When Rocket Yogis Leave

Being in a college town means that many of my students end up leaving. It has happened a lot over my years of teaching and I miss each and every one of them. They all had something special about themselves that made their Rocket unique. I always wonder if it made them grow in some special way.

I had a large class by Rocket standards this past Saturday. I mean large because a dozen plus people doing arm balance and inversions and going to the wall for poses is a lot. Its very different from other classes. I love the energy of a class full of yogis.

One of my best yogis told me that it would be her last class before leaving for China. It made me so sad because I’ve seen her grow a lot. She invited me to visit China and teach my philosophy. I was flattered, but didn’t know how that would work out. But when I started talking to her, I was amazed. Her Master’s degree at the University is in Kinesiology. And she is actually studying research on Yoga and impacts in preventative medicine. She described her studies on yoga. She also has taught yoga herself for 5 years. She organized yoga in Nanjing, a town of 8 million people!!! Yeah, I said that right. So she does have incredible influence.

I haven’t sprung this on my other half yet. But I’m wondering if my trip to Thailand next year could include passing through Nanjing? It sounds amazing to me. I would spread my philosophy of Rocket Yoga.

What she said was different about my class from any other was my positivity. She likes how I encourage people to do their best. In the face of poses that are not possible for everyone, I still challenge them to try. I embrace that compliment because that is exactly what I try to do. If I was too much of an Ashtanga disciplinarian, people wouldn’t return to my class. It would always seem impossible to them. I like for everyone to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Anything is possible.

Yes, I could talk to many people about my ideas for yoga. It would be more than a pleasure for me. I’ve spoken to large crowds, though maybe not millions. Haha!! I’m up for any challenge.

Where will your Rocket take you today? Whatever your ambitions are, find your path, take baby steps, and make small gains. In time,you’ll be amazed at what you can do.

I will miss this Yogi, who I will call Jojo. There are so many like her that have affected my life. Some just fade away. Others leave a lasting imprint on me. Some I miss dearly. But I miss everyone and always hope that Rocket did something for them.

Olympic Lay-off

I’m ashamed to say that I haven’t done an Olympic lift in over a week. When you normally do Olympic weightlifting nearly everyday, its heartbreaking when you don’t do it. Its like you are missing out on something very special in your life.

I’ve been doing CrossFit, yoga, and other things, but not my Olympic lifts. Truth be told, I’m a barefoot guy. If I had my druthers, I’d never put shoes on, especially in the Summer. My work shoes are Keen H2 sandals that are brown leather but cover my toes and most of my feet. But my feet can breathe through all the side slats which makes it more bearable. I’d much rather be barefoot. And with Olympic weightlifting, you have to wear shoes. In the catch, I sit better in my squat with shoes. And I sometimes jump and land hard on the clean, jerk, and snatch. So Olympic shoes work best.

I actually had switched my workout around so I have dedicated Olympic weightlifting time. The other times I don’t have to put shoes on like for cardio, yoga, or CrossFit. Time just gets away from you and plans sometimes fall apart.

Last night, I did clean & jerks. They felt stronger than ever before. The weight felt so light for me. I didn’t go very heavy just to make sure I didn’t hurt anything. But my attempts went very well. I love the strength in the hook grip and you sink into your stance. It feels like you are lifting a refrigerator and tossing it over a wall. Donny Shankle called it "Ripping the Head off the Lion". Its a violent acceleration. I love the intensity of Olympic lifting. The slow Powerlifting lifts just don’t do it for me. There isn’t the speed and true power (strength with speed) that you find in weightlifting.

I’m a happy man. I won’t betray my lifts anytime in the near future.


There was an article I read recently talking about hugs. I wish I could remember the link. It spoke of how most hugs last an average of 3 seconds. Even that sounds long in my experience. But a hug of 20-30 seconds is a very deep connection. To be honest, that would seem a bit awkward for me. But I wouldn’t say that I’m an expert hugger either.

Some of my friends hug. I have one friend who will go out of her way to give you a hug. And its not a squeeze and release thing. Its a joyous celebration. Like a gleeful experience. I’ve seen her hug other people and I see her eyes close and a huge smile widens across her face. She’ll squeeze and rock side to side.

I wasn’t raised to be very touchy feely. And the Army didn’t help much either. We were supposed to be these hardened warriors immune to emotions. When I was taking a training course in the Army, one of the instructors said that when he was in Ranger school, you never got praise from the instructors. In your After Action Review (AAR), you will get a list of:
1. Things you did right.
2. Areas to improve.
3. How can we do it better next time?

But what was neat was that the Ranger instructor always carried a stick with him. As he was giving the AAR, he would (very rarely) mark a smiley face in the dirt or sand while he was talking. Then he would quickly erase it. That meant he was pleased with what you did. It was that little praise that would change your world. So a hug, handshake, or gesture has a sliding scale of meanings.

So while praise is relative, a hug is almost always very meaningful. The people I know who initiate hugs do it from the heart. I’m big on handshakes and do that regularly. That is a whole other blog unto itself. But I’d like to be a hugger. Research shows that it can actually improve your health and prevent disease. It helps release oxytocin, serotonin, dopamine, and other physiological markers. So its not only an emotional release, but a physical one too. It does a body good.

More hugs please!

The Seven

Since I injured my calf running last week, I decided I had better hold off on Murph for Memorial Day. Its a CrossFit working that starts and ends with a 1 mile run. I don’t think that’s a good idea right now. Plus, I am going camping and I had planned to lash a bar to two trees for the pullups. It would have worked except for my calf.

Instead, I’m doing a workout called "The Seven", which I’ve done on the 4th of July before. It is named after seven fallen CIA agents. The information is below. It is:

Seven rounds for time of:
7 Handstand push-ups
135 pound Thruster, 7 reps
7 Knees to elbows
245 pound Deadlift, 7 reps
7 Burpees
7 Kettlebell swings, 2 pood
7 Pull-ups

Its kind of deceiving in that its only 7 reps of each movement. But because of this, they also put heavier weight and a few harder exercises. Since I’ve done it before, I know it stings a little. Top CF male athletes do it in 19-24 minutes, so I can expect to almost double that time. We’ll see.

Remember our heroes on Memorial Day:

A suicide bomber killed seven CIA officers and one Jordanian officer at a remote base in southeastern Afghanistan on December 30, 2009 after posing as a potential informant reporting on Al Qaeda. Seven new stars will be etched onto the memorial wall at the CIA where every star represents grieving friends, family and colleagues dedicated to fight against the enemy, forever in their name.

Killed in the attack were CIA officers Jennifer Lynne Matthews, 45; Scott Michael Roberson, 39; Harold E. Brown Jr., 37; Darren LaBonte, 35; Elizabeth Hanson, 30; and security contractors Jeremy Jason Wise, 35, and Dane Clark Paresi, 46.

Embrace the Suck

This is something that I’ve gotten from Adventure racers, Adrenalin junkies, and CrossFitters. There are sports and activities that we can do that are fun. But the real fun is getting into the pain zone. For the uninitiated, that sounds like the worst thing ever. But for the crazy athletes who like to drop themselves in a pit only to find a way to scrape and claw their way out of it, that’s the thrill of it all. Its a great feeling of accomplishment.

Now, what most people are thinking of is the physical aspect. What does your body have to go through to prepare for the challenge? Yes, that’s part of it. You want to set yourself up for success and not failure. Its more of a mental game than physical. You need to actually put yourself in the pain cave daily and get accustomed to it. You need to make friends with it.

Embrace the Suck!

But I even see this to some extent in my yoga classes. And I’ve felt it myself in yoga. I often say to yogis "you shouldn’t feel pain in yoga, just a lot of discomfort". So for such a mind-body, non-competitive, seemingly soothing physical activity, yoga can always take us to that uncomfortable feeling. I see people in my Rocket Yoga classes sneaking in a child pose when they can. And then I put them in the next pose. Non-competitive is true, but when you see others around you in their practice, you feel you should stand up and get into the pose.

Something that I may have mentioned before is a common practice for me. I often mix my workouts with Yoga. This is how it feels.

The countdown timer starts to beep and your heart is already at 80% of your target pulse. You anticipate grabbing the bar and lifting. You feel super strong and you try to find a groove that won’t wear you out. Once you lift the bar, you don’t want to drop it. It takes more energy to get it back into position again. So you go unbroken for your first set. Then off to the next exercise. You still feel strong and you’re moving fast. If its a skill movement, you’re concentrating on efficiency in your form so you won’t fall out of position. Then the next exercise starts to get at you. You can feel the lactate creeping up to higher levels. Then….you’re finished! Awww not yet. You have 4 more rounds of this. The wheels probably fall off a couple times. But you find that zombie state in the pain cave. Your body screams but your face is calm. Last round. Your body and mind are toast. But you actually speed up rather than slow down. You know the pain is only going to be there for another minute. You can handle a little more pain. It will all be over soon. Now you finish. You collapse on the floor, but the pain isn’t over. There’s about 5 seconds where you feel numb. But then the next 30 seconds, it all creeps in on you. The pain is the most intense here. Much more than the workout itself. That’s when I pop into Pincha (forearm stand). What can you do when you are at your lowest point? That’s where you grow your mind.

Embrace the Suck!

Maybe not to the same extent, but yoga can be like this. Especially, Rocket yoga. Fortunately, like Ashtanga, people know the sequence. They know they can last through the last Prasarita Padottanasana. But then middle splits and splits follow. Its that long sequence of standing poses on one side followed by Pincha Mayurasana. That’s what gets you. How do you do something strong and technical when you’re tired? That’s the key.

So I Embrace the Suck. I do a WOD and am totally in pain. Then go straight to Pincha, or crow, or some other pose that takes strength, balance, and focus. You can do this in many ways. Run a hard 5 miler and then hold plank for 2 minutes at the end. Its what builds the mind. A strong mind keeps your will to fight.

Embrace the Suck!

Grateful Hearts

I was raised in childhood in an interesting predicament. I was short and usually below average in size as a boy. I had a few not so nice things happen to me growing up, usually because of being a minority. It would probably be cathartic for me to write those things out, but I’d rather not re-live them again. I was always somewhat naive and gullible. I appeared so even when I went into the Army.

The truth is, I’m honestly a nice guy. I never want to hurt or hate anybody. I was raised as an older brother. We lived in the country and we would get ourselves into some hairy situations out in the woods. My job was to watch out for my brother. And there were times when, if he did something wrong, I would get a spanking right along with him because I was supposed to be watching him. I learned responsibility at a very early age. Culturally as Native Americans, manhood comes early and there are things expected of us. Adulting at that young of an age made it difficult for me.

So while I walked the straight and narrow most times, my brother had all the fun. He could easily schmooze to get whatever he wanted. He went dirt bike riding. He got all the girls. He wasn’t afraid to step out and get what he wanted. While I was the shy, introverted, responsible kid. I’m still shy and introverted. There are times when I have an opportunity for something, I don’t get it. I never embellish in my work output reports since I prefer to be humble. So I probably don’t get the awards and pay raises that others get.

I was a jock and I had the option to hang out with the cool crowd when I wanted. I wrestled and nobody ever touched me. I was accepted by my peers for the athlete that I was. I was stronger than nearly all of the football players. They wouldn’t dare start something with me. But the people I chose to hang out with were the quiet people. The girls who were sitting in the library. The guys who were ostracized. I always knew they would be true to me and not dump me when someone better came along. I really love people who are true to themselves.

All of this makes me realize much about people. I can easily see through people. Self-centered-ness is super obvious. Self-centered people don’t even know they are. But it stands out like a bonfire on a mountain. There are people who never commit to something because they are always watching for something better. They are watching for what will get them a better crowd. They want only the cutest guys or girls and wouldn’t dare hang out with anything less. Younger generations do this more often, but there are people my age who do it too. They only say things to get what they want. Their feet are always pointed away from you. And when they can escape, they will. Then they both figuratively and literally shack up with the next big find they see. There’s always something better around the corner. And they’ll keep going in circles to find that perfect find.

I’ve been to a lot of funerals lately. Often its a person who was quiet and reserved all their lives. They never stood out in a crowd. They were never the chairman of the committee. They chose to serve in other ways. Humble ways. And its only when they’ve passed that you realize the profound effect they had in their lives. They did so much for so many and gave of themselves selflessly. And it was never for material gain. These are the people of honor. Not the people who get motorcades and accolades by the celebrities in attendance. These are the humble people.

The other night after teaching yoga, I had several people come up to me independently to talk about how much my class meant to them. They had nothing to gain by being so gracious to me. They just gave from their heart. They had gratitude. They were thankful for me. They didn’t have to say anything to me. But they did.

I have friends who will tell you everything about themselves in a heartbeat. But they never ask about you. They never ask how you are. They never seem to care. You have to wonder why they are friends. You wonder if they only be-friend you to see what they can get out of you. And then they quickly move on to someone better. I know a lot about other people. But most don’t know anything about me. They never ask. They like your social media posts that are about something else, but not about you. Its like they avoid getting too close because then they are committed to you. And commitment is so shackling to them. It means they actually have to give something away. But that “something” is saved for the beautiful people. Not for you.

Energy is limited. We only have so much available to us. When we invest in people, it drains part of us. But the benefit of investing in people is that they are there for you when you need them. They give back to you two- or -threefold. So its an investment worth investing in. But others are a money pit. They suck out your life and you never get it back. As much as it hurts, you have to ween yourselves away from those people. The party girls who are always watching for something better. The flashy dudes who scam you for all you got. Avoid these people.

Instead, find that quiet person in the corner. You’d be surprised at what they have to offer. Invest heavily in those people. You won’t regret how loyal and giving they are.

Have a grateful heart.

The Purpose of Yoga

“Yogas Citta Vritti Nirodha”

The cessation of the fluctuations of the mind
From Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra 1.2

I had another wonderful Candlelight Yoga last night. I have a strong affinity for a more rajasic practice. I do CrossFit and other extreme adventures. Its how my mind is programmed. But I always remind myself about balancing my energies. Each chakra struggles with light and darkness, hard and soft, aggressive and passive, action and ambivalence. If I stay to the right with the sun and its energies, I’ll find myself angry, critical, and forceful. Those are not good qualities in a yoga teacher. I have to consciously embrace peace and softness. And that’s what teaching Candlelight Yoga does for me. ​

I have so many friends who find the same struggles. A fellow teacher said something with regard to the person we are when we are stuck in traffic is the person who we are. Who are you in the quiet of your solitude? Do you think evil thoughts or hatred of another? Unfortunately, you can’t hide in the shadows. That is who you are. And something needs to change. Its hypocritical to perform as a seasoned and respected yoga teacher in front of people, but be a raging lunatic when you step off the stage. You can’t post on social media your hatred for others, of men, of politics, and abide by yogic principles. There isn’t wrong in pointing to what is wrong. But if you are part of the wrong, then you are a facade.

There is so much Vrtti in this world. You can watch the news and see the chaos around us. We spend hours on our phones, watching TV, and chasing the rat race of life. There must be balance or you will always find unrest. Be authentic to yourself first. Find your peace. But when you find it, make it last. And let your joy overflow to others. It is honorable as a yoga teacher to do so; as it is honorable for any person.

Yoga allows us to work through these opposing forces of light and dark. We burn our candles brightly and burn the Vrtti from our bodies. We wring out this toxicity that compels us. And then we find peace. Samadhi awaits you my friends. Seek it in your journey.

I’m Still Here

I had an exhausting week last week trying to get a training slide show finished. Then I had a report due this morning that kept me up to 3am to finish. I actually tried to sleep in my office. But it didn’t take and I got up and grabbed breakfast nearby at 6am. I’m feeling pretty good despite not having any sleep. But I think I’ll think otherwise after an Ashiatsu massage after work and then teaching yoga tonight. At least I’ll sleep well tonight.

A few yoga teachers and myself from our studio went to the Wanderlust Yoga Festival. It was a lot of fun despite the cold weather. It barely got above 50F the whole time. Brrr! The yoga helped a lot. The 15-30 mins of meditation afterward didn’t at all. But Acro was a blast!

And I’m subbing Acro Yoga this Sunday. So it will be a great experience. I’ve taught Partner Yoga workshops, like over Valentine’s Day. But not true Acro. And I’ve dabbled a lot over the years. What I’ve never done is participated in a regular Acro Jam. One of our awesome teachers who specialized in Acro has been teaching us in a regular class. I’ve loved it. I’m gaining more confidence. But I have a long, long, very long way to go.

I had almost a week off of working out over the past week. I ran a 5K at Wanderlust. And despite most of my muscles, heart, and lungs cooperating really well, my left calf went bonkers on me. Its the same strain that stopped my running career. I’ve been running trails and haven’t had a problem. But flat, concrete roads end up killing my calf.

Anywho, I did a workout the other day that really had me reeling. I felt so strong and unstoppable. I did Farmer Carries with 315#. Bench presses to the max. I went non-stop with 120# soft stone shoulder throws. And loads of pullups and other bodyweight work. I’m still sore today, but I’ve kept at it.

Life has been so very good to me. If I croaked tomorrow, I would have lived a fulfilled life. But lets hope to live another day!

Schizophrenic Expectancy

Being a yoga teacher is an exceedingly fulfilling profession. People put their lives in your hands for an hour or so as you guide them somewhere. That somewhere is different for every person. But, hopefully, somewhere is a good place to be.

With the end of the University semester, attendance at the studio can be ethereal. Then you have family vacations and people aching to get away. Summer weekends camping or hanging out at the lake. Kids soccer and baseball. And often life changes. Its almost simpler in the cold of winter when you want to be indoors. Winter is much more stable. And indoor yoga seems like the reasonable choice.

As a yoga teacher, sometimes you wonder who will show. Most times, you are content knowing that even if one person shows up, you’ll get to share what you love with them. Other times, you stand at the window and watch for your friends to come into class, not knowing if anyone wants yoga today.

I used to teach a 6am class at a wellness club on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It was a tiny, but fun little room with nice floors and great ambient lighting. I had 3 or 4 dedicated yogis who were almost always there. I’d say like 93% of the time I could count on them. Occasionally, we’d have an infrequent visitor come in for class. It was a great time while I was first teaching to create creative classes that met their needs. So as not to bore the heck out of the class, I changed the format often and got as creative as I could with the poses. However, these were seasoned yogis about my age who didn’t take well to overly dance-like or spiritually mumbo-jumbo kinds of things. In some yoga classes, you’ll get somewhat silly Simon Says kinds of things of extra motions that have very little meaning to most people. So I try my best to stay away from fluff. This group of yogis taught me to do what’s important and leave the fluff to others.

The problem was, when one or two of these yogis didn’t show up, it left me with the 1 or 2 remaining. And while I’ve always enjoyed personal yoga sessions, its not quite what I signed up for with a group class. These beautiful souls were always early, usually arriving before I did. So if I walked in and one person was there, my heart skipped a beat. I would sweat with anticipation for another person to come.

I’ve also had workshops where my wife would sign up, a loyal friend would come, and then another close friend. That’s it. I’ve had workshops where I’d ask a fellow teacher to come and bring a piece of equipment and offer their two cents in class. But in the last minute, they didn’t show up. Workshops where you get paid a percentage and not a set rate like group classes can be tricky. You usually invest a lot of time beforehand planning for a workshop. It is usually feast or famine in those situations given the time spent. Truth be told, I’ve been to workshops that weren’t very well done or the teacher wasn’t very present. So you have to be careful where you spend your money. I understand that. People are cautious.

But the joy of having a full class, or filling a workshop, makes up for all the heartache of expectancy. When I taught my debut yoga class, 32 of my friends showed up and filled our studio. I was so very pleased! I’ve sold out workshops and glow yoga events. Its a good feeling when you have a product people want to buy. And to send them away satisfied and wanting more is even better. It’s what makes being a yoga teacher so very gratifying.

Last night was a class like that. I’m loving life.