The "You Are More Than Atoms" Rants



April 8th 2005 to December 3rd 2005

A Yogic Journey

by Fred T. Hamster


regarding ignorant opinions expressed about yoga:

yoga does in fact rule.

since reality is probably defined by the small number of things that m[0] and i actually agree on, people should consider our mutual appreciation for yoga carefully...

yoga is the one exercise regime that ever worked for me.  i am a classic "type Z" personality--if i didn't smell bad i might be mistaken for some shrubbery.  so if an exercise program can work for me, i imagine it can work for anyone not already completely inanimate.

yoga is totally low-impact and is based on the principle that:
  if it hurts, then you're doing it wrong.
for exercise, i accept this, although i do understand that other people's proclivities may give them an appreciation and, nay, even a desire for pain.  mine, however, do not.  i agree with the comic who said "no pain, no pain.  what's the downside?"

many of the exercises constituting the various warm up routines, stretches, calisthenics and so on are actually borrowed from yoga.  so you're probably doing yoga already anyway, m[1].  if you warm up, which i am assuming to be the case, as i've never heard anyone recommend trying "flying gila monster tornado foot" without warming up first.

yoga will make you flexible.  like, matrix-style bullet dodging flexible.  it will help you if you do even a tiny little bit every day.  i can say from experience that your body will miss doing yoga, so don't stop doing it like i stopped.  i do intend to start doing yoga again.  right after i build that boathouse and plane those shingles for my dinghy.

one thing that i miss besides the flexibility is that i had incredible energy levels when i was doing yoga.  i seemed to get sick less frequently, although that's probably a benefit of exercise in general.  my mind was quite a bit clearer and free of barnacles when i was doing yoga also.  plus my car waxed itself.  i think trees would whisper my name when i drove by in my car.  i like my car.

actually though, the benefits were pretty real although no one has ever waxed my car.

    now, just calling it yoga is pretty simplistic, since there are numerous types of yoga.  i practiced hatha yoga, which is kind of like a set of physical processes intended to help bodily energy flow in a healthy manner by gradually unkinking the spine and muscles and such.  this is highly technical, i know, but try to bear with me.

    there are also devotional yoga and deity yoga among the other types i vaguely remember.  and probably some kind of memory yoga that i didn't study.  devotional yoga is basically a set of approaches aimed towards worshipping a divine person or divine principle.  deity yoga is a tantric practice aimed at generating oneself as a particular deity which represents characteristics or powers one is interested in developing.

so, most of what i've said so far is true-ish and based on my own experience.  the following anecdote is also true but is hard to believe...

    one of the types of hatha yoga is the breathing exercise.  in fact, breathing properly is important in all the different hatha yoga positions and i think i even remember suggestions about where to inhale and exhale during the different parts of the yoga "moves".
    anyway, i practiced the yogic breath assiduously and ended up breathing that way most of the time.
    during the yogic breath, it helps to envision oneself as filling the entire body with air and healthy energy, starting at the toes and working towards the crown of the head.
    the physical process of yogic breath is basically this: inhale starting at the bottom of the lungs and fill them slowly up to the top of the lungs.  exhale from the bottom of the lungs towards the top (although another school recommends exhaling from top to bottom).
    see, after having inhaled all these winds (and without trying to pop oneself like a balloon), the exhalation process is supposed to take about the same amount of time as inhalation.  which is to say, both should be slow and measured.  each should take about 7 beatings of the heart, with a three heartbeat pause while holding the lungs full (gently) or empty.
    someone asked me pretty recently how you hear the beating of your own heart.
    my answer, sadly, is: you listen for it.  a correct answer, but perhaps too simplistic?  i found that taking one's own pulse helped in training to hear one's own heartbeats.

    so, there i was, breathing like a yogi, and there was one period of a few weeks where i was in the "breathing zone" or whatever.  when i slept, i was certain i was still doing the yogic breath.  like, continuously through the night and on into the next morning.  my unconscious states while asleep weren't quite so deep as previously, so it was kind of like floating around a meridian line of consciousness all of the time.  it's nutty sounding, but the take home snackpack is this: i was so into yoga that i was actually doing the "proper" breath in my sleep.

    but as with all good things, pretty soon i saw a squirrel which distracted my feeble brain and i had to run off and chase it a bit and forgot about doing yoga.  or i got even more lazy than previously and stopped.  suffice it to say that a non-lame period ended at that point and i was free to resume my normal lameness duties.  possibly i bought into the whole "omnipresent meditation" idea, that i should be in a state of meditative absorption continually, even while chopping wood or carrying water or taking a dump.  this probably seemed like a pretty cool scheme since it had the "progress towards enlightenment" issue covered, but it also maybe led to equivocation about needing to practice anything in specific.
    if i'm supposedly in this forcefield of bliss and awareness all the time, why do i need to stretch my bones and sinews and whatnot?  the perpetual meditation was a good practice while it lasted, giving my mind some flexibility similarly to what yoga gave my body.  however, continual mindfulness requires, um, continual mindfulness.  and hey, there's that squirrel again....

    these days i do practice yoga very infrequently.  and i practice the yogic breath a bit more frequently although probably not every day.  but the bliss engine is no longer running continually.
    this is not the best possible outcome, although it does permit one to get angry more often and play through the whole gamut of mental quirks and delusions that would otherwise not snare the charged up and yet utterly mellow yogic mind.  the odd thing is that even though i kind of miss the blissful state, i know it's just around the mental corner, where all i need to do is chill out a bit and start breathing rhythmically and slowly.  ah yeah, there it is.

[posted April 8th 2005]