Alpenglow on Teocalli

This lady is blessed with so much. Look at these photos!

victoria lise

Okay, okay it’s working now hooray! We have exceptionally high (holy) winds today and periods of heavy snowfall making the internet connection somewhat finicky.  I am so excited to share with you all my most recent winter photo-shoot. The winter season has been the most challenging for me to work with as the lighting is usually flat or incredibly bright but I’ve kept at it and I’m really, really pleased with this series of captures.


Teocalli Mountain (13,208) got its name in 1873 by famous Colorado photographer William Henry Jackson. He stated that ” ..the Aztec teocalli, or sacrificial mound, that were always built-in a pyramidal form, and which this mountain closely resembles…” is why he deemed this mountain Teocalli.  I have not made the trek up Teo yet but it is definitely on my bucket list.


White rock Mountain soaking up the sun on its evening descent. It is so…

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Rocket Yoga 3 “Happy Hour”

larry schultz epk

I love all three of the Rocket Yoga sequences, but I especially like Rocket 3. I was just thinking on Saturday, when I taught Rocket 2, how uniquely designed each sequence is; particularly the first two. But Rocket 3 is really special. When I took Rocket training, we were given relatively strict guidelines for the sequences. And what I took away from it was more the “intent” of the practice than the sequences themselves. Do we meet the guidelines that uses a lot of energy, fun, and freedom in the practice? Yes?! Then we accomplished the goal. Larry Schultz, the founder, liked it that way.

Every once in a while, someone new comes to class. I can see that they have a style of their own. Maybe they’ve practiced yoga for years, but not necessarily Ashtanga yoga. Some poses, like triangle, side angle, and Warrior I, have a lot of variations that are possible. In Ashtanga, you would strictly apply a certain style to the pose. But in Rocket, I allow a lot of leeway. As long as they follow the “intent” of the practice, then I’m happy. Would I be happier if they applied the strict Ashtanga style? Yes. But that’s not so important. After coming to class for a while, they usually start to meet the style guidelines of Ashtanga.

Since Rocket 1 is closely associated with the Primary Series of Ashtanga, it tends to be the strictest in Ashtanga terms. But it is still fun and playful. Where we really play is in Rocket 3. I usually browse through Ashtanga series 2 through 6 and see what I can include in class. And then we jump in and out of the Rocket 1 & 2 sequences. Its a good time for experimentation, work-shopping, falling, and laughing. We even play with things like Zombie-presses, which we’ll probably do tonight.

I’m loving the practice and what it does for you. I’ve gotten so much stronger and proficient in the process. I see people on Instagram doing horse pose (vatayanasana) or some other higher level pose they’ve never done before and I think to myself, we do this every week in Rocket Yoga! People are sometimes amazed when they come to practice. Like “how is this even possible?!”

That’s what I love about Rocket Yogis! They are the cream of the crop!

When I Wore the Union Label


Unions played, and often still play, an important role in the work force today. They are intended to protect the workers making a fair playing field for a safe and efficient workplace. During the industrial revolution, there were times when people were virtually working in forced labor with poor conditions for safety. Unions enable people to join together and have a voice. But times have changed since then.

I took some jobs when I was a teenager that could have considered workers rights more. But I was a young kid looking to make some quick cash. Honestly, the work I did paid really well considering I didn’t have car payments, mortgage, or any other real responsibilities. And we were paid mostly under the table without the tax burden or other “fees” taken out. I baled hay working long hot hours. If you’ve ever had hay on your skin or down your shirt, its not a good feeling. Combine that with sometimes very hot, muggy conditions. If it rained or there was a lot of dew on the ground, hay bales were 2 to 3 times as heavy to load. It was really hard work. But I made a lot of money doing it.

A bit later, a friend of mine had an uncle who worked downtown Kansas City in the train yards. Sometimes, there were jobs that a forklift or other machinery couldn’t reach. I once spent 18 hours straight digging with pick axes and shovels in the rain to remove dirt from an old train car that had been abandoned. Another time, we had a refrigerated potato car that lost its ability to cool. So I moved an entire car of 50 pound sacks of potatoes from a very hot train car to a refrigerated one. Since time was always an issue, we worked fast and hard. If Unions ever caught wind of what we were doing, I’m sure they would have found a way to organize us into labor relations. But these were small Mom & Pop operations without any overhead. This is why they could pay us so well.

Later, when I was on Active Duty with the U.S. Army, you could say that we could have used a labor union. But we knew what we signed up for. I was just thinking the other day, we really didn’t have set hours or limitations to work. If someone said we were going to be working 24 hours a day or moving in a convoy all night long, nobody would have given it a thought. Yeah, we weren’t happy, but that’s what you do in the Army. There wasn’t such a thing a labor rights.

Move on to when I was in college. I worked for UPS. Talk about good pay, the pay was great. But the working conditions were dangerous and contentious at times. We worked like dogs, especially during the Christmas Holidays. When I first signed up to be a loader, I wasn’t Union. I was on a probation period to see how we do. But after that first month and we passed the test, we were required to become a Teamster. That wonderful paycheck I had went to nothing for two months. My take home was like $20 since they take the Union dues up front. I have a hard work ethic and am athletic, so I worked my butt off. I would load 1.5 full-sized semi-trailers a night on my own. I was put on the top loads since they knew I could keep up with the work flow. The bad part was other guys would get behind and they’d send me over to get them caught up. Then my trailer would be behind. But I kept up. I won steak dinners and coupons for free stuff for the hard work I had put in.

One day, I’m working hard and I see a big guy at the door of my trailer. He calls me over and under his breath strongly told me to slow down. He said I was making the other guys look bad. He was the Union Rep for my section. Yeah, he couldn’t force me to slow down. But then, you end up with your brake lines cut, sugar in your gas tank, or a brick in your window at home. They had the power of strong arm persuasion.

My Dad worked for Ford Motor Company. He was a salaried employee not subject to Unions. But the workers were part of the powerful UAW. I’m a proud Ford truck owner today. But believe me, many of the Fords we had growing up were useless. He was often broken down and sometimes borrowed my car. I had this neat little Fiat X19. It was my first car. My Dad loved to drive it and would take it to work sometimes. I was so afraid it would be turned over on its hood or be vandalized in some way since the UAW frowns on foreign cars in their lots. I had several confrontations where I couldn’t exit a highway or other intimidation, most likely by UAW workers not liking foreign cars.

Fast forward to when I was an assistant professor at a University. I was asked to give a presentation for a Professional Golf Association event that was held at a golf course. One presentation involved how to deal with Unions. Most of the workforce was Mexican immigrants. They did an awesome job on the greens and fairways and everything in between. And they were very happy to work in such nice conditions. Yes, they were only approved to be in “caddy” areas and only use “caddy” bathrooms and such. But so were caddies, the greens superintendent, and lowly professors. So nothing new there. What was bad was that in Chicago, these big black limos from Detroit would pull up. They didn’t speak to the ownership. They gathered the workers. They wanted them to Unionize. I’m sure that some are naive to think that they are only working toward the workers greater good. But I’m here to tell you its mostly about Union dues. They want your money. And those fat cats up in the limos taking private jets all over are living off your hard earned money. And if you don’t pay the dues and Unionize, they put a huge inflated RAT visible to the public on the main access road showing that you didn’t unionize. You’re a SCAB because you don’t unionize. It was a really bad situation. They even threatened the families of the workers. There was no end to what they would do to get your money.

With technology and social media today, there are many means to protecting workers rights. We post one video of abuse and it goes viral. Yes, there are times to unite and to fight for safety and equal pay. But we shouldn’t be forced into paying union dues if we chose not to. We sign up to work for a company, not for a union. I think we should have the right to work. Wherever we are employed, we should know up front what we are getting in to. If we find 20% of our paychecks are being taken to support some Union boss’ expensive luxuries, I’d think twice about working for that place. If my ethic is to be a hard, loyal worker, then that’s what I want to do. I don’t want someone telling me to abide by the status quo and do a lesser job than I’m capable. It makes no sense for me to do that. Maybe if you are working in a coal mine, getting good pay, but needing the utmost worker safety, a union is the best way to go. But most of us aren’t working in those kinds of conditions. So we shouldn’t have to shed our hard earned money to pad someone else’s wallet. Its like taxation without representation.

Pleasing to the Eye


Tho beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I’ll happily give my two cents worth.

First, the picture. This is Franco Columbo. He grew up into bodybuilding with his dear friend, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Both of their stories are incredible to read. Franco is from Sardinia, a large island off the coast of Italy. I’m not sure of all the languages he speaks, but definitely Italian, German, and English. He was an idol of mine partly because he was a short guy at 5’5″. He was a boxer and powerlifter. He also did strongman feats of strength, like bending steel bars and blowing up hot water bottles until they burst. Arnold convinced him to try bodybuilding and that’s what he is best known for. He was often competing against Arnold in the lightweight and heavyweight finals of Mr. Olympia and Mr. Universe contests. He eventually came to America where he became a chiropractor. I imagine he could give a person a good crack of the back. Look at those lats!

The reason I post this is that a man’s back is a huge indicator of strength in a man. I think it goes largely unnoticed to the untrained eye. Many see strong forearms or biceps, or maybe thick neck and traps. But its the lats that show a lot for me. If you’re standing behind a man who “works” for a living in the line at Subway, you can clearly see the strong back. You know he’s swung a sledge and lifts heavy stuff all day long.

When I was still fairly new to CrossFit, I went to a level I trainer certification in Atlanta. The seminar trainers were talking up front with big whiteboards to write on and a tall plyometric box for demonstrations. When they demo’d the first movement, the squat, none other than Christmas Abbott took off her layers and jumped up on the box. Men, women, crickets,…everyone’s jaws dropped! Yeah, I’ve never seen a woman that fit before, at least not in real life. But a very close second was one of my primary trainers. He was like a mini-Franco Columbo. The CF Trainers wore these red t-shirts. I thought his shirt would burst at the seams from his thick lats. I couldn’t help but stare. He was only 5’5″ too, but he must have had an X-Large Men’s shirt on. You could tell he had been doing deadlifts, pullups, and lots of rows. You can’t help but notice a strong, thick back.

For women, what I notice most are thick rhomboids and traps. I once went kayaking with a fellow CrossFitter and now CF Coach. I was paddling behind her and I couldn’t help but notice how strong her upper back was. I see this in lady rock climbers and my yoga students as well. Characteristically, when a lady walks into CrossFit, the most difficult movements for her are pull-ups. Its just a fact of life. But with development, the lats and upper back get stronger. Its a totally different kind of fitness to be able to climb. And it shows well for women. It also improves posture, which is an unknown that we don’t readily notice. But it makes for a very statuesque woman who stands tall with her shoulders back and heart open.

It could go without saying that the glutes are the biggest and strongest muscle in the human body. But I’m saying it here. You can’t go living a strong life without a nice, strong booty. It is the primary lever in our bodies. You see dudes at the gym who only do bench press and curls. They are missing out on the REAL strength of squats and deadlifts. I would say they aren’t really strong even though they may bench 315 pounds. All these young guys walk around with baggy jeans with an empty butt. And since we lose muscle mass as we age, old dudes especially have notably skinny legs and butt. As an old dude myself, its what I prioritize in life. The butt should be #1 on everyone’s list. It leads to a long healthy life.

Build that strong booty and back. I promise you, your work won’t go unnoticed.

Valentine’s Day Yoga

partneryoga seated

I’m a little ancy about the yoga class I planned for Valentine’s Day. Actually, I’m still in pre-planning. I wanted to integrate Partner Yoga and Thai Yoga Massage into the practice. The problem is that it is actually a hot yoga class and the room is somewhat small. So the logistics of doing that is difficult.

I still think I can partner people up and find some fun ways to open up. If we start with gentle warming and partner assisted work before we get sweaty, it will be nice. And then some passive movements involving Thai Yoga Massage. I’m not planning anything where we are flying or balancing or staring into each other’s eyes. It will assume that partners aren’t necessarily “partners”. But it embraces the idea of Valentine’s Day.

I’m hoping for the best. Things usually turn out well no matter what I do.

Swim Without Flailing

You really want to be there for friends. For non-friends too. You want to help them. You want to empathize with what they are feeling. But its not always easy.

With the water rescue techniques I’ve learned, saving lives can be like combat. A person unable to tread water is in a totally panicked situation. They flail about trying to stay afloat and the only thing they can think about is not losing air. It is a primal act because its at the tip top of Maslow’s Pyramid of Needs. Nothing else can top the need for air.

When you approach someone who is near-exhausted and clinging to life, they really are not thinking about your life in the least. You are an inanimate rock in the water and all they want to do is climb on top of it to save themselves. If they claw at your head and push you underwater, don’t blame them because they are wholly functioning by their lizard brain. They don’t even recognize you as a person.

As the rescuer, you can’t allow yourself to die in the process. If you can, you parry an arm to one side, reach under an arm and around their neck while you take their back, and then start swimming to shore. You may need to talk to them calmly and make them know you are helping. Have them flutter kick to help you.

But if they push you under, your only resolve is to continue to sink deeper. Believe me, they won’t follow you under. They’ll let go. As you come up, you may need to knock them out and drag them by the hair. You can worry about reviving them when you get to shore. Its not a nice thing to do, but it may save their life.

What a wonderful metaphor for life. There are people in my life who are so angry that they flail about aimlessly. They foam at the mouth with angry words. They post hateful memes all over social media. They don’t even know they are hitting me with barbs and arrows, but they are. They are so blinded with rage. Then they simmer for a few days only to lash out again.

To save myself, I had no option but to go underwater. They were pushing me down to where I couldn’t breathe. I’m not going to knock them out, that is, unless they come at me face-to-face. I think what they need to do is to stop flailing and learn how to survive. They need to find ways in the system to swim without all the passion and emotion getting in the way. They need to find better ways to tackle their fears.

I really want to be there for them. I do! But if they won’t even talk rationally; if they don’t even stop to breathe; if they don’t start acting like yoga teachers, educated students, and responsible citizens, they are going to push people under. We might have to swim away from them and let them fail. But I think we’re better than that. Maybe they’ll figure out how to be responsible adults one day. Who has time to take off work to walk the streets chanting vitriol anyway? I sure don’t. I have to make money to pay my mortgage. I have to support my family by not losing my job. I can’t afford to be irresponsible.

Somewhere in a far off land, there are 18 and 19 year old men, not boys, who are sitting in a foxhole 24 hours a day thinking of the most efficient ways to tread water. The price of Starbucks doesn’t mean a lot to them at the moment. Only the most important things of life. Like the breath of life itself.

What are your priorities in life?

Swim without flailing

Fountains of Youth


I don’t feel old. Well, sometimes I do. I mean, I’m 52 and some would call that old. I was watching a movie last night and saw a spry 93 year old Earnest Borgnine (he died at 95). So I’m only a little over half-way to his age.

See below for some youthful activities to try

The key for me has been learning and trying new things. There was a day when I turned 32. I had always been an above average runner. As an Army Drill Instructor, I could pretty much run them into the ground. However, when I was a senior Drill, I was running up this steep hill at the end of a run in formation. It was a hot, muggy morning in Fort Benning, Georgia USA with the thick smell of pine in the air. I didn’t feel bad up to that point. I was toward the front of the formation and my legs started to feel like someone filled my legs with liquid concrete. I started falling back and I was yelling encouragement to the troops as I moved to the back of the formation. I’m sure they saw the weakness in my face. I dropped back to a few troops who had fallen back and tried to push them ahead, while pushing myself as well. I realized, hmmm, I’m getting too old for this.

Shift forward a year or two, after nearly getting hit by cars while running, I swore off roads and turned to trail running. So if you’re in the know, trail running turns into adventure running, fastpacking, and eventually ultra-marathons. That’s where I went. My long runs on Saturdays were at least 6 hours at a time. When I travelled for work, I ran sections of some of the major 100 mile races with the intent of some day running them (Umstead, Leadville, HURT Hawaii, Wasatch Utah, Appalachian Trail,…) I even paced someone for 50 miles in the Western States 100 mile race. There were lots of older folks than me running these races, so I saw longevity in what I was doing. The only problem, as an amateur powerlifter, I felt my strength eroding. I was getting weaker and then my back gave way. A degenerative disk in my back slowed me down a lot. And then a blown calf muscle ended my running for years. I still haven’t gotten back on track yet. Oldness set in again.

This morning, as I hobbled to my truck to go to work, I don’t feel the least bit old. I’m sore, but I feel strong and healthy. I’m lifting heavier, going longer in my workouts, and have an intensity I’ve never seen before. I blame most of my success on practicing and teaching yoga. It keeps me young and pliable no matter what I do. If you are just a lifter or just a runner, you can easily feel old. You are not at 100%. You lack in some area. Its through CrossFit that I found how variety and combining what I do adds to a better quality of life. And quality of life is the key to living a full life.

I would encourage you to play as much as you can. If you are old, it doesn’t matter what people think of you anymore. So just do it. Don’t worry about it. I think people give you some grace if you are an old dude anyway. If you walk around with black socks in sandals, nobody even looks twice at you. You’re old! Haha! And if you’re young, you’ll get there some day. Don’t be afraid to try things that will help you live a long life. These are some of the hobbies that have kept me young:

  • yoga
  • pole dancing
  • hooping
  • Olympic weightlifting
  • Powerlifting
  • Martial arts like Aikido, Karate, Tai-Chi
  • Fly fishing
  • Slack lining
  • CrossFit
  • running
  • Skiing or ski-erging
  • Rowing
  • Strongman
  • Aerial silks & swings
  • Rollerblading
  • Bicycling


Yoga Did Miracles for my Back

Medical Article on Back Relief Through Yoga

When I had a mid-life crisis (joking) and turned to ultra-marathon running, the result was a lot of back pain. I don’t mean just pain as in, take a pain pill and go to sleep. It meant I couldn’t lean over to tie my own shoes. If I laid on the couch, it took about 10 minutes to figure out how to get back up. Sitting and standing from the toilet was quite a chore. Being afraid of walking my 20 pound little dog since spotting a squirrel and tugging would result in intense pain, me letting go of the leash, and not being able to chase her down. I had to operate my vehicle with my left foot instead of my right because of intense sciatic pain. It was the most terrible kind of pain you can imagine.

I went to the back clinic and they gave me cortisone shots directed by x-ray to put the needle in the right place. The right place was my L4-L5 disk that was degenerating. The doctor showed me the CT-Scan and said, “see how your disk looks? This is how we’ll all look when we are 70 years old, but yours is happening now.” I also had slight stenosis and considerable pinching to my nerves.

The first physical therapist was no help at all. He prescribed bed rest, laying forward on a pillow as long as I could, and ice. Well, I had already been doing that. Then I went to a real PT who helped me. She did Manual Release Therapy (MRT), lots of nice adjustments, but mostly her prescription were exercises. And this is KEY!!!

Our skeletal system, even with dense connective tissue, would fall into a clump without muscles. You can have fairly major deficiencies in joints and back, but overcome it largely with strong muscles.

So she had me doing exercises to work the little finger muscles that go along the spine. Let me tell you, being “strong” is not enough. I was powerlifting with deadlifts and squats over 400 pounds. But then I’d twist under the dashboard to change a fuse and my back would go out. I couldn’t do anything for weeks and it took months to recover. And this happened yearly. What I didn’t have was asymmetrical strength. Like the strength you have for wrestling and gymnastics. Or strength like doing one handed lifts and strongman movements. But the best strength of all is YOGA!

There are old texts, Sutras and such, that say that there are 80,000 to 80 million poses in yoga. So when people think they invent new ones, they are kidding themselves. Every movement of the body has been done. All these twists, balances, and holds in odd positions strengthens every possible movement in your body. It is good for any sport and any body. It is clearly what solved my back problems. And yes, I still have an episode every couple of years, but nothing like I had before.

Think of the vertebrae in your spine like any other joint in the body. It needs strong support with muscles in all directions. If it is allowed to shift side to side or pinch in one direction, your nerves will not be happy. Yoga helps prevent drastic shifting of your spine.

Yoga is the best solution. But it also helps to lift weights, do your Zumba or other fitness, and do sports. Doing deadlifts and squats are not enough since they are too symmetrical and are not done with breath (you hold your breath in competitive lifting). You need to add single sided exercises with breathing; like one-armed lifts and presses with a dumbbell. You need to do side-to-side work, like side planks, oblique raises, and leg ab/adduction. You need lunges and pistols. Asymmetrical sports are good too: golf, softball, basketball, tennis. Anything where you are throwing, kicking, and twisting.

People rag on CrossFit all the time, so forget I even said that (or embrace the idea). Variety is key. You can’t do the same thing over and over and expect yourself to grow. And it is absolutely necessary for back health. You need to do different things. Yes, you can specialize in a sport, but add a ton of assistance work. If you are a Powerlifter, its OK to try a clean & jerk or pull a heavy sled now and then. You might even try a pull-up or, heaven forbid, try yoga! It won’t kill you. Add routine deep tissue massage or other bodywork and some cardio and you have health!

Yoga just might save your life.

Rocket Delight!

star pose

I taught a Rocket Yoga class last night and it was big fun! I love teaching the 3rd sequence, Rocket 3, because we can explore and have fun with different poses. I had a few new people in class too, which is also interesting.

Someone asked about one particular pose, chin stand. Like “what’s up with chin stand?” I guess you could ask that about any pose from a rhetorical standpoint. Why do we do this? Or even existentially, why are we here anyway?

You realize that sometimes in your teaching you need to back-up now and then and explain yourself. It’s so easy to assume that everyone feels the same way, enjoys strength and flexibility, and is emotionally in a good place. But you never know when students come to class where they are in life. And for their yoga journey, you can only speculate.

So back to the question: why chin stand? Chin stand, or viparita salabhasana, is an advanced asana from Ashtanga Yoga. Imagine salabhasana A, or locust pose, where you lay on your belly while lifting head, chest, arms, and legs. Now, press your arms flat on the ground with arms straight along your body and lift only your legs off the ground. Then, imagine lifting your legs so high that your legs are above your head. That is the pinnacle of locust post, which is chin stand (actually, you could go further and take your feet toward your head, touch your head, or place your feet alongside your ears). But for most of the normal world of yogis, this would be a great achievement.

Rocket Yoga is considered an advanced level class. It takes you to a different level of fun since it is not only physically challenging, it also challenges your mind, breath, and takes you to advanced poses. Not everyone has to do the advanced poses, but its always an option. I’ve been to Baptiste Power classes that are very challenging, but mostly physically and not from a technical aspect. I enjoyed it a lot. I’ve been to more Iyengar styled classes that are technically, and somewhat physically, challenging. Those are fun too. I teach a hot yoga class that is very physical, but I don’t offer advanced poses or strength options like in Rocket. We also don’t study the breath, bandhas, and drishti. That’s what makes Ashtanga different.

Unfortunately, finding Rocket classes abroad is not always easy. There are very few teachers and its not often accepted among traditional Ashtangis. Many embrace the repetitive nature of traditional Ashtanga and what it does for minds and bodies. I love that aspect too. So its hard to break that mold into a more free-form style like Rocket. It has quite a niche—but fortunately for me, its a niche that many love…a lot!!!