I’m back!

Just a quick note since I haven’t written in a few weeks.

My trip to Thailand was a huge success. My primary motivation was completing my Thai yoga massage training with the intent of from receiving from as many practitioners as I could while there. I did get a chance to sample a few. Now, I need to write down my thoughts as my sub-conscious has processed all I’ve experienced.

I did get quite sick from the pollution in Bangkok. One day, my wife and I were touring a really neat area by foot. But I distinctly recall all the traffic and feeling the affects of the smoke. She, smartly, wore her mask that entire day. We left Bangkok that evening for Chiang Mai by train. It was quite an uncomfortable trip for me. I started feeling the affects of the pollution and was coughing a lot. The sleeper rooms next to us were filled with coughs too. Plus, the AC wasn’t cutting it and I had a hot sweaty night on the train. So I didn’t sleep well.

When we got to Chiang Mai, we rented a car from the airport and I did my best white knuckled driving on the crazy streets of Thailand. We had a really good day. But when I got to the hotel room, I was asleep by 230pm and didn’t wake up until the next day. The next day, we went to the highest point in Thailand, Doi Inthanon. It was super amazing. But both of us felt our lungs as we hiked up the steep slopes. The air was cool with a strong breeze. So we both stopped to catch our breath multiple times. Again, I was in bed for the rest of the day from mid-afternoon.

Fortunately, I started to feel better. I kept my cough for the rest of the trip. I mean, the cough when I was the sickest made me thinking of a whooping cough. People die from those coughs. They were completely involuntary. I would be breathing and suddenly a weird gutteral sound would emanate from me. It wasn’t like a regular cough. I had a fever and other issues too. My abs hurt so painfully that even sensing a cough coming left me dread with fear. And don’t even talk about a sneeze. It would take me a good 5 minutes to recover from a sneeze.

So as I am back home, I still have a cough. I’m taking Mucinex to loosen things up.

I’ve already mentioned this before, but if people are so hell bent on "global" warming, they should really focus globally. While in Thailand, I become very aware of the AQI (air quality index). It is highly variable and comes and goes. But if you look at the global map, most of the USA is in the green. Most of Europe is in the yellow (moderate). And almost all of SE Asia is in the red (dangerous). If you wanted to focus on a global issue, then you need to work with world health organizations to create emission standards for vehicles. That would play a huge role in reducing world pollution. It is really very bad. They also need help with sanitation, sewage, and water quality. And I won’t even mention the feral dog populations I saw. I think those in the US who are looking for green solutions, I think a global focus should be the start. We are actually heads above anyone else. We should be proud!

Training(s) that I don’t use

I say that tongue in cheek. I use every experience I have, whether good or bad or otherwise. Every experience in life teaches us something. Even a bad hotel room or a bad relationship or a bad whatever. It is all useful to forming our lives.

That being said, now I contemplate things that I put money into because I was intensely interested and wanted to know more. Actually, there are some training that I absolutely didn’t know what would come of them that have given me so much back.

When I was in the Army, I can’t think of much of my training that I didn’t end up using a lot. It seems all of it was important to me. Some of it I cannot even tell you about. But there are some, I’m very proud to say I used a lot!
-Army Infantry Drill Instructor Academy
-All my Army leadership courses: PLDC, BNCOC, ANCOC
-Infantry Reclass
-Air Assault prep and parallel courses
-Small Arms Maintenance Course
-many more!

But in civilian life, things are not as cut and dried. Here are some courses that have played a role in my life:
-Yoga Teacher Training
-Rocket Teacher Training
-Ashtanga Immersion Course*
-Thai Yoga Massage Training
-CrossFit Level I Trainer Course
-Olympic Weightlifting Trainer Course*
-Gymnastics Movement Course

I put asterisks by a few courses. I could probably put them by all of them. So technically, I’m not a stay-on-the-path Ashtangi. I don’t practice the Primary Series 6-days a week. I’m a Rocket Yogi (aka a Bad Man of Ashtanga). I don’t stick to the Mysore style of giving one pose at a time until you master it. I like to jump ahead. But my intent is still all about Ashtanga. I am still strict with my poses, my breath, bandhas, and drishti. But you can be strict and laugh and listen to rap music at the same time. So I’m a rebel. The Ashtanga practice and training that I started with are still with me. I know the poses better than most because I’ve studied them. I’ve read many books on Ashtanga and understand the theory and practice. I’m by no means a guru. But I have a greater knowledge than most. One reason is that I enjoy other aspects of life. I enjoy other practices. I incorporate a lot into my life so Ashtanga isn’t my core. But it is truly essential to my Rocket yoga and what I teach.

I also put an asterisk by Olympic weightlifting training I received. One of my problems is that I don’t follow anyone by their word alone. I search for myself. Its true for what’s preached from the pulpit too. I don’t have to agree with a preacher or teacher. I can search for myself to see what I believe for myself. So, when I attended the CrossFit seminar on the Olympic lifts, I embraced it wholly. I brain-washed myself by watching CF Oly videos for hours a day. I believed and did what I was told. But not long after, my self-study began. I started watching California Strength videos totally fascinated by the sound of the bar as it crashed against their hips. I saw how fast they dropped under the bar and loved the violence and laughter they displayed. It went from serious as a heart attack CrossFit style to playful, Donny Shankle, rip the head off the lion style. I fell hook, line, and sinker into the Attitude Nation movement of break bars and kill PRs. Nearly every piece of advice I’d give to a lifter differs from what I learned in the CF seminar. But I still value what I had learned. I know what the other side sees and I understand its history. It was necessary and needed. And now I move on. I have my own style. So there wasn’t any waste of time or money. I know what I know.

Everything in life teaches us something. None of it is a waste. I remember how foolish I was in my first semester of college taking a writing class. I was talking with another student saying how much I wanted out of elective classes to learn what was most important to my profession. But to be honest, I probably use more from the writing class today than I did elsewhere. Its all useful, but you never know how much you’re going to use that art or music appreciation class. It all is valuable to our lives. Embrace all of it.

I use all of my training.

Sleep on it

It’s almost always best to sleep on it. If you have an important decision to make, a big purchase, a response to someone, or a blog post, always be patient enough to let it simmer.

Even though I’m a yoga teacher and I have a firm belief in a higher power, I am just as prone as anyone to anger. I could easily be a Twitter flamer since that is in my DNA. When I was an Army Drill Sergeant, we had to condition ourselves to react to everything in a split second. But when I finished that job, it was sometimes hard to turn it off. I could still be found honking if a driver didn’t react to a green light as fast as a Drag Racer at the starting light. I was even short with my wife. I was used to an immediate "YES DRILL SERGEANT" – "NO DRILL SERGEANT" so even a few seconds was too long. An "ummm let me think about it" wasn’t an option.

I feel I’m wiser now than I was a few years back. In the days of DOS and LISTSERVs where you could get into a special interest group and respond. I guess its like Reddit or something like that today. A topic would come up and you would debate your point. It was big during my college years because I could spew out all the things I was learning at the time. Oh garsh, I really thought I knew it all.

Do you remember the movie "War Games" with Matthew Broderick? As a kid, he tapped into a Def*nse server and started to play a game with WOPR, the big main frame computer that controlled n*clear m*ssile systems. He managed to almost start WW3. What stopped the computer was when he asked the computer to play Tic-Tac-Toe. It played over and over until it realized that there were no winners in that game. It was all about random chance.

So when I’d debate evolution or global warming or whatever, I started to realize I never changed anyone’s mind. It is a futile exercise to debate when our grounded beliefs are all that matters in life. And, for the most part, we rarely change people’s minds. Its true of politics as well. Winning isn’t an option. Its a war of attrition.

I suppose I still try to influence others. But its useless to push someone who’s heels are dug in. There is no way you can change people’s feelings about something.

People still try. If you look at Twitter wars, comments on news posts, or posts on Facebook, you realize people don’t change. If you stand up for something, there’s always a crowd waiting to take you down. So it doesn’t make sense to fight a social media fight anymore. You can’t possibly win.

So, there reason I’m writing this is that I had two blog posts sitting in draft form. Things have come up in society that I decided I’d say something about. But after I slept on it a few nights, I know it would have been useless and ineffective to post what I had written. Common sense prevails when you sleep on it.

How a body moves

  • I’m not the best yogi, but I know what a pose is supposed to look like.
  • I’m not the best runner, but I know what an efficient runner is supposed to be.
  • I’m not the best Olympic weightlifter, but I know the positions well.

After years of studying body movement for myself by watching others, I know how bodies are supposed to move. I can tell how a person stands what is happening in their body. I can tell by how a person walks or runs what their issues are. And, especially in yoga, I can see strengths and weaknesses in a body very easily.

Most of this comes from experience. But my training in yoga, running, CrossFit, and Thai Yoga Massage helps me understand better how to help people.


The Two-Thirds Rule for Yoga Teaching

When I was in teacher training, my instructor told us, as a general rule, that 2/3 of your class should be standing and the remaining 1/3 seated. One reason for this guideline is that my teacher was an Ashtangi. Its basically how you approach the Ashtanga Primary series. And since I’m an Ashtangi/Rocket practitioner myself, I abide by this rule fairly well.

A trend that I’m seeing in yoga classes is toward NOT including seated poses at all. Its all standing poses. And even worse, its standing poses that are repeated over and over again. Or its a long sequence, then the sequence is repeated again with something else added. The problem is, if I didn’t like some of the poses in the beginning sequence, then I have to endure doing them all over again. Its so mentally defeating when you realize you’ll be doing the same thing again.

I always mention that one Yoga Sutra says there are 80,000 poses and another says 80 million. When people think they are inventing poses, they are fooling themselves. Every body movement and position has been tried and done. I have the book 2100 Asanas. It has many variations of every pose. Except, that’s just the tip of the iceberg compared to the Sutras. What I’m getting at here is there is such a variety of poses you can present in a class. Instead of repeating poses, why not add something different. And I’m not talking about some creation that you think you’ve made up. Actually get into the books and find poses you’ve never done before. Then you won’t bore the heck out of your students. That variety will also bring balance to your practice. We often get biased and one sided in our pose selection. Make sure you work antagonistic muscle groups and balance movement patterns (folds vs. back bends).

If anything, I’m probably presenting even less standing poses, like 3/5 standing instead of 2/3. I very often will present my Goat poses too, those that I don’t do very well. It makes me more vulnerable and shows that I’m human. Yoga teachers often are very ego driven. They only do what they are good at. Teacher training tells us to teach how we practice. And technically, we should be practicing things we’re not good at more than those things we like. Its probably meeting a deficiency in our bodies.

Give your students variety. Don’t always use the some old tired sequences in every class. I always do moon salutations on moon days (since we still practice on moon days in Rocket). This gets us away from just doing sun salutations every practice. You can also change the pace, the order, and the intensity of classes. When students can start to predict your every move and go to poses before you tell them to, then you know you’re in a rut. Don’t be predictable. Make it so that its a new experience for them every time they practice with you. Make it fun and mentally stimulating. Give them new information every time. Talk about Sanskrit origins. Talk about the origin of your style of practice. Talk about the founder. It gives them insights into the "why". The founder of Rocket Yoga always said live in the question. Live in the space of why.

And by all means, don’t forget about the importance of savasana. I always tell my classes, asana practice is only the 3rd limb of yoga. Pranayama is the 4th limb and considered a higher order of practice. The 8th limb is samadhi. Its the goal of every practice. And we feel the bliss of samadhi the most in savasana. The general guideline I was given is at least 1 minute of savasana for every 15 minutes of practice. And for me, the harder the practice, the more savasana is needed.

Seated poses are not lesser poses. In fact, they can be very challenging. Don’t neglect them in your practice or in your teaching. Give students variety and don’t bias your selection on your own strengths. And, I didn’t say before, honor svadhyaya (self-study). A yoga teacher should be seeking to gain more knowledge and awareness of their practice. A stagnant teacher is no good for enlightening students. Self practice means that you can give the background. Pattabhi Jois always said 99% practice, 1% theory. But the reason he was saying this was that there were people who were not practicing at all, just postulating on theory. Too much talk, not enough action. But the 1% is monumentally important. We need to know these higher levels of understanding. Then put them into our practice and our teaching.


I used to be the type who felt that a workout wasn’t effective without being sore. And by sore, I mean not being able to walk straight or put my shirt on by myself for 3 days. And worse, I told everyone around me how sore I was to brag about what I did. I’m starting to wonder if soreness was for my muscles or my ego.

Research shows that soreness isn’t a requirement for muscle growth or an indication of any other progress. In fact, scientists still don’t have a clear idea what soreness really is. We do know that it is largely a product of repeated eccentric contraction (muscle lengthening under load). Some say its stagnate lactic acid in our muscles. Others would say its breakdown of muscle fibers and scar tissue has formed. But they really don’t know.

The good thing about soreness is that you know you’ve done something hard. But is that really necessary? In my wise old age, I definitely think not.

The reason I say that is this. For example, yesterday I did a 5×5 squat session and 3×6 bench press finishing with as many reps of possible at 100 kg with my Mark Bell slingshot. Definitely not a difficult workout. But today, I’m walking around like my pants and shirt are going to burst at the seams. I am walking confidently, like the Incredible Hulk cracking concrete with each step. My chest is so wide open that I can’t help but walk tall and proud. Yet I wouldn’t say that I feel sore one bit. But this feeling of the “pump” is a really good feeling.

In my high school Physical Education classes, they defined fitness as being able to live your day and have a reserve should an emergency arise. That may mean sprinting across the road when a car suddenly comes your way. It may mean lifting a crashed ATV off your child with superhuman strength. I may mean replacing a light bulb that just went out. It doesn’t matter if you are an office worker or someone who does landscaping all day. You need to have enough “fitness” to be able to accomplish life and the emergencies that arise.

In my life, I realize the reverse is true as well. When I used to run ultramarathons, I could barely walk for a few days to even a week. And, truth be told, its usually the time after a race when I would throw my back out, I would come down with a cold, or I just didn’t accomplish anything around the house for days. Sure, I was proud of what I accomplished, but it always came at a huge price. I read that CrossFit Games athletes say that they don’t feel they can get back to a 100% workout until about a month after the event. I feel the same after a hard CrossFit Hero WOD. I’m non-functional for a week. So what does that say about my fitness? It means my fitness is crap. Sure, maybe I can do an Ironman, but what if I need to help a child or my wife out of a jam the day after the event? I have no “fitness” to be able to handle an emergency. So I wouldn’t call that fitness. It means you’ve overdone it.

The wise guy in me says I’m finally figuring this out. I almost programmed a WOD just now that is challenging and goes beyond my current abilities. I totally agree that those types of workouts build your mind more than your body. Its a way to tell your brain that you are OK and you can keep going no matter what. That’s admirable. But I can also meditate or do other mental tricks to make that work. Instead, I program to “tone”. Its the feeling of “The Pump” in bodybuilding. Your muscles become engorged with blood and you feel amazing! That’s what we all should seek. It doesn’t matter if its Pilates, a circuit at Planet Fitness, or a challenging CrossFit WOD. The goal should not be soreness, but hypertrophy. Muscle matters! Your heart is a muscle too. Do the same for it as well.