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Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Yoga for Survival

Courtesy of The Daily Mail

When Rachel and Paul Chandler retired early nearly one year ago to set sail on their 38ft yacht the Lynn Rival, they planned on fulfilling a lifelong dream: to sail around the world.  But as they sailed from the Seychelles, an archipelago of islands off the coast of Madagascar, to Dar-es-Salaam in Tanzania, their ship was hijacked by Somali pirates.

The Chandlers survived an incredible 388 days being held captive in the Somali desert.

In yesterday’s edition of The Daily Mail, the couple discussed their ordeal with reported Barbara Jones.  It is a fascinating read, in part, because they say they kept alive by practicing yoga.

They described their untrammeled joy to be free — and revealed how, despite total despair, they held out because, as Rachel said: ‘We are survivors.’ … [They practiced] yoga and aerobics to keep fit and healthy while the pirates watched. 

Apparently, the pirates were “bemused” by their practice. 

I highly recommend reading the entire interview.  While I’m not surprised that their yoga practice helped them survive, I am surprised out their response to the country of Somalia and their captors.

Rachel began by saying: ‘People will expect us to want these people dead. But we do not. We actually want to make close contact with Somali people when we get back to England and try to persuade the international community to help restore law and order in their country. That way our suffering will not have been in vain.

We want to follow what happens in Somalia and do what little we can to help people there lead peaceful and secure lives one day.

We know that what happened to us at the hands of criminals in not part of the Somali culture or religion.

We are happy to be free now and able to meet the civilised, decent, everyday people of this country. Even those misguided young men who held us for so long could be helped if they had had education instead of brutality.

The Chandlers are extraordinary people.

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This story was posted in several financial news outlets, and I found it quite interesting. I thought I would repost it for my readers. From financial reporter Robert Schmidt in today’s edition of Bloomberg:

Government officials often avoid conflicts between professional obligations and personal finances by divesting company stocks from their portfolios.

So it comes as a surprise that, along with the standard mutual funds, Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner owns a small amount of stock in yoga clothing retailer Lululemon Athletica Inc., Bloomberg BusinessWeek reports in its Nov. 15 issue.

The Vancouver, British Columbia-based company has attained almost cult-like status with urban women who carry Lululemon’s reusable tote bags and assume the lotus position in its pricey workout clothes. The firm sells, for example, the $58 “Ta Ta Tamer” sports bra and the $98 “Groove” pants.

The Treasury secretary, a runner and basketball player, has never been known for wearing spandex. Turns out he purchased less than $1,000 worth of shares a few years ago to teach his two children about the stock market, press aide Steve Adamske says.

Geithner picked the company partly because of his now college-age daughter’s interest in yoga — and as a hedge against her frequent Lululemon purchases, Adamske says.

The Geithners have potential as stock pickers: Since Lululemon’s July 2007 initial public offering, the company has posted a 165 percent return. The Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index, meanwhile, lost 20 percent in the same period.

Still, it hasn’t been an easy few years for the retailer, whose share price has fluctuated since the purchase, providing fodder for the family lesson plan.

Like most high-end retailers, Lululemon was hit by the financial crisis and the slowdown in consumer spending. The company’s stock trailed the S&P from September 2008 to September 2009, when it took off. This year it’s up 59 percent.

Says Edward Yruma, an analyst at KeyBanc Capital Markets in New York: “This is good stock to own.”

Geithner might want to incorporate some of Lululemon’s quirky culture into the kids’ lessons.

Emblazoned across its shopping bags are manifestos like: “Friends are more important than money.”

Here’s one the chief U.S. economic policy maker may want to avoid: “Do one thing a day that scares you.”

Interesting stuff. Says a lot about a stock when the Treasury Secretary invests in your company. I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!  If you get a moment, check out the interesting discussion going on over at Elephant Journal on Bob’s discussion series on the Bhagavad Gita.

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Spain holds a special place in my heart. Having spent nearly a year there on a study abroad program during college (which might surprise you if you heard me mangle the beautiful language), I am always moved to hear stories about people who grew up in Franco’s Spain, and experienced the incredible changes over the past 3-4 decades. Today, in an article entitled “Salgado Brings Down Deficits with Yoga as She Overcomes Spanish Chauvinism”, Bloomberg reporter Emma Ross-Thomas profiles Spain’s finance Minister, Elena Salgado, and her efforts to cure Spain’s recent economic woes. To give you an idea of the incredibly complex project Salgado has on her hands, here are some facts about Spain’s economy:

Spain’s budget deficit is forecast to be 9.3 percent of GDP this year, the second-largest in the euro region. Unemployment has surged to 20.5 percent as the construction industry’s collapse meant that more than half the job losses in the euro region since January 2008 happened in Spain.

So what does any of this have to do with yoga? Ross-Thomas’s profile mentions several times that Salgado practices yoga. While much time is spent discussing her experience coming of age under Franco’s regime:

As the only woman in her university class in Franco’s Spain,Elena Salgado remembers being singled out by a professor who doubted she could keep up with the male students. After making a point to the class, her professor would turn to her and ask: “And you, do you also understand?”

The fact that she practices yoga creeps up several times, seemingly as proof that she is, as described by a fellow female and Spanish senator “pure steel”:

Divorced with a 34-year-old daughter, Salgado introduced a smoking ban and took on the Catholic Church with a new artificial fertilization law when she was health minister from 2004 to 2007. She was shortlisted to head the World Health Organization in 2006, and Zapatero made her minister of public administration in 2007.

Salgado, who cites Camus’s “The Outsider” as her favorite book, climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in 2000 and now practices Bikram Yoga, which involves holding contorted postures in 40 degree Celsius heat (104 degrees Fahrenheit.) A fan of Wagner’s opera Tristan and Isolde, Salgado still manages to squeeze in trips to most of the Teatro Real’s productions, Muniz said.

While Ross-Thomas discusses Salgado’s yoga practice as one of her wide-ranging interests and evidence of her badass-ness, the title of the article is somewhat misleading as the story does little to develop the fact that Salgado’s yoga practice has anything to do with her bringing down the Spanish deficit.

In any event, as I continue to read articles about “unlikely” yogis, I am always both fascinated and surprised that such stories continue to be newsworthy.  Thoughts?

 

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Jerry Brown's Official Governor's Portrait

Tuesday, November 2nd,  is a very important day in this country, whether you are a Democrat or Republican, Christian or demon yogi – yes, that’s right, it’s Election Day! In my neck of the woods, by the end of next Tuesday a newsworthy contest for governor will have been decided between former e-bay CEO, Meg Whitman, and current California State Attorney General, Jerry Brown.
Why is this relevant to my little blog about yoga? Why my friends, because Jerry Brown is a yogi. While this fact alone should not persuade you to vote for him (just because you do yoga doesn’t make you a good politician…and until very recently I thought I had never met a yogi I didn’t like), I do find it fascinating as there aren’t many politicians in this country who would openly admit to a serious yoga practice. And, no, Sarah Palin in tree pose doesn’t count.
And Mr. Brown admits more to just practicing yoga. In fact, in February of this year, his campaign accepted $25,000 from yoga gangster, Bikram Choudhury. So, in the spirit of election season, I am posting portions of an interview that Mr. Brown gave L.A. Yoga Magazine during his 2004 election for Attorney General. The entire interview is worth a read (especially if you are a Californian and you are looking for his take on the issues), but the following are selections concerning his spiritual practice and yoga practice:

Jerry Brown, Mayor of Oakland, former Governor of California and three-time presidential candidate, is running for Attorney General. Brown studied for the Catholic priesthood as a young man, and years later spent time in Japan studying Zen Buddhism as well as in India working with Mother Teresa…

…We sit down. Suddenly he gets up again and runs upstairs to shave since he hadn’t known photos would be taken. We are interrupted frequently by the ringing of his cell phone, assistants asking how much longer this interview will take or someone pulling him outside the room to talk out of earshot. Yet through all this, Brown focuses his attention on whatever is in front of him. He doesn’t lose his train of thought and although impatient at times with questions he deems lengthier than they should be, he is present, gracious, and true to form, tenacious and opinionated.

Due to the many interruptions, we are running over. People are filtering in for a previously scheduled strategy meeting in the same room, so Brown decides to move the interview a few floors up, where he lives.

Here in his home, another side of Jerry Brown is on display and following the interview he shares stories of his collection of artifacts, a private side of his life. A large statue of Kuan Yin graces the dining room. He is eager to explain the meaning of an ornate cross, given to him by Mother Teresa, which comes from the hidden Catholics of Nagasaki. On one side it is a plain cross, a Buddha is on the other side. Should the authorities come knocking at the door, it can be turned around quickly. Zen art and hundreds, maybe thousands of books add to the mystique of the man as a renegade spiritual philosopher politician. He turns on a CD of Gregorian chants that were part of his recent wedding, asking me if I recognize them.

With so many problems to address in the State of California, indeed the entire planet, and the 2006 elections already heating up, he intends this interview to keep politics in our awareness.

Julie: In what ways does your background as a former Jesuit and student of Zen Buddhism affect the way you live now?

(more…)

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