Strange in the familiar • 13 November 2008

Full moon ashtangi date: flow class in Venice and lunch next door at “Rawvolution.” Give me a break already: it’s a Wednesday; it’s gorgeous; I’m working from home and the full moon is strong on the tides of the Pacific and my hyperactivity. Also my companion’s been exiled to Florida for months, working the Obama ground game: even winning campaigns leave the rank and file with PTSD (I would know), so she needs all the asana and raw roughage she can get this week.

I walk in to the grand old flagship studio of YogaFranchise. The room is vast and airy, full of sea air and lit with skylights. The front row, with an empty space waiting, is a line of cheating ashtangis, easing their rippling flanks toward the sklights like Amazons before the hunt. Horrible! What the hell are we doing here? We’ll frighten the natives for sure. Alone this would be ok but I’m not the only one in the tribe unstill this fullmoon Wednesday.

Class is fine, taught by someone with his own website stocked with acting stills, a hometown boy bio and many, many, many headshots. Got to make your name in YogaFranchise land like the rest of em, if that’s your game. (When an artist purchased my to sell “energetic portraits” featuring enneagrams and shaman imagery, I guess my own window for yoga namesmaking closed. That website is NOT ME, I swear! I don't do energetic portraits, phrenology or entrail readings. No.)

YogaFranchise is just a business—it works by its own rules and generates its own culture. Fine. But, returning there, I perceive all the strange in the familiar. There’s a churn in the room—a grasping involvement in glamour and wanting-it-ness. Seen from a distance, it’s just the froth of cresting scensterism, but on the inside there is added an eros, anxiety and great expectation in it that jack up the emotion and all-out WANT. People wanting to “make it,” people wanting to have each other as part of that project, people tense to be magazineready.

So normal, right? But also: not normal. The selfhood of demi-celebrity has a special anxiety: it is a shared eros and vanity pulsing in the sticky-sweetness of that old room where decades ago CM first taught ashtanga in this town. For me, there is a sensitivity to the content of the minds of others that I may or may not gather the fortitude to document here: the churn is not my projection but part of the scene as other minds are creating it. Wish I could write it off as the former, but no. 🙂

Susananda has me thinking that demystification of the “false awakenings” is good: the new kind of knowing and the times you can play with your energy are wonderful but also nothing important. No need to rely on stupid magical thinking nor self-flattering elisions to (not) speak of them. No need to leave these things locked inside Himalayas and hierarchies, shrouded in mystery and ice. But moving out of that is scary and I might mess up or attract the usual kali yuga idiocy.

At Rawvolution the woman at the counter, who wandered around confused for a full five minutes before taking our order, exclaimed my name. What? “Remember me from two years ago? Well I’m raw now.” Yes I see. She had lost much of the fleshy contours of the old face and easily 10 sizes. And a little something more than that, like the raw PB&J we ordered (more like wilted apple slices on a delicate layer of particle board, and a good thing we went back to the kitchen to retrieve it because it tasted like pie and gave me a buzz that made mid-day freeway driving a little too fun). My old acquaintance was pretty good at gathering subject, verb and predicate into sentence-size utterances, so she’s doing better than my dear Sarah P. But the trick of corralling a complete thought—something she did so adroitly and with critical wit in 2006—has dissolved with her adipose tissue. Scary. I came home and ate oatmeal before I got back to writing. Sorry to say, but while the lightly machinating Venice angels may hate or fear the complex bulk-bin carb, it’s what keeps my world immanent and rational mind online. Immanence and rationality—strangers in Venice's good old sun-drenched familiar. I would have gotten lost if I had not regained them in a yoga that’s more pathway than roughage churn.


  • Posted 13 November 2008 at 2:12 pm | #

    Sometimes California is so strange.

  • meniscusmerangue
    Posted 13 November 2008 at 2:51 pm | #

    Mercifully, I don’t really understand the above blog entry. Apart from the bit about ‘rippling amazons’. Quite partial to that image, actually.

  • meniscusmerangue
    Posted 13 November 2008 at 3:19 pm | #

    Oh, there’s another thing. After the churn, one should drink (but not swallow) whatever comes up. So we’re told.

  • /
    Posted 13 November 2008 at 3:27 pm | #

    The way you describe ashtanga in LA reminds me a lot of ballet in NY. Ever read any dancers’ autobiographies? You get it.

    I’m glad you’re talking about your pineal gland. I’d like to be able to isolate that and feel it. 😉

  • Posted 13 November 2008 at 6:00 pm | #

    oops that was me, obv.

  • susananda
    Posted 13 November 2008 at 10:38 pm | #

    I used to try to ‘do something’ with that stuff, but concluded it’s no use and just to watch. It happens or not.. but my big things now are mula bandha and ajna chakra, those I can work on.

    And I love the poetry of this entry and totally get the ‘churn’.

  • Posted 14 November 2008 at 4:52 am | #

    How can we drink but not swallow the shadow elements?

    The elusive glands! I once watched an entire pituitary gland surgery. They took the guy’s nose off. Removed a huge tumor from around the gland. Reconstructed his sinuses as a favor when they finished.

    Kind of demystified some things.

    But Susananda, be careful with that ajna chakra…!

  • Posted 14 November 2008 at 4:56 am | #

    Rippling amazons… a good ashtangi is like an entropic tribalist (with shamanic tendencies) but also like a river in slow motion, smoothly surfacing debris from its undercurrents.

  • meniscusmerangue
    Posted 14 November 2008 at 9:29 am | #

    Or its underpants

  • V
    Posted 14 November 2008 at 4:14 pm | #

    I agree with the comment above 😀

  • Posted 14 November 2008 at 7:48 pm | #

    Hee hee, I just came back from assisting tonight, lead primary. It was quite musical. I think they must be polishing off ham sandwiches moments before class begins.

  • Posted 15 November 2008 at 2:26 am | #

    Zero to scatological in nine comments. Our endurance is waning….I’m guessing Friday evening class is brutal the world over. Even wheatgrass is musical out here in SoCal (so much fiber in those raw vegetable juices…).

    Just to be totally boring, I’m going to listen to this now and do some laundry. (Actually, so far the Thurman interview is adorable. I’m sure they get to farts and charnel grounds in the section on ethics…)

  • jlafitte
    Posted 15 November 2008 at 11:39 pm | #

    Scatological lead primary, hm. Something I just read said 90% of yoga is waste removal… But then, silver intermediate? Titanium advanced a?

    Owl, about the misappropriated domain name. You’re a .org, not a .com — grab it while you can.

  • Posted 17 November 2008 at 4:09 am | #

    This is a very good question, LaFitte.

    There should be a periodic table of asanas.


    http://www.insideowl.cog (in the machine)
    http://www.insideowl.orb (crystal ball)

  • meniscusmerangue
    Posted 17 November 2008 at 10:18 am | #

    Tat Twas eaten by ants…

  • Posted 20 November 2008 at 5:42 pm | #


  • jlafitte
    Posted 21 November 2008 at 1:47 am | #

    Y’know I read that post back when and thought, right on. Yoga was once an oral tradition. After the Great Collapse it will yet again be. And it will be up to some of us to carry on. The Yoga will not be televised. Om Nama Shivaya.

  • Posted 21 November 2008 at 5:03 am | #

    Om Nama Shivaya.

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