Is it possible to be addicted to yoga?

I think I may have found my cult.  Everyone needs one in life and I’m pretty sure that I stumbled upon mine last week – BIKRAM YOGA: a huge sauna full of around 60 men and women all shapes and sizes in regimented rows, contorting themselves beyond reasonable limits in 40 degrees heat. It is just the level of complete resignation of pride and productive sadism that I have been searching for in a hobby.

I don’t have any photos to post as the steam and intensity would overwhelm any image making device and the seriously skimpy clothes that people are forced to wear, on account of the heat and humidity, lend an air of communal nudity to the whole experience – one that photography would take on a new level of meaning in documenting.

Bikram is a safe space where your body, in whatever shape it currently is, is fully accepted as a tool, to be moulded and bent, squeezed and scrunched.  Absolute beginners along with absolute fanatics are subjected to the same class, the same routine. The idea is that each session you push yourself further and further towards seemingly impossible goals, such as bending your torso down until it is fully flush with your thighs and your head is touching your toes etc.  The old timers, with their smooth skin, supple, cellulite free and extraordinarily flexible bodies set the level to aspire to and everyone else’s bodies are accepted as work in progress.  Sweating to the extent that droplets fall from you freely, forming wet patches on the towel placed on your little blue mat and unmitigated heavy breathing are necessary survival tactics and so fully accepted.  The genius of it is that intense heat increases the possibility of stretches, so long as you can avoid passing out or snapping, and so produces the feeling that the end goal (getting your head somewhere near your feet) is not in fact impossible, rather a matter of mindset…

Elation and invigoration are two words that near describe the sensation on emerging from these classes.  So far I have been 3 times in 2 weeks.  There are 6 classes a day, 7 days a week and they are all full.  (Payment for classes is monthly and includes unlimited attendance).  Thankfully I do not have an addictive personality.  Uhum.  I am, however, keeping up a high vigilance for signs of mind-washing and early dependency symptoms.  Please do alert me if you sense any that I have missed…

 See wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bikram_yoga, (I am aware of the bit about health risks)..

And a photo http://inside.nike.com/blogs/nikewomen-en_US/2008/11/21/the-bikram-yoga-challenge

[Disclaimer: Take this post with a pinch of salt. ]

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Wobbly legs and bus heroics

Daily life here still has the potential to amaze.  I am writing at this particular moment because a minor slip up on my part has rendered me pretty much chair ridden for what feels like may be the remainder of my bodily existence. This mess all stems from my desire to learn the fundamentals of ballet.  Dance could be combined with painting in some way so it I count it as artistic research.  An hour and a half of valiantly twizzling and springing up and down on the spot (whilst a tiny leotarded chihuahua ran amongst us (seriously)) has rendered my legs useless.  It should have dawned on me sooner, but feeling out of depth in dance classes is not unfamiliar to me so I did not realise my serious error until the very end.  Having signed up for an ABSOLUTE BEGINNERS class I had unwittingly ploughed straight into the ADVANCED beginners. Aaaarg.  Repetitive Strain, Repetitive Strain.   There is nothing less beautiful to watch than someone destroying a ballet dance. I am painfully aware of this, perhaps even more so than the intense throbbing in my legs.

Anyway, I will tell you a story of heroism to keep the mental images of my reflection in the ballet room mirror at bay. Picture a bus at rush hour, with bursting shopping bags, uncomfortably close proximities and public broadcasts of personal phone conversations. In this situation one individual’s problem becomes everyone’s.  Suddenly an elderly blind lady realises that she has missed her stop.  Things become awkward as people avoid the increasingly obvious – she needs someone to accompany her across the road to the other stop. But who in their right mind would sacrifice their fare and prolong their already tedious commute home? No one is doing anything, the lady’s distress escalating, and our guilt along with it.  Then the bus for the other direction comes into view. Time is running out. I wait for someone to act, keen to see how Americans deal with this situation. People shuffle and look distressed but nobody acts.

Suddenly, desperate to avoid the cynical observations of social psychology that are reeling in my head, I feel myself taking a stand. If the bus driver will wait I will walk her across the road to meet the other bus.  But it is already pulling away.  Now the whole bus load is rapt.  Our communal redemption depends on her reaching that bus.  Our driver blares his horn and pulls into the road, blocking the cars behind and drawing the oncoming bus to a halt.  Cars back up in both directions as I offer the lady my arm and we begin slowly edging our way across the road.  All eyes follow our feeble progress, agendas and timetables suspended. With one final hand up she was safely on her way, my role fulfilled.  Leaping back onto our original bus, acutely aware of the huge traffic upset that I have caused, I am greeted by cheers! The whole bus actually cheered! I felt like I was in a movie. Only in the states would this level of feel good drama be possible. I eagerly await my next journey. It is well worth the $2 entrance fee!

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Wondercon, Googling and heavy metal from an SF rooftop

I slipped up. It feels much like having neglected a puppy does (I imagine). Skulking back, unsure where to pick up and whether you can trust yourself not to screw up again, no matter how desperately you want to be the kind of person who can look after a pet, a plant, or something other than yourself…It seems to be a state of mind. Live blog live blog liveblog. Maybe this will be my mantra. Live blog live blog breath blog breath blog

After escaping a month-long stay in the hostel it feels amazing to have a real home to be a real San Franciscan in! I’m sharing a flat with a friend from uni, Barry, who is doing some things with a music label and artist management agency.  Having not spoken for 3 years we wouldn’t have had any idea that we were both here if a mutual friend hadn’t mentioned it the week before I left. A wee tour of the flat: Rooftop views (pic above) and an artist studio for me (or Barry, but happily, due to the unfortunate intimidation people feel about creativity it seems to be mine!) Painting whilst here is imperative now!


So, back to reporting. Each of these things deserve a post of their own but they seem to be integral to SF life so I am sure to return to them.  We toured Silicon Valley’s finest: Google  and Apple HQs. After a full tour of Google which felt more like a university campus/children’s wonderland, with kitchens of stocked fridges every 50 yards (a company policy), bowling alley and swimming pool we met a friend who builds Apple hardware for a drink (that is, once he had left the free friday afternoon beer festival put on for employees). The thing to note is that we were actually able to go for a drink with guys who work there- in these companies it is not enough to be a computer genius, you have to be excited about culture and people. You have to be cool to be geek here.  I am pretty sure that Silicon Valley will be responsible for the evolution of human brains. Here technology is an extension of your mind.  Oh that my brain was as smooth running as a Mac…

Other mind-opening events experienced: WONDERCON, a fantastical huge comic convention where we witnessed fully grown adults dressed as Buzz Lightyears, swinging lightsabers and reanacting fight scenes (not at the same time). I remain bemused. If anyone can explain this world to me please do.  And and and and my first METAL CONCERT. Momentus.  Helmet were headlining and we spoke to Page Hamilton, the lead vocal and guitarist, after the show. Once gaining control of my urge to swoon I could focus on his openness towards different genres. Basically creativity seems to be translatable across absolutely all seeming boundaries of genre and medium.

Next thing to wish for – a sun tan.

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Choices and more choices leads to muffin tops I fear!

Yesterday I met a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie with an oreo inside…

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Pomplamoose and even more digital life.

Life=digital is probably closer to the truth I think after last night’s events.  We went to an event at the ‘Disposable Film Festival’ http://disposablefilmfest.com– a festival that creates a forum for and celebrates the creative potential for shortvideo making of everyday devices such as mobile phones and pocket cameras. Pomplemoose, an indie duo who don’t tour or have a record label and have a huge fan base purely as a result of posting videosongs on Youtube, gave a workshop on how they make them. (I still don’t really get what the difference between a songvideo and a video song is but it seems to be a casual introduction to a song that you can post easily on Youtube, without it having to be perfect or big budget). Then they performed and the audience were asked to film with whatever device we had with us, which will now all be collected and edited into a collaborative videosong..This is what the audience looked like.  It felt a little strange. Live performance being filtered through cameras. Imagine playing to a room full of people watching you through their cameras… aaarg!

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Life=Interactive

There is something very different about the way that people think here.  Perhaps it is to do with the weather.  Interactivity seems to be the big idea. When it is sunny you can be open to the elements, try things without suffering stifling repercussions. Like going outside, talking to people, trying things that you cannot guarantee will work… There are so many links between different disciplines that I don’t think would happen in Britain as readily.  For example the joining of cyber world with art and life. I have just discovered that computer games are the art form of the future. Tentative fact. There is an organisation, Grey Area Foundation for the Arts, that’s mission statement is to ‘foster social consciousness through digital culture’, through working with digital specialists, local artists and the community to share ideas, perspectives and skills. I went to a free Apple centre workshop on classical composition using purely digital based samples. The store felt like a social gathering, with people ‘hanging out’ and trying the free lectures and workshop series. (They were even asking for ideas for workshop topics).  I found out last night that Lady Gaga and many other musicians play free gigs for Google workers at camp Google when they are here on tour… Digital technology and life are seriously entwined.

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More music: Audiofauna

I saw audiofauna live on their visit to SF from Santa Cruz (where they are from) and thought they were brilliant. Worth a listen on myspace. 5 piece soul, folk, digital ish.. (any tips on how to describe music gratefully appreciated) http://www.myspace.com/audiafauna

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