“C’mon take me to the Mardi Gras, where the people sing and play,
Where the dancing is elite and there’s music in the street both night and day.”
Tonight is the night—the last chance to get our yayas out before the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday tomorrow. When you have forty days of penitential fasting ahead of you, the whole idea of Mardi Gras, or “Fat Tuesday”, is pretty appealing. Mardi Gras was first celebrated in Italy in cities like Venice. Called Carnevale, it began right after the Feast of the Epiphany and featured a whole season of masked balls, role reversals and general debauchery, culminating on Fat Tuesday. In many places today it has become a three day celebration, and in others is relegated to just a single day. Mardi Gras comes from the Christian tradition as a kind of counter pose to all the privations of Lent. Sometimes Fat Tuesday is referred to as Shrove Tuesday—from the word “shrive,” which means to confess. If we take full advantage of the celebratory potential of Mardi Gras we will probably have something to confess. One of the traditions of Fat Tuesday is to eat fatty foods to insulate the body in preparation for the dietary restrictions of Lent. The period of Lent acts as a segue from Winter into Spring. During Winter we tend to spend more time indoors because of the shortened days, eat more to keep warm (calories are a measure of heat), drink more, and exercise less. When we look in the mirror on Fat Tuesday, sometimes what we see reflected back at us is the sad truth that it’s not only Tuesday that’s fat. At this point we need to confess our overindulgences and vow to do better during the 40 days of Lent leading up to Easter Sunday. As we move from Winter into Spring it’s natural to eat lighter, up our activity level, and turn up the Tapas in our yoga practice. In Yoga Mala Guruji mentions that many of the asanas of the Primary Series are good for reducing bad fat—but of course we need to eat healthy as well. During the period of Lent the recommended diet is to avoid rich foods, sugary foods, meat, alcohol, and generally any kind of food that tastes really good. Lent is considered a time of purification in preparation for our spiritual rebirth on Easter. For many years I have observed the tradition of giving up something for Lent. This year I’m thinking of giving up giving things up for Lent, although it would be nice to be able to do some of those poses again that have slipped away over the winter—marichasana D, supta kurmasana, pashasana, tittibhasana, etc. The list seems to get longer with each passing year. One of my fellow teachers at the Ashtanga Yoga Center, Natasha Teran, is always after me to practice with her like we used to in the old days. “Let’s do third,” she says, and I have to remind her that I am 63 years old and getting fat. She tells me it’s all in my head. Recently, Natasha spent two months in Chile, taking care of her mother. Before she left she said, “When I get back we’ll practice together,” as if I had no choice in the matter. I told her she was acting like my mother, but promised her I would. Natasha has been back for three weeks and we still haven’t practiced together. Last week she said, “We could do the second series if you want.” Today she gave me the ultimatum, “Friday we’ll do First Series,” figuring that by lowering her expectations she was more likely to get compliance from me. I told her she had a date, but that I just might want to do Second.