I have been trying to keep up, however, and came upon this little gem of an article via our newstab (thanks Brij), relating the life of a peculiar kind of Yogi–one who may be tempted by “Extreme” branded potato chips.
I confess I am somewhat of a fan of orthodoxy–for Hatha Yoga, this sets me apart from adherents to a great deal of the ‘Yoga Styles’ currently popular throughout our urban centers–Bikram, Vinyasa, ‘Power Yoga’ and the like. These ‘styles’ generally incorporate extreme stress positions (ideas for Guantanamo?), extreme heat, push-ups or some combination thereof, in addition to the asanas you should be learning.
Though calisthenics aren’t a bad idea with regards to general cardiovascular health, Hatha Yoga’s basic poses could only be construed as an attempt at reaching a Richard Simmons-like nirvana of sweaty tights and oldies by someone who finds the distinction between the two to be functionally meaningless. This is missing the point: Hatha Yoga is a LOW-impact exercise meant to gently encourage your body to stretch.
Our man Jason Magness, of course, is into none of this yuppified “yoga booty ballet’ nonsense. Instead, he takes it one self-consciously non-conformist, dumpster-diving, freegan step forward–right onto a nylon rope lashed between two trees.
Yes, this is without a doubt impressive. But to what end? Hatha Yoga , for me, is valuable because of the tangible benefits it has for many who take up the practice for health reasons. Extreme stress positions, afforded by intensity-crazed disciplines currently popular, do not seem to achieve any tangible benefit other than an improbably swelled ego. So what does Magness think he’s getting out of being able to hold the Lotus Pose (Padmasana) on rope?
Mr. Magness calls himself a slacker.
Certainly impressive–but I was able to achieve ‘slacker’ status in college–while only able to balance myself on a folding chair during a spirited game of NCAA ’03 on my roommate’s Xbox.
Surely there are other benefits, perhaps a book deal or complimentary nylon rope from the manufacturer?
Since he and a friend invented the practice three years ago, Mr. Magness has given demonstrations at yoga conferences, released an instructional DVD and taught 2,000 people at workshops across the country.
Sadly, there was no nylon rope deal, but Magness did get a trip out of it(seemingly the only currency he values is travel). How about groupies? Every ‘best in the world at this discipline’ aspirant eventually has visions of inexplicably devoted fans, fortunately for Magness, he can potentially enjoy groupie love unencumbered by guilt:
He and his girlfriend of four years broke up in January because she wanted him home more. The woman, Kara Hawthorne, says Mr. Magness is torn between desires for stability and living rootless. “I go through periods where I think there’s something wrong with me and I wish I had a more-traditional life,” Mr. Magness says. “Sometimes I think it’s a character flaw.
Flaws aside, there is an admirable streak of stubbornness in this Yogi:
Mr. Magness works harder than most. In the past decade, he has completed a dozen ascents of previously unclimbed mountain routes and placed in 25 adventure races, often with minimal food and gear. “Exploring that edge of human potential is really fascinating to me,” he says.
It’s tempting to think that this willingness to test oneself for the sake of the testing itself is a sign of altruism, but as usual, there’s always the money angle:
“Their energy is absolutely infectious,” says David Kennedy, marketing manager for Prana clothing, a sponsor. “That free-spiritedness is part of what Prana would like to exemplify.” The trait also makes Mr. Magness difficult to corral. He and his circle prefer old clothes and living on four-figure annual incomes. Prana wants Mr. Magness to lead a nationwide yoga-slacklining tour. He says it sounds like work. “If a company wants too much from us, we just say we don’t have time to worry about selling your product,” says Mr. Magness, who also is sponsored by Ibex clothing and shoemaker Inov8.
It seems difficult to reconcile sponsors and DVD tours with a desire to live on discarded food (3-week old sharp cheddar tastes somewhat like Camembert?) and 4-figure annual income. It also seems difficult to find positive instructional content in his story. So, as usual, i’m left with a question: how do you mutineers do ‘extreme’ without compromising work/family/relationships?