May 27, 2014

Yoga-Avoidant? Try this Freakish Yoga Alternative

By Crabby McSlacker

Having recently written about my twisted take on walking meditation and aqua-aerobics, I'll now confess that I've been messing around with yoga too.

I struggled with what to call this bizarre stretching/modern dance/meditation combo I've come up with. Yogatation? Crab-Chi? Dork-Fu?

But considering all its various components, and especially how weird it looks, allow me to introduce the shiny new Massively Mortifying Mindfulness Movement Meditation Method©, now available absolutely free!

Yeah, that's "Mmmmmm©" for short. Because "Mmmmmm" is kind of how you're supposed to feel doing it. At least I'm finding it pretty yummy. But then we've already established I'm a little odd.

Of course most of you don't need an alternative way to combine movement and mindfulness, because you're already enjoying one of the regular kinds of yoga.

'Cause what's not to love about yoga? You're getting stretching, strengthening, and meditative practices all rolled into one. Plus: cute workout clothes, and your own special insider vocabulary words, like namaste and asana and pranayama, so you can sound all spiritual and groovy.

And yet...some of us just don't seem to be yoga people, even if we keep feeling like we should be.

Cartoon: natalie dee

There are many different reasons for chronic yoga avoidance, from logistical to physiological to philosophical.  (Mine is simple: I don't much like being told what to do or when to do it).

But whatever the reason, if you're looking for a more flexible movement/mindfulness alternative, consider adding some "Mmmmmm" to your daily routine!

Equipment Requirements:

1.  A completely private area to move around in, or else a total lack of self-consciousness. Because done properly, getting your Mmmmmm on makes you look quite seriously deranged.

2.  Appropriate music is advisable, unless you find it too distracting, in which case, screw the music. Only you will know what kind of music you want to experiment with, any suggestions I make might just spoil the whole thing.

3.  Some undisturbed time, anywhere from 2 minutes to an hour.  (For some reason I find 35 minutes seems about perfect).

4. Props are optional, but may add to your experience--stability balls, steps, straps, broomsticks, lightsabers, domesticated animals, flaming torches or whatever works for ya.

5. Clothing:  any damn thing you want, whether it's exotic and evocative...


photo probably public domain; swiped from: here

Or not. Comfort, both physical and psychological, are paramount.  You're gonna look nutty no matter what you're wearing, so no worries about what imaginary onlookers might think.

Obviously.


Instructions:

1. Move around, and savor the deliciousness.

I know, WTF, right? What kind of exercise instructions are those?

But the thing is: "Mmmmmm" is not "exercise."  It's a weird species of mindfulness, in which you find a series of places in your body to become aware of and feel pleasure in. This creates a focus that's salient enough to for you to get meditation credit, yet pleasant enough that you want to keep returning to keep appreciating it and playing with it.

As most yoga people know, there is a sweet spot when muscles and joints are moved just the right way, which can feel wonderful, like an exquisitely calibrated massage--that is, if you are paying enough attention to notice.

There are probably hundreds, if not thousands, of ways to move your body to find these sweet spots. And it's not just individual muscles either--there are movement patterns, whether swinging or rocking or relaxing into stillness that can be profoundly sensual and pleasurable. And strangely enough, the more sore, stiff, or old you are, the more intense the pleasure is when you hit one of the sweet spots just right.

The problem is, we rarely make a goal of finding and savoring this pleasure when we exercise. Sadly, this seems to be true even in most yoga classes. We barely pay attention to pleasure as we plunge right through to where it gets hard or uncomfortable and we get to challenge ourselves and be all virtuous. We're programmed that way: as soon as we start "exercising" we start attempting to strengthen something, or increase our range of motion or our endurance, or burn more calories, or improve our shitty balance or our pathetic posture or whatever.

All that stuff may be great for you, and as it happens, much of it happens incidentally during when you let yourself just Mmmmmm. However, those things are not our goal.  Instead, we buy off the achievement oriented parts of our brain with the notion of meditation credit. So the busy achiever is satisfied, and then we can ditch all those other movement-related goals and have a grand old time!


Mmmmm...More Instructions and Tips:

Getting started: Turn on your music (if you choose to use music), close your eyes, and feel your body. What do you notice?

Then start moving, gently at first, and pay attention to how it feels.  Basically, you just futz around until you find something that feels good, and explore all around it, expanding and moving the sensation until it feels like time to find something else.  If you're lucky, with eyes closed and lovely music playing, you may soon find yourself in that surreal place where music and movement and sensation all blend together in a trippy blissful way.

But often your mind will wander, just like it does in any form of meditation. Don't fret, just move a different body part and notice how it feels.

You can do little movements or big ones. You can invent poses or stretches. You can use the floor or walls to push or stretch or move against, or use your props.  You can linger on an index finger, rotating it around, or you can leap up and dance... awkwardly or gracefully or as melodramatically as you please!

photo: wikipedia

Yes it's kinda like yoga... But it's almost better if you don't know much yoga, because you don't want to be constrained by an organized way of exploring your body and miss out on your own strange inventions.  It's fascinating how many ways you can bend, twist, swing, rock, thump, drag, roll, push, or even hurl various part of your anatomy.

But you can try looking at conventional yoga poses that seem reasonably comfortable or appealing for you, and imagine yourself sneaking slowly up on them or twisting around in them or dancing through them or sinking into them contentedly and staying right there for as long as you damn well please, and not being forced to move on too soon by a perky yoga instructor with 17 more asanas to get to before the next class rolls in.

If something hurts, you're doing it wrong.  However, easing gently towards the hurt, around the hurt, tickling the edges of the hurt, can feel quite lovely.  And later on you may find you are moving closer to it than you did before, yet still staying on the pleasure side of the pleasure/pain border.

Multitasking is allowed, but not deliberately pursued: You may find you are inadvertently strengthening one part of your body in order to use it to maximize deliciousness in another part, and not even noticing discomfort because your attention was on the fun part.  (Bonus, Yay!) Or you may be challenging your balance or flexibility. This happens in conventional yoga too, but the difference is that in doing Mmmmm, if you catch yourself noticing that the challenging aspect feels unpleasant, you get to back right off to where it feels comfortable again. There's none of the "breathe into it" crap.

Ditch all those "rules": You don't have to do a fixed number of repetitions of a movement, or do things in any order, or pay more attention to parts of your body that are "tight" and need "fixing" than other parts. Similarly, just because you do something on the left side doesn't mean you have to do the exact same thing on the right side.

The more often you do Mmmmmm, the less you will have to combat an internal agenda about getting to all your body parts.  Whatever you don't play with today, you can play with tomorrow.

I have my Mmmmm time first thing in the morning, with a cup of coffee nearby, and I'll open my eyes and wander over and have a sip whenever I feel like it.  I don't believe caffeinated companions are encouraged in most exercise or dance studios.

One caveat: while I pretty much suck at sitting meditations, the only kind I've had any luck with over the years involve body awareness. So my brain has been pre-wired to tune in a bit more intently to the feelings in my muscles, and my experiences might be a bit more delightfully intense for me than for a normal person.  But even for relatively normal people, some unstructured movement time can be a great gateway into the whole sucky meditation thing, with 95% less tedium and restlessness!

What do you guys think, am I totally nuts this time? Would you do anything like this, or do you already have the movement/mindfulness stuff covered?

20 comments:

  1. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the idea of savoring the movement.
    I can with yoga.
    I do with weights.
    NEVER EVER EVER WITH ME AND CARDIO.

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    Replies
    1. Miz, the more I hear you say that about cardio the more I think it's weird. You have a strong, healthy body. There should be some form of cardio that feels good to you.
      Mary Anne in Kentucky

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    2. Perhaps there can be a distinction between movement and cardio. Movement feels goods, cardio just needs to be done, the feeling good during is gravy. After feels good.

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  2. "We barely pay attention to pleasure as we plunge right through to where it gets hard or uncomfortable and we get to challenge ourselves and be all virtuous."
    That explains a lot about my thirty years of yoga: I've never had a teacher who didn't prompt us to pay attention to what felt good, and regularly reminded the class that yoga's not about achievement. Of course my horrendous work schedule has more to do with my inability to find a class these past ten years, but as yoga gets more popular as exercise the classes I've managed to try out don't feel like I belong there.

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

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  3. This appeals to me. It sounds wonderful. Go at your own pace, in your own way, and enjoy it. Best advice ever.

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  4. I think it's interesting you mentioned swinging, Crabby, because if I were to pick a physical activity that is most blissful and repetitive while being totally non-goal-oriented, it would be going to the park and swinging on a swing. I wish I had grandchildren *just so I could regularly participate in this activity without getting the massive amount of side-eye I get when I do it now for more than like 60 seconds.* Sigh.

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    Replies
    1. Crabby McSlackerMay 27, 2014 at 4:15 PM

      I SO hear ya on that one Andrea...http://www.crankyfitness.com/2013/03/confession-crabby-is-secret-swinger.html

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  5. One of the most important principles of psychiatric therapy that I ever learned is that all the different types of therapy are intimately aimed at getting us to the same point. The ability of making the change. If this method has that capacity, than it's as good as any other pathway to enlightenment!

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  6. Ditching the rules - something that as a person who MUST DO EVERYTHING PERFECTLY (and then of course doesn't because she turns out not to be, ahem, perfect) I could probably learn from.

    Dork-Fu - pretty sure that is in abundance already in my house, but it has nothing to do with yoga moves. :)

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  7. I'm more of a bouncer! I get into the pool with water up to my shoulders and bounce or jump and put my toes as high up the pool wall as I can alternating feet. I find it settles everything down and I soon feel great. Considering how much my mother loves rocking chairs I assume I was rocked a lot and that is what it is about.

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  8. Death Ride GrandmaMay 27, 2014 at 12:15 PM

    It sounds lovely. My problem is that, strange as it seems, in the world of movement, I sort of like being given instructions. No one who knows me well would find that easy to believe! But classes and schedules keep me going when I could so easily let the time slip away while I read a great book - or blog. I do really like my yoga teacher's attitude: he reminds us regularly it is OUR practice; and once, when I told him I'd miss class to babysit grandkids, he said, "Ah, the ultimate yoga." The physical yoga, your type or any I have experienced, really does work a lot like a massage. I love it - almost all of it.

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  9. I do love Yoga. When I was doing P90x the Yoga disc was an hour and half, 45 mins through it I was done with the workout but I always pushed through the full hour and a half, I always cringed having to do it, but after about a month, I looked forward to doing it, especially when you are doing a lot of weight lifting exercises it was a great way to really stretch the body. But I really laughed at that first image of the girl saying Fuck This I'm going across the street for a drink, that's what I imagine would be my response in doing Hot Yoga. But I kind of like Crab-Chi. LOL

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  10. All I can picture is me trying to do this and looking like a twisted Gumby doll!

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  11. Crabby McSlackerMay 27, 2014 at 4:17 PM

    Love to hear what you all think of structured versus weird & unstructured movement! Seems many of you don't have the obstinate contrary personality I have that makes showing up at a particular time and doing particular things so problematic.

    But glad to see there are other bouncers, swingers, swayers, etc and that you all find ways to enjoy moving around!

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  12. I get my unstructured movement on the dance floor. I am quite sure that you know I LOVE yoga and I LOVE my yoga teacher. I am kind of addicted to her. Once in awhile, I will attend a class with a different teacher to remind myself of the nature of impermanence.

    Although I love the structured class, I also feel that I have the freedom to do whatever I want if I needed to…I am choosing to follow the class if you know what I mean.

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  13. Part of me is checking the date to see if it's April 1st. Part of me is nodding and thinking that I can (and perhaps will) do this. I'm not afraid of looking like an idiot (because my door will be closed and curtains drawn). Until my bedroom is furnished I have a huge space with nothing but a wool rug in it. I may just give it a shot.

    Love the sepia photo of you mimicking the others. Too funny.

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  14. Since there's no way my children can think i'm any weirder, and they're the only ones who could walk in on my, i may give this a try.

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  15. I might enjoy your style of yoga - I like the kind that makes my legs shake and helps me work up a sweat!!! (mostly I skip it!)

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  16. This yoga alternative is really inspiring! I can imagine the Mmmmm.. that it gives. I think its really fun, refreshing and a lot more of good vibes experiencing it. Just thinking about it is relieving and more fun to the freaky yet funny poses.

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  17. love it! Can't wait to try it out. A type of yoga I might actually be able to do! Mmmmmm. Sounds good.

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