Learn to Listen

So, I’m violating my own rules a little here. But I think there is less than a 1% chance of having a problem. And how many people really read this blog anyway? So here goes:

Much of what we do in life involves listening. Its how we interact with others. If we are just talking, then there is no communication. This is very true with yoga.

I had a student recently in a class who didn’t follow me very well. It almost makes you wonder why they would go to a teacher in the first place. If you want to do your own thing, then do that. Because I don’t know why you need a teacher to help you.

I’m as guilty as anybody of not listening clearly sometimes. You can ask my wife that, especially if a football game is on. Though we have an unwritten rule that I’m fairly incommunicado during a football game, so I’m given a little grace. But when I absolutely need to listen, I try to be attentive as possible.

I can totally understand when you are overwhelmed. I give a lot of instructions in my yoga class. Sometimes we are moving fairly quickly and you may be out of breath. So when I say, move your right foot back and you move your left, its not a big deal. However, if you are somewhat aware, you’ll notice you are on the wrong side and should probably go ahead and correct yourself. Otherwise, my instructions will always be for the wrong side for you.

This happened last night. When I’d instruct a pose, she would do it her own way. Then when she realized she was doing something different, she would ask how to do the pose again when we were already on the next pose. It was disruptive and unsettling to me. If she would just follow my teaching, then we wouldn’t have had a problem. But she wouldn’t listen.

Another issue is safety. Every pose has a counter pose and sometimes that counter pose is really important. This is especially true for inversions. All inversions except shoulder stand is countered with child’s pose. But often, people are working on a pose and they will keep going beyond the breaths we are doing together. So when we counter with child’s pose, you really need to do that pose. Otherwise, I’m moving on with the class and you miss the counter. Again, it happened last night.

Often, I talk with people after class if they are new or I haven’t seen them before. I also will talk with a person if they were obviously having a hard time. Often there are obvious things like pregnancy or someone is wearing a brace or something. I may or may not ask about what they are going through to help them. Otherwise, I’ll re-introduce myself and thank them for attending. I may ask if they are new to the studio or new to yoga. I want to help them if there is a problem. If they came to a more advanced class of mine, I may direct them to Intro to Ashtanga or maybe another class where poses are taught, like Yoga Fundamentals. I honestly want to see everyone succeed and find happiness.

So I spoke with this person after class. I asked if they were new to the studio. She turned her head away and didn’t say anything. After a painful few seconds, she said "yes". I said "welcome" and she ignored me and rolled up her mat.

Honestly, if you know me, I’m the happiest most joyful person you’ll meet. I try to express my warmth and caring toward everyone. But some people are cold fishes. They aren’t perceptive to how they come across. If they have issues in their lives, then sometimes they are blinded by their own feelings. If you don’t know yourself first, you can’t possibly know others.

So this was heavy on my heart last night. I haven’t met many people who weren’t affected positively by my classes. Yes, I’ve had a few where it wasn’t their cup of tea. It wasn’t that my teaching was wrong, it’s usually that their abilities didn’t have them prepared for my class. And that’s OK. Sometimes they come back. But when a person’s interpersonal skills are lacking, then that’s another issue entirely. I can’t do much to solve that puzzle.

It does make me scan myself for my own feelings. I need to continue to give each and every person grace. If they have a personal issue, whether a hard week at work, a hard break up, personal trauma, or maybe even social anxiety, then I understand that. So I know its not always me. Sometimes they are going through something. In Yoga teacher training, they implored us as yoga teachers to not be therapists. We can’t solve people’s problems and we shouldn’t interject ourselves into a situation. If people come to us personally, we need to keep an arm’s distance. After a yoga class, your body is free to let your mind process. And that can be a vulnerable time. So don’t take advantage of that time.

As a yoga teacher, we can always listen. And students should listen too. You spend time, money, and energy to go to a class. So why not get the most out of the experience? A teacher is telling you a story and you are living it out. Experience the dynamics of peak energy, lengthening, and cooling. Enjoy the meditation of the flow and the breath. Make the most of the time and let your teacher be your guide. It only benefits you to open your heart and listen.

Weightlifting Cycle

And by “weightlifting”, I don’t mean just lifting weights. I mean the sport of Olympic weightlifting (snatch and clean & jerk).

Quite frankly, my working out lately has been intuitive and based on the activities in my life. I’m fine with that and its nice to feel like my efforts meet my needs. But this kind of plan lacks direction. There are no goals involved. I don’t have anything big on the horizon to make me find that direction, so maybe that should be my first goal: to plan an event. But I’m not sure about that yet. I’ll see what comes up.

I decided to follow what looks like an Olympic weightlifting program starting right away. However, its not just for Olympic weightlifting. It could be a powerlifting goal or strongman or something else. Or it could be reaching toward a couple goals each month. Regardless, the plan will work. Here it is:

Week 1: higher reps; hard CrossFit wods; buy-ins and buy-outs
Week 2: heavy CrossFit wods; more triples; hangs & powers
Week 3: Bulgarian WL; singles, pauses, deficits, holds; cardio CF
Week 4: quality taper; technique; CF skills; yoga goats; MAX LIFT FRIDAY!

Initially, my goals are going to be very basic. I’m thinking like max bench press, max jerk, and max deadlift. I also need to get back to muscle ups and other things. But this will be a good re-start for me.

I hope this helps you consider your training as well. Maybe you already do something similar. But we have a lot to gain from a WL style program. I keeps us from the same old rut. You have to push yourself out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself.

#oly #olympiclifts #olympicweightlifting #crossfit #weightlifting #training #fit #fitness #goals

The Intern

I watched the movie "The Intern" with Robert De Niro last night. It was such a fun show that was thought provoking.

I’m not exactly a Spring Chicken myself, so I connected with the juxtaposition from young to old. Many of the people I interact with at my yoga studio are much younger than I am. But its fun to connect them at all levels. I know I’m out of the loop a lot of the times, but that’s ok. They don’t have the experience I have in so many things.

In the movie, Robert De Niro was widowed and retired and looking for something to do. He saw an advertisement for a Senior Intern in a start-up company. It was a super hip fashion company that had a very modern business mantra. Ironically, it was the same space in a warehouse where De Niro has worked printing phone books for 40 years. It was a huge learning curve for someone who wore a suit and tie (with handkerchief), carried a flip phone, and had all his belongings in a briefcase. He didn’t even know how to get the screen on the Mac desktop to light up (I feel for him). It was a totally different work scenario for him.

His interaction with the young staff had a great affect on them. Early on, he was asking all the questions needing help with virtually everything. But as time went on and he interjected himself with others, he began to be the go-to guy because of his experience. Whether it was how to treat a lady, business experiences in meeting with people, or general decor in the workplace, he has a wealth of knowledge. It was more the practicalities of being a gentleman.

In one scene, 3 young men he had informally mentored and the head of the company, a bright flourishing young woman, went out for drinks. After a few tequilas, she started to open up. She talked about how the emergence of women in the workplace at an equal level left men wondering how to act. So much has been promoted for women that men in this new age weren’t mentored at all. So she pointed to De Niro about how to be a gentleman. About how to treat each other with respect. How to stand up and be strong, no matter who you are. Its all about how you carry yourself.

Sometimes, I feel like people lean on me in the same way. They ask me questions about business opportunities or about life events. Totally unsolicited. I’ve had people confide in me about serious life issues. And I am totally honored, and sometimes burdened, by this confidence. When I was in the Army, they often said its lonely being the leader. In order to maintain your respect, you limit any fraternization. Its not the same in civilian life, but you still reserve a portion of yourself. But when you let people in, its makes a real difference in their lives. And my life is enriched in the process as well.

I remember strong feelings I had toward a friend’s father who we saw often. He was in a retirement home and had difficulty with speaking and getting around. But you look in his eyes and you feel his handshake and you sense strength and wisdom. He’s seen things that I couldn’t even imagine. He’s seen a passage of time from advances in technology, World Wars, and immense tragedy. He’s experienced love and heartache. Never look down on an older person with condescension. They been through so much more than you have. They have a wealth of wisdom to share with us. You just have to take the time to sit and talk with them.


Do you find it funny that we impose human attributes to the animal kingdom?

I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise since we’ve always had animated cartoons that featured various animals. I was always a big fan of Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse, Wile E. Coyote, Foghorn Leghorn, Tigger, Winnie the Pooh, Snoopy, and so many more. We sort of impose ideals onto these creatures simply based on their look and perceived habits. In other words, we stereotype animals. We say they are this way and that way so that’s how they are. Its why a lady got clawed badly at the zoo the other day by a Jaguar. Its why people taunt bison face to face not thinking they’ll get hurt. Its very naive of them to think wild animals are cartoons.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a very devoted animal lover. I have two dogs that I’d protect with my own life. They are so loyal to me and always happy to see me. They truly deserve our love. I’m also a person greatly saddened by road kill. Some people are indifferent to that, but I’m shockingly alarmed. I am so sad when I see a squirrel or deer or other animal on the side of the road. Its all very tragic to me.

But I’m also a realist. If you’ve ever studied predator-prey relations, you know what I mean. Part of my training was in ecology. I know all about food webs, food chains, life cycles, and all that jazz. I know about r-selected species that birth large litters knowing that many of them will be culled by predators or even by "strongest will survive" intra-species competition. Weaker animals in a litter get picked upon, or even pecked upon like with chickens. Ugly ducklings get horribly chastised to the point of death. Weaker, unattractive males don’t get mates. Its all an unfortunate part of life.

Yet, as humans, we impose our social standards on animals. We try to be the policemen saying that its unfair that weaker animals gets picked on. We say how unfair it is that a carnivore eats other animals. Do you want me to tell you a secret? In the animal kingdom, there really isn’t hate. The cheetah that preys upon the gazelle doesn’t hate the gazelle. The cheetah is matter of factly driving up to the McDonald’s drive-through and ordering some food. Its as simple as that. And however unfortunate it is for the gazelle, its usually the lame, weak, and old that get culled from the herd. Its never the strongest and fastest gazelle that gets taken. So it is essentially strengthening the herd. With K-selected species, they survive on carrying capacity. There is only so much grain, berries, and water to go around. Its why an elephant has an 18 month gestation period and only gives birth to a single baby. But then the parents, and the herd, strongly protects that baby to full adulthood. Its a very communal family with lots of protection.

However, grizzly bears often do the same, but in a very different way. The mother bear is the protector. I just saw a video of a mother bear with cubs chasing a male up a tree. While a mother is lactating and taking care of cubs, she cannot be mated. So a male bear will kill the cub or cubs just so it can mate with the mother. The male is doing this to exert its stronger genes which strengthens the stability of the population. It is really terrible from a human standpoint. But for bears, this is life.

A moose is a prize to hunters, especially those who have subsistence lives, like indigenous people or backcountry people who live off the grid. A moose will sustain a family through the Winter. Moose are very big and fast and smart. So a clean kill is needed to put them down quickly. It is also more "humane" from a human view. It goes down without suffering. Now, lets take another way for the moose. When a wolf pack attacks a moose, it tries to latch on to its hindquarters. Multiple wolves latch on and bring it down. And when it comes down, the wolves immediately begin to feed on the hindquarters before the moose is even dead. If you ask me, I’d rather have a quicker death than being eaten alive. Sorry if that’s gross, but its the reality of animal life. Animal life can be really brutal. Its not always as clean as a mountain lion pouncing on a deer and breaking its neck with one swipe. Nature isn’t always pretty.

Another issue I have with people and animals is our viewpoint of what is cute and what is ugly. Many people who don’t eat meat really have no problem with swatting an insect. A mosquito drawing blood on you is not something you willing volunteer for. Or when a rat has gotten into your pantry and you see it there eating your flax seed and cous cous. Or when you go out into your backyard at night and a big opossum is standing in your way. Or maybe a skunk comes out from a bush while you are walking your dog. Sometimes these pests are viewed just that way. They are varmints, rodents, and critters you fear.

On the other hand, you look at your dog’s cute button nose. The little ears on your cat. The long eyelashes on a cow. Or maybe even the curly tail on a pig. They are cute and you love them, so you want to protect them. But there’s a continuum from cuteness to ugliness. The animals that seem to be like us, maybe have characters like us, or even personalities, then we protect them. But we could do without the others. If something doesn’t seem human, then its ok to get rid of them. Even if its a baby in a mother’s womb. Its not really like us. Its just a mass of cells. So we can get rid of it. Its how humans think. One is OK to kill, one is not. Its the hypocrisy of humanity.

I’m a plant guy. My Ph.D. was in plant pathology. I’ve learned all about how plants will try to heal from a wound. I know how plants can react to touch, to light, to heat or cold. We know that talking to plants gives them more CO2 with which to grow. I know the real difference between a vegetable and a fruit. I really love plants. When I look at the similarities of all of life, plants, animals, protists, fungi, and bacteria, they all have a will to live. A virus will replicate in a host’s body to create more of its own. It will use the RNA-DNA translation, transcription, and replication processes to live. Yet humans draw a line. A plant can be killed, but an animal cannot. An insect can be extinguished but a bunny cannot. Predators are evil creatures and prey are precious. I can eat a squash even though I’m wasting 50 seeds that could create more squash. I eat a plant than needs to be replanted and grown again. Its like forced labor on the plants.

The reason we have these thoughts and feelings is because we don’t understand. We don’t accept the realities of life. We shelter our thoughts in the most naive ways. We don’t understand agriculture and food production. Do you know that a large portion of the USA is in arid lands? You cannot grow crops there. If you fly over large portions of the plains and mountainous regions, you don’t see corn, soybeans, or vegetables being produced. All you see is grassland. And guess what can eat grass? Ruminants. Cows and other such creatures have the ability to break down cellulose. Humans cannot. Do you know about high fiber foods? Its foods that are high in cellulose, lignin, and other complex carbohydrates that we cannot assimilate. We eat them because its like a brillo pad scrubbing our intestines, totally undigestable. However, some believe that this scrubbing may also cause perforations in our bowels creating leaky gut syndromes. Honestly, our guts are not made to leak. Yet, the FDA and USDA are in cahoots to promote this high fiber idea. We eat foods with a very low bioavailability. Take a look some day in an Ecology text that shows the assimilation coefficients for various foods (including meats) and you’ll be surprised by what you see.

The ideas that we have in our mind of diet preference is a social construct made by humans. Its not made by animals. Its not made by science. Its like the anti-vaxxers who think vaccines cause autism. It takes one sad story from a celebrity or two who wants to blame someone for with woes. Then everyone comes to their sides and starts to believe what they say. All the while, the science says something else. Now we see epidemics of measles and mumps just because of the anti-vaccine messages that were promoted. And people start to follow the celebrities because they have these perfect sheltered lives and are living a fantasy. Not one of them ever drove a combine, lived in places where mangos and papayas aren’t available, who don’t have a grocery store on every corner; they live in a city where hoardes of planes, trains, and automobiles have traveled the world over to bring a perfect Jackfruit to your market. And you say "I can live off of Jackfruit and nothing else", without ever thinking about how that food got to your market. In their world, a hyena is a vegetarian. A jaguar just eats berries. And the lion lays alongside the lamb. Maybe in children’s story books. But its not reality.

Find your bias and hypocrisy in the continuum of life. At what point is life, life. Maybe at birth? Which animal (insects are in the animal kingdom) is worth living and which is not? If all are good, then sit in a swamp without insect repellent and tell me how long you feel that way. Do the same in Southeast Asia where malaria, dengue fever, and diseases are carried by mosquitoes. Are you being a human-centric humanist? Or do you accept the realities of the world? Then define in your mind the word "naive". It might come to light in just a moment.

Pretty Feet

Everyday, we crawl out of bed and at some point, probably see our own feet. We don’t think much about it because they are our feet. And for whatever shape they are, they are acceptable and maybe even pretty because that’s what we see every single day. Its what we are accustomed to.

We see another person’s feet, which might be attractive, but because they don’t look like our own feet, they may seem abnormal. Maybe we have imperfections that we are OK with and we are also OK with imperfections in other people.

So what is normal? I don’t know. But maybe we can look at what are clear deformations that are talked about in medical literature and elsewhere.

  • Obviously, we are suppose to have 5 toes. Nuff said there.
  • Also, nail fungus and blackened toenails are probably not the norm.
  • Maybe we are lacking a toenail or two. I know ultra-marathoners who surgically have their toenails removed because they keep falling off anyway.
  • I personally don’t like long toenails because they are impractical in my world. But abnormally long like you see in the Guinness Book of World Records are clearly odd.
  • If you look at shoes, they were made for your big toe to be the longest portion and gradually taper to your baby toe. But some people have a much longer 2nd or 3rd toe called Morton’s Toe. It can cause anatomical issues in general, but can create real problems for shoes.
  • Speaking of shoes, what about high heels? When people wear shoes that are too tight fitting or change the shape of your foot over time, there is something wrong. So obviously, large bunions are probably not a desirable feature for most people.
  • Also, for those who believe we evolve from monkeys, maybe a shorter toe is more evolved?
  • This goes for hairy toes too. Maybe less hairy is more evolved?

To be honest, I don’t know what a pretty foot is supposed to look like. I guess I lean toward how my own feet look. But you can test for yourself. Look at magazines or other media who advertise with paid foot models. Maybe they represent the desired foot shape? Toes not too long tapering from big toe to little toe. No deformities along the edges. And def no toenail fungus. Usually not hairy toes. Clean and healthy feet are desirable. As a yoga teacher, its what I would call a yoga foot. Its where good health starts for us.

To each their own…literally! Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Throw Your Money Away on Rent

I was listening to a podcast of two guys who I respect who were talking about owning a home vs. renting. I always value their insights and admire their journeys. But still, they are 32 and 37 years old, so technically they are millennials. And they have a different way of thinking than me.

Their claim was that they want the freedom to not be tied down to a home. If they want to move, they want the easiest process possible. They’d much rather travel and see the world and be free. A home would just isolate them to one place. They say that owning a home is an old idea. I can understand where they are coming from. However, this is very impractical.

Honestly, no matter what, you have to live somewhere. Unless you can find free board somewhere or camp out on Federal land for free, your home is an expense. And no matter how you look at it, paying rent is unrecoverable. It is money you will never see again. Whereas, when you own a home, that is an investment into the future. Ideally, before or about the time you retire, you should have your house paid off. Then, you can live in the house or downsize to something else and not have to pay a mortgage. What kids don’t think about is when they retire. When you aren’t gainfully employed. How will you live? Well fine if you have a pension and a million dollars in retirement savings. But what if you didn’t have to pay rent or a mortgage anymore? That’s a majority of our monthly expenses.

When you rent, all that money goes down the drain. You think you don’t have to pay for a new furnace, a new faucet, or a roof, but you do. Just like anything in life, the cost of overhead goes into your rent. The $10,000 to $14,000 (in the midwest with lower rates) you pay per year could have gone toward a mortgage. And, if your neighborhood stays the same quality, not prone to flooding or other disasters, then it will increase in value. And these days, you don’t have to live in the home. Open it up and let someone stay there (someone well screened to maintain your home). I don’t like this idea, but if need be and you like to travel, then do that.

Also, most renters can’t change much in an apartment. They can’t nail into the wall or change the tile or anything. Much of our dreams of owning a home is in making it our own. I can put up a 6 foot privacy fence in my backyard and let my dogs roam free. I can knock out a wall or take out the carpet and put in hardwood floors. I can do what I want to my home within code. I cut a hole in a wall to the outside to put in a dog door. My dogs go in and out as they please. I can do what I want. A landlord can’t come prancing in anytime they want to inspect what you’ve done or how you are living. The keys to my home are mine.

Its really not an old idea at all. Its very practical and appropriate in this day and age. It becomes even more important when you have loved ones, a family, pets, or even guests. A single person may have a feeling of more security if they have neighbors. But neighbors can also be the worst thing ever. I’ve heard couples yelling and fighting. A neighbor’s parking spot was outside of our bedroom window. She would start her car and let it run to warm up (with the radio on I must say). Then she’d go back into the apartment. Then she’d come back out and scrape her windows or just sit there before leaving. I was even an apartment manager there for a while. So any time I came home, my phone would start ringing or I’d get a knock on the door. They had a multitude of tasks for me always. One lady upstairs had an old recliner. You would hear a clunk, a long-ish creak, then a crash when her footrest fully extended. People tend to clomp around above you. They play music loud (or you can’t play yours loud). Living in an apartment stinks!

Buy a home. I guarantee that you can get a starter home with payments lower than your rent. I had a starter home when I was in grad school. I sold it within 24 hours of putting it up for sale and gained $10,000 after only a few years in the home. It was a win-win for us. I would never ever go back to apartment living. I have my own garage. I close the garage door behind me, take out my groceries sheltered from the weather. And I walk my groceries 20 feet to my kitchen. A good in-between would be a condo or town home. Then you can have a backyard and a garage, but often you have the same limitations as an apartment.

Back in the days of Bill Clinton, they pushed the idea that everyone should own a home. I would qualify that with "if they can afford it". But technically, if you can afford to pay rent, you can afford a home. You just need to have a good job and good credit. If you don’t have those two things, then maybe that’s what you need to work on first. Stop throwing your money down the drain.

The Art of Adjusting in Yoga

I had a colleague help assist with my Rocket yoga class the other day. Its helpful to have another hand or two help with adjustments. It make me think more about how I adjust in classes and it may be useful to others as well. So here is a brainstorm of ideas without any order or priority:
-A helpful touch is always good. It doesn’t even have to be an adjustment. I’ve had teachers in my class who do poses perfectly. But I touch to reaffirm that we are in this together. Or we breathe together. That’s the best thing ever.
-I lightly touch and ask they move a bodypart in the direction of my touch. In Warrior 2, it may mean moving the knee outward to come in line with their toes. It is a very light touch without any force applied whatsoever.
-I’ve had teachers press lightly on my back foot in Warrior 2 to make sure its firmly grounded. Again, nothing forceful. I love the feel of the warmth of someone’s foot and the gentle guidance. I don’t do this one enough.
-I guess I adjust Warrior 2 a lot. I also work on alignment. People sometimes lean, so I move their shoulders over their hips. The back arm likes to droop too.
-There are many poses, like side angle pose, where yogis tend to internally rotate their shoulders. Often a verbal cue of "make your pinky finger lower than your thumb" is enough. But I often like to take their arm, rotate it back and around to external rotation. This will bring their arm in proper alignment.
-Some of Pattabhi Jois’ adjustments were brutal and improper. But there are several that I still do. With those who can handle it, I will stand on inner thighs in baddha konasana. I take off a little pressure by pushing on the back. I think I do that with two people and they love it. I wouldn’t recommend most of those adjustments though, like standing on someone’s back in kurmasana.
-Another from guruji that I do think is appropriate is laying back to back on someone while doing a forward fold. Again, I put almost no pressure on them other than my body weight. These types of body weight adjustments work great for many poses.
-A favorite of mine for wide leg forward fold and baddha konasana is to press my hands on the thighs from behind and kneel with my knees on their lower back. Again, light pressure all around. But it moves them in a positive direction.
-For standing wide leg forward fold, I love especially during version C to place one hand on the sacrum, then one leg slides inside their closest leg, and then I lightly press with fingertip pressure on the bound hands extended toward the floor. I also inform them how close they are to the floor. Then, they are encouraged to reach those final inches on their own.
-Another standing forward fold that I use less is to take my knees to their back or shoulders and lightly reach around to outer thighs and pull.
-Warrior I is probably the most adjusted by me because 95% of yogis do it incorrectly. Adjusting the feet is the most useful part. Instead of moving their feet with my hands. I place a flat hand on the floor in the same direction as their toes. And I place it next to where they should put their foot. Sometimes, they’ll have to move their foot 6-12 inches since they are oriented heel to heel and wide like Warrior 2. Not good! After I place their feet, then I square their hips with my hands. And, invariably, they always reach their arms up with shoulders in their ears. I grip the biceps and externally rotate pulling their shoulders back into their sockets.
-Speaking of hips, everyone gets adjusted in intense side stretch (parsvottanasana). Most people avoid the stretch of the front hamstring by shifting their hips back. Then their hips are all cockeyed. So I place my hands on their hips and have them shift weight to the front foot. This usually flattens the sacrum leveling the hips.
-With inversions, I’ll often hold their legs if they don’t quite have the balance. Ask which leg kicks up first, and then move to that side. They will usually hop up with that leg and you can grab it. KEY: make sure you only grab the one leg. Then other one will come down when they want to come down. Don’t force them to stay up!!
-Shoulder stand. I know some teachers don’t like this, but I do it often. To help take the pike out of the hips, I’ll lift at the ankles and move their elbows together with my feet. I find this extremely useful and very safe.
-While I’m a conscientious adjuster, I rarely if ever adjust child’s pose. You’ll see people with their hips 8 inches high above their ankles. There is a reason for that. Child’s pose is supposed to be a safe place. Its a refuge or sanctuary pose. They are vulnerable and can’t see you coming. So I never press on the hips to get them lower, even if they like or want it. Leave child’s pose alone.

Well, I could go on and on. Let me say this. There is a yoga teacher from India who does extremely forceful pressure in stretches. In the USA, you’d get arrested for that. There is a notorious picture of a gymnastics coach pressing young girls into splits with their feet on blocks. Its super dangerous and just plain mean. Don’t be that person. Do not ever create pain in a person. Most of our pressure is to encourage the direction of movement, its not actually to make a person go deeper. We never forcefully pressure yogis to go deeper. Most of our touch is alignment and reassurance. Very little of it is for depth.

Always make sure the yogi is breathing and breathe with them. Make it so they can hear you breathe with them. Then encourage on an exhale. There are actually times and places where you can safely be forceful. I do this to get a shoulder to the knee in marichyasanas. But getting a bind or pressing deeper should always be very light and thoughtful. If there is any sign of pain, encourage a safer depth.

In Thai yoga massage, we call our touch "loving kindness". The word they use is Metta. You are not there to create pain, or to satisfy your own personal pursuit to have everyone bind in kurmasana. Always give gentle assurance in your adjustments. Students will love you for it.

#yoga #yogateaching #adjustments #yogaadjustments #thaiyoga #thaiyogamassage

Sleep On It

Some have a rule in relationships that you never go to bed angry with your loved one. I agree that this is better and makes for a better sleep. But I also feel that, unless you had a terrible night’s sleep or a nightmare, its difficult to wake up angry. I’m usually calm with my mind open to more things. Sleeping on a difficult decision or strained relationship is sometimes the best remedy. It allows our sub-conscious mind to process and make orderly what seems complicated.

I listened to a podcast that went over a lot of the sleep studies done on military operators and veterans. In training, sleep deprivation is often a tool used to see how a person will handle stressful situations. In fact, it may be the ultimate tool beyond physical rigors, yelling at someone, or other forms of stress. Normal sleep roughly consists of about 5 x 90 minute cycles. Each cycle has a peak of near awakeness which is preceeded by a deep REM sleep (rapid eye movement). And, with each subsequent 90 minute cycle, the REM aspect is deeper. You can possibly gain the most in hormonal growth and healing in those last 2 cycles than the rest of the entire sleep. So for people who work nights, kids who stay up late, and those who sleep short periods possibly with napping, those last REM cycles are never reached.

With the military operators, they also found that lack of sleep is much like having a traumatic brain injury. It causes portions of your brain to become clouded without recovery. They also say that it can have the effect of so many alcohol cocktails. We can become sleep drunk. The value of good sleep can never be underrated.

More importantly, with statistics reaching 22 veterans committing suicide every day, the sleep factor plays a huge role in this. When we sleep, our minds place items from our thoughts into compartments. It organizes those items into something that we can handle in a more logical manner. But when we lack sleep, little things that bother us start to become big things. And this mountain of jumbled thoughts results in an inability to cope with life.

It is well known that activities like yoga, tai-chi, and meditation can play a huge role in tapping into brain waves that mimic sleep. Gamma brain waves are well known to "dissolve frustrating mental blocks". These are the brain waves of meditation. In yoga, we call the chaos of our minds, "vritti". Some say its the purpose of yoga to remove the chaos from our minds. Not only do our minds have chaos, but our bodies find similar attributes. Our fight or flight response creates tension in our hip flexors that are needed for the protective fetal position. We also clench our jaws, furrow our brows, and bind our fists. When we use breath with movement (known as vinyasa), we begin to release this tension. We isometrically hold our muscles for extended periods. This allows for those neuromuscular junctions to give way to release. Instead of being harden masses of bitter chaos, we melt into surrender. Its why yoga teachers say savasana, or corpse pose, is the most important pose in yoga. It is where we begin to approach delta wave sleep. Yes, we try to stay awake, but our bodies crave that slow wave sleep. Its why coming out of savasana can be very much like waking in the morning from a quality sleep.

When you find troubles in life, sleep on it. And when I mean sleep, I mean temperature regulated, room darkening, quiet, uninterrupted sleep. Power naps may play a role in life, but they cannot substitute for deep sleep. If you have a Sheldon Cooper-like equation on string theory that you want to solve, sleep on it. Your mind will cope better in the morning.

#sleep #yoga #meditation #brain #brainwaves #tbi #traumaticbraininjury

Oh Jillian

Nobody puts baby in a corner!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a lover, not a hater. I don’t hate anyone. But I’ve never been a fan of Jillian Michaels. And that’s OK. We don’t have to like or be liked by everyone. So I’ll try to be as positive as I can.

People from the outside see CrossFit and only think of the CrossFit Games or of some random YouTube video that an individual posted about CrossFit. The latter may include a beginner with not-so-perfect form while doing high reps of a movement. But if you really dive deeper, there’s so much more to it for the open-minded.

Jillian mentioned that there are only 20 or 30 movements and that combinations of those movements are limited. This is so far from the truth. First, let me mention Olympic weightlifting. If you study what Olympic weightlifters do in training, it would amaze you. This sport only has two movements: the snatch and the clean & jerk. And at first glance, its just taking a barbell from the floor to overhead. Really, that’s all it is. There’s not even that many rules. But if you hear Strength coaches talk about Olympic weightlifting, many college and pro football and athletic programs will stay away from these movements. In its simplest form, its the most basic thing you can do. But you cannot discount how explosive and powerful these exercises are. However, they are also very technical. Strength coaches don’t have the time (or sometimes the ability) to grasp the nuances of techniques and then teach those to a professional athlete. There isn’t enough time to do that. They need to get their players strong without getting them hurt in the process. Only two exercises? There’s more than meets the eye.

In the Bulgarian system, lifters only do the snatch, clean & jerk, and the squat. And they do that 3-6 hours a day, 6 days a week, usually in two sessions a day. That’s a lot of commitment to the lifts. However, other approaches break them down into all the phases of the lift. The set-up, the first pull, the 2nd pull, the 3rd pull, and the finish. But you can change everything in endless combinations and permutations of the lifts. You can do static holds, multiple reps, hangs, powers, pauses, deficits, and a multitude of accessory movements. Its endless. And that’s just to get better at two lifts!!

Now overlay this with CrossFit. Its "CROSS"-"FIT"!! That means cross-training. Nothing needs to be excluded. You could do endless variations with just Olympic weightlifting in CrossFit. But then add gymnastics, powerlifting, strongman, kettlebells, maces, ropes, bodybuilding, and any sport you can think of. It can be sprints, hurdles, box jumps, rowing, running, and ski erging. And not only that, you can change this to max weight, max reps, and singles or hundreds of reps. The possibilities are endless.

So for Jillian and the uninformed among us, its better to keep an open mind about everything. Why close off a system that’s been tried and true for so long? CrossFit isn’t unique. When I did high school wrestling, the type of training we did is identical to CrossFit. Then, when in the Army, all the obstacle courses, sprints, and crazy exercises we did to failure…yeah, you guessed it…CrossFit! Its been done forever! Its just that CrossFit made a sport out of all these other things.

Stay positive in life. I give Jillian credit for what she’s accomplished in life. She has a voice and a story to tell. I just wish her insecurity and income being drained from something she is against can change. She could embrace CrossFit as another method to get fit. Instead, she chooses to find the negative. Find the positive in everything friends. In every culture, music, fashion style, language, and exercise. Find what’s good in the world and enjoy its goodness. Never close your mind to possibilities to grow.

Science of Yoga Work

I heard a question after teaching Rocket Yoga on Saturday.

"Was the heat turned up during class?"

It really wasn’t. I looked at the thermometer just to see what the temperature was and it was a moderate 74.1 degrees F. I started with a jacket walking around, then a t-shirt over a tank top when I got started. Eventually the t-shirt came off, so I know my body was heating even though I was only teaching the class.

I only wish I would have checked the temperature after class because it was rather balmy. All the windows had a thick layer of condensation and I could see yogis wiping sweat.

OK, one work about sweat. Sweat isn’t necessarily an indication of how hard you work. If you were to establish a STP (standard temperature and pressure) for sweat, then maybe you could start talking about work. But its rather different for each body. Some of our metabolisms work higher than others. If we are sick, pregnant, menopausal, or ate a red hot chili pepper, our metabolisms will start from different places. Vitamins, electrolytes, hydration status, and other factors also play a role. And, for people like me, I carry a nice layer of adipose tissue. Fat on our bodies makes it like we are doing yoga with a full wet suit on. But back to sweat.

Sweat is dependent externally upon temperature and water vapor pressure. Increase either of these components and you have a potential for sweat. However, evaporation plays a role as well, which is why vapor pressure is important. If you walk across a desert in Arizona, the temperature may be high but the water vapor pressure is low. Sure you might be sweating profusely, but you may not see it on your skin because it evaporates quickly. Now, imagine sitting on a porch in Houston, Texas tying your shoes during a very hot rain shower. You may work up a drenching sweat doing that small task. Almost no "work" is being done by your body, but the sweat could be profuse.

So this is the point, sweat is not always an indication of how hard you work. Identical wins separated by Tuscon, AZ and New Orleans, LA could be doing the exact same work, but one with sweat and the other without. So sweat isn’t always an indicator of work.

Where it can be an indicator of work is when you have a resting individual in a coat and another similar individual in yoga class with sweat streaming down. That can be work.

To be honest, Rocket Yoga is an intense class. Bodies are doing loads of hard work and it shows often in sweat and window condensation. Both heat and humidity rise from the rapid use of Prana (energy). For people who live in Rajasic energy (bold, active, action oriented, forceful, aggressive), expending this energy is needed to bring balance. It where savasana shifts us toward a more tamasic energy, that is, softness, passivity, gentleness, kindness. Its where the chaos of our unsettled minds and bodies are released. It is how hard work pays off.