What Chris Brown Teaches Us About Yoga

I’m sure everyone is familiar with the video above, because my mother told me about it before I saw it, and if your mother tells you about something viral before you catch it, you know it must be huge.

This video, aptly titled “Jill and Kevin’s Wedding Dance” is magical because it makes even cynical, cold-hearted non-believers like me think marriage might just be a wonderful thing (or at least an excellent excuse for a dance party and an open bar). The problem is that it’s Chris Brown who’s making everyone realize how beautiful love can be. Prior to this video, Chris Brown was only teaching us how love might cause you to miss the Grammy awards.

Still, personally, I’ve been dying to download “Forever” since, well, forever. But more than one person told me that if I did, I’d be “giving $1.29 to wife-abuse”. I’m terrible at making my bed, lazy about laundry and inept at cooking, so I anticipate that I’m going to need a wife some day. I certainly didn’t want a reputation as someone who thought hitting was ok.

However, last week, one of my roommates (who apparently bought the song before Brown hit Rihanna…) emailed me an MP3 of “Forever.” After months of craving it, I’ve been listening to it non-stop for days. But I’ve been feeling a little guilty about it, so I decided to do the yogic thing and find the yoga in Chris Brown.

Chris’s Karma Points

1) He knows about foundation. On Sunday, when we were doing practice teaching in training, I explained parivrtta trikononasana (revolved triangle) by quoting to the line, “All you’ve got to do is watch me/see what I can do with my feet” from the song. I told my students that while it seems like the pose is all about the fancy things you do twisting your torso and putting your arms in the air, the real meat and merit of the pose was all in the feet. Focus on what you can do with your feet, and it’s expressive enough. The rest will just evolve.

(After I was done teaching the pose I asked if it seemed out of place to be quoting Chris Brown in yoga and everyone said no, although one person did say, “RB, I have a feeling that when you start teaching, your classes will be like no one else’s.” Not quite sure what that meant. Oh well.)

2. He shows what happens when you don’t stick to your intention. When my teacher asked us to set an intention for the class today, answering the question, “why are you here?” immediately, my mind (heart?) answered “Love!” Not necessarily romantic love, but just general kindness. Of course, this turned out be a day when everyone annoyed me, people were knocking my props over, and no one would smile at me. My teacher told us that yoga class was a good place to explore how we reacted when our intentions faced a challenge.

I realized that when my intent to practice loving kindness was not met with equal loving kindness, I got really really pissed off. In fact, I very quickly switched to disliking everyone. Hmm..I thought. Sounds like a certain notorious R&B singer I know (not B.I.G). So while I absolutely assert that hitting your girlfriend is unacceptable, we can all learn something about how not to act when your plans or perceptions are disrupted. Most of us aren’t reacting with outward physical violence, but you might be surprised to find the tiny acts of violence you inflict on others or yourself when your expectation and intentions are not met. Those reactions compromise your intention–as we see with Chris Brown, his actions destroyed his noble intention, and a perfectly awesome love song.

3) His situation is so screwed up, it demands radical affirmation! First, two other people, Jill and Kevin (of the wedding dance above), picked up Brown’s intention and manage to restore the song’s popularity. Then, they got some criticism for helping to boost sales for a wife-beater. They responded by employing another tenet of yoga, Radical Affirmation. They took something bad, and made it something good by collecting donations for domestic violence charity on their web site, Jill and Kevin’s Wedding. Now, something that seemed like an awkward mistake is helping people.

4) We learn the value of Ahimsa, or non-violence. If you need me to explain this one, this blog is above your reading level. However, I would add sometimes that ahimsa, one of the five Yamas (which are like the 10 commandments for Yogis) is sometimes interpreted as vegetarianism. This means vegetarians are the opposite of wife-beaters. Go Vegs!

5) Asmita, Or Ego, is one of big obstacles to a Yogic life. If you can put aside your ego to make a public apology, or put aside your ego to write a blog post about Chris Brown and yoga, you are obviously on the right track.

6) He’s a good reminder that nobody’s perfect, but that doesn’t mean we can be judgmental. In Sutra 1.33, Punjali gives instructions on how we should treat certain difficult types of people (as opposed to how we normally do.) For example, we might feel an aversion towards wicked people. But we shouldn’t, instead, we should be “accepting” and “neutral.” In other words, it’s ok to buy the song and listen to it a thousand times, even though “it might make us think we are approving of their bad behavior.” We’re not! We’re just creating equanimity! What a relief. It’s like I waited my whole life….


4 thoughts on “What Chris Brown Teaches Us About Yoga

  1. I actually first saw this video when a yoga teacher brought in her lap top to show it to everybody in yoga class. Apparently, it hasn't gotten around to my mom yet, or else she forgot how to forward e-mails. Had no idea the song was about Chris Brown, though, at the moment, I'm listening to Miles Davis, musical genius and serial wife beater…but also dead…so it goes…

  2. RB, this blog is above all of our reading levels. We come here to improve. Instead of attending a year-long domestic abuse program, Chris Brown should have to attend three yoga classes per week with you.

  3. Love the post. The theme is definitely something I've given a lot of thought to re: rejection of philosophers who don't live by their own philosophy. I definitely agree with your take on it!


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