May 16, 2014

Public Displays of Pranayama & Other Yogic Misadventures. ~ Wayne Silverman


“Honey, you’re scaring people. I think that man over there is calling 911!”

While on a short (much too short) weekend trip  to the beach with my wife, I wanted to seize the opportunity to attempt—once again—to do some beach yoga. I also hoped that I could get a few good yoga photos on the sand with the ocean as a backdrop.

I really envy other yogis who have great beach yoga photos to put up on social media, but I find the process of yoga on the beach…well…abrasive!

I spread out my towel and soon, having done only a few warm-up poses, I found my body had been infiltrated by sand that had somehow found it’s way into places where no one wants sand. This discovery led me to quickly give up on the idea of beach yoga pictures altogether. Yikes!

My body was telling me that I needed to do at least a short practice, so I continued, managing a few backbends, and then a few forward bends. I didn’t even attempt to invert for fear of where the sand might settle next… and then, I jumped in the ocean for a clean-off plunge.

Returning to our blanket I sat down in half-lotus and began a round of kapalabhati.  I typically do kapalabhati in rounds of 100 for two or three cycles. I’ve done this as part of my regular practice for the past few months and consider it a normal part of my routine.

But, apparently, not everyone is ready to accept kapalabhati as I am.

“Ah yes! Pranayama on the beach, taking in all these positive ions from the sea breezes,” I thought to myself…70, 71,72 …then I hear my wife’s voice saying, “Honey, you’re scaring people. I think that man over there is calling 911!”

At the end of my first round of a hundred,  I opened my eyes just enough to see a small crowd of people down the beach standing and starring; apparently wondering what all the huffing and puffing was about. I could just imagine what they were thinking and maybe saying among themselves in their little group:

“Is he having a seizure? A heart attack? Why is he sitting there doing that?”

I chuckled silently to myself and closed my eyes, emptied my mind, and ignored the gawkers while I continued my breathing for two more cycles of 100. When I again looked around, the group had dispersed and we were pretty much alone on the beach again.

I found it interesting that no one on the beach that day thought anything about my camel pose , parivrtta janu sirsasana or upavistha konasana. I guess the media’s depiction of yoga (and therefore the knowledge available to those who don’t practice) stops at asana. They just  thought “Oh, he’s doing yoga,” and thought no more of it.

But, (apparently) the practice of pranayama is still unknown outside of practitioners.

Which left me thinking that there is still a great opportunity for more (and better) education to non-practitioners about what yoga is. While I was hoping that one of the people in the group on the beach (perhaps the guy my wife thought was calling 911) would have wandered over and asked what I was up to—none of them did.

I’m not convinced that there would be a positive reception to anything as “new” as pranayama unless the listener was ready to receive the message.

Unfortunately, fear, rather than learning, ruled the day. Perhaps, next time someone will be open-minded enough to walk up and ask me what it is I’m doing. Or, perhaps, I’ll find it in myself to be braver and try some positive outreach.

I wonder if all the bystanders went home and told their friends about the crazy guy on the beach….I suppose if they did that’s a start—perhaps a slightly humorous and  inauspicious one—but a start.

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