Wednesday, December 16, 2009

What is this thing we call Yoga?

I just Googled the word yoga and received 70 million, 200 thousand hits. Wow!

So what does it all mean? Of course there is no one answer. The best we can do is share our experience of it and learn from others.

I am going to do just that here and now and hope that many of you in turn will take a little time and also contribute your stories.

I took my first yoga class during the 1970's at the New School for Social Research in Greenwich Village, NYC. The New School started out in the 1930's as a hot bed for socialists and anarchists. Now it is a fully accredited university with a distinctly progressive bent. Several years ago, I worked there with Terry Williams, author and faculty member who also leads the Harlem Writers Crew of which I was a member. Terry's books exposed for the first time the relationship between public housing and the crack epidemic that lead to dramatic changes in the subsidized housing system.

But I digress just a bit.

The reason I took my first yoga class was directly related to what I'd spend the best part of the rest of my life doing, writing. And what would also become my entry to experiencing yoga directly from a Yogi.

In the 1970's, I was in my twenties. I had been writing short stories since I was a teenager. In my final year of college I started writing a story that wouldn't stop. After graduating, I put the yellow pads with the handwritten story on them into a large envelope and along with a single suitcase and portable typewriter flew to Paris, where I was reunited with a young woman I had met the summer before.

I chronicle this adventure in a memoir/ novel called 'A Summer In Time' that I promise to eventually post on this website. But the short version is that with the inspiration of Paris and being in love -- what a combination -- I manged to write what would become my first novel, 'AREA'.

When I got back to the States, now married and working as a writer at the college I graduated from, I was confronted with the task of actually typing, editng and finding a publisher for the work.

I discovered that the duration of my concentration was not up to the task. The reason so many people say that they really want to write a novel or a book, and have a great story to tell but never do it, is because it is one of the most difficult challenges one can ordain for one's self.

I can't remember exactly how I got the notion that doing yoga would improve my concentration, but that's why I went to my first class. The yoga instructor, an American Caucasian with long matted hair who looked like he just emerged from a cave in the Himalayas, also gave me my first taste of yogic snobbery. Even though he was willing to take the New School's money to teach the class he was needlessly and arrogantly condescending to the school and us. If we really wanted to learn yoga we should go to the ashram where he resided.

The relationship between writing and yoga has, for me, been ongoing ever since then. I had never heard of Kripalu Yoga or Yogi Amrit Desai until I was asked by a magazine to visit their original retreat in Pennsylvania. They were putting together an article about alternative healthy holiday vacation places.

Then later, it was my professional writing and editing skills that allowed me to meet Yogi Desai and work with him on a book about Kripalu Yoga -- Meditation in Motion.

If I write any more on this I will only be telling again what is already in the book, An American Yoga: THe Kripalu Story.

But I would very much like to hear from you about how it is you first got into this thing we call yoga.

No comments:

Post a Comment