WHY REX DON’T DO NO YOGA !!!
This post may seem off-topic however, it relates significantly to the question of whether or not REBT-CBT are sufficient unto themselves.
In the 1960’s and 1970’s, therapies seemed to bifurcate into two distinct branches; cognitive-emotive-behavioral . . . and somatic, with little or no dialog or cross-pollination between the two. Many luminaries in the cognitive-emotive-behavioral therapies seem to know little or nothing about the somatic approaches, or if they know something about them, are dismissive and disinterested. This was certainly true of Dr. Ellis and other notables I could mention. On the other hand, sometimes those in the somatic therapies (including yoga, tai chi, Alexander Technique, Feldenkrais, Rolfing, etc.) can be damned snooty and smug in giving the impression that they have found a “higher way.”
Personally, and at the risk of being burned at the stake for hearsay, I do feel that the cognitive therapies are incomplete without some attention to the somatic side of the street, at least the mindfulness side of the street. I hope that this can be an ongoing discussion, and an encouragement for both “sides” to reach across the aisle to contribute meaningfully to one another’s point of view.
I have been meaning to write this entry for a long time, practically since I launched this forum. Finally, the other day, a friend asked me about my comment that I had stopped practicing yoga. I ended up writing a longer explanation that I anticipated and figured it was a good opportunity to finally attend to it here.
First of all, let me say that I LOVE yoga!
But yoga (at least yoga asana) and I came to a parting of the ways a few years ago. Here is the story:
In 2008, I finally began treatment for my hypertension, and finally began and taking it seriously. In looking for complimentary approaches to standard Western meds I was taking, I googled upon some interesting stuffs relating to breathing, and as I researched breathing, that led me a lot of stuffs about yoga which has many practices (“pranayama”) related to breath, and that led me to recall my hippie days in ancient history when “yogis” were as common as McDonalds; smiling gurus, seated cross-legged in the lotus position, wearing flowing white robes, adorned with Indian flowered leis and maybe some love beads, incense burning in the background of course, and tinging bells. Those yogis were mostly about yoga philosophy and meditation, not asana.
My memories made it all seem so very serene and peaceful. So I figured, like whey kewl, ya know? It wasn’t until I actually took a few classes and then a seven day retreat in Nong Khai (which turned out to be Vinyasa, which is not the easy kind, especially for a beginner and an old guy!) that I realized how deluded I was! Yoga was not in any way serene or even pleasant, not for me. It fact it was physically very demanding and painful! That retreat in Nong Khai almost killed me! It was the most physically challenging thing I had ever attempted. Of course physically challenging activities have never been my “thing.” For me, “roughing it” meant walking bare foot on a shag carpet carrying a very dry vodka martini!
Yoga as it is practiced, promoted and commercialized in the West has “come a long way, Baby!” Except for Yin Yoga which is another subject entirely, yoga is intense and “athletic” and makes you sweat, literally and figuratively, as anyone who has had a little exposure these days knows.
Although I eventually got my little home practice to the point where it was tolerable, if was not fun, I did not look forward to it, and classes were really stressful, t In class, I kept staring at the clock and it constantly told me I had 59 more minutes to go!
I gave yoga about 2 1/2 years, but it never got easy, it never became fun. And these drop-dead beautiful, young Thai yoga teachers, made entirely of licorice, not a bone in their little bodies would look at me like I was from Mars when I complained that it was painful. Eventually I did find a good source of yoga, Iyengar, that I probably could have committed myself to . . . if I lived near the studio in Bangkok . . . which I didn’t! Iyengar is a special style of yoga which places a lot of emphasis on proper alignment and uses lots of props to help make the asanas (postures) easier and more effective. We are damned lucky to have an accredited Iyengar studio in Thailand. The master, Justin, was on the Iyengar board in Los Angeles, and actually studied with Guruji (Mr. Iyengar) in Pune, India. So, very kosher, very good pedigree. Unfortunately, the studio is not close to my town. Anyway, one of the first things Justin said to me was ”Rex, maybe you are a little old to be starting this?” Foolishly, I interpreted that as a challenge or something, so I soldiered on for another year or so until I finally realized he had giving it to me straight, and that he was right! Now, I know that very old people practice yoga. Hell, Guruji is in his 90’s (!!!) and Justin certainly ain’t no spring chicken . . . but me and yoga were just not a match made in heaven, as much as I wanted it to be so.
Anyway, long story short, the past few years I have been practicing Shibashi QiGong, the slow-mo old ladies in the part “dance” you see them doing at sunrise and sunset. It is much more my speed, literally and figuratively. I took a workshop from Sifu (Master) Wing while he was in Bangkok a few years ago (Lucky me!) and have learned the forms (quite easily) from his videos. For me, it is everything that yoga was not. First of all, it is accessible, and although it is always best to study in person, I have learned 1st, 2nd and 3rd sets (54 postures) from videos and books, and the one workshop with Sifu Wing in 2012. Some of the moves are a little tricky, but it is not hard. It is gentle and meditative. It is a great help with fatigue, focus, balance, range of motion and that damn creeping arthritis. Very important as we get a little older to do “something” or “some things” to keep the energy flowing, the body moving, the muscles toned, and the joints juicy and flexible. They claim it is aerobic. I am not so sure that is true, so I bicycle and do QiGong, and that is my gift to myself to keep the old body from drying up and crumbling!
I am going on too much here, but your question reminded me that I have meaning to add some of these thoughts to my blog and forums, and this is a good start. So, thanks for that!
Here is a video of Sifu Wing in case you are interested
in having a looksee.
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Originally posted 2014-07-16 21:59:14.