People Always Fail

I mean really. Nobody is perfect. We all have something in our lives. Heaven knows I have much to regret. We can hope for more from people, but you can never put all your hope in one person.

I recently read very alarming reports of sexual misgivings of the founder of Ashtanga Yoga. I have a book called Guruji, experiences from Pattabhi Jois’ students over the years. It is a fascinating book that I’ve used to compile my feelings about my own journey with Ashtanga. Guruji always talked about 99% practice and 1% theory. But I’m the guy who wants to know the 1%. Unfortunately, there were recollections of Jois doing very inappropriate sexually invasive adjustments on his female students (I won’t be more explicit about it). People try to rationalize that it was just a cultural misunderstanding. But no matter how you look at it, it was very wrong. Once confronted by senior students and family, he stopped. But it still makes me look differently at such an esteemed teacher.

And just a few days ago, I saw a video of Iyengar. It disturbed me so much that I’d rather not show it. He was on this stage with lots of people in attendance. A young lady is seen laying down her mat and going into headstand. All the sudden, Iyengar walks over and slaps her hard on the back and then yanks her to the side. She hesitantly begins again. I was so amazed that a teacher could so brutally treat someone that way. And this was in full public view.

Its no secret that Iyengar and Jois were embattled with their different styles. Its amazing they were taught by the same teacher, Krishnamachurya. One time, an Iyengar student went to be trained by Jois. When she came back, she was publicly humiliated by Iyengar. He would ask her to show him an asana and then he would scream and berate her for how silly her asana was. Its one thing to disagree, but to use students as your whipping post for dissent is wrong.

I know people dislike talking about beliefs. Especially even my close friends in the U.S. who have grave disagreements with Christianity. I mean, some are more vocal than I could ever imagine. But most of us believe in some kind of higher power. Neo-Darwinists talk about a "life force" that pushes natural selection in a specific direction. They say there is no possible way that what happens could be due to chance alone. I have friends who will believe anything under the sky. Tarot cards, astrology, crystal magic, witches and the occult, the Universe; these are all fair game. But somehow Christians are crazy. They meditate into the ether and look for signs; and then say that prayers are just "nice". They really don’t mean anything.

What I would like to offer is an agreement. There is something out there. Maybe we can’t agree on what it is. Maybe our belief system is based on non-belief, but it is still a belief. Faith is defined as hope in something that is unseen. We don’t test every chair we sit on because they all look trustworthy. We sit with faith that it won’t fail. We trust in its structure. We have no reason to question its validity.

Yet one thing is true; never put all your trust in a person. People will always fail you. You give grace to those you love. You can always forgive. But they will fail. I guarantee that.

Find something to believe in my friends. If your belief is unbelief, then do that well. But don’t ridicule others for what they believe.

Overdoing Warm-Ups

Is it possible to warm-up too much?

It was so funny when I ran ultra-marathons. They’d announce 5 minutes to start time and most people are still sitting in chairs or just gabbing with each other. These are usually trail races that extend past the normal 26.2 mile marathon. They last from 5 to 24 hours and beyond. The goal is to expend the least amount of energy possible for the long haul. So warming up is really a waste of energy.

During this time, I signed up for a 5K or two. It was hillarious because you’d see people running and sprinting all over the place. I mean, its a 5K right? I really think they ran a 5K before they even toed the starting line.

So is it possible to warm-up too much? I think it depends on what you are doing. For a very low-intensity exercise of extended time, your workout is basically your warm-up. Say you are on a rowing or elliptical machine. They are low impact so you can start slow and work into a sweat. There isn’t much worry at all about getting hurt. Well, unless you are a very out of shape person who has lived a very sedentary life. But that excludes most of us who are working out.

Now, picture a Top Fuel Eliminator dragster that is doing a quarter mile in under 5 seconds. It pays to have the engine up to full temperature. They also do an intense burnout to heat the tires before they go. This also tells you that your engine is ready. So for an Olympian doing a 100 meter running sprint, yeah they are going to do a serious warmup of movements and stretching. The wheels can come off so easily with that intensity. The same for a heavy CrossFit workout that includes heavy deadlifts. Or maybe a Strongman competition where intensity is through the roof. These are the times when you warm-up in a very precise way.

Just about the time I was getting ready for my CrossFit Trainer certification, I was watching a lot of videos and reading as much as I could. One video was a road tour with Spencer Hendel and James Hobart. They would visit CrossFit boxes and join in on a workout wherever they went. They were so funny because they called their most intense efforts as going HAM (Hard as a mother *censored*). They always seemed a bit tired since they were on the road a lot. So they often skipped a dedicated warm-up. They called it going JAGUAR. I love that term. They just jumped in and got down to business.

I used to go to a CrossFit box in town. The hour flow always went the same way. You do a warm-up, often a run, row, or calisthenics. This led to mobility that related directly to the Workout of the Day (WOD). And then a strength segment that was also related. At the end, you’d do the WOD. You’d be totally smoked and then go about your day.

The problem I had with this idea is often you were doing a benchmark workout where you wanted the best time you could get. Say you were doing Diane with heavy deadlifts and handstand pushups. But you already did deadlifts and handstand holds in the strength portion. Yeah, it warmed you up, but maybe it took a lot out of you too. Then you can’t go 100% in the WOD. If I were the coach, I would program a specific warmup to the WOD, and then go right to the WOD. Then you guarantee success for your athletes. It would be perfect to do a burnout session after with an EMOM or strength with deadlifts or presses overhead.

TBH, I go JAGUAR in most of my workouts. I don’t do any warmup at all. I might do a rep or two or something that relates. But otherwise I jump right in. A WOD is an amazing warmup for a strength portion. I often blow my wad so badly with strength, I wouldn’t have energy for a WOD at the end. Another way around a warm-up is to have a buy-in and buy-out. So as part of your WOD, you tack on a 1K row or 800m run or something before and after the AMRAP or couplet that you have prescribed. Then you have the best of all worlds. Sometimes, I even add the strength into the WOD. So if you do a Deadlift workout, it could look like this.

500m row buy-in
WOD 5 rounds for time:
deadlift 285 pounds x5 reps
20 burpees
20 situps
rest 1 min*
500m row buy-out

Then you have everything covered. And the little rest keeps your back safe during a heavy WOD.

So to answer the question, it is possible to warm-up too much. A majority of us doing fitness don’t need much of a warm-up. Maybe for some of the Top Fuel people out there, yeah, its smart to warm-up. But don’t overdo it to the point where you end up with poor performance.

Animal Yoga

We’ve done Animal Yoga a few times; usually for Rocket 3. Its fun to use a different method for warming up than Sun Salutations every time.

First, I blame my wife’s dinner of Taco Salad, which is really filling. I thought, if I ate it at 330pm, it will be mostly digested by 7pm. Very wrong! If I feel full, my whole body is heavy and I can’t catch my breath.

So I led each traverse down the center strip with each Animal movement. We did bear crawls, crab walks, side monkey bounding, frog hops, and lizard crawls. My heart was beating hard and I worked up a sweat. But I still blame the food I ate. I mean, I do CrossFit and the workouts are a lot harder than what I just did.

Its really fun to change it up now and then. I do moon salutations on Moon Days. Yoga is always so much fun.

Conspiracy Theory

Very recently, I’ve had a lot of activity on my social media and email accounts. I was off Instagram for over a week because my account was suspended. No, I wasn’t doing anything radical that would warrant such barring. I had a security alert and decided to change my password. I logged out, and then couldn’t log back in.

The problem is, I had an old account that I decided I’d try to log in there too, but no success. And since Facebook owns Instagram, I started getting messages from there. And when you appeal to fix a problem, its Facebook who is managing the interactions. Mind you, most of this is automated. You don’t really talk with anyone. There isn’t an email or phone number to call. You definitely can’t walk up to a physical help desk and ask for help. Its like fantasy land out there. I couldn’t even open a new Instagram account since emails, Facebook, or even my IP addresses were flagged. There was no way to win.

Then, since I was communicating with all these automated bots, my Gmail asked for verification of logging into a different device or different location. And since they considered it suspicious, they locked down the account I was communicating with Facebook on. Now, not only was I not receiving regular mail, I was also not receiving the alerts and codes I needed to solve my Instagram problem. Then they shut down my regular Gmail. I had to log in and "verify account" every time I did anything.

I was wondering what’s next? I mean, these emails are connected with checking accounts, credit cards, insurance companies, all this stuff. What happens when all of these connected networks go haywire? What happens when you can’t start your car or get into your house? When you go to get groceries and can’t even pay with your card? When my internet connected phone at work goes down and I can’t even call 9-1-1?

It makes you think the Conspiracy scenarios will come true. That the Terminator Salvation with Sky Net will come to life. The robots will take over. That the 1980’s movie War Games with WOPR intelligent computer systems that are deciding responses for humans will cause Global Thermonuclear Warfare. Its not such an impossibility anymore.

"WOULD YOU LIKE TO PLAY A GAME?" [choose Tic-Tac-Toe]

Yoga Quirks I Struggle With

I’m the guy who never enjoyed being sung to by Christmas Carolers. In fact, I’d jump down and hide behind the couch before ever being subject to such a thing. I mean, they’re all singing their hearts out and looking at you. What am I supposed to do? Have an awkard smile for however long the song or songs are sung? And since I don’t like being sung to, I don’t sing to others like that either. Its just not what I do.

I’ve led the Ashtanga invocation and closing, which is a long mantra. But I don’t do it often and its a struggle. For one thing, my classes are mostly women and I don’t have a very soprano voice. So finding a key that everyone is comfortable with is not easy. The same with Om’s. They are hard to find the pitch. I do enjoy it sometimes, but it is the only mantras I ever do.

So for Kirtan or anything like it, its not something I volunteer to do. Yeah, I’ll sing at church when there are a lot of people facing in the same direction and people can’t really hear me. I sing to myself all the time. I sing strongly while traveling. I used to sing cadence when I was a Drill Instructor and was pretty good at it. But those troops weren’t looking directly at my face (or I’d smoke them like a cheap cigar 🙂 ). So yoga singing is not something I enjoy.

Also, breath clearing or cleansing is not something I do. I love coffee in the morning. And as much as I’d like to say my breath is always minty fresh, coffee does something to it. So when you’re in child’s pose with your face on the mat and the teacher says, take a deep inhale into your back body and breathe out the mouth, I’m like "nah, I’m good". I always opt for my normal ujjayi breath instead. The same is true with Breath of Fire and other dynamic breathing (except ujjayi or Fire Breaths in Ashtanga). I just don’t enjoy mouth breathing most times.

Then there comes Body Pump in yoga class. Actually, I integrate a lot of things in my yoga. I teach Rocket Abs that is mostly Pilates based. But I still struggle with doing poses that look like Zumba Yoga. I mean, they say there are 80,000 asanas to choose from. Why do we have to make something up? Instead of doing Zumba, just do more yoga. But the main issue is my lower back. I know a lot of yogis who have back issues, so they are in the same boat. When I do a heavy squat or deadlift, I usually wear a weight belt. Competitive lifters use the valsalva maneuver where you take an inhale, hold your breath, lock down your core, and then do your lift. Then you breathe. Its how I was trained to save my back. More…

One time, I was in this Flex & Flow class, which is a Body Pump yoga style. We were in a forearm plank and the teacher had us rolling on our toes rocking our hips from side to side. And would’t you know it, my back totally went out. I didn’t think I’d be able to walk out of the room. And that led to a spiral of being bed-ridden for several days with about 3 months recovery. I’ve had similar or near misses when people had us go from Down Dog to hugging a knee to elbow. Instead of locking in your spine, you are rounding and releasing that control. So your spine becomes very vulnerable. I also don’t do a spinal roll to standing from a forward fold. Its just not smart for my spine. I lock it in flat and rise with strength. I’m ok with other people doing it, but I don’t do it in class nor do I ever teach these moves. I know there are people like me out there.

My last one is savasana with loud music. I know of some teachers who actually make the music louder once we get to savasana. I mean, isn’t it meant for peace and bliss? I don’t get the need to make it loud. You don’t turn up sound when you go to sleep. I always forget to take ear plugs or sound proof muffs when I go to those teachers. We get to savasana and I’m like "oh rats!!" I only have a little soothing sound on to drown out any ambient noises outside of the studio. Or even for coughs and people shifting inside the room. Its kind of like white noise. But I def don’t play it loud.

We all have quirks and things we like and dislike. I’m sure there is a lot to like and dislike about my classes too. And I’m totally OK with our differences. I don’t often do a regular practice on my own. I’d rather have someone lead me. And it may mean I have to do things I’m not comfortable with (to an extent). I just do my thang and we’re all happy.

Peace out, friends!!

Three Black Guys and an Indian

I have such fond memories of the friends I made when I was an Army Reserve Drill Instructor near Detroit, Michigan. We were such a melting post of people all in green uniforms. For some strange reason, those guys really loved me. The color of our skin was never an issue and most of the time, we had tons of fun with it.

I wish I could remember all their names. This one huge black guy in my Company always had a huge smile on his face and he loved to laugh. Whenever I’d see him, we’d jump in the air in a mutual chest bump. It was so hilarious!!

I had this young, quiet buck sergeant who was a heavy smoker from the ghetto. He had a nickname for everybody. My first car was a Fiat X19 and my 2nd was a Ford Mustang. So he always called me "Hotrod". I never knew of him having a car, so somebody was always driving him places. He never wanted to meet right in front of his house, so I met him at a street corner. Let me say, it was kind of a scary neighborhood. It made our friendship that much more real.

There was this older white guy who was a mechanic. It was funny because the muscle cars he drove were always broken down. He was a Vietnam Vet with this grisled appearance. This guy always had black gunk under his fingernails with greasy hair and terrible uniform. He was quite possibly the worst example for a Drill Sergeant ever. But that guy was a Ninja in the woods. That was his element. When we got out there, everything just clicked for him. He’s the guy you want next to you in a foxhole.

I had this Hispanic Staff Sergeant who I greatly looked up to. He had such an even keel in his emotions and was a perfect example of what an Army Drill Instructor should be. When we did Infantry Drills and Tactics, he was always the lead guy in bringing common sense to what we were doing. He was a Vietnam Veteran and had been through many real firefights when he was there. He was also a Detroit Police officer. One day, he didn’t show up for drill. The pain he had seen and felt caught up with him and he had committed suicide.

I was a pretty STRAC soldier. Everyone respected me for that. But I was also a smart guy who was really physically fit. I was going to college at the time and had pretty much memorized all the Army manuals we used. And I moved up really fast getting my E-7 in 7 years. So when a question ever came up, they always turned to me. I loved calling cadence too, so I was the primary cadence caller. And I am a Native American, so they always thought I had some guru knowledge in the woods. Actually, I was pretty good. I remember in training courses I took, even the Rangers and Special Forces guys would tap me to lead patrols. Sometimes I just wanted to sleep, but always ended up on every recon mission so I could get them through the woods in the dark.

I remember one close friend. He was a black guy by the name of SSG Saunders. I remember he would drink pretty heavily when we went to Fort Benning. He was going to strip clubs and always had a big poster of some naked woman in his locker. Then, in a blink of an eye, he converted to Christianity. He did a total 180 from what I knew of him before. And he was always sharing what he found in his faith. It was so very profound.

I had this one young trooper who came in close to the time when I was leaving. He was shorter than me at about 5’5". But he had these huge shoulder and broad lats. He was a current college wrestler. And since I was a wrestler too, I really took him under my wing. I even sparred with him a bit, but man was that guy strong.

The only guy I remember not getting along with was this white guy. He was a bodybuilder and was super thick. I remember they couldn’t size his uniform well and it looked like he’d rip it open at any moment. I think he was charged with an Article 15 at one point since he tried to strangle his Lieutenant. There was a reason why he was so big. He took tons of steroids and was prone to roid rage. He always had huge boils on his face and back. And his heart wasn’t very strong. I’m surprised he could stay in the Army since he couldn’t pass a PT test. Yeah he could do pushups and situps. But he couldn’t run 2 miles to save his life.

I remember this one big black guy who was a member of the Detroit SWAT team. He had arranged for us to rappel off the biggest tower in downtown Detroit. But it happened after I had left. When it came to urban combat tactics, he was the perfect instructor for the job. He went well beyond the Army manuals. He also brought a bunch of tainted packages and bomb devices for our demolitions practice (fitting for today). I remember shaking his hand. His one hand could wrap around two of mine. He had this Barry White low voice. He once said "if you are captured and can see your captors eye to eye, you’re good to go. But once they cover your head, start praying to God, Jehovah, Allah, or whatever Supreme Being you believe in because its over". He was one cool cat.

And despite Michigan being thought of as an urban jungle from border to border, its the opposite. It is mostly rural land of forests and open spaces. Truth be told, most people of color didn’t often venture out of the big cities back then. The Michigan Militia and other alternative groups were known to roam the woods back then. Its where the Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy McVeigh got his start. So when we would do training over the Summer in Grayling, Michigan, it was always interesting to go out on the town. One time, I hopped in the car to go out to dinner. We pulled up to this Mom & Pop joint and one guy was a little nervous. He said "This doesn’t look good. We got Three Black Guys and an Indian. We’re in trouble!!" Haha, I was the Indian and I started to feel the same way.

Good times!

Functional Anatomy

I was so cocky how I thought I understood muscles in the body. I had the academic book knowledge, but not a functional, working knowledge. You’d think decades of lifting weights and studying iron sports that I would know better. I probably knew more than most. But now I know more.

Honestly, its never a guess as to what muscle is what. I still have a lot to learn. But its Thai Yoga Massage that has changed it all for me. And its helping me with my yoga teaching as well. I can see all the major skeletal muscles and know how they are connected, their structure, and how they interact with us in daily life.

Much of my education is in working with many different bodies. I’m learning the subtle nuances of similarities and differences. I’ve taken the guesswork out of bodywork. My teacher’s at Thai Bodywork have made it easy for me. I’m so excited to continue this journey.