Chillax, bro

yoga#yo-goals

Whilst having lunch in a Sydney pub, a friend and fellow observer notices an old encyclopaedia sitting on a shelf. It is a whole volume dedicated to the letter ‘F’.

As we eat our (fabulous) burgers, we start thinking about the words of today that we wouldn’t find inside those yellowed pages. Modern-day proper nouns and slang that have jostled their way into our everyday language but didn’t exist in the days of unplugged knowledge.

So what F-words do we come up with? Facebook. FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). Flexitarian (That’s a flexible vegetarian, fyi). Definitely not for Volume F. It is a fun exercise, and one I recommend to all of us who remember leafing through actual encyclopaedias as kids, looking for precious information.

Later, I start thinking about other ‘new’ words. Or words that are a combination of other words, like Flexitarian. There is a name for this, I’m sure, so I look it up. (But not in an encyclopaedia.) It’s Portmanteau. A ‘linguistic blend of words.’ Examples: smog (smoke + fog), chillax (chill + relax), Singlish (Singapore + English) and of course, Brexit (Britain + exit).

But here’s a word I came across in the UK that confused me. I first saw it at a gym in Birmingham. Whilst looking through the class timetable, this word jumped out at me:

Broga.

Yes, my friends. A linguistic blend of Brothers + Yoga. Also known as: Yoga for Men. (No correlation to ‘Yin with Balls’, which, by the way is an amazing self-massage yoga class that releases tension through rolling on small, man-made balls.)

I hadn’t realised Broga was a thing. Mainly because the yoga classes I go to include men as a given, most of whom are side-crowing, flipping and reversing with ease. Yoga classes don’t usually specifically cater for women, unless we’re talking Pregnancy Yoga. Which, I might add, is called Pregnancy Yoga, not Proga.

So what exactly is Broga? I do a bit of research and find a number of articles on this phenomenon with headlines such as Real Men Do Yoga. Downward Facing Dudes. More Macho, Less Mantra. Broga is said to be ‘a yoga-based fitness program taught from a man’s point of view’ and includes high intensity interval training, or HIIT.

Wait, what??? So it’s a strength class with a few yoga poses thrown in? Apparently Broga is designed to encourage men to do yoga because regular yoga classes filled with flexible women are too intimidating. But then, Broga is so popular, one article proudly proclaims, that ‘even women are doing it.’ Another article says Broga is designed ‘specifically for your limitations, wants and needs,’ and focuses on ‘the physical over the spiritual, strength over flexibility.’ Doesn’t really sound like yoga. Sounds more like a marketing ploy. I’m dubious.

Purely in the interest of being an authentic writer, and also because the marketing ploy works on me, I sign up for a class, sceptical but intrigued.

The class is taught by a…..bro, but looking around at my fellow brogis, 7 out of 10 are women. So to those of you (you know who you are) who might sign up for Broga hoping to ogle lots of bros with limitations, wants and needs, you’ll be sadly disappointed. However, if you want a workout that combines strength and stretch, dynamic moves with deep breathing, and don’t mind doing press-ups in between downward dogs, then Broga is worth a go.

It’s a tough class. My core is switched on, my arms ache, and I quite enjoy warrior poses to Top 100 hits. It’s different, and fun. In the end, I concede that any class that encourages strength and flexibility, whether you are a bro or a sista, can only be a good thing. I’m still not sure about the name, although I realise ‘Strength & Stretch’ isn’t as catchy. But yoga is about balance. So maybe not strength over flexibility, but with. And there’s nothing wrong with mantras. Even the word is bro-friendly. Man-tras. 🙂

All this Bro-business. It started with Bromance, male friends who love each other’s company, because plain old ‘friendship’ doesn’t quite cut it. There is already Brosé (Rosé for bros) because ‘Real Men Drink Pink’. So in light of this current brobsession, here are some ideas for new portmanteaus:

Brodka – because Real Men Drink Vodka
Brolates – because Real Men Do Pilates (Or perhaps this is men who meet for coffee)
Broliday – formerly known as Guys’ Weekend.

I think we’re on to something.

©2018 Seetha Nambiar Dodd

Your body is not a temple.

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A quote from Anthony Bourdain inspired me to write a poem. He said:

“Your body is not a temple, it’s an amusement park. Enjoy the ride.” 

The poem then expanded into a post on Elephant Journal with some ideas on how to enjoy the ride. My Amusement Park Goals.

You can read the full post here on Elephant JournalYour body is not a temple

And here is the poem:

Your body is not a temple.
Forget your pristine offerings,
the steps leading to enlightenment,
and the need for worship.

God doesn’t only live in holy buildings.
He also lives in Disneyland, Legoland,
and perhaps even in your local playground
if you look hard enough.

Your body is an Untemple
waiting for that Mad Tea Party
where spinning around can also bring
the discovery of divine pleasure.

Delight in the fairy floss of her hair,
lose yourself in magic kingdoms,
feel the adrenaline pumping from a wild ride,
and sometimes take the slow train to nowhere.

Before the sun sets
and you must hand in your wristband,
make adventure your Guru,
make fun a sacred ritual.
Your body is not a temple.

©2018 Seetha Nambiar Dodd

The Grieve Project

Hunter Writers Centre hold an annual competition for stories and poems about grief and loss. The Grieve Project publishes a collection of these poems and stories every year. 

The Grieve Project is also an online community set up to encourage empathy, reflection and healing through the sharing of stories; there are some beautiful ones up on the site.

I am so honoured to be a part of this project and to be published in the Grieve Anthology volume 6. (An actual book, Papa!) Here is the piece, and a part of my heart.

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Time for Grief

Some telephone conversations lodge themselves in your memory and never leave. You think you hear the words ‘shadow’ and ‘lung’ and you hope the reason is the poor long-distance line and not the possibility of cancer. Your father is a smoker, after all. You pray that his body is playing a twisted trick on the x-ray machine, but your increasingly heavy heart tells you that it is probably not good news.

Stage 4 lung cancer is not good news. You begin to furiously research facts, statistics and survival rates. You wonder how long one can hold on to 5 percent hope. You realise you have already begun grieving, for life as it was before the telephone call. But this is not the time for your grief. There are questions to ask. There is compassion to show. There are spirits to lift. You lock your grief away in a safe place, to retrieve once all hope is gone.

You travel 10,000 kilometres with your 8-week-old baby because you believe that compassion transmits better through a hug and babies are exceptional at lifting spirits. Your father smiles his widest smiles for his granddaughter. You observe their mutual contentment and realise this is where you are supposed to be.

In between hospital visits, your father studies his notebooks and works through a checklist of phone calls. He notices you watching and declares that this is not the sorting out of affairs, but simply ongoing administrative tasks. You nod with false nonchalance. You wonder why you are both putting on a brave face when it is time for the masks to be lowered.

The chemotherapy works and then it doesn’t. You ask the oncologist for the truth. He suggests that your sisters come home. Grief starts knocking but you do not let it in.

It is a bittersweet family Christmas. You create beautiful memories, but they are marred by the shadow of limited time.

Your sister sits by your father’s feet as he dictates the terms of his funeral. She dutifully scribes instructions on the death announcement, coffin and rituals. Tears collect behind her eyes. She holds them there until she can turn away with the excuse of necessary filing. You wish for that kind of strength.

In your last few days together, you sit by your father’s bed and softly read his favourite poetry. You don’t know if he can hear but you hope the words of Kahlil Gibran will cut through the cancer and settle in his soul.

After the funeral, an acquaintance asks if you were close. You realise the pain in your heart is from considering not the history, but the lost potential. It doesn’t matter if you were close. What matters is that now you will never be able to get any closer. Your closeness has been capped.

You travel back to Glasgow, unlock your grief and let it engulf you like the unrelenting February snow.

©2018 Seetha Nambiar Dodd
♥♥♥

Futile exercise

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They run from their problems
like Olympic sprinters going for Gold.
Powerful, determined.

They veer suddenly from difficult conversations
like gazelles avoiding a predator.
Leaping from conflict.

They pursue their insipid dreams
like marathon runners.
Deliberate, methodical.

But all roads lead to pain and suffering.
Problems catch up, difficult conversations find short-cuts
and dreams are pacemakers, always just out of reach.

Unlike broken bones, broken souls cannot be easily fixed.
The x-ray shows nothing is wrong
but they know that something needs mending.

©2018 Seetha Dodd

Football Fever

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Three out of the five humans living in our house are football fans. By ‘fans’, I mean the type that choose to wake up at 4 in the morning to watch a match. Any match. Not a critical, qualifying decider or potential knock-out of former champions kind of match.

Of these three fans, two have decided they will call it ‘soccer’, as they were born in Australia where ‘football’ is – how shall I put it – a whole different ball game.

I’m not saying that I am a non-fan. I’m sometimes there on the side lines, cheering on the 7 year old and his team-mates, enjoying the determination and passion radiating from such young hearts. I ask him to explain the offside rule for fun. Not because I don’t know it (I do, honestly, as I have had it mansplained to me many times), but because I love watching his eyes sparkle as he moves salt & pepper defenders, a tomato sauce bottle striker and a wine glass goalkeeper to create a visual representation of this vital piece of football knowledge.

When the World Cup comes around, I morph into a football fan. Every 4 years I pick a team to support (usually Brazil). I suggest we put up a newspaper pull-out wallchart to dutifully enter match results and give life to the Path to the Final. I rally the kids to wear the colours of ‘their team’ (usually Brazil) for the last few matches. I also read a little bit about the players, the experts’ predictions and some post-match analysis. Like a leap year that also comes around every 4 years, The World Cup is something you just accept and embrace as a part of life, a part of the calendar.

This time however, I don’t need to do any research. I have a 7 year old Human Encyclopaedia of Football Soccer Knowledge. He rattles off players’ names like they are his best buds (‘They’re all out, Mum! James, Sanchez, Messi, Aguero, Higuain…….’ etc). He moves from hooligan to pundit in the space of a few seconds as he yells at the television when he thinks a card should be awarded and then argues his case logically and coherently to anyone who will listen. He also has strong opinions on the tactical decisions of managers: ‘He shouldn’t have taken Costa off, he would have EASILY scored a penalty.’ It’s like having a high-pitched Gary Lineker sitting on your sofa.

There is something different about this World Cup. Perhaps it is the fact that the Italian team was a non-starter. You could always count on them to wear the tightest jerseys and provide something for those who did not watch football for the football. Perhaps it is the shock of recognising managers on the side lines and realising they were players 20 years ago – like Didier Deschamps of France and Spain’s Fernando Hierro. And then watching an amazing Schmeichel in goal and noting it is Kasper, son of Peter, world’s best goalkeeper 1992.

But mostly, I think it feels different because of my next generation Super Fan. I will look to him to keep me in the know this month. The generation gap is obvious. My favourite Brazil players were Romario, Rai, Cafu and (the original) Ronaldo. My Super Fan has been known to ask for a Neymar Jr. haircut. His goal celebration is borrowed from Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo. He is surprised if I know anything at all about football. However, when we watch a match, the generation gap is bridged through yelling at the television together and then we’re on the same playing field.

©2018 Seetha Dodd

Anchors and chocolate sprinkles

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Billy Collins, the American poet, said that “the trouble with poetry is that it encourages the writing of more poetry.” It is never ending, he says, until “we have compared everything in the world to everything else in the world.”¹

He then proceeds, with delightful irony, to illustrate the use of comparison:
“Poetry fills me with joy
and I rise like a feather in the wind.
Poetry fills me with sorrow
and I sink like a chain flung from a bridge.”

Comparisons bring the words to life. They add imagery to the emotion. Rising like a feather in the wind conjures up feelings of floating, of lightness of being and of bliss, whereas sinking like a chain flung from a bridge paints a dreary picture of desperation and hopelessness.

Poetry is filled with two key types of comparisons: similes and metaphors. I am not always 100% sure of the difference. Instead of having to Google it every time, I tried to find an easier way of remembering, and found it in my music playlists.

Simile: “My life is like an open highway” – Bon Jovi
Metaphor: “Life is a highway” – Tom Cochrane

In other words: Metaphors are the anchors of poetry that hold everything together, they are the life-blood of the poet running through the page. They are not like anything, they just are. Adding similes to a poem, however, is like adding chocolate sprinkles to a warm, milky drink.

Some of the most famous poems ever written are filled with anchors and chocolate sprinkles. Scottish poet Robert Burns declares that his love is “like a red, red rose that’s newly sprung in June.” Shakespeare, poet of poets, in Sonnet 97 laments: “How like a winter hath my absence been from thee.” Emily Dickinson beautifully describes hope as “the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words.” And what about this from Kahlil Gibran, Master of the Profound: “Trees are poems the earth writes upon the sky, We fell them down and turn them into paper, That we may record our emptiness.” Wow, and Ouch.

In music, anchors and chocolate sprinkles are also abundant. I found one of my favourite pieces of imagery by accident, in Al Stewart’s The Year of the Cat: “She comes out of the sun in a silk dress running/ Like a watercolour in the rain.” Vivid, beautiful and creates a masterpiece in your head. 42 years after that song was released, Vance Joy’s Take Your Time echoes the sentiment in a subtle, less chocolate sprinkle-y way: “I’ll admit I never saw you coming/ Now I see your colours running.”

And back to Billy Collins. His poem Divorce, is the type of writing I admire – saying so much in so few words, crafting a whole story through the tightly woven lines of a poem, calling upon the reader’s imagination to bring it (even more) to life:

“Once, two spoons in bed,
now tined forks
across a granite table
and the knives they have hired.”

This is poetry with depth, humour and style. Reading it is like climbing into a warm, scented bath, cold glass of champagne in hand. It is sometimes like swimming in the sea, making surprising discoveries, occasionally coming up for air and dreaming about the magic you want to create with your own chocolate sprinkles.

©2018 Seetha Dodd

¹The Trouble With Poetry, Billy Collins

Enough.

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I love the beauty of language. I love the weaving of words into sentences and paragraphs that form a literary tapestry to make you laugh out loud, shed a tear or maybe even inhale sharply, look up from your book and say, ‘Wow!’

However……there is surely something to be said for the simple phrases in life – the ones that bring a smile to your lips (or to your heart) without metaphor, comparison or any mention of tapestries of any sort.

The American writer and grammarian (now there’s a great word!) James J. Kilpatrick, who wrote a lot about writing, advised, “Use familiar words. When we feel an impulse to use a marvellously exotic word, let us lie down until the impulse goes away.”

I’m all for the exotic (and now aim to use the word marvellous wherever possible) but for writing to be understood, it needs to be simple, clear and sincere. Otherwise, all the multi-coloured jewels you use to adorn your thoughts will smother them into oblivion. In other words (that I am borrowing from an expert because I’ve just smothered my thoughts), “eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” (Hans Hofmann, abstract expressionist painter, on the ability to simplify.)

So, going back to basics – in the style of Winnie the Pooh who likes short, easy words like “What about lunch?” – here are some of my favourite phrases:

‘I’ll bring dessert’

‘How can I help?’

‘Let’s start by lying on our backs’ (I feel the need to qualify this with the context of a yoga class.)

‘Washed and ready to use’ (Again, to qualify,  I’m talking pre-washed salads. Yes, incredibly lazy. But also marvellous.)

‘I love you.’ No adornment needed. Enough.

©2018 Seetha Dodd