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A “Jubliant Sweat-Fest”

February 7, 2013

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It is Thursday night and I’m going to abstain from physical activities today after I was crowned the dancing queen of San Francisco last night. In lieu of my much needed physical exercise, I’m going to exercise my mind…as always, for your benefit.

Since arriving to San Francisco I’ve been struggling to ascertain what exactly is going on in the yoga scene out here. What I have uncovered so far is that almost no one dares to say that “yoga is not for them.” No, no, that would be very un-California. One must have a healthy body, but more importantly a healthy mind-spirit…or spirit-mind. Anyway, I’ve said that there doesn’t seem to be quite the concentration of yoga studios here that I was once used to, and even so it seems like the yoga studios that I’ve visited don’t seem to support my “California Yoga Theory.” Where are all of these Californian devotees practicing? Until yesterday I was at a loss, but alas, today I have some answers. Hold tight, today’s post will be another one of those looong ones. Read more…

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But, it just feels like home.

February 1, 2013

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Recently I have returned to a rigorous exercise routine because I’m not really comfortable with my “comfort body,” if you know what I mean. Amidst the company of formidable exercise routines such as Physique 57 and “running” is the group yoga class, to which I’ve recently returned. Many people (celebs abound!) tout yoga as their physical/mental savior. Ne’er would I state the contrary, but perhaps only adjust the methods…

Anywho, group yoga classes…after my years of training ended, so ended my romance with group yoga classes. I largely declined going to them as I found fault with almost every teacher (and yet, hoping my interaction in a group setting would be BECAUSE I was the teacher.) I dabbled intermittently, but nothing has really taken with me in about a year in either New York or San Francisco. I don’t want to say that there is a particular studio or class that has actually reeled me in (as of yet) but I think it is safe to say that I’m on the prowl.

I used to LOVE group classes (granted, I did not know there was another option.) Now, isolated from a yoga community, I am once again relishing my time with “like minded” individuals. It is so refreshing to be in the company of people united toward one goal, even if it is small and temporary. There is a palpable energy in the space in time that is a yoga class. The energy level itself tends to vary, but there is something greater that is a constant. I’ve been semi-regularly attending classes at Satori downtown and have very much enjoyed myself. I surely get a much more varied class than I do for myself, which is in and of itself refreshing, but there is something more that is less tangible. I’m having trouble defining it but on the surface it feels positive.

Having the initial feeling of a positive nature I hesitate to (gasp) examine this feeling too closely…but…could it be ego? (double gasp!)

There are many different individuals that might attend the same yoga class at any one time so it is hard to say. These people represent diverse backgrounds, goals and abilities…but could the one item that unites be ego? Why do we go to yoga classes? Is it not for some self betterment? If it isn’t, then kudos to you Siddartha. I can only speak for myself, but I practice solely for self improvement. At present, I can’t even utter the word “liberation” without a shuddering realization that it is a fairytale for yours truly. So, I go to yoga classes to improve and even in my greatly diminished state I can seem to find some reason to think that my awesomeness is apparent in a group setting. Perhaps my pathetic weak legs cannot make it for sustained periods in warrior 2, but check my grace. I’m excellent. My body’s tightness and weakness has been humbling in recent months, but I still seem to feel like I “shine” and during a group yoga class and there are people there to ensure that I will try and to see the results.

The above is probably the pessimist’s guide to life. Perhaps like minded individuals are our best mirrors and guides for self improvement. Maybe together, we all become better. Maybe in the short time we commune, we improve as a group and improve the world on the whole. Perhaps my imperfections become yours (sorry!), and yours mine, but more importantly we share each other’s strengths and beauty. 

Dharma Chameleon’s strength is not in answers, but in questions. Apologies. All I know is that I’ll be coming to a studio near you in the near future…to share…my virtues? my ego? who knows; its a mixed bag.

Rolling in their graves..

January 16, 2013

ImageWhat would I do without Yoga Journal’s inevitable fodder for my DC rants? Somewhere in India two very well known yoga gurus are a-rollin in their graves. (Do they bury in India? If not, then this is figurative…anyway)

Today whilst waiting for a yoga class I came across this advert and nearly died from shock (and then, nearly everyone around me died from boredom while I ranted). Apparently the remaining heirs to the Jois (Ashtanga) throne have decided to start a yoga apparel line. OMG.

Please, let westerners ruin yoga. Ashtanga is supposed to be serious yoga. How am I supposed to take it seriously if they’re like “Welcome to our workshop on the yoga sutras, have you seen our new clothing line? They really flatter your ashtangi body.” I really want to rant hard on this but let me just say that Indian culture still is a culture of modesty and these outfits wouldn’t even be permitted by a traditional Indian yoga instructor. Also, it seems to nudge at the fact that there is a specific way one should dress while practicing yoga…ugghhhhh. Nothing gets under my skin like ego-conscious fashion while you’re trying to shed your ego.

Get over yourselves. You too, LuluLemon. 

Shame Shame Shame

January 2, 2013

bad photoshopping

Many months ago I was sitting in a yoga studio and there was a pile of yoga magazines. (Who knew that there were other publications besides Yoga Journal?) I suspected as much, but I had never seen proof of their existence.  Well, I’m sorry to say that I found the non-Goliaths to be somewhat lacking. Ok, fair enough, I didn’t really READ any of the articles, but I’m more of the picture book sort anyway. Since I’m generally only looking at pictures, this horrendous little photoshop botch did not escape my eagle eyes.

If you’ll kindly direct your eyes to the leg in the foreground of the picture you will see that some careless photo magician shaved off this lady’s ass and leg. Good lord, she looks like a freak show! By comparison to the leg in the background, I can surely see that this grasshopper leg is not how God intended.  Was there some sort of unsightly bulge on this 100 lb individual that they couldn’t possibly publish? She’s contorted for chrissakes! There is bound to be some displaced flesh. Let sleeping dogs lie. I really want to say that this was an article about self esteem or something highly ironic like that but the reality of the situation is that I was incensed by this picture and meant to blog about it but lost my motivation. Now, many months later, I can’t properly shame whichever off-brand yoga publication did this, nor can I remember what the article was claiming these specific poses can do to improve your life.

I would like to gently remind the yoga community that yoga should be for every-body. There isn’t a specific way one should look to practice yoga…and therefore I can’t see any reason to get all photoshoppy about it.

Defunct Chameleon

December 30, 2012

NYE Chameleon

Several months have passed now since my glorious relocation to the West coast and with those months it would seem went my resolve to continue to “inform” the yoga community via Dharma Chameleon. The long hours spent on this blog, however, do occasionally come to mind and bring a smile to my face, and so as a present to both you (dear reader) and me, I’ve decided to re-rejuvenate Dharma Chameleon for the year 2013.

I say re-rejuvenate because I’ve had some pretty serious lapses in Dharma Chameleoning since 2009. It’s hard to believe that this could be the 5th year of Dharma Chameleon. Holy Cowmeleons!

When this blog was started it was being penned by two yoga enthusiasts, both very loyal to the Bikram style. Fast forward a few years and Jennifer is now an enthusiast (and a MA of) Urban Planning and I’m a 500hr certified yoga teacher that teaches absolutely 0 classes. My how times change. The mission of this blog has changed over time. When the two of us took to the blog-o-sphere it was with untamed (and uninformed) enthusiasm for yoga. After the DC became solely my passion, the blog took a turn toward being predominantly about different outlets for yoga around NYC and wherever I happened to travel. I think that, perhaps, why the blog has laid so sadly silent for many months now is that it is without a mission.

After I graduated from my most recent training in NYC in February, my life became about relocating and restarting. Once I got out to San Francisco it was about laying roots down far far away from home. Now, 8 months later, facing the start of a new year, I feel that my roots are sufficiently laid down. Now what? What of me and yoga? What of me and yoga and Dharma Chameleon and the rest of the world?

I could do more of the same; tour the studios of San Fran, comment endlessly on things that piss me off or make me happy about yoga…but it seems that the blog craves some revision. I may need to think on this one for a while, but rest assured this won’t be the last you hear from me. Muwhahaha.

The Yoga of Inclusion

July 2, 2012

Since moving to San Francisco, I don’t feel like a part of much. My mom asked me the other day who I was going to lunch with and I told her, “duh Mom, I don’t have any friends. I’m obviously going to lunch by myself.” Pathetic as it seems, the once gregarious social butterfly has been crudely reduced to the solitary kid holding it down by her lonesome at the corner lunch table.

It is my personal belief that humans are total pack animals and that we’re generally looking for some level of inclusion and assimilation. I’ll tell you for sure that this particular human is longing for her many compadres that she left behind in Brooklyn. Feeling like you’re on the outside of the joke is definitely uncomfortable for the majority of people, and yet, sometimes I feel like this even happens in a yoga class.

I can’t say how many times I’ve been to an “open” level class that includes some of the hardest poses, or assumes the pace of an olympic sprinter. I’m 27 years old and am in generally good health and I’m a yoga teacher – this stuff is even challenging for me. From years of observation I can safely say that most people are not acrobats, carni-folk or even skilled athletes. Push ups are very hard for most people, especially people inhabiting the female body structure – we’re just not built that way. Knees and backs often give people a whole fun variety of troubles. For teachers to assume that people they have no prior knowledge of will benefit from hanumanasana (fancy name for a split) is beyond my comprehension. And you know what is worse than this presumption? The fact that almost EVERYONE in a class with such poses will make an earnest attempt to get into them. I have been this person (but my unattainable pose is kurmasana, among others) and I’m willing to bet that most people that have been to a yoga class have too.

Unless, lucky for you, you’re an already perfectly formed and enlightened human being (I am not) then you probably feel social awkwardness and possible humiliation from time to time. You also feel peer pressure, and competition. I don’t think that these should be present in the yoga room, if possible. It’s hard to formulate the thought, completely, that I’m kicking around here but I’m almost feeling like these really hard poses should never be taught in a group class. Even if you called it “impossible pose” class then you would still have people showing up there thinking they could “hang in there” and in reality they’re completely on another planet as far as ability goes. The minute the teacher of an “open” level group class offers a hard variation almost half of the room seems to leave the relative comfort and function of the prior pose to try their hand at something they’re just not ready for. It almost seems like the proper venue for contortionist style poses is either a private lesson, or a home practice. There, and perhaps only there, can it be a constructive learning experience that builds focus, attention, endurance, strength and dedication. Otherwise, it just seems like the “look at me show.”

Don’t get me wrong, complicated poses serve a purpose. They are fun, for one and they can show discipline and build confidence for those lacking…but  frequently, I think that they’re application is somehow misguided.  Ok, rant concluded…sort of.

Recently, I ended a month long exploration of the offerings of Yoga Tree. They were expansive beyond my ability to get there and try them all out, but I was able to gather a few very different experience there. A few teachers that I practiced with, were something of facilitators for the above rant. When I go to a yoga class I don’t want to go to an exclusive club, wait behind the velvet rope for hours, only to eventually resort to bribing the rather unfriendly bouncer and still be turned away. I want to go to tree house; organic, breezy and not even possessing of a door . There was at the least, one very lovely teacher at Yoga Tree, running her classes with a beautiful and somewhat rare principal of inclusion.  Jean Mazzei‘s class was an immediate draw to me because she studied the BMC technique, which I find to be oh-so-good. She is teaching two classes at Yoga Garden, and one of them is called Ageless Yoga. I figured, from the name, that it would be populated by septo-genarians. And, in part, it was…but somehow this was even more appealing to me. The class had a definite feeling of community, complete with people of all ages, sizes and shapes. Everyone introduced themselves, if not just to be friendly, then for the benefit of a visually impaired student. The class itself wasn’t even easy, but the difference was that the class was being taught on a very general level so that everyone could access and work to their own unique edge. Jean is also funny and open, which I think makes everyone feel instantly comfortable, and like they can shed some of their own self consciousness. My training is a path toward yoga therapy, so I’m happy to see classes  being taught this way. I also think, that if most people could step out of their egos they would probably prefer such methods also. (Pardon my gross generalizing,  not everyone with the ability to do advanced postures is an ego maniac…but a lot are!)

Look, I’m just saying, ego mania isn’t really a good group activity. Now, if  you’ll excuse me, I need to go and practice my pinca mayurasana. ciao for now, lovelies.

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Jyoti Nataraj!

June 8, 2012
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I was trolling the antique stores in Santa Cruz when I came upon this “Natarajasana” lamp. It is still available…surprisingly I did pass on it!