Here's a link to an article about Yoga Bitch in this week's Seattle Weekly:
Suzanne Morrison is tired of spending money on fancy yoga pants. But like so many of us, she continues to buy them despite herself-- a contradiction she explores in her one-woman show, Yoga Bitch. "It's a brilliant industry," says the itinerant local writer and performer. "Spending $150 a month on yoga makes me feel like I'm doing something better for the world," she says sarcastically. "I don't think it's quite on the same level as Gandhi's hunger strike."
I spoke with Anna Ross by phone from LA last week, after accompanying my girlfriend Jessica to her first prenatal yoga class at Santa Monica's Yoga Works. I had accidentally spent a chunk of money on some super-cute yoga pants, thinking that I might need them for future costumes for Yoga Bitch, since the hue of my current ensemble is starting to look less like the gorgeous purple of an eggplant's skin and more like the sickly grey vegetable matter inside of one.
I may have also been buying them because they had this neat belly-obscuring swath of material that was very slimming, and being very much not pregnant at the time of this prenatal yoga class, I was horrified when the teacher spoke to me on three separate occasions about the baby growing inside of me. "Seriously," I wanted to say, "it's beer."
But of course the truth is in-between. I liked the pants for the show, and I liked the sexy swath of belly-flattering material, but there was also that familiar little frisson up my spine that tells me that if I buy some sexy, flowy, comfy yoga clothes, I will start to feel as sexy, flowy and comfy as the women who are forever flowing on sandy beaches in Eileen Fisher ads. Make no mistake: I am a sucker for wellness propaganda. And these pants, all $71 dollars worth of them, make me feel more flexible, more well. Until I wash them three or four times. Then they just feel like sweats. Rinse, repeat.
I had a dream last night that I was walking up the street to get a coffee at Top Pot when I ran into some old friends I hadn't seen in years. As soon as we parted ways, I turned to my husband and said, "That was so crazy, running into them like that. It was like Facebook, only in real life." And I marveled at the thought all the way up the hill.
I've been reading Christopher Isherwood's memoir, My Guru and His Disciple, off and on for several months. I've read so many yoga memoirs, and I'm writing one myself, but Isherwood's is my favorite. I relate to it ever so much more for the fact that he rarely, if ever, has a spiritual epiphany. I don't trust yogis who are forever having breakthroughs and catharses and feeling great about themselves. I respond to them much in the same way I respond to my fellow countrymen who come back from vacations abroad convinced that they're no longer American. As I see it with travel and meditation, wherever you go, there you are . . . an American.
I love Isherwood's memoir because he's not looking for an epiphany, per se. His time spent meditating isn't a sexy international vacation or an opportunity to heal after a bad breakup. It's something he does because he feels compelled to do it-- because he has a nagging suspicion that there's a God. But mostly I love his memoir for his sly sense of humor about his own contradictions; Isherwood was a man who liked his sex, his booze, his smokes, but who also felt called to meditation and contemplation, and to occasional experiments with asceticism.
He was celibate and practicing a devotional yoga (meditation, chanting, etc.) with his roommate and would-be lover, Denny, when he tried hatha yoga for the first time. Here's a passage on why it didn't quite work out for him:
(Warning: if you're lily-livered when it comes to bodily functions . . . why are we friends?)
Through the Huxleys, we heard of a lady who taught hatha-yoga exercises. We wanted to learn these for purely athletic reasons, so we were glad to find that she didn't set herself up as a spiritual guru, like some other hatha-yoga practitioners.
I felt that I ought to tell the Swami about our lessons-- guessing that he might not altogether approve of them. The violence of his disapproval surprised me. He didn't object to the postures and the stretching but he warned me sternly not to practice those breathing exercises which require you to hold your breath; they can cause hallucinations, he said, and end by damaging the brain. . .
Then, however, our teacher began to urge us to learn the yoga technique of washing out the intestines by muscular action alone; you squat in a bowl full of water, suck the water in through the anus, swirl it around inside you, expel it again, thus cleansing yourself of poisons. Until this technique has been mastered, you should use an enema every day. And meanwhile, the sphincter muscle of the anus must be made more flexible, through dilation . . . A set of rectal dilators now appeared. I use that verb advisedly because I can neither remember nor imagine our serpent lady actually giving us such unlady-like objects. Did Denny perhaps procure them? The largest was a wicked-looking dildo, quite beyond my capacity but dangerously tempting to my curiosity. I told Denny that, at least as far as I was concerned, our lessons would have to stop-- lest sex should sneak in through the back door. We parted from our teacher but continued to do some of the exercises at home. (Years later I took to using the breathing exercises occasionally, because I found them helpful in clearing up obstinate hangovers.)
I am slightly hungover myself. A birthday barbeque for my brother Frank last night culminated in my cousin Johnny bringing out the Jack, yikes. So I'm considering sitting for a round of bastrika and another of alternate-nostril breathing, to test the theory above. But who am I kidding? I'm just going to get in the bath with Isherwood.
I know I'm stressed when I dream that I'm bolting from one neighbor's house to another, desperately seeking a source of flame with which to light the five cigarettes in my mouth and the three in each hand.
I've been feeling a bit manic from working on too many things at once. I've been staying up too late, drinking too much coffee, and getting cracked out on internet stalking. I woke up this morning looking for some clarity, a mental or physical tonic, if you will, so I went to the source of ancient self-help: The Roots of Ayurveda. Here's some advice on wellness from Vagbhata's Heart of Medicine, circa AD 600:
"One should avoid the following: getting wind, sunshine, dust, frost, or harsh gusts in one's face; sneezing, burping, coughing, sleeping, eating, or having sex while in a crooked position; the shadow of an embankment, a traitor, a predator, or an animal with fangs or tusks; the company of low, ignoble, or calculating types; rifts with one's betters; eating, sex, sleep, study, or fretting during dawn and dusk; food received from enemies, public rituals, group distributions, prostitutes, or tradesmen; making music with one's arms, legs, mouth, or fingernails; shaking one's hands or hair about; passing through the midst of fire, water, or dignitaries; the smoke coming from a corpse; addiction to alcohol; and either dependence on, or independence from women."
Okay, so I've totally tried that, and it didn't work for me.
So, how's about a medicinal cure?
Cow's Urine Potion
Cow's urine is cooked in about three kilograms of ghee, together with about 200 grams each of asafoetida, dark salt, and a mixture of black pepper, long pepper, and dried ginger. This is the best thing for banishing insanity, demons, and epilepsy.
That's cool, but I seriously can't stand asafoetida.
This one's my favorite:
Good Luck Ghee
"This Lucky Ghee is used in cases of demonic possession, insanity, cough, epilepsy, and sin, and also in cases of pallor, itching, poisoning, consumption, delirium, urine diseases, poisoned drinks, and fever. It is used when there is no semen or there are no children, or when the heart is oppressed by fate. It is good for a lack of intelligence, for a stutter, when good memory is desirable, and when the digestive fire is weak. It builds strength, luck, long life, attractiveness, good fortune, and plumpness. It is also the best thing for conceiving a male child."
I love the thought that eating clarified butter will soothe a heart oppressed by fate. This is the kind of advice I can use.