November 25, 2013

Bikram Yoga - Yoga Without Soul

Bikram Yoga is the McDonalds of yoga. No matter where in the world you go, Bikram Yoga uses the same script, the same moves, the same set up as every other studio.

Bikram Yoga has been sanitised and stripped down to the bare bones, it is devoid of the spirituality usually associated with Yoga. There is no music or ambience, it is definitely not relaxing. Bikram Yoga is hot and hard.

The instructor speaks to you like a horse race announcer, fast paced and sometimes rather  harshly. You are told how to get into postures but the only example you see is from the students in front. Occasionally an instructor will correct your posture or personalise the script slightly which makes for a refreshing change.

You are not supposed to drink any water until after the first three postures. You can then drink at will but are encouraged to only drink between postures and to not distract other students (by drinking too overtly I assume). This is a bit of a concern as exercising for 90 minutes in 40 degree heat causes a person to sweat considerably and can result in dehydration if that water is not replaced in sufficient quantities. To minimise dehydration I would advise drinking plenty of fluids both prior and following a class. It is also advisable not to consume dehydrating liquids such as coffee or alcohol a few hours before or after class.

In other forms of yoga (Yin Yoga for example) you are encouraged to hold postures and explore your inner depths (soul, spirit, whatever you choose to call it). Not Bikram Yoga; you barely have time to drink a sip of water between poses. They do, however, give you a two minute savasana between the standing series and floor series and then 20 second savasana between each posture following but these rest periods only just give you time to catch your breath, certainly not time to reflect or even think about your soul/spirit/body connection.

Bikram yoga also has the highest incidence of injuries of all types of yoga. This is probably due to students pushing too hard (you are actively encouraged to push hard and told that it is supposed to hurt).

Despite the cons (and there are many) there are also pros. It is reassuring to know that you can go anywhere in the world and be familiar with the pattern of the Bikram yoga class. You may not know the language of instruction but if you have been a student before you will know the format. The format is the same for beginners as it is for advanced students; the only difference is that you are able to go more deeply into postures as your flexibility and strength improve.

Bikram Yoga does increase your flexibility, strength and general fitness. After you’ve showered and cooled off you feel great, if a little drained. You can attend as often or as little as you like, the format will remain the same so your progress is only measured by how intensely you can go into the postures.

My advice to people wanting to try Bikram Yoga is be prepared for a challenging 90 minutes; drink plenty of water before, during and after. Avoid alcohol and coffee for at least 12 hours either side of the class and take it easy, be aware of your body’s limitations and don’t push too hard, especially on your first few classes and until you feel confident with the postures and know how your body feels after a class.

If you’re thinking about trying yoga for its spirituality and/or to connect more deeply with your soul, try another form of yoga, at least initially.

November 18, 2013

Weight Loss: Retreat

Rest assured I am not retreating (whenever I hear retreat I picture a miliatary man screaming "retreat!") but I did expereince a little retreat from my every day life. Quite some time ago now I realised that losing weight isn’t just a physical process. There was a lot of emotion tied up in my weight gain that I needed to release for my body to then release some of the excess weight.

I serendipitously stumbled across Harmony Hours just out of Hamilton; a peaceful place to do some healing and introspection. I stayed for two days which included my own personal space, food and a spa on the balcony.

The food was amazing; all homemade, organic, and mostly homegrown as well, I ate a lot of it. It reminded me of how food used to be, there was something real about this. Each meal was an experience; we sat at the table, ate and talked together. There was no prepackaged food eaten on the go. The pace of life here, the emphasis on what was really important was a marked difference from my regular life.

Chrystene is a peaceful, open, considerate, genuine person. I am unaccustomed to someone being so free with who they are and sharing themselves with me.

I had one Journey process, two similar sort of processes focussed on labels and rules and a healing session which was, admittedly, a little weird. In addition I was lucky enough to be staying on a night when weekly meditation was held.

My stay at Harmony Hours has had a profound effect on my life, on how I view myself, how I treat myself and how I view and treat food.

Price: varies (see packages here)
Weight loss: 1kg

Special thanks to: the wonderful Julia from Kiwi Pole Fitness and of course Chrystene at Harmony Hours

November 16, 2013

Suva - the smelly capital

I’ll admit Suva is only the second capital city I have been to so I don’t have much to compare it to but I found it to be hot, smelly and noisy.

As you approach Suva by Queens’ Road the first thing you see is the cemetery. Fijians decorate newly filled graves with bright material and painted rocks which give a feeling of the depth of love and respect they have for the deceased. Older graves are mostly concrete cairns.

The first building of significance is the Suva prison which looks like a prison straight out of the movies, complete with high concrete fence, barbed wire and old dilapidated concrete buildings with watch towers. Ironically Vodafone is advertised at each end of the high concrete fence; maybe prisoners get special phone deals?

As you approach the centre of the city the noise and smell amplify. There is the port on the right, a hive of activity, industry and pungent with the odour of fish. The city centre has many shops and markets most of which are dark and dank but there are a few streets with chain stores and bright window displays. You can buy all the cheap Asian goods that are proliferating in NZ, they add their own toxic plastic odour which seeps out onto the street. There are security guards at most shops, permeating a feeling of distrust and ill ease.

We went down to the waterfront in search of souvenirs and located the market which consists of a building with cage like stalls that sell the same wares, each one replete with a very persuasive salesman inside. I always have trouble getting what I want from those sorts of places without feeling hustled.

We walked on to the ‘Peaceful Garden’ which has some lovely old trees, a non functioning water fountain and ramshackle unkempt garden areas. It looks like the British have been and gone (which is more or less true). Inside the garden is the Suva museum which is absolutely tragic. I have never seen a more pathetic museum. There are a few exhibits spread throughout several rooms in a dilapidated building. The only room that’s air conditioned is the museum store. At a cost of $7 per person I had hoped for something a bit more up-to-date and informative. I guess it’s not high on Mr Bainimarama’s to-do list.

Next to the Museum is the President’s residence (which can only be seen from a distance). It looks to be in far better repair than the museum and has two guards at its gate; one lucky fellow gets to stand out in the sun in full uniform including gloves; expressionless much like a beefeater.

Part of the noise and smell issue is the fact that there is only one main road so all the industrial traffic goes straight through the city centre. There are a couple of nice walkways that have been recently upgraded, giving a glimpse of what the city could look like with a bit of a face lift.

In contrast to the friendliness of the Fijian villages, the people of Suva seem indifferent at best and often quite surly. It is understandable; Suva is an assault on all the senses.

My advice to anyone planning a trip to Fiji, avoid Suva if you can!

November 8, 2013

La Figura - paintings by Escha van den Bogerd

La Figura is a series of nude paintings "inspired by the old masters in a contemporary unique style" by Dutch artist Escha van den Bogerd.

I attended the opening at CQ Hotel on Thursday night. The concept of the evening was meant to remind the audience of the origins of this sort of art; 17th Century Italian baroque music was to accompany the viewing. Unfortunately the music took some time to arrive / set up and I never got to hear it.

Art is subjective; these are my thoughts. I think more Rubenesque figures would have been more attrractive than the modern (thin) interpretation of the female form. The figures were slightly angular, a look which became more prominent in the breasts, in particular the nipples, which made it difficult to enjoy the images.
The use of colour was really interesting, as though they had been thrown at the canvas after the picture was painted, added another layer of depth. It reminded me of Pino Daeni though the colour is less obvious.  Look for a lying nude with cold blue splashes, it was my favourite.

Dates: 7-28 November
Venue: CQ Hotel Cuba Street and The Kiwi Art House Gallery 288 Cuba Street
Price: free to view, $2-3,000 to purchase

November 7, 2013

Anne Boleyn

Stagecraft continues it's great year with another well chosen and expertly staged piece of theatre. I don't think I have ever seen such consistently good productions.

The story of Anne Boleyn is well known so there should be no risk of spoilers. Who wants to see a play where ultimately the main character dies in such a horrible way? (Shakespearean plays aside) I was certainly reluctant. This play was not however, what I expected.

One person can change the course of history. But it's not as simple as you think. There are several candidates for this role aside from Anne. Issues of religion, politics and the role of women all come into play.

Ange Fitzharris as Anne and  Neil Connolly as James had particularly good accents. James so well in fact that his Scottish brogue was sometimes difficult to understand, it was funny to hear Billy Connelly's voice coming out of the mouth of a king (note the same surname!).

The actors maintained their own storylines even while in the background, whispering to each other. Little touches such as the facials of Chris O'Grady as Robert Cecil were fantastic.

Specially written to be performed in the Globe Theatre, Gryphon Theatre has been transformed to create a similar round stage. The actors directed comments to audience members and drew the crowd into the story, not a difficult task as the usual distance between stage and seating was gone. It was a unique take on theatre performance.

This wasn't the gloomy evening I expected. There was laughter and a breadth of history. 

Performances: 8pm Wednesday 6 - Saturday 9 and Thursday 14 - Saturday 16 November
3pm Sunday 10 November
6.30pm Tuesday 12 - Wednesday 13 November

Tickets: $20/22