Wednesday, November 21, 2012

manila mind and the city's yoga boom

Scenes from the road: EDSA. 

As I drive to my 7am yoga class at Yoga Manila in Chi Spa,
Shangri-la Edsa. 
You've heard of a "monkey mind," right? I always visualize monkeys swinging here and there, everywhere. Chaotic and mischievous. Almost cute, actually, though it connotes the unsettled mental state.

These days I've been battling what I call the "Manila mind"...

Imagine the intellect locked in the grips of bumper to bumper traffic, moving very VERY slowly. Also restless, but unlike monkeys, unable to move freely. Unable to run, or play, or jump from tree to tree. Unable to live in accordance to its true jungle nature. It is trapped in gridlock. From all sides, it is being subjected to a canopy of media, giant billboards, print and digital, each one puling at the eyes, drawing the attention from the course ahead.

It's insane: the slew of commercial models selling all sorts of wares. Clothes, underwear, mobile phones, fast food. Two lovingly look at each others' eyes over instant noodle soup in a styro cup. I nearly drive into a concrete crash barrier when I spot a Lactacyd White Intimate ad the size of a small building along C-5. The feminine wash boasts of being able to lighten ladies' privates with marine and plant-based extracts. WHAT? Or better yet: WHY??!!

"Target your market"? Um, hello! Are we
human beings or commercial prey? 
If not the ads, then there's traffic. If not the traffic, then there are the high-rise buildings popping up like mushrooms throughout the metro. Everywhere, I feel a sense of growing density. People living, crawling on top of each other. I know most people will call this progress, but it is tight out here!

Obviously, I've been spending too much time on the road again. But this is life in Manila. These are the obstacles to living here, the veils that drape over the essence of this truly special country.

Even off the road, we've gotten used to visual multi-tasking. You can be lunching with friends and each one will be plugged into various interfaces, 3G or wi-fi, and checked into different online platforms: text, email, facebook, twitter, foursquare. We're so used to meeting virtually, are we loosing touch of actually connecting?

It's hard to find space in the city, especially this one. There are few parks where one can just sit, look up, see sky. And what about the inner space, where we might have some stillness or roominess to stretch out from the compression that occurs in the city?

Maybe that's part of why yoga is becoming so big in Manila. The city is getting bigger, building upwards, sideways, all directions. People are looking for space to breathe. More and more people are taking up yoga and joining the various yoga studios (which are also, incidentally, sprouting up like mushrooms, albeit the happy magical kind). The appeal, I think, is that they are finding room to stretch out, staking out some sacred space within the area of a 70 x 180 cm rubber mat.

I know for myself, it's challenging to not get swept up in this insane energy. It wears me out. I've only been in Manila 3 weeks, but I feel so tired already. Throughout the day I feel inspired, so many thing I want to write down. At the end of the day, however, I've got little to no creative juice left.

Thus, I continue to inhale and exhale deeply. I try to observe without absorbing. I practice. I practice on the mat. I practice off the mat. I do my best anyway. I continue to feel blessed by the gifts of yoga, which creates space where there appears to be none, which gives strength when I think there is none left, which clears the Manila mind of some excess traffic.

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