Reflections of a Yogi Couch Potato

I finally gave in. No, not to the couch. Well, that, too, was a result of giving in. I had to acknowledge I was sick enough, long enough – two months now of grapefruit seed extract and emergen-C and more water than the Bellagio etc… – to need… the doctor.

I hate going to the doctor. Don’t get me wrong, I finally have a great one. She’s sensible and kind and listens and takes time and is smart and has a great sense of humor. It’s not her. It’s the institution. It’s admitting that I’m weak, that I’ve failed in the self-care regimins that are supposed to keep me hale and healthy. It opens a deep pit of what’s wrong.

So for me to go, well, let’s just say it wasn’t pretty. I actually had to leave the yoga studio while my students were in Savasana to go out front and hack up goobers last week. I sounded like a scratchy record and four sun salutations completely did me in. I was sick and needed help.

After the appointment, I gave into the time honored sick passtime: I slept for four days. I took the antibiotics, the inhalers, I hacked and took the expectorant. And when I got up… I brought my pillows and comforter and Sudoku and humidfier and jar of water to the couch and started to see “what’s on.”

Now, before you give up on me completely, there was restorative yoga and internal chanting and breath awareness through this in small doses. But what I saw was a direct consequence of having just enough energy to get out of bed but not enough to organize thought or make it out the door. What I saw was, among other things, a whole world of makeover shows. Some, I couldn’t even bear to keep on with one eye partly open and dozing through most of the show. Some were so shallow as not to warrent attention. And then there were others that surprised me. They weren’t berating or telling the person they had to change, to loose weight, firm up.

They were saying, “Look at you. Stand there for just one minute and pay attention to your body (at least how  it looks). See what’s really there. Maybe it’s pleasant, maybe not. Maybe you’ll be happily surprised by what’s underneath, maybe not. But let’s actually pay attention to your body, just as it is and as you live in it right now.”

Ok. So they weren’t exactly teaching meditation. And it was painful sometimes to watch as people underwent the mirror. And they weren’t giving breath reminders, at least not as a rule. And they weren’t teaching people how to feel a pose – or their body – from the inside out. But people were shedding illusions and gaining acceptance and detachment in a supportive environment. Maybe I’m hypoxic and brain addled but I could see why these shows are so popular.  

Of course there was the moment of un-zen, the reveal, the advertising underbelly that belied a need to convince us of flaws we can only pay to fix. I was lured in because it started well: The dermatologist actually said on cable, self-improvement commercial TV, With all the hormones in meat and milk and eggs these days we are seeing a tremendous rise in facial hair on women. Most women have actual beards way before their cronage! There someone said it! I thought, Wow! They’re going to tackle diet and food consciousness next! This is awesome! Clearly I’d been inhaling the humidifier too deeply.

Now, back before Whole Foods and Natural Meat Counters, my friends and I joked about gettin’ Militia Meat. Twenty years ago the Amish were the only ones who could guaruntee their animals and therefore food products were cared for organically. And in the part of Mid-Missouri where I lived, Jane and Joseph were the only middle-people with whom the Amish would deal. JnJ would drive their 70s limo with a seven foot cooler out the settlement and then distribute the goods – to your door – every Sunday. Jane and Joseph also believed directions for the immanent UN invasion were on the backs of highway signs and drank hydrogen peroxide. But they were kind and had the only clean farm goods for a hundred miles, so I made a pot of coffee every Sunday and waited for their knock.

So you don’t have to tell me about the benefits of clean meat and the dangers of all the hormones and antibiotics with which we pump our poor unsuspecting farm animals. And do I have to tell you how incensed – absolutely, disbelievingly livid! – I was that the proposed solution is LASER HAIR REMOVAL!!!! Seriously??? You don’t even have arrange to get clean meat these days – just go to your local Organic Grocer! But nobody even glancingly acknowledged this – they just blythely recommended lifelong laser hair removal for all women.

Now, I get it: she’s a dermatologist on a TV show – duh. She’s not going to advise against these things. But to run up to the cliff’s edge, to hang her toes over, to see the clear, deep, blue, sparkling water below, to say it so clearly – our food is changing us in ways we’d rather not change! – and then, not to jump! Not to acknowledge there’s an option, a better way  (or THREE) to eat! Buy clean, go veggie or even vegan… No. Apply lasers to your face periodically and don’t worry about what other damage might be going on beneath the surface.

All that ranted, here’s what I still watched and enjoyed. These shows are applying a level of meditation mind, of calm detachment – to how we see ourselves. We don’t always have to take their doe-eyed advice on changing it.   Raise your hand if you quiver when asked to look in a full length mirror for more than a second. (wait, I’ll continue after I’ve put my hand down. there) Now, they’re not perfect. They tell the recycling manager that she’s not representing recycling very attractively and that sort of thing… but there’s an impersonal, practical truth to what they’re saying. They support the person in looking at and being with themselves in a way that leads deep human emotion. And they get clothes, which is of course the worm the hook anyway. And the TV show gets ratings. I know.

I’m not advocating we all hang out on the couch this weekend for enlightenment. If that worked America would be the land of the midnight-dazzling-enlightened-soul-sun. I’m just commenting on the world from my particular perch, which today has been a cushy couch. And I’m interested in seeing our bodies more meditatively. Despite the consumerism, the product placement and the uniformity of the advice, there’s a collective consciousness developing about just acknowledging what is true about our bodies. There’s yoga in this. But then, I can see yoga anywhere 🙂 Now I have to go – I’m practicing vashistasana. On the couch. And my pranayam: putting my face right in the humidifier and breathing deeply.