Yogasana in many forms

I just listened to the Mindful Strength podcast where Kathryn interviewed Richard Freeman, one of the first Western yogis to be trained by Pattabhi Jois in Ashtanga. He remarked that even at his older age, he still practices Ashtanga. He is not as flexible and doesn’t have the same stamina, but he still does it. But he also adds in other things, like weight training and pulling movements.

What was so profound to me was that he called these other movements part of Yogasana. They are yoga movements that are written in the Sutras. As a scientist, I usually want to see this proof for myself, so I suppose I had better dig into the books. He said pulling movements, like rowing and climbing are part of Yoga. And this makes me very happy.

I’ve said this before, a senior yoga teacher who I admire greatly was perplexed that she couldn’t even do one pull-up. Of all the movements in yoga, this pulling action is sorely lacking. There are several others as well, but this is the biggie. Body weight movements are great in that gravity is the resistance. You press down or lift off of the Earth and every point of pressure resists. But try taking that movement in another direction. Now lift something off the ground and put it overhead.

Again the scientist in me wants to test this. I hope someone already has. I’d like to gather a few yogis who excel at arm balances, jump-throughs, etc. and see how they do in the weight room. I’d like to test their deadlift, squat, bench press, and overhead strength. Pull-ups too! And while most gym rats would struggle with the aforementioned yoga poses, I wonder if it is truly a one-way street with yogis too?

Fortunately, several yogis who gravitate to my Rocket Yoga classes are also rock climbers and aerial yoga artists. Pole dancers too! Those movements are totally in the pulling strength realm. So for those few, they have it covered.

The definition of "Fitness" that I was taught in high school is the ability to successfully do your day’s work, whatever that may be, while being able to handle any emergency that comes up.

-You are walking home from work and suddenly have to sprint across the street to miss a car.
-You hear a crash in the other room and realize a tall dresser has fallen on your child and you have to lift it off of them.
-Your car breaks down and you need to walk several miles to the gas station (no cell coverage).
-You need to unload a pickup truck full of unsplit firewood before work (me this morning).
-You are Jonesin for a pickle but can’t twist open the jar.

Be ready for everything friends. Yoga is great, but be sure to explore all of Yogasana and not just practice on your mat.


Thai Yoga Update

I just finished the Hands Free course in my Thai Yoga Massage training. It was totally amazing. I’m always blown away by all the tools and techniques available to the practitioner.

I say Hands Free, but it isn’t totally hands free. The idea is that your less powerful hands, wrists, and shoulders can provide more of a supporting role than being the primary tools of use. Instead, you use feet, knees, shins, legs, and hips as the implements. It makes the therapist’s job that much easier.

In the end, my mind is totally flabbergasted by the options. Imagine yourself with a hammer, a drill, wrenches, and screwdrivers. Since that is all you have, its pretty easy to decide on what tool to use when you need it. But imagine suddenly having another 100 tools laid out before you. You don’t even know which one to pick up for a given job. It is really going to take a while for me to realize what my assets are.

I think of techniques I used recently that were my Go-To moves. But that is completely changed now. The teacher would say that he uses (insert hands free technique) 10 to 1 over any other application in his treatments. The energy I used to spend doing something will be drastically reduced. I’ll work with more ease while applying a lot more pressure and focused attention.

But not only did we learn Hands Free, the teacher always goes into little tangents about our current health system. There is a reason these techniques have worked for 2,500 years. And because it looks like magical Eastern Mysticism and largely unexplained by modern science, the medical community has a difficult time accepting the concepts. But this teacher is using science to add to its credibility. Neuromuscular physiology and functional anatomy are a huge part of our training. And it all makes complete sense. It is totally NOT magic.

The take home after all of my weekend was to be creative and thoughtful in design of a treatment. It take a lot of intuition to identify a solution to a problem. There are elements of physical therapy and massage that are useful, and there are related techniques like acupuncture and yoga that contribute, but Thai Yoga Massage puts all of this together neatly. It is a process of gaining trust, allowing the receiver to relax with the breath, case history, assessment, warmup preparation, trigger point identification, specific treatment, and then movement and stretching to get muscle fibers moving again. Other therapies will have a few portions covered, but not everything. And these sequences are often repeated in a different way.

Its difficult for me to imagine a more effective treatment for most pain a person feels. It is helpful for most chronic and acute conditions. And it is invaluable for repetitive use issues whether manual labor or athletics. I realize pain I’ve had for years doesn’t have to be there anymore. I can release the pain and make it never come back. And I want to do that for others as well.

Mentoring Session

I have been mentally rehearsing and visualizing my Thai yoga massage mentoring session today. My last one was a month ago. Garsh there is so much to remember. My biggest focus is slowing down and working within my breath. But the 2nd is something I haven’t gotten to practice. I gave to an LMT friend of mine this weekend and she gave me a good tip.

I tend to be a bull in a china shop with most things. The wrestler in me has never learned finesse. The tip that I haven’t practiced is making my first touch soft. I’ve thought about that for a few days. What would it hurt to make my first hand placement like 20% pressure. Then ease into it with my breath. I love that idea. I know I violated this in my last mentoring session too. My instructor kindly said, “now that was a 6”. We rate pain from 1-10 and find a successful pressure to be a 5. But a 6 or 7 is painful and bodies start to resist or contract against your pressure. So if I start with a 1-2 every time, it’s more reassuring to the client.

Since I haven’t practiced this at all, I’m depending on visualization. I’ve been a huge fan of this technique. If you watched the downhill and super G skiing events in the Olympics, or the half pipe snowboarding, they all use visualization. Their hands are on their poles while you can see them moving left and right and they mentally go through their run. I used to do this in wrestling too. Watch a wrestler before a match. You’ll see them shadow boxing as they work through their movements.

I’ve read of elite athletes who were bed ridden with injury or illness. They haven’t done their sport for weeks. But they close their eyes, they see their event, their neural pathways are stimulated. And when it’s time to perform without much practice physically, they totally succeed.

I’m hoping to succeed today. I could use a nap though too. Your subconscious processes all of this. That’s another topic.


RFID Wallet

RFIDblocking wallets are designed to help insulate you from a very particular brand of electronic pickpocketing, called RFID skimming. The concern is that some credit cards, passports, and driver’s licenses now come with embedded radio frequency identification chips.”

I have back problems anyway due to a degenerative disk. What wasn’t helping at all was the very large wallet I was carrying. It must have been 2 inches in depth. It was so thick that it even plopped out at a restaurant and someone was kind enough to show me it fell out. So I whittled it down a lot and carried more non-essential stuff in a separate holder.

I travelled to a few places where pick pocketing was rampant. I heard about it in airports too. But the worst is the threat of electronic skimming.

My solution to all of this was a money clip RFID blocking wallet. It has worked so well. And I carry it in my front pocket where it is much more secure.

I also keep my account numbers, phone numbers to credit card companies in case I have a problem, passport #, and personal info in a biometric protected app on my phone. Then if I do lose my money clip, I have means to call. It’s all in the cloud!

I’m easily accused of being paranoid or overly cautious about everything. I am conditioned toward safety. I was an Army infantry scout platoon sergeant. I was always thinking of redundancies, contingencies, and security. I do the same in life today.

Be safe my friends. Don’t be the one who is unprepared.


Save Early

Because if you start late, there is nothing you can do about it.

I just saw a report that 42% of Americans have saved just $10,000 toward retirement. The type A in me finds that astonishing. My financial advisor says I will be in shortfall if I retire when I want and that scares me to death. But Garsh!!!! 10K?

A problem I had early was 24 years of education and a few years in the Army when I wasn’t putting into social security. And I wasn’t saving for retirement. But my early years were bliss. I lived a simple life and never felt in want. We still traveled. We camped all over the place. It was good. We did save for emergencies. But had a little debt to fix. But we did it. This is how.

Here are my tips for success:
-save 10% and leave it alone. It’s not your vacation fund.
-give 10% to charity. I don’t believe in Karma, but same idea.
-don’t take on any more debt except a low interest mortgage. There is no equity in renting.
-get out of debt NOW! Pay off the smallest debt first. Then add that payment amount to the next smallest debt. It works!!

-go all in on tax deferred or other sheltered pre-tax retirement savings

-when the market takes a hit, buy low. Pump up that IRA.
-diversify!!! Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Don’t put all your trust in one advisor.

-cars are never an investment. Don’t let people tell you otherwise.
-Don’t think you need to use credit to get better credit. Being out of debt is much better than an over exaggerated credit rating.
-don’t overbuy anything, especially a house. You don’t need the latest everything. Learn contentment.

I guarantee I could look at every single persons budget and show you where you can improve. And I’m sure someone could do that for me too. Do some self evaluation and determine wants versus needs. I don’t believe someone who says they can’t save or give to charity. Something in those lives needs to change. And I’m certain we can find the real reasons.

Be independent. Not dependent on others or the government. That’s success!


Rocket Fun!

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed teaching Rocket lately. Well, I always have. But I’ve thrown in a few spices lately. Maybe they would help your yoga classes too! Regardless, if you’re in the area, drop in sometime.

Here are a few highlights:
-Animal Yoga – we’ve been starting some Rocket 3 classes with Animal movements.
-Moon Flow – sun salutations are the best, but when we have a moon day, we do moon flows.
-Zombie Presses – starting flat on your face, we practice pressing to headstand. The socks help.
-Jump Throughs & Backs – with socks! Yeah, make it fun and attainable.
-Ashtanga 2nd series headstands – we go through them all.
-Odd variations – like Super Soldier, Fallen Angel, …. they add to the spice!

Come join in on the fun:
Mondays at 7pm
Saturday at Noon
*all at Amara Yoga & Arts, Urbana, IL at Lincoln Square Mall

"Where will your rocket take you?"
"You are stronger than you think"
—Larry Schultz, the Rocket Man, rip


Weightlift Your Way Through Life

Olympic weightlifting is so specialized and unique that it seems unapproachable to the average person. But it doesn’t have to be. Its all a matter of basic physics. But while it is very basic, it does take a little (or a lot) of coaching to understand fully. Its very different from the sports of powerlifting and bodybuilding. And, unless a gym has rubber bumper plates, spinning Olympic bars, and allows you to drop weight from overhead, access will be limited. However, all CrossFit gyms and most barbell gyms have what you need. Even Universities will have this for their athletes and students.

As I think of exercises I normally do, so many are made much more effective through weightlifting. They are:
rowing (not using arms, coming to full leg extension before elbow bend)
kettlebell swings (opening hips completely and keeping arms loose)
wallball shots (again full extension of hips before the ball leaves your shoulders)
med ball slams (full extension using very little arms)
squats and overhead presses

In everday life, it can help:
lifting something off the ground
putting something overhead
doing manual labor more efficiently
playing with kids
handling emergencies requiring physical strength
overall quality of life (getting off the toilet or couch, reaching for things)

But it is a highly specialized sport and can get very technical. Among a few things, here are some basic cues to remember:
-place your feet like you are going to jump
-learn to hook grip the bar (you can look that up)
-learn the valsalva maneuver, inhaling against the belt and holding your breath
-think knees back—and they stay back (unlike powerlifting)
-vertical bar path doesn’t really exist (unlike powerlifting)
-sweep the bar back like Superman into your hips
-drive the hips forward to full hip extension and straight legs
-pull yourself under the bar (not pulling up or shrugging)
-catch the bar at the full height, which means you don’t have to pull very high
-don’t ride the bar down, but catch lightly and stand up
-if clean & jerking, take another breath, then dip and drive the bar overhead
-split or squat under the bar and lock out elbows

In practice, you can break down any one of these single cues. It doesn’t need to be as complicated as it sounds. What’s funny is people wonder how someone can enjoy just doing two lifts all the time. I mean, its just a Snatch and Clean & Jerk. But if you break it down, do complexes, pauses, deficits, powers, singles or multiples, it adds up to a lot of variation. And it is a whole lot of fun. It can be all strength, all speed, all power, and even aerobic.

Olympic lifting translates to so many other sports and activities. And yes, it is totally cheating. Where bodybuilding and powerlifting is about strictly applied strength, weightlifting is all about power and cheating. Power means "strength with speed". To tell you the truth, almost all sports involve Power and not raw strength. When you press overhead in bodybuilding, you’re not supposed to cheat by bend your knees and bouncing it up. But in weightlifting, that’s the name of the game. Its the difference between performance and fitness.

More to come.