In case you were wondering, I’ve been practicing yoga since around age 15 in the late ’90’s. I went through the Yoga Teacher Training 200 hour program in 2012 ,and I’ve been teaching ashtanga/kundalini in the evenings at my local gym one night a week to supplement my day job.
Yoga is a big part of who I am, but it doesn’t define me or my religious beliefs. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Henry David Thoreau talks quite a bit about yoga in Walden; he alludes to The Bhagavad Gita, The Vedas, and a handful of Hindu pantheon of gods. Even the Walden Pond water was outsourced to parts of India in the winter time via ice blocks to resupply the holy Ganges River. Yep, that puritan would’ve been great at doing some Hot Yoga in his Tiny House when the Concord, Massachusetts, summer heated things up a bit. Thoreau could have admired his svelte, yoga-toned body in the looking glass if he were a modern-day yogi. It seems we “modern-day yogis” are encapsulated with the external rewards of yoga alone and not the spiritual or existential benefits from which it originally stemmed.
Having said that, I too am guilty of pimping out my yoga practice as just exercise, and being over 30, I’m starting to develop body-image issues as I age. All it takes is a glance at Yoga Journal‘s cover or a stop in lululemon’s store to make me feel like a fat failure. And I’m a teacher. Yes, kids, this is what you get. Yoga teachers have issues with their bodies too.
Last night, I stumbled upon an episode of HBO’s Enlightened on Amazon Prime called “Sandy,” guest-starring Robin Wright. If you haven’t been living under a rock, you would know RW from The Princess Bride, Forrest Gump, and most recently Netflix’s House of Cards.
On “Sandy,” RW was visiting the main character, Amy Jellicoe, who is played by the wonkily-lithe Laura Dern. Sandy flew into California for a yoga intensive seminar and she was staying at Amy’s house. The two ladies met in a Hawaiian rehab for people who had nervous breakdowns from stress. They reconnected on the episode and first off took to eat some organic vegan gelato while they shopped at a New Age holistic health food store, like all of us yogis do regularly. 🙂 Jk sorta…
Sandy’s character had been a government employee for over twenty years, but she suffered a mental breakdown from overpowering stress that comes with the job. She became a yoga teacher and masseuse as an alternative career change. I don’t blame her, but I would sure miss the government benefits!
Like all good yoga teachers do, Sandy gave a free class to Amy in her home. (Technically, it was Amy’s mother’s house because Amy’s character is broke from a divorce. Plus rehab put her $24,000 in debt. It sounds like our buddy Amy wasn’t too good at the whole frugaling and minimalism thing.)
In the episode, Sandy seems to be a minimalist, in dress, food, and deed. She lives her yoga teacher credo in all aspects of her life, living mindfully and consciously choosing to do right for her body. I wish I had that kind of discipline. She even makes delicious looking plant smoothies after lecturing Amy’s mom about eating too much processed food. Consequently, Sandy gets kicked out of Amy’s mom’s house for annoying her and being too hippy dippy.
The whole episode struck a chord with me. I know that the episode is fiction but RW really carried off the character of Sandy as a yoga teacher. She embodied the “natural” yoga teacher look with little or no makeup and very simple clothes. She has very little accessories on, maybe a spiritual necklace and a rudraksha-beaded bracelet.
When she travelled via plane, Sandy only had one hippy-looking duffel bag in which she kept her purse and a yoga mat. How sparsely packed she was! A true minimalist can only hope to achieve this layer of ease when flying. Sandy’s only means of entertainment was a thick, leather journal, prescribed by rehab to keep up with her therapy. Dipstick Amy admitted she had not been journaling much since her re-entry into the normal, stressful world. She even attempts to sneak a peek at Sandy’s journal later on when she’s mad at her.
Spoiler: At the end of the episode, we find out that Sandy’s journal was filled with floral drawings and no heavy Dear-Diary entries.
Nevertheless, should we all strive to be more like Sandy when we travel? This fictitious yoga teacher didn’t get so jetlagged that she sprung for the airport hotdog or binged on local craft beers to help her sleep. Hell! she even tried to help Amy’s mom detox her own diet. Sandy wore the same jeans the whole episode with some airy, tunic tops or light yoga togs. I’ll bet Sandy didn’t even have a hefty makeup bag in her duffel bag, but rather some coconut oil and organic chapstick. A hairdryer? Forget about it. This yogi air-dried her tresses. Sandy truly embodied the “yoga teacher” look.
As for detachment? She nailed it. Departing from Amy didn’t make Sandy cry at all when she was dropped off at the airport, even though Amy wanted to text her and run after her like they were lovers or something. I guess it was a case of unrequited friendship.
Namaste, minimalist Sandy!
“It is desirable that a man be clad so simply that he can lay his hands on himself in the dark, and that he live in all respects so compactly and preparedly, that, if an enemy take the town, he can, like the old philosopher, walk out the gate empty-handed without anxiety.” -Henry David Thoreau, Walden
“Travel light, live light, spread the light, be the light.” -Yogi Bhajan