Thursday, 3 June 2010

Yoga and the common man - or woman!

Have you ever tried yoga?
“Dear God in heaven,” says your man up in Pearl River. “What’s he on about now? The clergy are not going to stand for this!”
Not to worry. I’m well in with the nuns. One informed me recently that the whole convent thinks I’m “right gas.”
If that’s not enough, I’m a nephew of a Columban father who spent most of his life in the “Far East.” Did I ever tell you about the speech he gave at my sister’s wedding?
Back then the priest’s oration usually lasted a good 10 minutes - and you with the tongue hanging out for want of a drink.
Well, Father Jim slowly rose to his feet, raised his glass (he was more than partial to a drop of the other). Silence descended on the Talbot Hotel as, at a glacial speed, he addressed the bride and groom. “You will meet many mountains in life. Don’t climb all of them, walk around a few.”
With that, he took a big slug out of his Jameson’s, slid back down into his chair and blew a series of intricate smoke rings across the table
“Best bloody sermon I ever heard.” My atheist father punctured the pregnant silence.
But I digress. Very gingerly now, bend over and see if you can touch your toes. If you can’t, yoga’s your man.
I got turned on to it by my ex-partner in crime, Pierce Turner, still a hard-core devotee. Back in the Turner & Kirwan of Wexford days, at the height of our 20 minute dizzying deconstruction of The Foggy Dew, Pierce would jam a piece of cardboard into the keys of his Moog Synthesizer thereby looping a thunderous, electronic caterwauling; he would then kick off his biker boots, and do a headstand against the stage wall, the occasional toe protruding through a holey sock. I’m tellin’ you, boy, those were the days when rockers feared neither critics nor gravity!
I’m a much more hit and miss yoga practitioner myself: two or three times a week and for no more than 30 minutes a shot. Nor am I a big one for chanting OM or staring at the cracks in the wall, although a minute or two of banishing various misfortunes through meditation is not to be sneered at.
Basically yoga is all about having a good stretch – much in the way a dog or cat does after a nap. And you don’t see too many overweight, undersexed, neurotic dogs or cats making the rounds, do you?
I’ve a friend who swears that if everyone did the exercise known as the Sun Salutation, we could cut national health costs by 10%. He has a point. I’ve never known a regular sun saluter to have any kind of back problem.
Toss in the Shoulder Stand; for some reason this asana activates the thyroid gland which seems to lessen the craving for food – kind of like being on a diet without dieting.
Having any trouble in the sex department?
“Oh now, there he goes,” nods Pearl River. “My mother reads this paper and she doesn’t want to be confronted with this class of nonsense.”
Are you kidding me? As soon as you’ve snuck off to Flemings for a pint she’ll be locked into the Cobra Pose like there was no tomorrow. Have a go yourself, won’t cost you a penny and you can dose the greyhound with your unused Viagra.
All joking aside, yoga – like everything else – provides different strokes for different folks; and it’s never too late to start. My only warning is hasten slowly – you’ve got the rest of your life, and overdoing it or competing with anyone else – or yourself – can lead to strained muscles and aching joints.
You don’t like attending classes? Not my cup of tea either, but I usually enjoy them when I’m there.
Not to worry - there are hundreds of books on the subject – my favorite is the most basic: Richard Hittleman’s Yoga – 28 Day Exercise Plan. Take four months rather than four weeks and it will restore pep to your step. Or ask a friend to show you the ropes: you’ll be surprised at how many can twist their ankles around the backs of their necks - they just don’t let on.
And while you’re at it, say a prayer for Fr. Jim, and watch out for those mountains. They’re as steep as ever, so make sure you walk around a couple.

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