another, and tend to the task of repair.
My heart is beating uncountably fast. I hear it slamming against my chest, and the clamor drowns out any rational thought. I feel my blood swirl, rearranging itself, adjusting to the impending panic.
Attention is one of our very last possessions. Something that is truly our own and controllable. So I bring my attention to the sensation of the soles of my feet as they touch the inside of my shoes. I hone my attention, focusing it like a laser beam, the way we do the gaze or dristi in practice.
I bring my attention to my feet in my boots and my boots on the ground, my attention like a ray of sun, or a moonbeam. Like a spotlight. The blood retreats from my skin, the hairs on my head settle, my heartbeat mellows.
It is powerful to resist and persist through the body, because it is one of the final frontiers of control. The body is still a battleground, and there is no rest for the weary. So I resist through my body by concentrating my attention on that which I choose: practices, postures, people, places, films, words, trees, rivers, paths and breaths. I resist through my body by focusing it and its resources in the directions of interconnectivity, love and compassion. Not always successfully.
We the people are not the same people we were 20 months ago. We are straddling liminality in a new way. We are caught in the cross fire of political and social wars, and we each have to make impossibly hard, extremely personal decisions as we face this next (absolutely exhausting, devastating) wave.
As we put an awkward, half-hearted, fog-colored bow on the year, I acknowledge that this has been a doozy. So many unspeakable losses are being left behind in the ashes of 2021.
I am so sorry for all you have lost. I am sorry for your compounding hurts and griefs. I am deeply sad that this world is such an inequitable one. If I could, and if you allowed as much, I would put my arms gently round your shoulders and listen for the sound of your heartbeat. Together we’d beat, and walk, perhaps sip tea. We’d unload our burdens as we tread the earth, and we’d croon our worries, until they were exhausted.
My wish is that you weather the storms with ease and support. May you and your loved ones be healthy, safe, and nourished. May we find the strength to keep going.
I believe in us,
Posing + Practicing
There is no single pose or transition that is an essential part of practice. Ashtanga yoga is a breathing practice. Soooo, those of you who have practiced with me know that I stand firm: jump backs are not an essential piece of practice. They’re a fun flourish. BUT. I think it’s ok to have fun — to play with our bodies, and their abilities; to have a physical goal. It feels good to try something new, particularly when all else feels gloomy. It is neurochemically beneficial, even.
Below is a short tutorial on jumping back (no password needed). A tiny token of gratitude to you for reading and believing amidst the stormy weather of 2021. Thanks for being kindred Yogafolk. I appreciate you.
“There is always hope — hope enough to balance our despair. Or we would be lost.”
— Rohinton Mistry,
A Fine Balance
3 x 3
3 yogic x 3 film x 3 science recs from 2021
“Attention is the beginning of wakefulness,” reminds Lama Willa in The Wakeful Body. Her (free) companion meditations and practices are just as grounded and generous:
Tracing the Path of Yoga: The History and Philosophy of Indian Mind-Body Discipline by Stuart Ray Sarbacker will likely become canon in yoga scholarship.
The Centre of Yoga Studies at SOAS holds lectures, events and seminars that bring together pioneering scholars in yogic studies…yesss, I am a freshly minted student representative so this is a biased, but non-obligatory and benefit-free plug. I really think you’ll dig their offerings.
There are countless small pleasures in Pebbles, a Tamil film that makes the arid South Indian desert palpable.
Bo Burnham’s Inside is unsurpassed. It is acerbic, smart, devastating, awkward, and funny too. (Bonus: Phoebe Bridgers covers That Funny Feeling)
The Disciple weighs a “practical, real life” with that of a “lonely and hungry” one. A journey through the complexities of lineage, art-making and Indian musicality.
SCIENCE + MEDICINE
The Huberman Lab podcast is a dose of thorough and engaging neuroscience talk.
Threading ecology, culture and spirituality: Emergence Magazine
The Dawn of Everything — challenging 30,000 years of assumptions about social evolution.
See you in 2022.