“Do every act of your life as though it were the very last act of your life.” – Marcus Aurelius
I realise that I don’t really explain my choice of quotes on my blogposts. I don’t just whack them in, promise! For those of you who aren’t familiar with Marcus Aurelius, he was a Roman Emperor from 161-180 AD. The prefix ‘a’ was used deliberately there because he wasn’t ‘the’ sole Emperor – he ruled with Lucius Verus until Verus’ death in 169 and with his son, Commodus from 177. If you have seen the Ridley Scott film Gladiator, you will know that Richard Harris portrayed Marcus Aurelius and Joaquin Pheonix portrayed Commodus. On an interesting side note, Joaquin pulled a weird yoga-related stunt in 2014 on the David Letterman show. You can learn more about that here. I digress…
I chose this quote by Marcus Aurelius because he is known as a great philosopher and a leader who prized self-reflection – something that is now branded as ‘mindfulness’. I studied history at university, and dabbled in trying to understand the decline of the Roman Empire (or as much of it as you can stuff into an 8-week term) and for you history nerds out there, Edward Gibbon’s famous The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire was at the top of our reading list. Marcus Aurelius was considered one of the Five Good Emperors, who, as Gibbon writes ‘governed by [with] absolute power, under the guidance of virtue and wisdom. The armies were restrained by the firm but gentle hand of four successive emperors, whose characters and authority commanded respect.’ Whilst trotting about on military campaigns, he found time to write Meditations, which was a collection of his own personal writings about how to be a good man. Considering the historical context and the extent of his power, Meditations advocated for a lot of ‘right-on’ philosophical practices. Don’t get me wrong, he didn’t invent yoga, but he did say “you have the power to strip away many superfluous troubles located wholly in your judgment, and to possess a large room for yourself embracing in thought the whole cosmos, to consider everlasting time, to think of the rapid change in the parts of each thing, of how short it is from birth until dissolution, and how the void before birth and that after dissolution are equally infinite”. And yoga, is definitely one way of doing this – don’t you think? If you want to find out more about Marcus Aurelius, you can find a copy of Meditations on amazon.co.uk and I would recommend checking out Melvyn Bragg’s In Our Time edition of ‘Stoicism’. See, I choose the quotes deliberately!
Anyway, back to yoga. Today I completed Day 2 of Tim’s challenge, which you can find here. As he explains, a lot of the routine is based on repetition from Day 1, in an attempt to get the body remembering the positions. And boy, mine remembered! I have to say, whilst I spent the initial first half of the session concentrating on how achy I felt, by the end, I felt as if I had stretched out the creaks and felt rested for bed. I had a nice hot shower afterwards this time, and it was probably one of the best showers I have had in a while.
When I finally slumped into bed, I had a little browse in the Kindle store to try and find some guidebooks on Yoga. I knew there were different types of yoga, but I had not quite appreciated the full range of brands within the market. I found ‘yoga for men’ (because little ladies can’t do the yoga that men do of course…it’s almost as ridiculous and dated as the old Yorkie bar branding strategy) and ‘yoga for curvy girls’ (again, a nice healthy bit of body-shaming separatism…). I finally settled on ‘Gym Yoga’ which is a directory of poses that you can incorporate into gym workouts. Personally, this seemed more what I was looking for. So I will let you know what I think of that in due course.