Monday, February 07, 2011

Truth, yoga, jazz, rap


This beautiful sankskrit word means "truth," and it's one of the 8 limbs of classical yoga. Like one of the ten commandments: Don't lie! it sits there solemnly, quietly inching its way under my skin.

For some reason, this is the aspect of classical yoga that I keep coming back to again and again. And not because it's easy.

For me, this word means a lot more than just "don't lie." It means be honest with the people around you and with yourself. We are better at lying to ourselves than anyone else has ever been capable. Did you know that there is a specific part of our brains whose entire purpose is to tell us stories about reality when it doesn't make easy sense? It fills in colours and blind spots in our vision that we can't really see. It rationalizes movements of the body that don't correspond with decisions we've made in our minds. It is constantly explaining the world for us, like a caring mother who does not want their sweet baby to see the truth.

This is immensely useful, actually--it's really what you need when you are trying to get from A to B, or survive, which is the general evolutionary purpose of every part of the brain when you ask a neuroscientist about it. But it's not always useful when you are trying to break a pattern or change something in your life or stop lying to yourself.

Over the last little while, I've decided to start taking some of my own advice: Pussy up, be honest, and show people who you really are. (well I don't phrase it like that in my yoga classes.) I'm a spoken word poet: the sort of label that makes me seem like I must smoke cigarettes, own a beret, be fantastically, immaturely angry at the world for what it's done to me, and have no capacity for maintaining healthy human relationships (some of these things are quite true for many spoken word poets). I'm also a yoga teacher, which means I'm supposed to be peaceful all the time and never feel angry or drink beer or have any problems (not a single yoga teacher in the universe, I'm pretty sure, is like that). My versions of these two personalities go quite well together really, like a dish that sounds strange but once you try it you'll never go back: popcorn with olive oil and nutritional yeast. Seriously. Try it.

Some of the interesting ways this has manifested itself:
the Yoga Jazz Rap: It's a long story, but suffice it to say I found myself onstage in the Jazz Cellar a little while ago 'rapping' spoken word with a hip hop artist and a full jazz band. And it was about the best thing that ever happened to me.

East Side Yoga Studio teams up with Vancouver Poetry House : My little yoga studio is partnering up with the organization that puts on the poety slam: we will be donating free yoga classes to every slam, hosting writing and yoga/writing workshops at our studio, and otherwise collaborating to make the world a better place.

And, my personal favourite: The East Side Yoga Studio Art Party! : On Saturday, March 26th, we will be getting poets, musicians, band members, and yoga dancers together to perform and party at Cafe Deux Soleils, the same veune that hosts the poetry slam. Cover will be $5 minimum donation, and it will be the strangest and best show you've ever seen. You can see the facebook event for it here:!/event.php?eid=174930052552047

So my advice to you for this week: be honest about who you are, put the pieces together. You might end up being the world's first Yoga Jazz Rapper. After me, of course.

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