Deep in the Weeds with Thai Bodywork

I’m into the latter part of my Thai yoga massage training, which I continued this past weekend. Wow, just when I thought I had a good handle on this, my brain flips a 360 inside my skull.

My training to this point was mostly on the poses, sequences, positioning, tempo, and all that goes into a traditional Thai bodywork session. I’m now entering into the clinical aspects of the treatment. There is a chain of events that happens when you feel pain. Its a cascading flow with a network of interrelationships.

It starts with your feet. How do you stand? Is one leg or one pelvis longer than the other? How does that affect your spine? Do you have tendencies toward sway back or hunch back? What activities do you do on a daily basis? Sitting in an office or driving 8 hours a day? Do you do yoga, weight training, or sports? Or are you sedentary? What is your a dominant side? Do you have inherited or other pathological predispositions? All these play a role in treatment.

Then, we begin to describe pain. But what many doctors and therapists aren’t aware of is referred pain. You come in with knee pain, so they work on the knee. They diagnose something physical in the joint itself. They may prescribe strengthening exercises and stretches. But they never really find the source of the pain. For instance, outer knee pain may stem from a tug from the IT band. So the trainer has you roll your IT band (which, btw, does nothing at all). The real problem could be your tensor fascia latae (TFL) is in contraction which in turn pulls on the IT band, which it is attached to. But they don’t think to look there. But the complicating culprit to the TFL is adductor magnus, so you have to work there too. There are so many referrals that don’t start where you would think. You have to study trigger points and referral pain to understand how the nociceptors send signals to your brain to put out bracing or support wires to prevent pain or injury. And those trigger points aren’t always in obvious places. Its really amazing how it all works.

So we were working on protocols to treat pain. Its not “I have knee pain so work on my knee”. There is a whole process that works toward the source of the actual pain. Otherwise, you get a bodypart worked on, the pain returns, and then you have to go back for therapy over and over again. They never solve the source of the pain.

Another interesting thing I found out was about how pairs of antagonistic muscles work synergistically. I worked on someone last week with painful mid-anterior thigh pain. I was able to find trigger points and work through the pain. But now that I look back, a source of the problem is also tight hamstrings, which were present in this client. So instead, I need to open up the antagonistic muscles as well. The same is true with a client with intense inner pelvic pain. But the source likely isn’t the pelvis at all. It comes down to antagonistic muscle groups.

I still have lots of learning to do. I feel like I’m only on the tip of the iceberg with this. Sure, I can therapeutically work and help people. But my full understanding is a long ways away. And I’m super excited about that. Its a never ending process of learning.


Just Say No to Credit Cards

So, I was at Home Depot picking up some things. I was in a really good mood since I also had a full belly of Thai food that made me all warm and cozy. So when I got to the checkout, I showed my license with proof that I’m a Veteran for my discount. Its one reason why I prefer Home Depot these days.

This bubbly checkout fellow said, "how would like $25 off on your order?"

I replied, "why not!".

Then he asks for my social security number. I usually have my guard up since the military is trying to remove the need to use your SSN# to protect our security. I have a duffel bag from Army basic training that has my full name on it and SSN# marked on it with Sharpie permanent marker. That thing used to go through airports and anyone could write down my info. Nowadays, you have to watch out. I’ve since marked out my SSN# on that duffel bag.

What I didn’t realize, though my wife did [and she didn't say anything], was that I was signing up for a store credit card…

So here is one of my rules in life that I learned the hard way when I was young, don’t have more than one credit card. Only use one with good reward points. Always pay it off. Try to never use it if you can. I say that tongue & cheek because its what I use for Amazon and I use Amazon a lot!! But never carry a balance on your card. You may have your Bank ATM debit card as a backup. But use that even less because there is less protection from someone draining your bank account.

Yeah, I got my $25 off, which is kind of OK in my book. And I suppose the small print somewhere that I wasn’t shown and apparently didn’t ask for probably says I need to hold this card to keep my discount. Now, somewhere down the road, I’ll have to remember to cancel this account. What a pain!!!

Don’t sign up for credit cards. You don’t need a good credit rating. You’ll get one anyway if you pay off your credit card every month and keep in good stead with your bank. And make all your mortgage payments on time. And buy cars with cash from savings and not credit. Build your savings. Build your retirement. I can’t say that enough. When you get to be as old as I am, you’ll start wondering, will I have to take odd jobs to make ends meet when I’m 70? Will I end up sorting through the stale bread bin for meals? Will I have to buy a double wide trailer and live out on Federal land without a pension or health benefits? You don’t want to be asking those questions of yourself when you are 70. Believe me!

Life’s Changes

I find my life changing very rapidly. To be honest, I don’t live for my work. I work so I can live. My goal in life has always been to make a difference. I don’t always feel like I’m doing that with my regular paying job.

Here is an example. I spent months on a report that was being directed by a Federal Officer high up in Washington D.C. It was supposed to protect the lives of archaeologists and honor indigenous people’s too. I thought it would make a huge difference in the landscape of my work. At the end of many deliberations and changes to the report, I submitted it. I even presented the results to some Deputy Assistant to the Secretary of ****. Wouldn’t you know it, this official told me that the person I was working with decided to go a different direction. When I asked about this, it was very true. All the time I spent on something that I thought was important suddenly meant nothing. You could pretty much throw away all the work I did into the trash. And not only that, it means taxpayer dollars were summarily burned into ashes as well.

It wasn’t any different from when I was a University Professor. It just so happen I caught the wave of a plant disease that greatly affected highly managed turfgrass lawns. Now, to those of us in the trenches, that doesn’t mean a lot. But to a golf course that is hosting a huge event, and to the hosting organization (like the Professional Golf Association), to all the sponsors who invested money to get their names highlighted to generate sales, to all the golfers and spectators who paid for plane tickets and hotel rooms, well, a lot is on the line. When a plant disease can basically wipe out an event on its own in a matter of days or even hours, that’s not a good thing. So I was working on the genetics of plant disease and I sought a solution. Everyone was totally behind me. However, what people didn’t have was patience. And by the time I could even propose a solution, they already changed away from the species of susceptible grass and planted something else. Even if we found a gene responsible for the disease and made some company a lot of money for creating a new variety of grass, it wouldn’t amount to a hill of beans anymore.

What you realize is this is the story of just one person’s life. Now multiply that across research that is done all the time. How much of it really ends up affecting people’s lives?

So now, I look at books in my work library that talk about bacterial genetics, molecular biology, and modern techniques of DNA research. I look at Volumes of books on statistical software and techniques for multivariate statistical analysis. I look at Agent Based Modeling and Data Mining. And notable Leadership and Corporate Motivation books. I’m a book person. I cherish books and their meaning. To think of the hours I’ve poured into these books, studying them, and finding solutions to problems. But life changes. If I move on from this career in a few years, what will these books mean to me? Absolutely nothing.

You know what works great for Sharpie permanent marker? You know, possession means you write your name on all your books so if you accidentally leave it somewhere or your colleague borrows it, you can hopefully get it back. Its acetone. You know, the highly flammable chemical that is used to remove fingernail paint. It works great. So I asked my wife to pick up a bottle for me. Its sitting next to all those cherished books to wipe my name and hopefully sell on Amazon. Then I’ll donate what I can’t sell.

I have a lot of other things in my office that won’t mean anything to me in a few years. Not only that, I have the same in my house. I have a wood working router that I never used. I have a band saw that I’ve only used a few times. I have many things I thought I needed but only used once or twice. Why do we hold on to these things? I have year books and things that I never look at. Yes, they are memories. I love memories and I’m very nostalgic. But think about how many times I use them. Maybe someone will copy a few notes from them for my memorial when I die. But what will they really mean to anyone?

Life changes and that’s ok. My purpose in life (now) is to have meaningful purpose. Its not to bide time away or just to fulfill my own immediate enjoyment. I want to make other’s people’s lives better. And I feel I do that really well with my teaching of yoga. I actually change peoples lives. It means something to people. The same is true with my education in Thai yoga massage. I can actually heal people. I can make them feel better. That is huge to me. As someone with chronic back pain and issues that I’ve held for years, I know how well all of this works. I think about the devastation my body had gone through in my 30’s and 40’s. I’m finally feeling like my body is where I want it to be. Its taken this long to figure it out.

Let life change for the positive. Find meaning. Savor every minute. Don’t let wasted time fall by the wayside. Make every moment meaningful.

Music: The Yoga Experience

I had an interesting thing happen last night while subbing a hot yoga class. I was about 3 or 4 songs into class when a woman came up to me while I was teaching and asked me a question. First, I’ve never had anyone approach my mat while I was teaching. Second, she had an accent so I couldn’t really understand her at first. And lastly, she asked me if I could play music without lyrics. Hmmm?

When I took teacher training, we talked a lot about the proper use of music in yoga. We were advised to use music without any lyrics at all. The tone of the music should fit the intensity of the class. And, like in Ashtanga, music isn’t always desired anyway.

When I first started teaching yoga, I largely abided by these criteria. But that didn’t last long. I happened to teach at a fitness gym that also had physical therapy, massage, and other healing modalities. It also tended to cater to an older crowd. I led a moderately intense yoga class at 6 am several mornings a week. Most of the class were people my age or slightly older. I think the music I chose fit with their general likes as well. And it seemed better when I used music that they could connect with.

I know my music won’t fit everyone’s styles or needs. But the best thing happened when I started teaching Rocket Yoga. Rocket was developed by Larry Schultz, the traveling Ashtangi to the Grateful Dead. So Rocket was steeped in Rock n’ Roll and Ashtanga. So I felt I was given carte blanche to play this kind of music in Rocket. So I play rock, hip-hop, funk, easy classics, and even EDM. I play an intro while we’re warming up of mostly invocations and Bollywood sounding themes. Then, as we are energizing, I kick in the jams. I range from Major Lazer to The Smashing Pumpkins to David Bowie and Eminem. As we start to chill in seated asanas, we stroll into Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Stevie Nicks, Damien Rice, and Dido. And then I finish in savasana with a mellow sound from my Thai Yoga Massage playlist.

Once, a lady from Australia asked about a song I played. She liked it, but when I suggested she check out my Spotify, she said she wouldn’t be doing that. So she was one of few who likely didn’t care for most of my music. And that’s OK. She kept coming to class. I had one lady who was totally in synch with my music. She used to sing and dance along to what I was playing. I really loved having her in class. We shared a mutual love for music.

However, in one instance, I was teaching Rocket and Eminem came on early in our heating phase. A lady walked out of the room, but came back after the song was over. Afterward, she said she had been on a music “fast” so hearing hard rap music was hard for her. I’m ok with that. But I’m not sure I ever restrict my life to not hearing music. I don’t think I’ll ever do that. Its like saying I shouldn’t drink water for a period of time. Nope, not gonna happen.

I really love music a lot. I like quite a variety of music. My music fits my mood. I play Zydeco when I’m cooking Cajun food. Maybe Mariachi when I’m cooking Mexican food. I play sad music if I’m sad. And when I’m doing CrossFit, nothing but metal will do. And I play it loud. Metallica, Accept, Motorhead, Black Sabbath, and Korn are some of my Go-To groups. They get my heart beating and drive my energy through the roof. Its like a Mosh Pit with Barbells.

I’m teaching a Glow Yoga Party next week. Its so fun because I play music hard and loud. We have blacklights and body paint and funky lights. Its so much fun!! Its really a Rave. Doing yoga like this is so energetic. Sometimes you need energy. It doesn’t always have to be somber and serene. It can be loud and rambunctiously playful too!

Play it loud!!!


Old Guys & Ring Tones

When I was growing up, the only option was to pick up the phone to know who had called. There wasn’t caller ID or any way of knowing who called. We didn’t even have an answering machine until many years down the road.

But when I go out in public, there are old guys (older than me) who still have their ringer on high because I don’t think they could hear it otherwise. I notice they don’t even check who called. They just pick it up and say "Hello Joe’s phone!" It doesn’t matter if they are in a line at the bank, at the hardware store, or getting suspenders at Walmart. They just answer.

Meanwhile, the introvert and private person who I am never has my phone on ring. My sound is always off and on vibrate. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll check who’s calling. But do you know what? I have a life. Whatever I’m doing at the moment is usually more important than checking my phone. When I have a chance, I’ll see who called or texted. I’d say 98% of the texts I receive have value to me. But only about 3% of the actual calls I receive have any meaning. Most are telemarketer robocalls. And I don’t have any time for that nonsense. If I have a moment, I’ll take the time to block the caller. Otherwise, I just delete it.

I’m not a phone talker anyway. Its especially true at work. So many miscommunications can be made on a phone call. Sure, you can get a better tenor and flavor in communication by hearing vocal inflection. A much better means is in person so you can see facial expressions and body language. A phone is generally a poor means of communication. And for something technical and specific, transcribing what you hear into notes isn’t very effective. Its much better to get a list, diagram, or picture from someone. And then you have a good record that’s searchable in your inbox.

To me, texts are super awesome. You have emoji’s and other means to show your emotions. You can catch them whenever is convenient. Most often, there isn’t a rush for an immediate response. But you never have more than a half-hour to hour delay in getting a response. Its my favorite means of communicating.

My advice to those old dudes: turn off your dad gum ringer!! Nobody wants to hear that or your conversation that’s not important to anyone but your self-important self.

College Football Powerhouses

Remember back in the day when USC (Southern Cal), Florida State, Nebraska, and Texas were football powerhouses?

Texas used to dictate the rules in the Big 12 (Big 8).

Oklahoma has a long-lasting rivalry with Nebraska. They went back & forth every meeting.

Bobbie Bowden used to have a grip on every game FSU played.

USC had all these Heisman trophy winners and the Rose Bowl was their annual home game on their way to a National Championship.

Shock Jocks

In the old days of radio, and maybe still today, there were Disk Jockeys (DJ’s) on the radio. Their disks were vinyl records that had to be changed over from turntable to turntable and "cued" up to gently overlap the previous song. That may sound obvious to many of you, but it may be new to some.

Back in the day, the FCC rules were a bit more strict, so if you said something distasteful on air, you could get the ax more easily than today. It still happens today, but you can hear podcasts where anything goes and nobody will say a thing. We called them Shock Jocks. These were the guys and gals who pushed the edge. And listeners just waited on baited breath for one of their lapses. It makes some people really happy. I don’t know why.

When I was in grade school, there was always a class clown. They always made people laugh with their antics. Usually, they weren’t the ones who were getting good grades and were certainly out of favor with the teachers. They made inappropriate outbursts and talked back to the teachers. They really only did it to gain approval from fellow students. They all thought they were cool and kids wanted to hang out with them. They were strong enough to buck the system. They were the rebels and people loved rebels. They got all the girls and were the pride of the school.

But the truth of their psychological character was probably far from cool. These were the kids who were often abused at home. They were yelled at and made to feel worthless. They were probably beaten and not fed very well. And not only were they treated this way, but they ended up treating others the same way. They had no respect for authority. They could care less about grades. I would suspect more than 95% of the class clowns we knew are probably homeless, in poverty, or even dead from substance abuse.

Kids aren’t at all perceptive of these issues. Even adults are this way. They love the celebrities who buck conventional norms. They love the celebrities who trash other celebrities. You know them too. They eventually treat people poorly and eventually commit suicide. Think of all the celebrity comedians from Saturday Night Live and other situation comedies who are now dead from substance abuse and suicide. These are the people we thought were so cool and had their acts together. These rebels are gone.

I think kids, and even immature adults, still think this way. They see the straight laced person and want to run from them. Instead, they gravitate toward the rebel. They may even want to emulate that person. They flock toward the counter-culture. They back the 1% not because they truly honor that lifestyle, but just because its cool to be egregiously different.

Yet, when it comes to educating children, we start to want to protect their minds. Those things we thought were cool, we definitely don’t want in our children. We want them to obey you because the rules are set not to hurt them, but to protect them. We lock the doors on our home not as much as for ourselves, but to protect those we love. We put up a privacy fence not as much to keep people out, but to protect what’s inside. We hope that our kids grow to respect authority and make something special of their own lives. Its fine to have someone on TV be a rebel, but we don’t want that for our kids. Let that be someone else’s kids. And lets not do play dates with those kinds of families. Its about protecting our children and them growing into adults we can be proud of.

People always love a rebel. Its a fantasy. Stay true to yourselves. Don’t raise Shock Jocks.