Save to Give

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I save for a lot of things. My wife is actually the better saver because she has a lot of self-discipline. I helped set up our budget, but she is the one who makes it work. And, since I’ve been teaching yoga for several years, all of that has been going to savings too.

Although, I don’t know how to compare our savings to the norm. Dave Ramsey has percentages of your income that you should save for emergency funds and such. So we are probably on par with general recommendations. But maybe its better to not compare.

The key to saving for me is not being in debt. Any time you pay interest on a credit card, car payment, or store cards, you are losing money to someone else. The old idea of using credit to build a better credit rating is a crock. Its just an excuse to hold debt. I’ve heard of a guy who couldn’t get a loan because he didn’t have a credit rating. He paid for everything with cash and had no debt. Believe me, that’s a better way to live.

So, we have a vacation savings fund. And since we are relatively cheap about how we travel, we have a large excess there. We have a Christmas savings and that usually carries over. We just bought a new roof for $11,000 out of savings, and there is plenty left. If we need to buy a car, we could do it with cash, which is what we’ve done for past purchases. Now, you probably think we’re rich. By world’s standards, we probably are rich. But we have a median income by U.S. standards. Its just that we have become a lot wiser with age.

You need to have discipline to save. I was raised since childhood to give 10% to charity and pay yourself 10% (I’ll leave “charity” to your interpretation, but those in the know probably know what I mean). Currently, we have a lot of excess in “charity”. We are just waiting for the right cause. Its really nice to know that when there is a need, you can do something substantial for someone.

Don’t pay lip service to doing things for others. You need to actually do it. Measure in your own heart what that means. Do you really need that $5 cup of coffee or new pair of leggings? Or could you give that to someone who has real needs? Save to give. Save to live.

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What is Rocket Yoga?

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Rocket Yoga was developed by Larry Schultz in San Francisco. There is a great video that shows how Larry found yoga. I know I’m going to mess up the details, but here goes. Larry was at dinner and he saw a man and woman on a beach somewhere doing strange movements that looked like martial arts. He saw them another time and finally walked over and asked what he was doing. The man answered him saying “Yoga”. Larry asked, what kind of yoga? “Ashtanga Yoga!” he replied. Larry said that it was “be-YOU-tiful!” I think he asked the man’s age and he said like 63. Then he asked how old the lady was and she was in her 20’s. So Larry said “I’ve got to get me some of that Ashtanga Yoga!”

Larry proceeded to learn more about Ashtanga Yoga. Eventually, he practiced with the founder, Patthabi Jois. He learned and practiced for a while in the style that is learned in Mysore, India. As you begin Ashtanga, the teacher will teach you sun salutations A & B. When you learn those and are ready, you are given the next pose in the Primary Series. Each pose builds on the next and, slowly, you learn the entire series. Some people may never get out of the Primary Series, which is quite alright for most people. But not for Larry. When someone showed him the splits (hanamunasana), he wondered why he wasn’t taught that before. There are side planks, chin stands, pigeon pose, and lots of other fun poses that he never does in the Primary Series. So Larry, with his playful and inquisitive demeanor, began to experiment with the other poses in Ashtanga. There are 6 series all together, so there are a lot of poses to choose from.

It turns out the Yoga phenomenon was growing as it was brought into Western culture. Post 1960’s and 70’s with free spirits and flower children and all, big Rock bands started to hire their own Yoga teachers to travel with them abroad. It just happens that Larry was introduced to The Grateful Dead. Larry asked the band members, when do you want to do yoga? “When?” they asked. They didn’t have a real concept of time. So Larry would wait by the phone until they would call and he would teach them yoga. As time passed, Larry began to develop sequences that were based on joints of the body instead of the traditional Ashtanga sequences. Rocket 1 focuses on the legs and hips. Rocket 2 focuses on shoulders and upper body. Rocket 3 is Happy Hour that includes everything. He used the band members as his test patients as he refined the sequences over time. He asked the Grateful Dead, what should we call this? Bob Weir replied “Rocket Yoga because it gets you there faster.” And so it began. He met Patthabi Jois later in life and Guruji called him “The Bad Man of Ashtanga” because he taught people to jump ahead in the series.

Larry eventually started teaching others his sequences. He opened a studio in San Francisco where they called him “The Mayor of Folsom Street”. His sequences were exhausting and challenging. He had so many quips and -isms that he repeated. He told students “You are stronger than you think”. He sought to encourage a playful atmosphere that made the practice fun and allowed room for growth. He didn’t stop someone if they couldn’t do something. He would say “Just try”. And since the roots of Rocket came through Rock & Roll, he played music during his practice, which is verboten in Ashtanga circles. Larry eventually made his way to Nauliland, but his practice lives on. My teacher, Amber Gean,  continues to spread the love of Rocket and I try my best to do the same.

I teach the philosophy and intent of Larry’s practice so his legacy lives on. Larry always said “if you do the same things the same way, you’ll always get the same results”. So I continue to find different ways to change focus, intensity, pace, and emphasis on the body. I incorporate different pranayama practices and imagery. Patthabi Jois emphasized “99% practice, 1% theory”. Through my teaching, I’d like the theory to strongly support every aspect of Rocket practice. I want people’s minds to change. I want to remove the ceiling that holds back their abilities. Instead of perfecting a pose right away, why not find a way to make them feel successful? Why not encourage them to learn how to fall? Then they will never be afraid to try. Miracles can happen when you let people try.

You are all stronger than you think! Just try.

 

Need to Measure my Traps

But I don’t know how.

trap-bar

So here is my update to my new trap bar purchase. I just read an article today about working up to 100 trap bar Deadlifts. It is very insightful. As an Olympic weightlifter and recovering powerlifter, I completely agree that this novel movement can do wonders for your [insert everything here]. I may need to buy bigger shirts here in the next few weeks. If you’d like to read for yourself…

https://www.t-nation.com/workouts/100-rep-trap-bar-workout

 

When Yoga Gets in the Way

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I say this tongue-in-cheek. Yoga is not really in my way.

Summer-time means lots of vacations for everybody, including yoga teachers. So we end up substitute teaching for each other very often. I had 2 extra classes each of the past 2 weeks. Yet, I still got 5 really good days of working out on the weights. But I was toast by Monday. Everything was fried and banged up.

My goal is to take Mon & Tues as rest days since I teach and demonstrate fairly rigorous yoga classes those days. I needed it this time. My most brutal workout is Weds since I don’t teach again until Saturday. I focus on my chest that day and, besides heavy bench presses, I focus on yoga-related movements like dips, muscle ups, and deep pushups. But I get dumbbell and pec-deck flyes in there too. I don’t dare work my chest before teaching yoga. There were times when I was demonstrating chaturanga or upward facing dog and my triceps went into a full cramp. That is kind of embarrassing as a yoga teacher to suddenly drop out of a pose writhing in pain.

The problem is, when I teach yoga, I’m not really practicing yoga myself. I demonstrate some poses when I teach, but I’m mostly walking around, adjusting bodies, and observing safe alignment. I get just enough lengthening to feel good about myself. So I consider those active rest days.

The point I’m making is that we wander through busy lives seeking healthy minds and bodies and we shouldn’t make excuses to not do anything. Doing yoga doesn’t mean going hard all the time. It can be lengthening in front of the TV or even seated in your car in meditation. It doesn’t have to be a sweaty, all-out endeavor with yoga mats and tights. But the same is true with resistance and cardio exercise. You can always find a place to do some lunges or pushups. If you have access to weights, you may do a 5×5 of back squats and that’s it. It doesn’t have to be an hour-long workout. Maybe jog around the block when you walk the dogs. Anything that gets your heart rate up is good. No excuses.

Don’t let life get in the way of living life

Off the workout plateau

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Sometimes, a new piece of equipment is just what you need to bump you out of the ditch. I’ve had my 3rd day working out with this new trap bar that I bought off of Amazon. I’ve always been curious about it, but I’ve been a purist Olympic weightlifter and CrossFit’r for the past decade and was not very interested. I’m totally sold.

I’m using this as my warm-up for every workout. I leave it at 135 pounds and will do 10-15 deadlifts and a few shrugs to warm-up. Eventually, I’ll start to put some real weight on it and work in some sets. My body is already adapting to it.

I had mentioned a few posts back how bodybuilding has made its way back into my program. I’m probably doing too much right now, but I have some mandatory “active rest days” that help a lot when I teach yoga classes. I also keep to Ashiatsu massage every 3-4 weeks.

Here is my plan:
Warmup with light rowing, ski erg, or bouncing on a mini trampoline*
Trap Bar Deadlifts for a set of 10-15 emphasizing formCrossFit WOD including the bodypart emphasis for the day – goal is not to kill myself but to get my heart cranked up really high
Olympic Weightlifting with reps/assistance work on Weds & Sat, then heavy Thurs & Sun
Bodybuilding with Chest emphasis on Weds & Sat and Back on Thurs & Sun
Grace or Tabata Interval which is 30 reps of something or 8x 20 secs work with 10 secs rest*

*I used to be a runner from age 8 to 48. I injured my calf and it virtually ended my running career, which makes me sad. I’m using the trampoline barefooted to maybe get back into the running game.
*Tabata intervals are researched as the top way to increase cardiovascular health and performance. You can do almost anything. Wallballs, med ball slams, pushups, situps, pullups, push presses with a barbell, hand stand pushups, air squats, whatever!!

My next goals for the trap bar are:

  • Farmer carries around the block
  • Plyometric jumps
  • Overhead presses
  • More bent over rows
  • Lunges (?)
  • Heavy shrugs

 

 

Mis-Reading Yoga Energy

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As a yoga teacher, some days are better than others. Most of the time, we are able to read, and feel, the energy given from the students in our classes. Honestly, I think the overall mood of the class depends a lot on the weather. One day, there was a big weather front coming in and the air was thick with humidity. I think the low atmospheric pressure was affecting moods and energy. I was personally not ready to practice yoga that day. So I started out very slowly for a class that is supposed to be high intensity. We eased into the high intensity part just so it wouldn’t be as uncomfortable.

The moon also affects our energy. It is one reason why Ashtanga yoga prescribes “Moon Days”, which occur during full and new moons. You don’t practice those days since its when we can feel the greatest gravitational pull. Mula Bandha can only do so much for us (haha!). Maybe its more psychological, but I definitely feel it on those days.

So last week, I taught a moderate intensity class meant for beginner-intermediate yogis. I felt a little off and didn’t think I was connecting very well with my class. I try my best to be playful and offer easier and harder modifications for many poses. I also play upbeat music that helps energize students. I do all I can to create an atmosphere that helps yogis find their flow. As we went along, I saw a lot of blank stares in their eyes. I heard groans and sensed lethargy as they transitioned into poses. When I offered advanced poses, I saw frustration and many not even attempting the harder variations. I was ready to write that class off as lost.

To my amazement, I got a huge response after the class. Several asked me about other classes I teach, like Rocket Yoga, and asked if they should try them. Others said they like my style and my yoga teaching voice. I heard some go on and on about my music playlist saying that it lifted them up when they were struggling. Others asked me more specifically about getting into a certain pose or how to overcome obstacles. I was so pleasantly surprised.

You can’t always judge a yoga class by the feel during class. I know when I was running a trail ultramarathon or in the midst of a hard CrossFit workout, I looked like death warmed over. But afterward, I was often ecstatic for having accomplished what I just did. I was proud of the hardships and wallowed in bliss. But you couldn’t tell that during the event. Ahimsa applies to yoga teachers too! The quality of non-judgement should be applied at all times. And I’m not looking for praise. But when it comes and we can celebrate together, then everyone is happy.

Oh Those Bodybuilders…

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Without stereotyping myself, I’ve been into something called functional fitness for about a decade now. Actually, if you do sports, strongman, or anything that looks like training we did in the military, then you are doing functional fitness. You can pick apart the definition for functional all you want, but I’ve recently opened my mind to this more.

I love the performance based training that I do, but that kind of all-out training can be difficult to maintain without wearing yourself out both mentally and physically. In past months, I’ve adopted some of the old-school bodybuilding techniques that I was raised with. I’m really noticing tendencies and weaknesses from the training I’ve done. For instance, an incline dumbbell fly looks nothing like anything I’ve done for 10 years. You don’t have the benefit of leverage or momentum. Its just you and this crazy movement. I can feel tweaks in my shoulders where injury and weakness lie. And, I’m starting to feel that “pump” again that Arnold talked about in Pumping Iron. I’m not huge per bodybuilder standards, but I can feel that flush of blood into the muscles. It feels good…real good!

To tell you the truth, when I came to CrossFit, I was already pretty strong from bodybuilding and powerlifting. When they said to squat or deadlift, I was right there with everybody. When they said do pullups or heavy kettlebell work, I’m all over it. But when they said to do something for reps or something dynamic like box jumps or jump ropes, I wasn’t there at all. I was a top-fuel dragster that flamed out quickly. I wasn’t the stock car that was strong to a long-finish.

But what I’ve lost in finding a longer-lasting performance is the ability to strictly apply strength. I’ve lost what it meant to “feel” the muscle as it contracts. I mean, you really have to get your mind into the muscle itself. It feels really good to be in that space. And a great side effect is that my muscles are growing again.

Life is about balance. We try things, we learn, and we adapt. Find your place in life.