When Friends Fade Away

organs from wsmr
ViviLnk

I can still look at pictures from the past. I think of the warmth or cold, the wind, what I was wearing, who I was with. We take a last glance before we leave. We sit on the airplane thinking about what we’ve seen. Will we ever see it again? But when we get back to the comforts of home, we appreciate its safety. We know where everything is. We sleep soundly without odd noises or wondering who’s head was on your pillow before you. We wake the next day with our mental checklist, checking off things of daily life and work. Its back to the mundane task of sitting at the computer, typing out things that you wonder if anyone will ever read.

The beauty you just saw is now a distant memory. It vanishes like the wind. Maybe 5 or 10 years from now, you stumble on an old photo. Facebook pops up a memory of old and you vividly remember that moment once again. But its so distant you wonder if was even you.

Its how life is. We see the face of a friend and wonder how we could have deeply known them like we did. We want to reach out to them and reconnect, but you’d only have to leave again. We value what we can reach out and touch. Those distant sights and people are just that…distant. Memories. One moment you long for them. The next, you’re caught in the present.

Savor the times you’ve had. But like a luxurious dessert, once you’ve tasted the goodness, the goodness is gone. And we move on…

Its a Good Day!

hasta uttanasana

I always feel so good after teaching yoga. I taught Rocket Yoga last night and it left me feeling like I had practiced myself.

Patthabi Jois said “99% practice, 1% theory”. Yet, he was a Sanskrit scholar, an educator,  well respected for his knowledge of the ancient texts. He taught these other aspects tangentially through the practice of Ashtanga Yoga. What is interesting is that only with his most advanced students who he felt could go deeper, he taught Pranayama. Long after the Asana practice, they would be working on their breathing. It is the next “physical” practice that leads you to higher limbs of yoga.

No, I don’t equate myself with Guruji. But I feel Rocket is an advanced level class. I sometimes forget that and assume a lot about my students. When a beginner or intermediate yogi, or even a non-Ashtangi, attends my class, it all comes to light again how special this practice is. When someone comes in and can’t even do sun salutations on their own. When they don’t even know about Ujjayi breath, a central pillar of the Tristhana method of Ashtanga yoga. I quickly remember how unique we are.

In the closing sequence, following Yoga Mudra, we usually take some time in Padmasana for Pranayama. Last night, we did Kumbhaka Pranayama, or breath-retention practice. I was counting so I wasn’t doing it myself, but I felt the effect of it. It put me deeply into Samadhi. Usually, when I put them to rest into Savasana, I’m not super focused. I’m counting students, thinking of temperature and sounds, I’m watching the time. Last night, I got into Virasana with Dhyana Mudra, which is normal for me, and I zoned out. I lost track of time. My Pratyahara was so strong. I was inwardly focused in a meditative state. It completely changed my evening. I sensed my students were feeling similar effects.

Yogas Citta Vrtti Nirodhah. The Purpose of Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind. If you’ve done that, you’ve done Yoga.

Learning Yoga Bodies

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Funny story: I was playing on a church softball team. We were up to bat and I was serving as the 3rd base coach. I was fairly new to the team, so I didn’t know the players all that well. We had a man on 2nd base and the batter just hit a long ball out into center field. I was thinking, even if I ran slowly, I could easily make it home on that hit. So here I am waving this guy to home. He was like 6’3″ tall and thin. He looked like a giraffe in a slow motion video. I’m certain he didn’t have a single fast-twitch muscle in his entire body. Needless to say, he was easily tagged out at home and I was berated by him for waving him in. I didn’t have the guts to fight back and say “dude, how can you be SO slow!”

I have a lot more experience with reading bodies now that I’ve taught yoga for a while. I have seen a lot of bodies since then in CrossFit, gymnastics, and other sports. I can see a runner and automatically know that one leg seems longer or if they have an injury or tightness. I can watch an Olympic weightlifter and see a strength or weakness very quickly. I’m nothing special, I just have a lot of experience studying how bodies move.

In yoga class, I can often tell if someone is capable of going deeper. If they are inches from a bind or close to reaching their hand to foot, I’ll often help them in that direction. My intuition is getting pretty good. But I can also see when there is a body like mine. I have a lot of years under my belt, I eat well, I lift a lot, and my body doesn’t move like your average yogi. So when I see someone who is strong or not super pliable, I can often tell that they won’t get a bind or attempt deeper variations. So I help them where they are and don’t push for the full expression of a pose.

Sometimes, people surprise you. The other day, I sort of condescended to someone by talking them into headstand. But they just popped up into it without any trouble. I didn’t read that one correctly since I was just going by facial expression and body language. Sometimes, I see a bigger body and they are very pliable. Or an older person who has amazing strength. I love those pleasant surprises.

If you are a teacher, getting experience by watching bodies is super helpful. Sometimes, I think it is more difficult for a naturally gifted athlete or super-limber yoga teacher to understand the limitations. I was once helping someone do muscle-ups on rings using a flexible band. As I was doing this, the coach walks over and adjusted it differently. And that change was largely ineffective. So when the coach walked away, I had them do it how I was showing her. This coach does muscle ups with ease, so he didn’t understand what I was doing since he never had to use that assistance. But it was something I had studied and practiced myself for years. A yoga teacher who pops into binds easily and twists into complicated poses without a problem sometimes doesn’t understand. Sometimes they do. But its good to feel those limitations. If you don’t know what it feels like to weigh 300 pounds, you can easily load yourself up with weight until you can understand. Try to get in and out of a car, or try a downward-facing dog with that weight. Its not easy.

Learn bodies. Learn empathy. And be of real help to your students.

The REAL Power Yoga

bodybuilder yoga

To tell you the truth, by the true definition of the word, there isn’t a REAL Power Yoga.

“Power” is the speed at which work is done on an object (Physics). This doesn’t even apply to the sport of PowerLifting. Power is not involved! If you are deadlifting 800 pounds, you are focusing on pulling that weight up, not at doing it quickly. We don’t hold a stopwatch and do a deadlift for time. That would be silly. That’s not the goal. If anything, that is closer to Olympic weightlifting. When you are lifting the bar in a clean and jerk or snatch, you pull it up quickly to get air under the bar as you drop as fast as you can under the bar. Weightlifting would be closer to “Power” lifting because there really is a speed component, though it still isn’t done for time.

The same is true with Yoga. In the classes I teach, we never forcefully move through a pose with speed. That would be both dangerous and ineffective. Yes, we do use “Strength”. You hold chaturanga or warrior 3 with a lot of strength. Arm balances and many inversions involve strength. Mayurasana and Navasana are held with strength. But “Power” is never involved. We aren’t doing any strengthening poses quickly.

If it were my choice, we would never call something Power Yoga. It is a misapplication of its meaning. Call it Strength Yoga. If its Ashtanga, just call it Ashtanga. But Power Yoga makes no sense at all

[meanwhile, I’m substitute teaching Power Yoga tomorrow, so I’ve been thinking about this]

Yoga: Pet Peeves

Haha! Pet Peeves? Dislikes? Yeah, probably too strong of words. Well,…er….some things do bother me a lot or are simply unsafe. But I’ll let you decide if they bother you too.

  1. Going too deep, too early. Safely warming the body temperature is needed before going deep.
  2. If you specifically go to an Ashtanga or Iyengar class (e.g.), you are expected to follow the style pointers. But to insist on specifics in a general flow class is unnecessary. Let people feel and just BE!
  3. If I wanted Body Pump, Zumba, or Pilates, I’d go to those classes. There are some movements that make sense. But most don’t follow what yoga is supposed to be.
  4. Extensive alliterations that make no sense to my body. Sometimes we get mystical and cartoonish when we say silly things that are way overdone. “Give in to the breath”, “Allow the left patella to attract to the right patella”, “Sink your liver into your spine and give weight to the kidneys”….Huh???
  5. Unequal timing to both sides of a pose. I know, sometimes we as teachers lose track. Sometimes we even forget the other side. But we need to try to keep things equal.
  6. Loud music in savasana. I actually prefer silence.
  7. Also over-cueing in savasana. Talk beginners into the position and then clam up! Some teachers talk through the entire savasana.

These are just 7 off the top of my head. I’m sure you can find many more.

 

3 WOD morning!!!

prasarita

I’ve started a new work and yoga teaching schedule this week. I think I’m going to love it. I’m so excited to share:

  • Mon – rest day, yoga prep – Teach Rocket Yoga in evening
  • Tue – rest day, yoga prep – Teach Candlelight Yoga in eve
  • Wed – a.m. CrossFit, p.m. Olympic weightlifting complexes
  • Thu – a.m. Bodybuilding, p.m. Olympic weightlifting
  • Fri (week 1) – a.m. MAX lift Friday – p.m. Hot Yoga class
  • Fri (week 2) – a.m. Sunrise Yoga class – trail run, kayak, fish, camp
  • Sat – teach noon Rocket Yoga – p.m. hero, chipper, EMOM*
  • Sun – a.m. short WOD*, Olympic complexes, Tabata – p.m. Restorative Yoga class

*WOD = workout of the day. EMOM = every minute on the minute.

On Monday & Tuesday, I work 10 hour days and 8 hour days the rest. Then I take every other Friday off. Its a “ME” day!!!

After two rest days, I was chomping at the bit to workout. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do today, so I set up a short WOD. Then I did another…then another. Yay for 3 WODs. Here is what I did:

WOD 1: 3 rounds for time (warmup)

  • 10 ring dips
  • 10 wall ball shots 20#

WOD 2: 7 minute AMRAP (as many rounds as possible)

  • 7 deep parallette pushups
  • 4 pullups
  • 11 back extensions on machine

WOD 3: 4 rounds for time

  • 3 strict toes to bar
  • 6 kettlebell swings 1.5 pood
  • 9 double unders

These were fairly easy wods, so I focused on keeping going without much rest and strict form. I felt totally refreshed afterward. The goal wasn’t to get sore, but to get a good heart pump. It was a completely athletic workout. Tomorrow will be for getting sore when I do bodybuilding. It will be all about eccentric contractions and the pump.

Don’t you love a new workout plan? It is so invigorating!!!

 

Be Nice to your Yoga Teacher

yoga teacher

And personal trainer too!

When I was in yoga teacher training, someone said that when you are in a yoga class, the teacher is likely the least wealthy (by money standards) in the room. This is probably true in most cases. Many yoga teachers I know are University students, small-company entrepreneurs, or some other transitional status. This is also likely the case for many personal trainers and other service professionals.

I am probably in the minority in that I have a full-time job as a scientist. But I also know this is all relative. I was teaching a class at a gym with a lot of older members and retirees. I noticed as I was walking to my 2004 Ford F150 truck a lot of BMW’s, Mercedes, and fancy Cadillac’s. So I was probably the poorest person in class that day.

Regardless of our social status, we provide a service to the community. For me, I see this service as a necessity. But in the context of worldly needs, it could be seen more of a pleasure than a need. I still see yoga as a need in that it maintains my health and mental state, of which I’d be a hot mess without it. I’d probably miss days of work from my bad back and I’d probably go a little crazy. So yeah, its a need for sure.

So be nice to your service professional. They care for you and want to see you reap the benefits of a healthy yoga practice.

Namaste!