Relaxed Stretching

What is so amazing to me about practices like Restorative or Yin Yoga is releasing your muscles into a pose. In Ashtanga Yoga, we usually hold a pose for 5 breaths, which is about the same time that it takes for the stretch-reflex to finally release your muscles. But the actual time in the stretch is only a few seconds. As we train your bodies and breath more, our mind releases the muscles faster. But if you really want to feel the deepness of a stretch, you hold for many breaths. Its what I love about more restorative variations. But you can do this with any pose given the right set-up.

All of this yumminess is even more accentuated in Thai Yoga Massage. In a totally relaxed state, you can get deep into poses and hold them. Quite often, I self-assist when I do poses in my own practice. When I do this, I’ll massage the tight muscles while in a pose. Or I’ll massage taut fibers and then go back to the pose over and over again. But to have someone else do it for you is really amazing. Let’s say you have knee pain so much that it hurts in supta virasana or triang mukha pada paschimottanasana. What if someone were to work on your knees and put you into the pose or a modification? It could be possible to find the depth you’ve been looking for in a very safe way.

All this is possible with Thai Yoga stretching. We can use tools like contract-relax (PNF), muscle distraction, vibration tools, and cupping to open your body in different ways. You should check it out for yourself.

My Team is Struggling

I know that doesn’t mean a lot to everyone, but it means a lot to me.

With defensive woes, I’ve set low expectations for my Oklahoma Sooners for the past several years. With Alex Grinch coming in from Ohio State, I felt about 30% more positive we could turn things around. And in the first several games, we actually did have a very good defense. But with a few injuries to key personnel, we’ve again shown our Achilles heel.

The days of putting up 21 points on a team and then coasting are long gone. We used to dominate and make opponents feel like they didn’t have a chance, so why bother. But now, teams always know they have a shot. Much like a fighter that gasses out after the first round, they just have to hold on to the onslaught. Then they can do whatever they want to a very weak defense.

I don’t have high hopes here on out. I think we have a 50/50 chance against our in-state rivals this week. And if we do make it to the conference championship, I think Baylor, or whomever our opponent will be, will likely run roughshod over our dreams.

And for our offense, we have so much potential. Our Heisman hopeful, Jalen Hurts, could have really been the shoe-in for the trophy this year. But our offensive line isn’t doing us any favors. A new front means that weaknesses can easily show up. And Jalen has itchy feet. When he feels even a hint of the pocket collapsing, he collapses too. Then he runs. The outsider could look at that as a strength. I see it as a very big weakness, one that the Pros won’t like very much. If he focused on the passing routes more and less in gaps to run himself, he’d be a much better quarterback. Some day, heaven forbid, he will get injured running so much and then what will that give him? An early retirement.

I hate to be so down on my team. I’d love to be hip-hip-hurrah about it all. We’re still a top 10 team, but I’m not sure for how long. I feel like we’re paper Tigers. Its so hard emotionally to be let down so often. I go from wearing my OU gear proudly to tucking it all in the closet and being anonymous. You have to start low and then be happy when we get the win.


No Debt…Ever!

Never carry debt except for a mortgage. And I go against what the experts think—don’t carry a mortgage either. Pay it off as fast as you can.

Your top 3 financial goals should be:
1. Save an emergency fund of 2-6 months of your regular monthly income–then don’t touch it.
2. Get rid of all debt and don’t get any more debt.
3. Save, save, save. Save a minimum of 10% a month. Top out your 401K. Top out your IRA. Make a vehicle savings and a vacation fund. Never exceed your funds.

Here is the Dave Ramsey method of getting rid of debt. Create a snowball of reducing debt.

1. Organize your debt into the smallest amount to the largest.
2. Pay off the smallest first as fast as possible; pay minimums on the rest.
3. Pay the next smallest using the amount of the first debt payment on top of that.
4. Then pay off your mortgage, which should be your largest debt.

This goes against what many experts say. Most will say to get rid of the debt with the highest interest rate. But that is a very slow way to get rid of debt. Using the snowball allows you to see very fast progress in debt elimination. Believe me, when you get down to that last 1 or 2 debts, you’ll be amazed. The stress will just fall off your shoulders.

Once you are out of debt, you are no longer losing money on interest. You are only gaining interest in savings and investments. And by building a big savings, it will give you more opportunities for growth should something come up. A good credit rating is not something you need to be proud of. Instead, pay as much as you can with cash. That makes a credit rating worthless. Being debt free is the only way to live.

Top 5 Elements of a Yoga Class

There is a trend I’m seeing in yoga that I don’t like. It largely comes from a Westernizing of yoga and making it a “Creative Exercise”. Yoga is drifting away from its meaning by moving away from its roots. So here are my top 5 aspects of Yoga that are being overlooked.

1. Long, “quiet”, restful Savasana

Let’s start with the purpose of yoga. Patanjali’s 2nd Sutra states “Yogas chitta vritti nirodhah“. This translates as “the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind.” Imagine getting a restless child to take a nap. Or maybe getting a puppy to settle down. What I would do is take them for a walk, play with them outside, and really get them to release their pent up energy. Then, make a conducive place that is warm and quiet for them to rest. Its the perfect recipe. When yoga began 5,000+ years ago, it was a seated meditation. What they found is exerting energy, moving the body, stretching the muscles, and using the breath was the way to find peace, or Samadhi (the 8th and highest limb of Ashtanga Yoga). In my yoga teacher training, a general guideline was 1 minute of savasana for every 15 minutes of class. What I’ve seen in fitness studios where the “Mind-Body” connection isn’t highlighted, they often skip savasana. When I would teach savasana, several people would get up and leave. They weren’t embracing the REAL purpose of yoga. Instead, it was just exercise. Yoga isn’t exercise. It is a spiritual practice (sadhana). In fact, it is more about the mind than the body. But people in the West want to make it all body. They are perverting the practice of yoga. No, yoga isn’t what you make of it or your own personal thang. It has meaning. Savasana is the central focus of a class; the longer the better. It should be quiet and calming, not loud and energetic.

Savasana is “corpse pose”. I heard an exhaustive commentary on this by one of the original Ashtangi’s who studied in Mysore under Pattabhi Jois. She alluded to corpse pose as really being death.

All that baggage of the past is gone.

Then you arise renewed and with a clean slate. It is almost Biblical in a sense. It is a reawakening. Its a spiritual renewal.

2. Two-thirds standing poses/ One-third seated/supine

This is the biggest problem I see today in general vinyasa and hot yoga classes. The classes end up being all standing with maybe one or two poses on the ground before savasana. That is NOT a complete yoga class. They are missing so much of those wonderful poses. Granted, my primary instructor in teacher training was an Ashtangi. So we were rooted in the Ashtanga practice. So the 2/3 to 1/3 rule basically follows Ashtanga. You can’t overlook the importance of seated, supine, and prone poses in a yoga class. Its where we find the benefit of stretching without being under the bodyweight load of standing. Standing is good for warming and general opening, but the seated portion is where you find the greatest depth. The standing poses are the warmup for the deepest part of the practice on the ground.

3. Inversions and maybe Arm Balances

I say arm balances as only an option. It is not necessary for a general yoga class and is often more advanced than what beginners can accomplish. But I teach the basics of arm balances even in beginner classes. What people want is a challenge. There are ways to introduce arm balances without making people feel defeated. It is not always something accessible in very hot classes since it gets slippery. But done early in a class before the sweat pours, or with people who have leggings on that are not as slippery, or even using a towel on slippery spots is helpful for success. While I love arm balances, they are certainly optional but highly recommended by me!!

What can’t be avoided are INVERSIONS. I’ve gone to so many vinyasa classes where inversions just didn’t happen. Teachers are often worried about a crowded room or not being able to safely spot and care for every student. But even in beginner classes, I teach inversions. I teach a supported headstand where the feet don’t ever come off the floor. But they are getting their body mostly over their heart and the heart above their head. So they are getting the reverse circulation that is so useful in yoga. However, you don’t even need to do that. You can do a bridge pose or restorative bridge on blocks. It still classifies as an inversion. This can transition into a half shoulder stand with legs either bend or straight above the hips. The best and easiest inversion of all is legs up the wall. It is the supreme pose for feeling an inversion since you can stay in it a long time. Don’t skip out on inversions in any class.

4. Variety

Some of the ancient writings say there are 80,000 poses and others 80 million. Yet with all the poses available, teachers feel the need to repeat poses. I think in the day of “creative sequencing”, we lose sight on what is important. I really wish we wouldn’t teach creative sequencing at all. What kids like to do is have a signature. They want long sequences where the student gets lost in what’s next but the teacher gets to pride themselves on something complicated. That is largely ego driven. So they sequence poses, do the sequence on the other side, and then they do the whole sequence again in a different way. When they begin to repeat a long sequence, my balloon totally deflates. In fact, I may not have enjoyed the original sequence; now we have to do it again. Talk about me getting out of Yogic Character. I feel like walking out. I know, advanced teachers try to convince young pupils to create “themes”. And this leads to repeated poses and drawn out sequences. You can do a theme without repeating poses. There are plenty to choose from. If you do a certain pose or group of poses that are similar, there are so many others you leave out. Instead of removing the vritti, or chaos, from our bodies, you create more. A body becomes one sided with forward folds and standing poses when there is so much more you can do. I feel some of this is a lack of confidence in a teacher’s abilities. If they only have to do 10 poses instead of 20, that gives them a lot less to think about. And if they develop a sequence they can repeat over and over, then they don’t have to think as much. This doesn’t serve the student one bit. In fact, it creates both vritti and imbalance.

5. Backbends

I will be the first to admit that the Ashtanga primary series has a majority of forward folding poses. It is why I recommend that Ashtangis practice the Second series too since it has more backbends to balance out the body. We do this in Rocket as well. Yoga standing poses in general are very forward folding dominant. There are rarely backbends at all. Yet you have classes that are all standing and don’t add backbends at the end. We are hurting students instead of helping them by doing that. I’m not sure the reasons why teachers avoid backbends. Maybe they don’t feel good in their own bodies because they teach what they practice. Or maybe they don’t want to demonstrate them in class. But there are options that are less taxing than say a full kapotasana or upward bow (urdhva dhanurasana). Maybe camel pose is accessible or half camel? A wild thing is such a fun option. All locust variations are good. Even focusing on cobra pose, which I see as a very advanced backbend if you teach it corrrectly.

But the primary reason we need backbends is LIFE. In LIFE, we sit in chairs, we drive cars, we work at computers, and we sleep in a fetal position. It is hugely crucial in LIFE to do backbends to counter LIFE. Its what releases emotions and hardness in our bellies and hip flexors. Backbends are critical for LIFE.

Final Statement:

I once left one of these modern classes with a colleague of mine. I didn’t bring up the issue, but she did. She said “does your body feel angry too?” After a hard day’s work, you need that physical and mental release. If you go to a gentle or restorative practice, it means you already have had the stress of a hard day. You are ready to balance the Yang with some Yin. But if you’ve sat in an office all day, or were driving in a car for a long time, you need the Yang. My fellow teacher mentioned that the practice wasn’t something that helped her release her tension. And in doing so, it created greater tension in her mind. Anger describes it well. I felt this too. Sometimes I leave a yoga class and end up having to do my own practice to counter what was missed. I miss the backbends, inversions, and arm balances. I miss the seated poses. It wasn’t a full yoga class. It was totally inadequate.

If you pay money to take a yoga class, you want it to be complete. You want to go to a yoga class where it focuses on YOUR needs, not the teacher’s. You want to feel special, like its the only class the teacher teaches all week, and it was made especially for you. You want it to cover all your needs and leave you feeling rejuvenated.

#yoga #yogateacher #yogateachertraining #yogatraining

Decide & Do It; And Do It

We were talking over dinner the other night with friends about popular culture. It seems like people are non-committal on events and will wait until the last minute to decide anything. That way, if something better comes up, they can change their mind. I think its always been the case, but it is right in the front of my face today.

Case in point: Last Summer, I had planned and announced for 3 months that I was going to have a Summer picnic for my yogis. But when the time came, it was me and another teacher who showed up. Especially during Summer, if better friends have a better party, then nobody has to hang out with your lame, boring self (haha!). So bottom line, that won’t be happening again.

Case in point #2: I didn’t think I had a number 2, but I did. I teach a Glow Yoga Party every Fall and Spring. When I first started, it was usually sold out weeks before the event. But since then its started to dwindle. This Fall, I had 7 people signed up the week of the event. I had tried to cancel the event, but was convinced to still do it (with promises given about it). To be honest, I have a lot of the gear to handle the event, gear that I purchased and keep on my own. But it could technically be a part of the cost of hosting such an event. I also have to buy bodypaint, balloons, glow bracelets, fluorescent tape, and Facebook ads for marketing. While not super expensive, it still adds up. And, I have someone help me, so I end up splitting the earnings in half after expenses. So, while I had a good number show up, it still wasn’t full. And now I’m convinced it isn’t worth it anymore. People don’t commit anymore. They wait for something better. You can’t hold events like that or you’ll get burned.

I think I’m a different kind of person. For one, I’m a good friend. If someone is hosting something and I can be there, I usually commit to going. And if its held at, say, 7pm, I’m there at 7pm. Not 9pm. I know what its like to be a host and everyone shows up an hour late. I guess I’m not the party-goer, fashionably late kind of person. A good friend doesn’t do that to a good friend.

Secondly, I’m very calendar oriented. I usually don’t remember what’s on my calendar since I keep a very detailed one and know I can always go to it. But I mark everything on my calendar. And its shared with my wife. We are both like that. So when someone has an event, I mark it on my calendar. Once its there, its like its written in stone. I don’t waver and hem and haw about what I want in life. I’ve committed and that’s it. I’m loyal that way. Other people are like, oh I didn’t realize I had other plans that night. Don’t you have a calendar? What they really mean is, something better came up. But they can’t say that to you because they know how weaselly that is.

I’m getting grouchy in my old age. Pretty soon, I won’t be inviting people to events. It will be all impromptu. And it will only be with people who I trust as real friends. And I probably shouldn’t be so firm in my commitments anymore. I should probably just bail on people like they do me. But that’s not who I am. I couldn’t be as spineless as that. I need to be who I am. I’m a solid person and a good friend. And I know I’ll still have events and invite people to stuff. I can’t help it. And if I get my heart stomped on, then I’ll just go through this wave of emotions all over again.

If you don’t put your heart out there and give love, then its hard to receive love back. Don’t expect love back. But if it happens, then embrace it. And appreciate it.

Money Isn’t the Root Cause: per se

Yes, I agree that delaying making these decisions is because of money. But money isn’t the root cause. Most often, its about poor decisions. As much as we like to vilify rich people, the primary reason why they are rich is because of good strategic decisions on their part. The "silver spoon" situation is a rarity. I saw a recent article about the very modest vehicles that 8 billionaires drive. I mean, some of these cars were downright basic. But what is the first thing someone [who usually didn't have money in the first place] who wins the lottery buys? A new car; and not just a new car, but a super flashy car that they can show off to others. This isn’t good decision making.

I just saw another article about a professional boxer who had a $10 million Mansion. But now they live in a 3-bedroom condo, a paltry downgrade from the mansion.

Most often, people without money don’t know how to deal with money. They make very poor decisions. Then overlay this with social media and factors of present times. More so than ever there are social media influencers who portray themselves as well off. They show cars and big homes that aren’t even theirs. These people have been busted multiple times when they really live in the shadows with nothing to speak of with regard to wealth. We see this in impoverished communities. People without jobs walking about in $100+ shoes or gaudy jewelry. They want to show they have money, when they really don’t. Many people do that in their own way.

I see this where I live. People could easily walk down to the convenience store close by and buy something wholly adequate for their needs. But no, they have to buy what’s hot on the scene. It has to be a designer brand or something unique that nobody else has. They eat out at restaurants every day and buy very expensive Starbucks coffee. Instead of going to a local community college to get their basic electives met, they have to go to the big school with all the sororities/fraternities and good parties. Instead of getting massage or yoga training close by, they have to go to far off places. Its all about being validated by others instead of doing what’s sensible.

The biggest thing I see is travel. I love to see places just as much as the next person. We finally splurged this year and went to Thailand. But that’s not something we do often. Or really, ever. Throughout my adult life, we’ve done everything on the cheap. All of our summer vacations were camping somewhere and usually in a tent. But as we age, the RV life has worked better for us. But still, that doesn’t compare to the travel that I envy of others. These are often people with modest incomes, with no emergency savings, no retirement savings, and they often go deep into debt to travel. That’s not the way to do it.

Here are some key financial tips that works for many people:

-NEVER, EVER, EVER—carry DEBT! Get rid of all debt. Your priorities should be #1. emergency fund of 2-3 months of income and #2. get rid of debt.
-Don’t worry about the Joneses. Stay in your own lane and forget street cred.
-Give your first 10% to charity (good for taxes); your 2nd 10% goes to savings (preferably retirement savings).
-Along with savings is an emergency fund. It should cover 2-3 months of your regular income.

-Cars are NOT an investment. Did you hear that? You don’t need a flashy car. It depreciates as soon as it leaves the new car lot. If you live in a city where you can do without a car, do that! You can rent a car to travel out of town.
-You DON’T have to go to college. I went to 12 years of college. During those years, my friends were making money. If gaining a pension, they had a 12 year jump on me. They could retire and then go back to college. Or do something else. Maybe be a Park Ranger. I’d love that!
-Never RENT!! You are throwing money down the drain. Why not have all that money go into your own pocket instead. Buy a house. Condo’s are very tricky and hard to sell. We earned an extra $10,000 after our first starter home sold in 24 hours after just a few year’s ownership.
-Aim for the bottom range of the mortgage amount of house that they SAY you can afford. Don’t live beyond your means. Utilities and property taxes will kill you!
-buy quality things with the intent to keep it for 10+ years to a lifetime. Buy bulk. It saves you in the long run. Buying at Aldi’s, CostCo, Sam’s Club, can save you lots of money in the long run. Then store it safely. Having even a small deep freezer goes a long way.
-Save for vacations. Have a vacation fund and choose your vacation based on what you have in savings. Never go into debt for a vacation.
-GET MARRIED! If not for the sake of your parents and grandparents (and your God if you are religious), do it for the taxes. Married filing jointly saves you a lot!
-Have multiple sources of revenue. Think like an entrepreneur. Back in the day, people would buy vending machines (think soda pop and candy). Now, you can buy electric vehicle charging stations. You arrange the site and the company will install it for you. Then you draw in the money. Monetize a YouTube channel. Invest in properties. Start a hobby that pays you money. Then sock all of that extra dough into savings. I’m pretty sure I’ll be an auto mechanic when I retire. Haha, its true!
-Never depend on your own wits. There is always someone out there smarter. And there is so much information on the InterWebs. Go to YouTube and watch financial help people. Read books. Keep up with Forbes and other Business Insiders. And find good (mature) mentors and legal advice.

All that I’ve written here is from the top of my head; and I’m definitely not a financial guy. I’ve just lived a few years. I’ve made plenty of mistakes in my life. Its just so difficult for me to see people struggle these days. People live from paycheck-to-paycheck. They don’t have to. But its not only about money coming in. Its about making good decisions about the money you have. That’s where I see people fail.

Make good decisions!

Don’t Put Me in a Box

Don’t let anyone put you in a box.Be free, be yourself.

Don’t let anyone shame you for being who you are.
If you are different, be different. If you are straight, be straight.
Be proud of whomever you are.
Not for pride’s sake, but for the sake of being you.
Act like you’ve been there before.
Why celebrate something people do every day?
Instead, be who you are and keep true to your course.
Instead, celebrate life. Celebrate living.
Don’t let anyone tell a woman she is not strong.
She is strong, you don’t even have to say it.
She just is.
Don’t let anyone tell a man to not be a man.
If he’s full of gusto and bold and brave.
Why put a bridle on a wild horse.
You can’t predefine me!
Let me run and be free.
Never let anyone shame you into being something else.
Never let anyone pervert your mind into something you’re not.
And especially don’t do that to children.
Be who you are without reservation.
Be black, white, hispanic, European, Asian, Hawaiian, and all the flavors that exist.
Don’t put down one another.
Don’t put them in a box that says they can’t do something.
Act like you’ve been there. Be you.
Eliminate words like "privilege" or "underrepresented".
Instead, act like you’ve been there before.
Don’t be a token.
Be a person.
Be who you are and act like you’ve been there before.
Don’t let anyone say you have a silver spoon.
Instead, live a life with a foundation.
Not like the celebrities who are flashy and overbearing.
Live as a person true to your character.
Live as someone your grandparents would be proud of.
Not like what the unknown person in the store window thinks of you.
Be who you are.
Act like you’ve been there.
Don’t get put in a box.
Resist status quo.
Resist following in someone else’s footsteps.
Find your own path.
Be who you are.
Don’t live in a box.