That’s Not Part of the Meditation

I’m about to describe how the excellent writer (and my good friend) Charlie Stella haunts my yoga practice.

Bikram Yoga — which I started last fall, practiced diligently through the winter, totally slacked off most of the spring, and have since gotten vigorously back on board with all summer — is described as a “90 minute moving mediation.” It’s 26 postures, and it takes 90 minutes to get through them all. The second to the last one is called “separate head-to-knee,” or, in sanskrit, “janushirasana.” Yes, I had to look that up. I’m usually in a sorry state by the time we get to it; drenched with sweat, stifled by heat and humidity, and often so bedraggled that I can only get through one of the two sets (and my fat-ass version of the posture is a pale imitation of how it’s supposed to look). It’s supposed to look like this:


Anyway, when the instructor announces the pose, I swear it sounds like its name is “Johnny Shirasana.” It never fails to remind me of Charlie’s second novel, Jimmy Bench-Press, and I start giggling to myself thinking of somehow turning “Johnny Shirasana” into either some kind of yoga-practicing villain or yoga-practicing swashbuckling hero. Which I’m sure is not where my meditating mind is supposed to lumber off to. But it happens. I got called out by a guest instructor during dead body pose the other day for moving when I wasn’t supposed to. That time I was distracted by thoughts of how I was going to acquire chocolate cake for my best girl later, when I was supposed to be “focused on my breathing.” As if.

As for Stella, the guy should be a household name because he’s a fantastic writer. He’s also a hell of a guy. Here’s the synopsis of Jimmy Bench-Press:

jbpJimmy Mangino figures he’s overdue. Already he’s done two stretches in the joint. But he’s back, and he’s still a good earner for the family. You got a loser you need to lean on, Jimmy lends his strong arm, and he doesn’t flinch at murder, not for the Vignieris. He also bench-presses four hundred pounds. Jimmy wants to be a made man. Alex Pavlik wants to take Jimmy down. Pavlik, the edgy Polish cop who tailed Eddie Senta in Charlie Stella’s enthusiastically reviewed debut, Eddie’s World, has been transferred to Organized Crime from Homicide, where his short temper, keen sense of justice, and too-ready prizefighter’s fists have proved to be a volatile combination. Tough-talking, taut, and craftily plotted, Stella’s second novel takes Pavlik and his new partner, another New York police detective, John DeNafria, into the shifty world of Jimmy Bench-Press when wannabe-mobster Larry Berra hires Mangino to collect on a bad loan to a sixty-three-year-old Italian barber with a Cuban girlfriend. Jimmy’s got his fingers in any number of illegal pies, from extortion to murder, among purveyors of drugs and porn. Enough to get a man made, maybe.

Here’s my quick and dirty Amazon review of it, dated 04/03/2011, before I ever met the guy:

My first foray into Charlie Stella’s writing, and I really enjoyed it. His voice and style are great — I love how this book is so driven by dialogue, and each character, even bit players, are individual and memorable. Jimmy Mangino, aka Jimmy Bench-Press, may be the title character but he is just one in an ensemble of characters that tie this book together. I got a kick out of watching all the machinations and betrayals weaving through the story, and the tribulations in the lives of the characters who actually fill the roles of “good guys” that make them do things we wish they wouldn’t. A fine, quick read. Can’t wait to read more from Charlie Stella!

Hell, it’s only .99 on Kindle (which seems somehow criminal), so you should check it out.


Author: Chris

Chris La Tray is a writer, a walker, and a photographer. He is an enrolled member of the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians and lives in Missoula, MT.

6 thoughts on “That’s Not Part of the Meditation”

  1. Called out for moving? Wow, this sounds like a contrarian’s nightmare. On top of the heat and difficult moves, I totally get why you do this. 😉 To be honest, I was impressed and motivated enough by your Bikram streak to see if there was a studio near me. Thank goodness there is not. I’ll stick with Julia and chocolate cake. (But goodonya for keeping it up, I’m proud of you!)

    1. It was a good-natured call out, and happened only because he was explaining why it is the most difficult posture for many people, even though it is just a flat-on-the-back, resting pose. You aren’t supposed to move around, fidget, etc. and everyone does. So he was challenging us not to. I failed because my mind wandered. Which exemplifies perfectly why I need to be in there.

      1. Point taken. This has to be one of the hardest parts, keeping your mind in it, yes? I can’t even keep my mind from wandering when I’m trying to listen to an audio book, I would have a horrific time in a quiet class. Do you find you’re getting better at it? If so, has getting better at it made a positive impact on other parts of your life? Does that effect/ability carry on outside class or is it pretty much that hour (or hour and a half or however long you submit to this torture)?

        1. Despite improvement, I feel like I’m still at least a year out from most of the postures looking anything like they’re supposed to with my body twisted into them. But what it’s done so far for me outside of class is why I still do it.

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