Bending over backwards

Nandini Krishnan can't step into a house without encountering someone trying to stand on his or her head

Bending over backwards
It’s official. There’s no place in the world for people who don’t do yoga. You can’t even call it ‘yoga’ these days, because saying you “do yoga” is sort of like saying you “work” when someone asks what you do for a living. No, you need the specifics now. “I do Bikram yoga.” “I do Ashtanga yoga.” “I’m from the Sivananda school of yoga.” “Iyengar yoga.” There are as many genres as there are sandwiches, and your loyalties must be cemented.

We all know that no Eastern concept is worth anything until it has travelled to the West and ricocheted to elite circles in its land of origin. Yoga has carved its own niche, thanks to the expatriates who flock into India to find themselves and then return to their homes, richer from months of saving dollars and pounds, to set up expensive studios that promise ‘holistic’-something. It doesn’t matter what the noun is, as long as the adjective is ‘holistic’.

[quote]We all know no Eastern concept is worth anything until it has travelled to the West and ricocheted to elite circles in its land of origin[/quote]

And so, everyone I know is doing yoga these days – the cokeheads, the runners, the gymmers and swimmers, the actors, the writers, the pregnant and un-pregnant, bankers and housewives, hell...even doctors. You can’t step into a house without encountering someone trying to stand on his or her head.

I have nothing against yoga that I don’t have against any other form of morning entertainment. I’m nocturnal. It annoys me to see people waddle about with rolled-up mats under their arms and leotards hugging their paunches before I go to sleep. It annoys me equally to see people flapping their arms and jogging with iPods in their ears before I go to sleep.

My own stints with yoga have been mixed. It was compulsory in my school, and I had the distinction of being a super-flexible fat kid. It was fun to show off just how easily I could bend over backwards, and how far I could twist my limbs without spraining them. It wasn’t fun to have my cricket-ball-sized cheeks pinched when my chubby arms were too busy supporting my spine to fend off the attack.

When I retired, at 25, it seemed natural to pursue yoga – because I had the time, and because that’s what retired people do. This stint turned out to be somewhat less fortuitous. Towards the end of a month-long course, sleep-deprived and lightheaded, I fell over backwards and apparently hit my head on the concrete floor. Yes, trust me to fall outside the confines of my generously proportioned yoga mat.

[quote]It doesn't matter what the noun is, as long as the adjective is 'holistic'.[/quote]

Not only did I fall, but also had a concussion to show for it. My memories of the day play out like a cheesy Bollywood montage. Random fat people crowding over me, thrusting water-bottles in my face. My friend and her brother asking me to wait while they fetched their car. A phone call from the friend, who asked anxiously where I was. My realisation that I was back home, and had no memory of either falling or driving myself back. Being taken to a scan centre to have my head examined. One of my brothers leaving the house because he got tired of my knocking on his door every few minutes to ask what had happened, and why I had no memory of it.

In retrospect, it was one of the best trips I have been on, and I’ve been on a few. But sending people on such trips, at the prospective cost of their memories and possibly lives, doesn’t seem to be the key focus of yoga. Here they gave such types of games as applications and see online friv games, that are played on the devices and gadgets, such as laptops, mobile phones, and other ones. Many of these friv games can be found on various websites and some of them are free.


Apparently – and ironically – the focus of yoga as a whole appears to shift regularly. At one point, it was about inner peace. Now, it’s about sweating. And when that goes out of fashion, it will probably be about nudity. Yep. While the spiritually awakened hippies have made yoga fashionable again, they have also re-linked it to tantra and everything mysterious about India – in other words, sex.

I read an article about a New York studio called “Bold and Naked” – full points for creativity, yo – that has started a series of “nagna yoga” classes. It took me a while to figure out that that was a corruption of “nanga yoga”, which sounds so hilarious that I actually want it to become a trend. One of its bold and naked practitioners came up with this howler – “When we’re naked, it’s like we’re all the same.” I mean...I mean...really, what better way could there be of spotting the differences between any two people than getting them to strip?

I did realise she had a point when I read that those classes cost twenty five dollars a session. If you’re going to pay someone a premium fee in order to strike postures in the nude, yeah, you probably all have at least one thing in common – your IQ.