I’m writing to you all from a city I once called home almost two decades ago — Austin, Texas. Tom and I took a total leap of faith moving to the middle of Texas where we knew no one and had only visited once to “check it out.” We were young, open, adventurous and we had dreams and potential to explore. Tom wanted to go to UT Law School and I wanted to open a yoga studio. Austin was a sleepy town of artists, academics, musicians, cowboys, bikers and dreamers. But, what really drew us here was the town slogan KEEP AUSTIN WEIRD. There was a vibe back then of funky and cool that made us feel alive and free. Anything could happen here as close in to the status quo (it is the capital of TX) and as far out as possible. There were hardly any yoga studios in town but I couldn’t think of a better place to open up shop and teach yoga. I hung out a shingle and called it Yoga Vida. I taught four classes a day every day. I taught what I knew at the time to be yoga—pranayama, asana, meditation. It was all word of mouth, grassroots, simple. A yoga community grew and it’s still there 17 years later.
We’ve been back to Austin several times since we moved to Bainbridge Island. Each time we come to Austin we are awed by the changes. New high rises, hotels, restaurants, traffic!!, trailer park eateries, and so many yoga studios. It’s not the sleepy town it used to be. It has changed into an innovative, creative, ultra hip and uber cool city. Can you still get a Maria’s breakfast taco, swim in the fresh spring waters and hear Bob Schneider play live on Mondays at Saxon Pub? Yes. It’s all still here. I wonder though, are we still keepin’ Austin weird? Or is it just a trendy place to be now?
And, really what does weird mean? Curious enough, weird associates itself with mysterious, uncanny, strange, ghostly, eerie and otherworldy.
Come to think of it weird is how I feel after pranayama breathing, sweat inducing asana or chanting with the Japa group. Weird is when I hear my inner voice prompting me to trust my intuition and to listen to “god consciousness” I am oddly committed to KEEP YOGA WEIRD. Over the last two decades I’ve witnessed so many changes in the yoga world. It has become more mainstream and innovative than ever before. It is amazing to see so many benefiting from the practice of yoga and as BYH teacher Paul King says, “hopefully helping us all be a little kinder.”
Yet, like the (irreverent) city of Austin, change can also bring in its challenges and misunderstandings. Yoga is defined by our culture. What is yoga to you? What is it to our culture? Is yoga for the flexible? the privileged? the spiritual yet not the religious? Is it the opposite of irreverent? Is it beautiful people posing on instagram? Is it a hot room and loud music in background? Is yoga union? oneness? I wonder what we have lost in translation over the years of rapid change and popularity.
I’m concerned about the changes yet hopeful. I’m fierce and compassionate. I’m heavy handed about it all on some days and totally light hearted other days. I have opinions and then I surrender to it all and throw my hands up in the air and try to just go with the flow. I refuse to box yoga in yet my refusal is a box unto itself.
So, I return again to places from my past like Austin TX and I silently and positively devote to simply keeping it weird—neither here nor there, neither good nor bad, neither up or down. It is. You are, I am. We are. Yoga. Weird. Mysterious. Of this world and of other worlds. Memory. Irreverent. Potential.
From Austin, I’m signing off and I hope you join me in keepin’ some things in life undefinable and freakishly lovely because you just don’t have a word or box for it.
Peace out y’all and Happy March!