Monthly Archives: September 2008

McYoga

Now that I am back in the embracing arms of hatha yoga again, in a room with a view, I can reflect back on the sweaty regiment of bikram yoga.

The stellar reviews on Yelp.com were my only motivation for returning to the studio each week for 90 minutes of perspiring hell. Every time I came home swearing under my breath at the state of my body and mind after class, I wondered what it is that the other hot yogis experience that I don’t. Everyone raved about how energized they felt, how they lost weight, didn’t want to each junk food anymore, how it healed old injuries. I felt nothing but dizzy and strung out when I left. The only major difference I noticed was that when I rode my bike home after class my legs were stronger and I could increase the tension on the gears. But when I was expecting a body-altering experience, the bike ride seemed insignificant. I can understand the method to their madness, to sweat out toxins and unclog dirty pores; which is probably more healthy and active that the comparative spa treatment of an $80 facial. But asside from the rebirth of my skin, I didn’t feel like the practice knocked my core into an altered state of living.

It’s also disheartening to experience how vastly different the energy of the bikram class is compared to a classic vinyasa or hatha yoga class. One of the building blocks of yoga, as I have learned it, is acceptance. Acceptance of your body’s limitations. Acceptance of your, and others, skill level. Acceptance of an empty mind. Acceptance of calm and quiet running through your body. The bikram yoga classes bring out a person’s limits, challenges the body’s commitment, brings a competative mindset to the forfront of your practice. The harsh clap that signals a change in pose doesn’t allow you to fall into a flow between poses. The monotone, scripted instructions of the instructor doesn’t allow for creativity or change from practice to practice. Having attention drawn to you in a negative way when you stop to take a drink of water to prevent yourself from passing out because you did not wait until the point in the class when you are allowed to drink. The demand to push your body past its natural point of resistance, which seems strengthening in theory, is very defeating in actuality when you cannot hold a pose long enough. In traditional yoga classes you are supposed to stay in tune with your body’s needs and pains, to listen and obey your body; not the instructor. There is a stronger feeling of pulling the body into a pose in bikram yoga, as opposed to the feeling of gentle pushing the body into a stronger pose in hatha or vinyasa yoga. The lack of force put on the body and mind of hatha yoga is what lets my mind relax and absorb the practice. I suppose the conclusion of this would be that if you are looking for a different way to push you body physically, a new challenge to face, then bikram yoga is something worth trying, but if you perform yoga for the spirituality of the experience, then bikram is going to be a blast of cold water on your peaceful body. Or hot air.

A brief histroy of bikram shows the conceptual differences between the practice and traditional yoga. Bikram was developed by Bikram Choudhury in LA. It is an exercise of 26 posturses performed in a room heated to 105 degrees guided by a specific dialouge of the bikram certified instructors. The sequence of the 26 postures is copyrighted and the studios are franchised by Bikram. There is intense controversy around the term “yoga” used within the Bikram yoga practice. The acient history of yoga poses, which predated by centuries, the ideas of copyright, franchisment, and capitalist nature of today’s society, seems to tarnish the sacred act dedicated to inner growth and awareness, not profit or national acclaim. The documentary “Yoga, Inc.” gives more examples and details on how bikram yoga does not follow so many of the teaches and nature of traditional yoga. I have been to my fair share of yoga studios in the last 2 years. I have always admired their low maintenance decor and operation. I envy the teachers that come to class, not because it is their job or because of the money they are making to be there, but because of their love and dedication to the practice, the desire to help other experience what they do in their practice. They are always friendly and happy, calm and open. I would hate to think that if more “McYogas” pop up around the US, the appeal of the profits, of cashing in on people’s love for yoga, will overhaul the pure, simple joy that traditional yoga brings.

Ladies No Longer in Waiting

Try as I might, I cannot avoid the inevitable topic that, every 4 years, becomes the dictator of the media, water cooler conversations, magazine covers, and pillow talk all across the USA! USA! USA! Presidential election season is upon us again. But you can take comfort in the fact that I will try to keep this as objective as an election conversation can be. I’m not here to force my un-groomed and less-than-educated political views upon you; I’ll leave that to the professionals. I couldn’t help but write about the topic because how can I possibly analyze the state of our 9/8/08 culture and ignore the baby-kissing presidential beast that has taken over our culture right now? So I’m going to take a lighter, more superficial, approach to the race. Someone has to. Sometimes we need a distraction from the exhausting debates over baby’s mama’s drama, sexism, patriotism, and the population of Alaska. So I am here to discuss the ladies.

When Michelle Obama burst onto the political field a few months ago, she was an outspoken, successful, frank woman first. She was Barak’s wife second. I knew about her Harvard degree and career progression before I knew that she was the mother of two (beautiful and microphone-loving) daughters. Some people that still believe in the sanctity of politicians were dumbfounded by her forthrightness in discussing Barak’s trail of dirty socks (How can he allow her to reveal such behavior! A presidential nominee would NEVER divulge such character flaws!). But the rest of us could relate to the playful banter with our significant others. I’m no worshipper of the house of Doc when talking about him. I’ll joke with my friends about his scruffy nomad beard for the sake of relatability. The outspoken woman is sexy. The outspoken woman is not a woman to be dismissed as a simple pillow-fluffer at the end of the day. The outspoken woman is the backbone and down to earth character that a politician needs to keep things real and fist-tap for support.

But that was then. Months on the campaign trail. Months of criticism over her “anti-American” style. Months of worried campaign managers hoping to avoid another Hillary, pulling Bill’s puppet strings from inside the White House. Who was really in control here? We don’t want a submissive president. So now, watching her speech at the DNC, I see her subsiding into her Jackie O dresses and supportive smiles. Talks of her daughters, family, and her husband. The candid banter of “Barak – He’s just like us!” gone. So where did she go?

I will be honest in saying that I know less about Cindy McCain, partly because my interest leans towards the Obama’s and partly because the woman is so severe looking I have trouble getting past the tight librarian bun and paycheck. She looks so tightly wound and pursed-lipped that I had trouble see her lack of personality as a threat to the White House. But seeing her at the RNC the night of McCain speech, with her hair down, a small smile on her face, even I saw some semblance of pride in how her life brought her to that moment. But that moment of awareness was gone as soon as it came, blinded by talks of her $300,000 getup and private plane. But where did the librarian bun go?

And now there is Sarah Palin. I can’t seem to stop reading about her background and family. I am drawn to her story and I cannot figure out why. My question for her fresh face is where did she come from?

The trend here is the entrance of the woman into the political playing field. Three women are under the torturous microscope of the media and America (mostly because of the media). Hillary, the trailblazer, was the first sign that it is time Washington gave some attention to the political woman. The importance of the first lady has become almost comparable to the importance of the president himself. Hillary showed that the first lady cannot be overlooked, because she may someday be the one you are voting for. It is a new frontier for women in politics and there must be an appealing image to wrangle in the votes, because lets not forget that this is still a political race and it’s all about the votes. Men have had hundreds of years to evolve their persona into what they know Americans can look up to and are comfortable with and are generally willing to let lose on the world as the face of our nation. Navy blue suit, red tie, good orator, uses words like “change” and “hope”, wears an American flag pin. Now the women are at the beginning of their evolution into what America will trust. Michelle came out of the gate a little too strong, Cindy came out with her bun a little too tight. Both are working towards a middle ground. Because who knows which one of them could be next.

So now the transformation from hockey mom to vice presidential nominee for Sarah Palin will begin. What middle ground will she have to conform to? Only time and debates and Karl Roves growling monologues will tell.

I’m a Mac. I’m a desperate PC

There are so many things that seem so extraordinary in theory, but the grandeur falls apart at the seams after execution. Like bottled water or Sarah Palin. Like a collaboration between Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Gates.


Microsoft kicked off their new ad campaign this week. Bringing out the big guns/dollars with their first commercial featuring the sneaker-wearing Seinfeld and the cheapest richest man Gates at a Payless-esque discount shoe store sharing insight on pleather footwear and the future of edible hardware. First thought: ????? Second thought: Thank Lord Elton John for DVR.  It took a few viewings to piece together what Microsoft was trying to accomplish with this “commercial about nothing”.  There were so many levels and angles Microsoft was trying to play in this ad that the end result was a mess of mug shots and wedgies. They are countering the “I’m a mac” commercials with Seinfeld; a cross-generational icon. But Jerry eating a chutto has a tough time proving its hip status up against the oh so cute mac guy, not to mention the “I’m a mac” commercials have been well established for 2 years now. Why start trying now? Trying to a desperate level no less; $300 million on a campaign starring two of the most visible and highest paid members of their industries is no understatement. The approach of the campaign is to show these two moguls as everyday Americans that shop in malls and sign up for retail discount memberships. But two globally discernible faces being normal, like the “Stars; They’re Just Like Us!” section of Us Weekly, has a depressing way of making a bike ride seem more fashionable than ordinary.

The official explanation from Microsoft is that this is only a “teaser” for future commercials meant to “engage customers in a conversation and dialogue in a humorous and intriguing way”.  I believe that exact quote was used on the set of Seinfeld. Other then a flash of the Microsoft logo at the end of the commercial and the presence of Bill Gates, there is no mention of the company, products, or performance. I got a hold of the second commercial (Is there anything Youtube can’t give me?) This one gives us a future of fish with blogs, a small explanation of the duet’s adventure, and a pretty witty one liner (“You live in a moon house hoovering over Seattle and I have so many cars I get stuck in my own traffic jams”) , it still left me wondering when they were going to sell me something. 

Remember when commercials used to be for products?