US pollution is SO much better than other countries

With ideas of a Green Revolution being ignited by junior congress members, let me throw a few facts your way. Since I’ll be in Bangkok in a few weeks, I was noticing reports that all schools and universities are closed this week due to dangerously high air pollution. They also said that finding mask filters is almost impossible now in Bangkok. So I’m looking at possible masks to buy before going. Below is a report of particulate matter for various countries with Thailand being a little bit worse than Italy. By comparison, the USA is in such a better state despite all the naysayers who decry our industrialized country. I say yay for US!!

Here is what I found:

The World Health Organization (2015) reports on ambient air pollution concentration in cities around the globe.

For comparison, below are the emission level figures for the USA, as well as some other well populated European countries:

  • The US reports an annual concentration of PM2.5 as 9.7 and PM10 as 16.
  • The UK reports an annual concentration of PM2.5 as 13.3 and PM10 as 19.6.
  • Italy reports annual concentration of PM2.5 as 22.7, PM10 as 32.
  • Germany reports at PM2.5 at 16.1 and PM10 at 21.7.
  • Thailand reports annual PM2.5 as 22.4 and PM10 as 41.4.

As you can see, Thailand’s concentrations of particulate matter do not vary immensely from that of Italy, which might surprise residents of both countries.

The Truth About Electric Devices

Electric cars, electric lawnmowers, electric chainsaws,…ALL electric.

People think because they are using something that uses electricity instead of something that has an exhaust pipe spewing out plumes of smoke, they think they are saving the environment.

The Truth is Far From What They Think

The truth IS—MOST of electricity is a result of fossil fuels:

63% Fossil Fuel
20% Nuclear
17% Renewables
-2% Hydropower
0.3% Other

Maybe you don’t see smoke close to where you live, but someplace is blowing smoke. In many cases, the efficiency of electrical products are less than a combustion engine. The amount of water and other resources needed to make an electrical product are often greater than fossil fuel burning engines. Then, you have to consider the wasteful excess of disposal. Where do all those batteries go from electric powered devices? And we won’t even talk about all the Vampire charging systems that keep charging regardless if it needs it or not. Sometimes a charger plugged into a socket that isn’t charging anything is still drawing energy. Think about all that waste!

People always think they have a solution for something. But anytime you think about what you do, you have to apply a complete systems approach. What is the total input involved in creating something? And what is the excess as an outcome of the waste?

Lipstick on a pig. That’s what most electrical devices are. They make people feel less guilty about themselves when they are likely creating MORE of a problem by using even MORE resources.

Knocked Silly or Body Reset

 

2014 08 21 14 56 53
2014 08 21 14 56 53

My back has been finicky for going on 3 weeks. I have chronic back pain, but it is usually held off with yoga. Most times, I can go into a yoga class not feeling very well and leave feeling amazing. I was actually feeling better on Tuesday and thought a hot yoga class would take me to the 100% mark. But it didn’t take despite enjoying the class and the teacher. The next morning, I woke up with even worse pain. I took AcroYoga last Sunday thinking the same thing. When you lay on your back and you fly someone on your legs, its really therapeutic to my back. But I really felt terrible afterward this time.

So I taught a Rocket yoga class on Weds and wasn’t feeling good. I went into teaching Power Yoga last night and left feeling amazing! I mean, like almost 100% healthy. I had tons of fun. And while my back is still sore this morning, I’m amazed at how much better I felt.

I’ve read stories of Ashtangis who were practicing at the Shala in Mysore, India. They did their 6 day a week practice starting very early in the morning. Some days, they were sick, sore, or injured and asked Pattabhi Jois “Guriji” if they could take the day off. They would ask to do the Primary Series instead of a higher series. Or they’d ask to sit out on part of the practice. Guruji would smile and say “You Do”. Yoga Chikitsa, the primary series, is called the healing series. It really has that effect on people.

Sometimes, I would go into lifting heavy squats or deadlifts against my better judgement. But quite often, my sore back or sore whatever would feel fine. Firing all those muscle fibers to a hard effort is kind of like greasing an old, rusty gear box. You often have to force it into working properly. I know that sounds Neanderthal, but it really works. Like last night: I was doing locust pose and bow pose with the class knowing my back hasn’t been in good shape. But it actually felt better totally engaging into those muscles. I forced my muscles into submission and, in the end, it was therapeutically healing.

There are times for rest. There are times for healing. But sometimes, there are times to push through and move your body. I think most times deserve the latter. Even when you’re sick, increasing your circulation and moving your lymphatic fluid around can only be a good thing. Listen to your body; but also don’t listen to your body. Sometimes if it tells you to stop, thoughtfully and carefully do what you’re gonna do anyway. You may be surprised by the results.

When Yoga Teachers Fail the Student

There are a few cues in yoga that teachers use that I just don’t understand. I’m sure they copied something from another teacher, but never asked why. I’m imploring you, study your practice and ask why?

1. Bringing feet together before jumping to half forward fold in sun salutations. This isn’t how I learned Ashtanga. But I realize everyone isn’t doing Ashtanga. But when your surya namaskars look like how I was taught, then you are probably doing ashtanga. For some reason, I’ve found teachers have students bring their feet together from downward facing dog before jumping to half-forward fold, ardha uttanasana. There is really no purpose in doing that. And there isn’t a count in Ashtanga that allows for such a move. My recommendation: keep your feet hip width apart like they should be and jump forward from your downward facing dog.

2. Leaning forward transition from warrior 2: The other one I see is from Warrior 2, teachers have students reach forward before going to exalted warrior, viparita virabhadrasana. Maybe they are seeking length before extending and opening their side body. But the pose itself does it for you. You don’t really need to add that extra move. I see this kind of cue in other ways too. They are usually just flowery excess and totally unnecessary. My recommendation: keep your posture and don’t overextend yourself with excesses.

3. Not balancing your body movements: Remember the days when young men would go to the gym and just do bench presses and barbell curls. Really stupid, right? It creates major imbalances in your body when you don’t balance out the antagonists. A bench press with some kind of rowing movement balances chest and back. A biceps curl should be combined with a triceps extension. But in yoga, we are doing the same thing. We do a bunch of forward folds without doing a back bend. If you work one side of the body, make sure you work the other. Some teachers say, "that’s my intention for the day; to just do one side of the body". But never make your intention to create imbalances. Otherwise you send your students home with a lot of Vritti (chaos). My recommendation: Create balance in the body.

4. Warming appropriately: Muscle is a like a rubber band. A cold rubber band will easily snap apart. But a warm rubber band stretches nicely. In Ashtanga, our common warm-up is sun salutations. Its the best possible way to prepare for an intense practice. In a gentle yoga class, a gentler warm-up is needed. However, when you go to a class like Hot Yoga, the heat accelerates the warming process. You’ll be able to find length without doing as much. I strongly believe that a vigorous hot yoga can do a lot to increase circulation and remove toxins from our body. But too much can be a bad thing. Instead, the value of heat is in body lengthening. To me, that’s the winning secret for hot yoga. And, if you come to class after running a marathon or a Super Hero WOD in CrossFit, you should come prepared. Don’t expect the warm-up a teacher gives to be sufficient. You will need to take a hot tub, foam roll, and some warming up before the warm-up. Otherwise, you are likely to get injured. My recommendation: Always warm your body knowing your body and your environment.

5. Goofy alliterations and misguided beliefs: As a yoga teacher, we are prone to flowery words, fantastic imagery, and spouting a spirituality that is often not organic to our normal lives. It ends up looking very fake. I once had a yoga teacher who’s major was Religious Studies. But he was a wise young man. He knew that people pay homage to many different gods or a religion of no god. So, to not offend anyone, he let everyone celebrate in their own way by not imposing one belief. Its why a Buddha statue or Ganesha picture is never appropriate in a yoga studio. Its imposing a belief on you that is unnecessary and inappropriate. The same is true with the imagery and alliterations we use. I’ve heard people talk naturally to me, then I hear their prayers and I don’t know who they are. They suddenly turn into a television evangelist. Its not how they normally talk. Yoga teachers do the same thing. They have a natural plain language that they seem to check at the door. Instead, they suddenly turn into a completely different person. My recommendation: be true to yourself, be yourself, and communicate effectively.

I always say, all yoga is good yoga. But there is a context to that. As a yoga teacher, I know you have a complicated scheme in your mind for how you plan your yoga teaching. However, with each and every class, imagine that someone comes to your class without ever having attended a class before. Imagine someone visiting your class from out of town who is very experienced in yoga. How do you come across? Are you getting the job done by meeting the needs of mind and body? Or are you on a mission to only work biceps that day because you’ll work on triceps next Tuesday? Instead, make every practice a complete practice. Meet the needs of the body as a whole, not just part of it. Otherwise, your students will walk around with bound up Vritti that can’t be released until the next class you teach. That just doesn’t work. And by all means, don’t create a bad impression on a new student who may never come back because of your poor teaching. Be vulnerable and open. Communicate your intentions without the goal of beating your own chest. Instead, make it about the student. How can you best meet their needs? Yoga teaching is totally about the student, not the teacher!

#yoga #yogateaching #betrue

Brains vs. Brawn

I was into bodybuilding when I was young. I think every young man dabbled in this realm at some point in his life. Its a vain attempt at manhood, but an otherwise healthy endeavor.

I’m not saying I was some buff superhero, but I had my qualities. So I was out by the pool with two young ladies who were sisters, one of whom I was dating at the time. The other sister was dating someone who was in school to become a medical doctor. While I was just a lowly undergrad.

Somehow the conversation drifted to muscles in men and how I somehow got lumped into the mix. While playfully ribbing each other and having a good time, siblings can get competitive. The sister I was dating was bragging about how buff I was and how the other sister’s boyfriend was not. So the other sister comes back at her that her boyfriend had the "smarts" and that muscles aren’t everything.

Haha…I mean, AHEM! I was sitting right there. So the other guy is smart and I’m not? Wow! Does med school make one person smart and the other not? [side note: I ended up with a Ph.D. myself…just sayin]

I don’t think brains and brawn are mutually exclusive entities. Just like a woman super model can also be a scholar of the highest regard. Having beauty doesn’t negate intelligence one bit. Its a stereotype that you wouldn’t reflect on a race, religion, or anything different from you.

Regardless of what you think about someone like an Arnold Schwarzenegger, he eventually used his physique to become Governor of California. He is an icon who’s business acumen is well-regarded. His close friend, Franco Columbo, is a chiropractor and author. He came to the U.S. and went on to a professional degree while English was far from his first language (he spoke fluent Italian and German). Our current First Lady speaks 7 languages, and she was a model herself. Dolph Lundgren, former model and actor from Rocky 4 fame, has a Master’s degree in chemistry.

It’s fun to highlight people who go against commonly held stereotypes. In fact, its one of my favorite parts of humanity. You take close-minded, ignorant people and make them realize the folly of their misgivings. Its the best "in yo face" ever!

The Army runs on Diesel

immersion heater germany

I stumbled on this pic from my old unit in Germany. When you pulled KP (kitchen patrol) out in the field, it was an all day gig. They’d wake you up at like oh-dark-thirty (~3am) to start getting chow ready for the field site. We often worked to about 2100 since a lot of the field doggies would come in late. We would fill these huge trash barrels with water, usually by dragging two 5 gallon jugs to and from the water buffalo. That got old fast in the snow. You’d need at least one can for washing and another for the rinse. Sometimes, we’d make an extra can for a nice hot tub bath later. We usually worked through chow so we didn’t get to eat until after everyone else did. And leftovers were kinda gross.

The heaters are fueled by a big can of diesel on the side. It would drip fuel in at a slow rate to keep it burning. But you had to be super careful. So I started a drip, I lit some paper and dropped it in. You have to keep you head far from the opening or it could blow in your face. Well, I dropped in the lit paper. I waited a good 20 seconds and nothing seemed to happen. So I peek in to see and BOOM it blew up in my face. It blasted my head up and I just turned and fell face first into the snow. I wasn’t sure what I had just done to myself. I managed to burn all my eyebrows and eyelashes into crispy, burnt-end curls. My buddies got a big laugh at how it looked.

Other fun chores we got in the field was guard duty. I almost forgot my birthday one year. I was standing at the entrance to our site on top of a snowy mountain in Germany with my Mickey Mouse boots on and my parka hood cinched down to about a 2 inch opening. The snow was coming down hard. I was standing there wondering what day it was, so I looked at my watch. It was almost midnight, 16 Jan 1984; my birthday. Oh well. I did get some candlelight that night. A few hours later, I was startled by a bright light. I look over and one of the tents caught on fire. Each tent had a diesel burning stove. Its pretty safe unless it overheats, turns to cherry red, and then something close by or the stove pipe catches fabric on fire. That’s what happened. They were yelling, I was yelling, it was mass chaos. Fortunately, everybody made it out alive. But they lost a lot of their gear.

We also got to pull 60K generator duty. We had to keep it filled with diesel to make sure all the communication rigs were kept running. We also started all the backup 5K generators that were on trailers once a day. I drove for a lieutenant, so among all my other duties, I had to drive him/her around to different field sites and HQ to receive orders and missions. But I also had to set up their tent and attend to their needs. Then we sometimes went on foot patrol to check our perimeter. Sometimes we had a unit of Infantry guarding us. But most times we were on our own. They said if the balloon ever went up, we’d be alive for about 7 minutes since they’d target communication links first. So our outside perimeter was the least of our worries. Such good times.

Heal Thyself

thai yoga tfl stretch
thai yoga tfl stretch

The other day, I had a headache. So I started working into trigger points I knew in my neck that could be responsible for it. I could just use my fingers, but better for this bodypart is an EPS (electronic point stimulator) accupressure device. In less than a minute, my pain went away. A few days before that, I had a toothache. I worked into my jaw muscles and poof—pain was gone!

Note: Where you feel pain is most often not the source of pain. There is a chain of events that occur that often leads to pain. The two main sources of pain are #1 glutes and #2 around the shoulder blade. These two areas are responsible for a majority of body pain. If you feel pain in your shoulders and your therapist just rubs your shoulders, your pain may come back in a day or two. Its good for their business, but not good for you.

Here’s a great idea! Download any one of a number of Trigger Point apps and start to figure things out for yourself. They will have a zone highlighted on the body. Click on the zone and it will present to you the most common culprits first. They are prioritized based on years of evidence from Claire Davies, Travell & Simons, or other pioneers in trigger point therapy. It isn’t difficult to figure out.

Then take your fingers and palpate the area. If you want some practice, almost everyone has taut fibers in their forearm and thigh. Feel around for muscles that have lots of tension. Sometimes, you’ll stumble on a little knot that feels like a frozen pea. That’s a trigger point. I practice on myself all the time.

Once you find the trigger point or taut fiber, you can massage with your fingers, a hard lacrosse ball, or a Theracane (for those hard to reach places). For taut fibers, find the central, belly of the muscle. That’s where the trigger point is located. Also use contract-relax on yourself, which is a method to trick your brain into allowing your body to release for a few seconds. Engage the problem muscle, inhale, hold your breath for at least 5 seconds, then release and go directly into a stretch. It tells your golgi tendon organ that you are ok and to not resist the stretch.

Do these things multiple times over several days. Focused pressure, engaging, & stretching; these are the keys to healing. Broader pressure like with a foam roller is good for circulation and lymph movement too, but won’t be as effective as the focused pressure. Doing exercise and especially yoga will make sure your muscle fibers feel healthy and ensure the trigger point doesn’t re-form.

Sometimes, we walk around not knowing where our pain resides. As a Thai Yoga Therapist, I always (I mean always) find places in bodies that a client didn’t even realize was a problem. Sometimes, its difficult to identify what zone to start with in the Trigger Point apps. So, going to a therapist who knows trigger points can be helpful when you don’t know where to start. I know that I can find the source of your problems.

Once you have an idea of where to start, then you can apply the Thai Yoga Therapy principles on yourself. A traditional therapist is helpful and may be working trigger points without even knowing it. But someone with a clinical approach can be extremely beneficial to actual healing.