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Charlie Hatton
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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

Do Chipmunks Have Chakras?

So, I mentioned a while back that I’m doing fauxga.

Yeah. I’m not doing fauxga any more.

There are several reasons why. Partly, it was that my initial membership ran out, and I didn’t enjoy it enough to shell out more money to keep doing it. Which is mostly why I stopped going to school, to the doctor and to the tax auditor, too, but it’s only one factor in this case.

Also, it didn’t really fit my style. Which is a tall order for any exercise regimen, frankly — there aren’t a lot of ancient traditions that include a ‘Lounge on Couch Eating Popcorn’ pose. But this one was a little further afield than I was willing to go in the long term. More about that in a moment.

There was also this semantic disconnect that my latent OCD-ness had a hell of a time getting past. The fauxga place billed itself with ‘yoga’ in the name, but my understanding is that yoga ‘proper‘ is an Indian tradition. And this place I went to was founded in Korea. By Koreans. For Koreans, initially. And including an awful lot of Korean words that I couldn’t dream of spelling and could just barely phonetically muddle through when I was supposed to say them.

“When I was supposed to be wishing the other students a long and prosperous life, I was probably actually telling them to shove reconstituted cat food up their rear ends.”

(And frankly, I probably didn’t muddle through them particularly well. When I was supposed to be wishing the other students a long and prosperous life, I was probably actually telling them to shove reconstituted cat food up their rear ends. Or something equally as horrible.

Luckily, none of the other people in the class spoke Korean, either. And they were busy accidentally mangling the same greeting into some outrageous insult involving my grandmother and a spiny anteater. Languages are funny that way. One misplaced syllable and *poof* — it’s all anteaters and grannies and Meow Mix up your Tender Vittles. I’m amazed anyone at the U.N. can still look each other in the eye, frankly.)

Now, I’ve got no opinion on which nation has the more-cornered market on physical fitness and mind-body harmony. It could well be that Korea’s got this whole enlightenment thing covered, and are just waiting for the rest of us to catch up. Or maybe the Indians are ahead of the pack — fifteen million lotus-sitting hippies can’t be all wrong, can they?

Either way, the Korean place calling itself ‘yoga’ left a bad taste in my bhagwan. There’s no way the teachers from the Korean tradition learned enough from their Indian counterparts to rightly call it ‘yoga‘. These people just don’t share information so freely. If they did, you’d be able to get a decent kimchee with your biryani at an Indian restaurant, and the local Korean joints would serve raita and nan with their spicy bulgogi.

But no. And if they’re not going to swap recipes, what chance is there that the path to Nirvana is changing hands? Yogi, please. I’m not buying it.

Mostly, though, my reason for eschewing the fauxga boiled down to what I’d call ‘philosophical differences’. Meaning I had certain philosophical questions about the practice, and the teachers had differences in the sorts of questions they wanted to answer.

(Which is not their fault, to be fair. I did the same thing to my school teachers and doctors and tax auditors, too. In a way, this mutual exasperation thing works out okay. At least all of my breakups are mutual.)

For instance, one instructor was explaining how some particular exercise would increase the flow of qi, or cosmic energy, throughout the body and open any ‘blockages’ where energy might stagnate.

Now, already he’d pretty much lost me. My personal philosophy has room for exactly two sources of pure energy on the planet — direct sunlight and Jolt cola — and if either of those are sloshing freely around my body, then I’ve probably got problems much larger than whether I can bend my foot backwards over my head.

But I’m willing to extend the benefit of the doubt. I don’t have all the answers — hell, I don’t have any of the answers, but sometimes knowing that you don’t know anything is better than knowing something that doesn’t make sense.

(No, that didn’t work on the auditor, either. Man. Tough crowd.)

So I listened carefully to the explanation with the other students, and the instructor asked if we had any questions. A couple of people asked the sort of detailed and practical questions that he was clearly expecting — is the stretch more important, or the body alignment? How long should we hold the pose if we try it at home? Will this tinge my aura green or orange, because I really need to know how to accessorize if I go out afterward?

(I may have made the last question up. But you know somebody was thinking it.)

Eventually, he noticed me sitting quietly in thought — because, “Come try fauxga! Small classes! Personal attention!” — and asked whether I had any questions of my own. As it happened, I did. He smiled and readied himself to offer fine technical points on the subtleties of the current exercise, and its optimal practice for increased well-being, energy flow and gorilla-like virility. Instead, I asked:

Do chipmunks have chakras?

He didn’t quite get the question. I tried to fill in the gaps between where we were sitting and the left field from whence the query evidently came — in other words, the proverbial ‘show your work‘ from high school trig class.

(And there’s another teacher who didn’t know quite how to answer my goofy tangential questions.

Of course, at the time most of them had to do with using mathematical calculations to help in unhooking pesky bra straps. And that’s clearly an inappropriate use of trigonometry class time.

It’s really more of a ‘differential calculus thing’. Obviously.)

Anyway, I explained, I’ve been thinking. If this ‘cosmic energy’ is really a thing, then it’s falling all over the earth. And if we’re just here along for the ride with all of the other critters and beasts on the planet, then we’re not special — they should be getting some benefit from these rays, too. So if there are all these chakras — which is what I called them to avoid butchering the Korean name for exactly the same things — on our stomach and palms and chest and feet and head, and alignment of things like ‘hips over knees’ or ‘spine curved toward the sky’ are important to keep this energy in balance… then what the hell do jellyfish do about it? Or garter snakes? Or hummingbirds or king salmon or three-legged horses or yes, the chipmunks? Whither the chipmunks, sensei? If cleansing cosmic energy flows out through my palms, but only if I hold a certain excruciating pose for three minutes at a time until my arms go numb, then what’s up with the chipmunk? It crawls and it eats and it poops, all right, but if it’s ever stretched out and straining in all directions like I just was, it’s because the little furball’s just been struck by lightning. And while that ‘cosmic energy’ might be flowing through its palms, it’s probably also leaving exit wounds as it goes. I’m guessing that’s a different kind of thing — when I can feel my arms again, I’ll check it out and let you know.

Suffice it to say that these are not precisely the sorts of questions that a small-studio fauxga teacher ten minutes into a new exercise wants to explore. But for me, as usual, they were just the tip of the iceberg. I had other questions — many, many thousands of other questions — but I didn’t get into those. I mostly let him get back to doing his job of winding us into painful Korean pretzel shapes, but eventually the cognitive disconnect got to me. The ‘cosmic energy’ model is just not something that fits in my worldview — and it’s pretty much all that this fauxga practice was about.

Which doesn’t make it bad, or wrong, or any less successful in matching the proper-colored handbags with post-pose aura hues. But it’s not for me. So I’m looking for something else. Something less… energetic, in a particular sort of sense.

The biggest downside to dropping fauxga, frankly, is the music. In between the new age warmup lilts and a couple of oddly-placed ‘Contorting to the Oldies’-style numbers from the ’50s, the place played some pretty kick-ass tunes. Wild rhythms and relentless drums, mostly instrumentals with tribal or Asian influences — good driving music, or lounging on couch eating popcorn music, or watching chipmunks in lightning storms music. I have no idea what any of the songs were called, or who performed them. I only know that they existed on the iPod kept in the front of the room where the instructors work.

And I’m pretty sure I can’t ask to attend “just one more class, so I can Shazam half your playlist”.

I don’t care what country the practice comes from. They’ll tell me to go shove it up a chipmunk chakra. Pity, that.

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