16 October 2010

Hooah! Namaste

It starting to get cooler here and fall is settling over us, rather decisively in the evenings. It is the most desert-like Kabul has ever seemed to me, and temperatures easily drop twenty degrees with the sun. While I appreciate the falling temperatures, it is causing me a bit of concern with regards to the yoga group.

I can say with a fair amount of confidence that these are the most adverse conditions in which I will ever practice Asanas. Yes, I realize that I’m in a war zone (war zone-esque at any rate; Camp Phoenix is certainly not Helmand), but we’re working under some pretty adverse conditions. Currently, my rag-tag little group of yogis meets outside, near the helicopter landing zone. Prior to every practice, I have to sweep up the splintered stage lest we all be coated in a fine layer of powdery Afghan dust, in-side and out. Not that it matters much, as the wind and helicopters ensure that we’re filthy and dusty by the end anyway. Nothing to get one into a Zen-like meditative state like an instructor screaming directions over whirring rotary blades and the incessant need to sneeze. All of this blends nicely with the honking of horns from the Jalalabad Road just over the wall and the sporadic shooting from the SOF range. About the only ambient noise that I find helpful are the elegant and undulating prayer chants from near-by mosques, though I suspect that those among my yogis who engage in combat operations find them less than soothing.

For some time, I was grateful for the cooling weather, as it finally spelled the death of the malaria-bearing ‘Taliban’ mosquitoes that frequently dive-bombed our practice. Now, however, I find myself racing against the impending snow to find a replacement space. It is becoming increasingly apparent to me that my general, khamra-based approach is not going to further my efforts. We’re jostling with a number of other groups for the same spaces, including racquet ball, mixed-martial arts, and P90X. The marine in charge of the kickboxing class and the drill instructor with Insanity apparently missed lessons on sharing in kindergarten. My group has both seniority and, in many cases, superior numbers on our side, but I’m not sure how to leverage these qualities. I did have one student who tried to convince me yoga was how ancient Hindi monks prepared for battle, prompting flashbacks of A Fish Called Wanda. Perhaps we need to harness yoga’s unexpectedly aggressive roots. Combat Yoga sounds like a niche market, does it not?

In addition to the obstacles facing the class, I am encountering difficulties in my private practice (this aside from my guilt at even teaching a class. I’m altogether a mediocre yogi, and feel like something of a fraud in leading in the first place). If finding space for 15 yoga practitioners is logistically fraught, doing the same for one is not considerably better. I often find myself relegated to the ‘combatant’s room’, where I share space with boxers, break-dancers, and taekwondo on any given day. Just yesterday, falling deeply into camel pose so as to say out of the way of the windmill of a medic and aspiring b-boy, I hit my head rather soundly on a punching bag. On the bright side, my ability to concentrate seems to be improving.