Saturday, April 18, 2009

there's yoga ...... and then there's tata

i wish i'd known more about tata, the tata group, the enormous indian corporation that birjoo works for, prior to last weekend's yoga workshop. actually, it's probably good that i didn't know more about it or i'd likely have voiced my concerns about the recurring car analogies more consistently, more loudly, and have ended up thrown out of the workshop.

birjoo is an amazing yoga teacher, there's no doubt. i blogged previously about some of his teachings, those that really resonated with me, the ones i could remember. i learned and remembered a lot, but information overload being what it is ...

on the final day of the four day yoga workshop, after experimenting with the chakra sounds, learning to find the centre line from the inside by imagining another face on the back of our heads and another body extending out behind us, after lots of warm up and preparation, we were encouraged to find our best back bends. birjoo offered help to those who wanted to reach for the floor from a standing position, a first time for some, and then we tried various balancing poses and learned some magic restorative healing postures for such ailments as parkinson's and asthma.

i have no regrets about attending the workshop. it left me with lots to think about .... including concerns about what's going on in capitalist india and how the corporate head space will merge with the ancient one.

a friend of mine, who lived in india for 20 years, tells me that their culture is definitely changing. young indians are now reaching for the material world, as are so many around the world who've previously been denied it. it's tempting, there's no doubt .... all the gadgets and gizmos, the best things the industrial revolution has created to help us communicate with each other and live a bit more comfortably. but there's a value system that goes along with all that fun, a value system that says we must measure our success not by how we live on the planet, or how we treat ourselves and our neighbours, but based on how much cool stuff we have.

many, here in the west, have opted out of the fast paced corporate culture. we watch as the true evils of 'anything goes' capitalism are revealed. as the planet's delicate and interconnected ecosystems take what may be their final breaths, we thank the heavens that we had the insight and wherewithal to embrace voluntary simplicity and live each day with the wisdom learned from wanting too much too fast. we shudder at the thought that the 'third world,' the 'developing world,' the 'global south' are now embracing the consumer lifestyle. we feel helpless, watching them eat up the planet as our 'western' capitalist ancestors have done, living with more than is really needed at the expense of the rest of the world who suffer because of that greed.

the question becomes, what right do we have to stop them? perhaps none. perhaps it is, as is commonly commented whenever the discussion is raised, just too egocentric and hypocritical of us to ask the rest of the world to consider the consequences of their lifestyle choices, especially after all the colonizing our governments have done. now, finally, many millions of people around the world have the ability to raise their standards of living - to own cars and enjoy the freedom those bring, to eat exotic foods shipped halfway around the world, to make movies and watch television and own ipods and all the myriad other techno gadgets. isn't it cruel to want to deny people those enjoyments?

i suppose. but the reality is that not all the people will be able to enjoy all the creature comforts, not as long as the disparity of wealth (that capitalism depends on) exists. there are people in north america, many hundreds of thousands, who are denied homes. they're not even legally able to set up a tent for themselves to survive the cold winters. they have no health care, their teeth rot inside their mouths. they are thrown away like yesterday's trash. why? because a society that values material goods above all else has little regard for human life .... especially those humans who cannot or will not play the capitalist game of accumulation.

at the yoga workshop i told birjoo i was having difficulty with the car references because i was almost killed by one. cyclists don't particularly like cars. (the last thing i'd buy, even if i were able, is a car. they're big heavy pieces of machinery that isolate us from one another. i appreciate the freedom a car brings, but i have also evolved to discover car sharing. i do not need to own a car to feel important.) birjoo didn't really understand. neither did we see eye to eye during the lunch break, when the conversation turned from vocalizing the wonders of technology to a constructive criticism of it. he didn't seem to understood why i don't "google" (google is a corporation, not a verb ... and they've agreed to censor search results in china at that government's request - my words), and he has definitely formed strong opinions about cuba based on the propaganda espoused from the corporate media (of course a dictator would want to censor information - his words). it was a confusing conversation - it's okay for google corp. to cooperate with the chinese government to censor information, but impossible to consider that the cuban government hasn't implemented widespread access to wifi or cell phones yet because they're concerned about the long term health implications of those, which are as yet unknown.

from birjoo i learned a ton about yoga - about how to observe my body to determine if i'm doing the asanas correctly, about how to integrate the ancient knowledge of chakras into my practice. and now i've learned a bit more about tata. the tata group. the massive indian corporation that's creating the nano car, among other things. and i have some concerns. some big concerns - about yama and niyama and ahimsa and satya.

you can read about tata by clicking here.

and/or you can click here to see photos from birjoo's workshop.