Cindy

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She got me feeling all bent out of shape.

Cindy is a benchmark CrossFit WOD (workout of the day) that I haven’t done in a very long time. I don’t know why because its so simple and easy to set up. But it can also be just plain scary. Cindy is:

As many rounds as possible in 20 minutes of:
5 pullups
10 pushups
15 air squats

I am planning to do a long Hero WOD before Thanksgiving, so I wanted to do something that gets my mind in the right place. But now I’m totally sore from Cindy. I am teaching a yoga class tonight where I end up demonstrating a lot, so hopefully everything will be OK.

Also: I cooked two medium sized turkeys yesterday and froze the meat. I made two pie crusts too so my wife will finish those up today. But, my parents are not well right now so I don’t know if we’ll travel or not. We’ll see.

Enjoy your pre-Holiday my friends. Happy Thanksgiving!

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[In]tolerance, which shoe do you wear?

When you put the shoe on the other foot The circumstances have reversed, the participants have changed places, as in “I was one of his research assistants, subject to his orders, but now that I’m his department head, the shoe is on the other foot.” This metaphoric term first appeared in the mid-1800s as the boot is on the other leg.

Do you ever have friends who you thought you knew well, only to find they completely cry foul at the core of your beliefs? How can you look them in the face knowing they have such darkness in their hearts? It isn’t easy.

I was once at a party with friends. And I don’t mean JUST friends, I mean soul-mates. We were bantering about, laughing, enjoying each others company. Then all the sudden, one person makes a racist statement that shocks you down to your toes. Then others join in. And it wasn’t something that just affected a 3rd party. It affected me directly being a minority. But they’re friends right? You give them the benefit of the doubt. So you let it slide off your back. You give them grace. But then they push more. They keep talking about it. And as someone who stands up for himself, I finally burst and said something. Well, they didn’t care for what I said because of their equally deep felt beliefs. It took me a couple months before I could love that person again. I don’t think I ever swayed their intolerant thinking. And it makes me sad.

I had a similar thing the other day. A good friend of mine posted something and I saw a comment directly below. Sometimes, curiosity gets the best of you and you take a tangent you should have never taken. I click on this person and I see vile statements against my own beliefs. I know life histories of several friends who have had poor experiences in childhood with their religious upbringing. Unfortunately, this came out very blatantly with this person. And then a couple of other friends “liked” and made statements to the same. I should have never traveled down that path. In fact, I’m trying to forget I ever saw what I saw. I won’t be able to look into their eyes the same again.

I do understand that we live in a mix of religious and secular society. And I strongly believe that anti-religion is a religion unto itself. Its much akin to many other isms (racism, sexism, capitalism, communism, vegetarianism). Many evangelize their disbelief in God or a higher power. They are so blatant in their memes and cartoons. They are SO blinded by their hatred. Yet I see the same people standing up strongly for their -ISM of choice. They protest and post things in support of this or that -ISM. They are strongly affected by the slightest micro-aggression against the little guy. Yet its quite alright to openly bash my beliefs. I am very amazed by their heartless attitudes. But I’m even more amazed by their hypocrisy.

saint – (sānt)noun
Def. – a person acknowledged as holy or virtuous and typically regarded as being in heaven after death. A pervasive concept in Catholicism and other beliefs.
So many of my non-religious friends push away religion, but still adopt religious traditions. I would think if you were so against something, that you would refrain from celebrating something religious with us. St. Valentine, St. Patrick, St. Nicholas, even Mardi Gras…these all have religious connotations. Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, even our calendar reflects religious views.
The terms anno Domini  (AD) and before Christ (BC) are used to label or number years in the Julian and Gregorian calendars. The term anno Domini is Medieval Latin, which means in the year of the Lord.
Yet, in my social circles, this anti-religious fervor focuses primarily on Western Culture. Anything Western, whether politics, religion, or other stalwarts of society, are frowned upon. But anything different from us is accepted. Counter-cultural beliefs, often embraced in the halls of academia and founded during the civil rights era and Vietnam War protests, are what is pervasive in my social media feeds. Its like playing “opposite day” when we were kids. Its cool to be rebellious like that. The same anti-Judeo-Christian friends readily post quotes from Zen Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam. I appreciate their naivete in accepting the good in those beliefs. But what they don’t know is if they really studied and followed those beliefs, they may find them even more restrictive to Western Culture than what they hate about Judeo-Christian beliefs. And as whacky as they think Christians are, they readily accept what Taro cards, astrology, and the Universe tells them. They are as superstitious and ephemeral in their beliefs as I am. Yet they easily condemn me for what I believe.
Tolerance is a difficult concept to grasp. Does being tolerant only mean “for those who believe the same way as I do?” That isn’t tolerance.
If someone asks, I may share what I believe. If someone goes against my beliefs, I may tell them why I don’t believe that way. And I am definitely going to celebrate my traditions. You can’t take my Christ-mas from me nor its true meaning. I will give thanks during Thanksgiving. I will celebrate the New Year as 2017 A.D., the year of our Lord. My country is founded on “In God We Trust.” And if you are so intolerant that you want to rain on my parade, I suppose its your right to do so. We are all hypocrites in some way. Its because I believe we all have flaws. Nobody is perfect. But I would hope when you are bashing someone, that you would walk in their shoes and see clearly what you are doing.

Yoga is for Men too!

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Actually (and somewhat unfortunately), yoga started its first several thousand years as men only. But once it came to the Western world with ground-breaking pioneers like Indra Devi, the first Woman of Yoga, it slowly became more female dominated in the U.S. The Father of Modern Yoga, Krishnamacharya, accepted Indra as a student and she spread the goodness to China, Hollywood USA, Mexico, and Argentina. But her promotion of yoga was out-shadowed in large part by colleagues like Pattabhi Jois, B.K.S. Iyengar, and T.K.V. Desikachar. If you read most texts like the Bhagavad Gita and other foundational yoga literature, it was a very male dominated arena. The last Century has seen major leaps and bounds with yoga, but mostly for women.

So, last night, I walk in to the studio and write down a few props on the sign-in sheet and I see 3 male names. Then, another man walks in for my class. I was like “hmmm, maybe I’ll have an all-male class for the first time ever.” The only other times I’ve had male dominated classes was when I offered karma yoga to the University of Illinois Army ROTC cadets and other Veterans programs. I would say that 100% of the time, I have mostly or all ladies in my classes.

In CrossFit, “mobility” reigns king in classes. And you see it in football and other athletics, but it doesn’t usually go by the name of “yoga.” The ideas of stretching and meditation go back 5,000 years with yoga, but somehow that moniker is frowned upon in certain circles. Maybe there is a male ego thing that prevents them from calling it something that is so female dominated in America. Images of designer leggings and brightly colored yoga mats don’t fit the jock mindset. Hopefully, those mental obstacles will change and we’ll find more acceptance in those communities. We find that history repeats itself over and over with these kinds of things.

When I first started running 5K and 10K races in the middle 1970’s, there weren’t many women runners. When a woman passed a man in a race, they say that you were “chicked”. It wasn’t super widely accepted to see women in races. You may recall images of the Boston Marathon where Roberta Gibb was denied acceptance to run in 1966 and was pulled from the course when she tried to jump in. It was a cultural thing that people (men) didn’t think women could run that far. Times have changed and we’ve even seen women like Pam Reed become the overall winner of the Badwater Ultramarathon in 2002, which is a 135 mile race across Death Valley in the middle of the Summer. But now, men struggle for the same acceptance in a woman’s world. Being completely confident in my manhood, I even ventured into other areas as well. I went to a pole dancing class a few weeks ago and was happily accepted among the 20 or so ladies that were in attendance. Nobody even looked twice at me. So I know how it feels to be in the minority.

Physically, men have more testosterone, on average weigh more, have bigger bone structures, and therefore more connective tissue and muscles. So it goes without saying that we need yoga so badly in our lives. I listen to many podcasts and read articles focusing on CrossFit, Olympic weightlifting, powerlifting, and strongman sports where mobility is continually discussed. It aids muscle lengthening, recovery, and performance. But this need hasn’t translated to yoga as much as I’d like. It is that alpha male mentality that gets in the way. But the few men I’ve seen wander into studios, the attitude shift toward openness to try new things has been a bonus for their quality of life. And it never hurts to be around such beautiful people.

Try it, you’ll like it. Maybe you’ll even love it!

3 Beginner Tips for Diving into Ashtanga Yoga

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Someone once said “Yoga is for everyone, but Ashtanga might not be for everyone.”

There may be a little truth in that, but I mostly disagree. Ashtanga CAN be for everyone.

We are in a modern age of yoga. There was a time when you had to qualify or apply to study with a yoga teacher. The dynamics are a bit different today. If you want to practice yoga, you can. It is completely up to you. And I’m not just talking about beginner or gentle yoga classes. I’m talking about Iyengar, Ashtanga, or some other seemingly advanced practice. You just have to try and give it a chance. Here are my 3 tips for venturing into Ashtanga Yoga:

  1. It’s YOUR Practice
    For most yoga studios, we want you to practice with us. We aren’t going to push you away. We love that you try your best. Teachers love nothing more than to see progress. YOU make the choice to come to class and allow the teacher to guide you. Yes, Ashtanga, Iyengar, Kundalini,… are specific yoga styles with nuances specific to their practice. We are going to show you the style of THIS practice. But it is still YOUR practice. We facilitate and you do what your body says you can do. Eventually, you’ll find WHY we say to do things a certain way. But you should follow your own path to finding what works for you.
  2. Modify Everything!
    I have been practicing yoga for a while now and teaching for several years. But there is still a lot I can’t do and may never do. But I get the same benefits from the practice whether I modify a pose or not. So if you are new to yoga or to Ashtanga, your body will not be used to certain positions. But don’t judge yourself or be discontent about your place in your journey. You do what you do and all is fine. Nobody will judge you. A yoga teacher never judges you if you can’t touch your toes or bind yourself like a pretzel. They’ll help you wherever you are. Modify every single pose if need be. Just do what you can and have fun.
  3. Make It Enjoyable!
    I used to run track in high school and 5K/10K races since I was in the 6th grade. I knew exactly what to do, what to wear, and how to train. But when I began running ultra marathons later in life, everything changed. It seemed what I knew for 20 years was only about 10% similar to ultra marathons. It blew my mind. Ashtanga might blow your mind too. Ashtanga Yoga is different from anything you’ve ever done before. It is a very different culture. The “breath” is the first thing that jumps out at you. But as you delve into it, you realize how important it is. There are so many things that by your 5th or 50th class, a little light goes off and you say “Oh, that’s why!” But you find your way in your own time. Meanwhile, have fun. Be amazed by what your fellow yogis can do and don’t let it bother you if you aren’t there yet. I’m the last person who will get frustrated by not putting my feet behind my head. My body is different and that’s OK. What matters is that I’m growing in both mind and body.

Please don’t be afraid to go to Ashtanga and make it your own practice. You don’t have to do everything. Try out the poses and have fun. Ask the teacher for modifications or find something that works for your body. If you need to take child’s pose or just sit for a few breaths, do that. Soak up the experience and have fun. Its ok to laugh and feel the moment. You came to class and that’s what matters.

Historical Note: In the early days in Mysore, India, ayurvedic doctors would send people with debilitating diseases to Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, the founder of Ashtanga Yoga. The Primary Series, or “Yoga Chikitsa”, is called the healing series. If someone had a disease where they could barely move, he would help them into a pose and then have them breathe. That was their practice.If you are sickly, overweight, are weak, have scoliosis or diabetes,..then Ashtanga IS for you. Ashtanga wasn’t made for elite, uber qualified yogis only. It IS for everyone. It often healed them; and it may heal you too.