Decide & Do It; And Do It

We were talking over dinner the other night with friends about popular culture. It seems like people are non-committal on events and will wait until the last minute to decide anything. That way, if something better comes up, they can change their mind. I think its always been the case, but it is right in the front of my face today.

Case in point: Last Summer, I had planned and announced for 3 months that I was going to have a Summer picnic for my yogis. But when the time came, it was me and another teacher who showed up. Especially during Summer, if better friends have a better party, then nobody has to hang out with your lame, boring self (haha!). So bottom line, that won’t be happening again.

Case in point #2: I didn’t think I had a number 2, but I did. I teach a Glow Yoga Party every Fall and Spring. When I first started, it was usually sold out weeks before the event. But since then its started to dwindle. This Fall, I had 7 people signed up the week of the event. I had tried to cancel the event, but was convinced to still do it (with promises given about it). To be honest, I have a lot of the gear to handle the event, gear that I purchased and keep on my own. But it could technically be a part of the cost of hosting such an event. I also have to buy bodypaint, balloons, glow bracelets, fluorescent tape, and Facebook ads for marketing. While not super expensive, it still adds up. And, I have someone help me, so I end up splitting the earnings in half after expenses. So, while I had a good number show up, it still wasn’t full. And now I’m convinced it isn’t worth it anymore. People don’t commit anymore. They wait for something better. You can’t hold events like that or you’ll get burned.

I think I’m a different kind of person. For one, I’m a good friend. If someone is hosting something and I can be there, I usually commit to going. And if its held at, say, 7pm, I’m there at 7pm. Not 9pm. I know what its like to be a host and everyone shows up an hour late. I guess I’m not the party-goer, fashionably late kind of person. A good friend doesn’t do that to a good friend.

Secondly, I’m very calendar oriented. I usually don’t remember what’s on my calendar since I keep a very detailed one and know I can always go to it. But I mark everything on my calendar. And its shared with my wife. We are both like that. So when someone has an event, I mark it on my calendar. Once its there, its like its written in stone. I don’t waver and hem and haw about what I want in life. I’ve committed and that’s it. I’m loyal that way. Other people are like, oh I didn’t realize I had other plans that night. Don’t you have a calendar? What they really mean is, something better came up. But they can’t say that to you because they know how weaselly that is.

I’m getting grouchy in my old age. Pretty soon, I won’t be inviting people to events. It will be all impromptu. And it will only be with people who I trust as real friends. And I probably shouldn’t be so firm in my commitments anymore. I should probably just bail on people like they do me. But that’s not who I am. I couldn’t be as spineless as that. I need to be who I am. I’m a solid person and a good friend. And I know I’ll still have events and invite people to stuff. I can’t help it. And if I get my heart stomped on, then I’ll just go through this wave of emotions all over again.

If you don’t put your heart out there and give love, then its hard to receive love back. Don’t expect love back. But if it happens, then embrace it. And appreciate it.

Money Isn’t the Root Cause: per se

Yes, I agree that delaying making these decisions is because of money. But money isn’t the root cause. Most often, its about poor decisions. As much as we like to vilify rich people, the primary reason why they are rich is because of good strategic decisions on their part. The "silver spoon" situation is a rarity. I saw a recent article about the very modest vehicles that 8 billionaires drive. I mean, some of these cars were downright basic. But what is the first thing someone [who usually didn't have money in the first place] who wins the lottery buys? A new car; and not just a new car, but a super flashy car that they can show off to others. This isn’t good decision making.

I just saw another article about a professional boxer who had a $10 million Mansion. But now they live in a 3-bedroom condo, a paltry downgrade from the mansion.

Most often, people without money don’t know how to deal with money. They make very poor decisions. Then overlay this with social media and factors of present times. More so than ever there are social media influencers who portray themselves as well off. They show cars and big homes that aren’t even theirs. These people have been busted multiple times when they really live in the shadows with nothing to speak of with regard to wealth. We see this in impoverished communities. People without jobs walking about in $100+ shoes or gaudy jewelry. They want to show they have money, when they really don’t. Many people do that in their own way.

I see this where I live. People could easily walk down to the convenience store close by and buy something wholly adequate for their needs. But no, they have to buy what’s hot on the scene. It has to be a designer brand or something unique that nobody else has. They eat out at restaurants every day and buy very expensive Starbucks coffee. Instead of going to a local community college to get their basic electives met, they have to go to the big school with all the sororities/fraternities and good parties. Instead of getting massage or yoga training close by, they have to go to far off places. Its all about being validated by others instead of doing what’s sensible.

The biggest thing I see is travel. I love to see places just as much as the next person. We finally splurged this year and went to Thailand. But that’s not something we do often. Or really, ever. Throughout my adult life, we’ve done everything on the cheap. All of our summer vacations were camping somewhere and usually in a tent. But as we age, the RV life has worked better for us. But still, that doesn’t compare to the travel that I envy of others. These are often people with modest incomes, with no emergency savings, no retirement savings, and they often go deep into debt to travel. That’s not the way to do it.

Here are some key financial tips that works for many people:

-NEVER, EVER, EVER—carry DEBT! Get rid of all debt. Your priorities should be #1. emergency fund of 2-3 months of income and #2. get rid of debt.
-Don’t worry about the Joneses. Stay in your own lane and forget street cred.
-Give your first 10% to charity (good for taxes); your 2nd 10% goes to savings (preferably retirement savings).
-Along with savings is an emergency fund. It should cover 2-3 months of your regular income.

-Cars are NOT an investment. Did you hear that? You don’t need a flashy car. It depreciates as soon as it leaves the new car lot. If you live in a city where you can do without a car, do that! You can rent a car to travel out of town.
-You DON’T have to go to college. I went to 12 years of college. During those years, my friends were making money. If gaining a pension, they had a 12 year jump on me. They could retire and then go back to college. Or do something else. Maybe be a Park Ranger. I’d love that!
-Never RENT!! You are throwing money down the drain. Why not have all that money go into your own pocket instead. Buy a house. Condo’s are very tricky and hard to sell. We earned an extra $10,000 after our first starter home sold in 24 hours after just a few year’s ownership.
-Aim for the bottom range of the mortgage amount of house that they SAY you can afford. Don’t live beyond your means. Utilities and property taxes will kill you!
-buy quality things with the intent to keep it for 10+ years to a lifetime. Buy bulk. It saves you in the long run. Buying at Aldi’s, CostCo, Sam’s Club, can save you lots of money in the long run. Then store it safely. Having even a small deep freezer goes a long way.
-Save for vacations. Have a vacation fund and choose your vacation based on what you have in savings. Never go into debt for a vacation.
-GET MARRIED! If not for the sake of your parents and grandparents (and your God if you are religious), do it for the taxes. Married filing jointly saves you a lot!
-Have multiple sources of revenue. Think like an entrepreneur. Back in the day, people would buy vending machines (think soda pop and candy). Now, you can buy electric vehicle charging stations. You arrange the site and the company will install it for you. Then you draw in the money. Monetize a YouTube channel. Invest in properties. Start a hobby that pays you money. Then sock all of that extra dough into savings. I’m pretty sure I’ll be an auto mechanic when I retire. Haha, its true!
-Never depend on your own wits. There is always someone out there smarter. And there is so much information on the InterWebs. Go to YouTube and watch financial help people. Read books. Keep up with Forbes and other Business Insiders. And find good (mature) mentors and legal advice.

All that I’ve written here is from the top of my head; and I’m definitely not a financial guy. I’ve just lived a few years. I’ve made plenty of mistakes in my life. Its just so difficult for me to see people struggle these days. People live from paycheck-to-paycheck. They don’t have to. But its not only about money coming in. Its about making good decisions about the money you have. That’s where I see people fail.

Make good decisions!

Don’t Put Me in a Box

Don’t let anyone put you in a box.Be free, be yourself.

Don’t let anyone shame you for being who you are.
If you are different, be different. If you are straight, be straight.
Be proud of whomever you are.
Not for pride’s sake, but for the sake of being you.
Act like you’ve been there before.
Why celebrate something people do every day?
Instead, be who you are and keep true to your course.
Instead, celebrate life. Celebrate living.
Don’t let anyone tell a woman she is not strong.
She is strong, you don’t even have to say it.
She just is.
Don’t let anyone tell a man to not be a man.
If he’s full of gusto and bold and brave.
Why put a bridle on a wild horse.
You can’t predefine me!
Let me run and be free.
Never let anyone shame you into being something else.
Never let anyone pervert your mind into something you’re not.
And especially don’t do that to children.
Be who you are without reservation.
Be black, white, hispanic, European, Asian, Hawaiian, and all the flavors that exist.
Don’t put down one another.
Don’t put them in a box that says they can’t do something.
Act like you’ve been there. Be you.
Eliminate words like "privilege" or "underrepresented".
Instead, act like you’ve been there before.
Don’t be a token.
Be a person.
Be who you are and act like you’ve been there before.
Don’t let anyone say you have a silver spoon.
Instead, live a life with a foundation.
Not like the celebrities who are flashy and overbearing.
Live as a person true to your character.
Live as someone your grandparents would be proud of.
Not like what the unknown person in the store window thinks of you.
Be who you are.
Act like you’ve been there.
Don’t get put in a box.
Resist status quo.
Resist following in someone else’s footsteps.
Find your own path.
Be who you are.
Don’t live in a box.

I’m an Anti-Activist

Haha, I say that in jest. Because, truth be told, I’m probably an activist by just writing this blog post. But actual activists do rub me raw most times.

I say that every activist is most likely a hypocrite:

Anti-Fossil Fuel: They are buying electric cars and doing everything electric, when most electricity comes from the burning of fossil fuel. A smaller percent is nuclear energy. And way at the bottom are renewable sources. Every building you visit is either heated or cooled by fossil fuel by way of electricity. Every product you can buy is probably fueled by fossil fuel. Every vegetable, tofu, couscous, Chia seed, avocado, and kombucha likely involves the burning of fossil fuel either in production, transport, marketing, or storage for sell. You can’t pretend that you are not a consumer of fossil fuel. So you are a hypocrite if you think otherwise.

Anti-Plastic: I’m all for cleaning up oceans and reducing plastic usage. But behind every anti-plastic activist you’ll find a raging hypocrite. Plastics are all products of petroleum refining. But beyond the paper bags and plastic straws they decry, look at your car dashboard and all the trim on your vehicle. Look at your bicycle hand grips, helmet, and seat. Look at any synthetic fabric in your clothes. Look all around your house and tell me there isn’t any plastic. Hypocrites!

Anti-Animal Products: This is a big one since its so hard to find a yoga teacher who isn’t vegan/vegetarian. I also don’t know many of that sort who doesn’t wear makeup, use lotions, soaps, cleansers, or other products that aren’t tested on animals. Even if the product is not directly tested on animals, its likely that the substrate for the product is. Another thing you’ll find is leather. You’ll surely find leather on an anti-animal use person or somewhere in their dwelling. Even in the most ethically harvested vegetable you’ll find a root to animal testing or even use in production. Anti-animal folks are generally anti-hunting, but they are very short-sighted on the ecology of such things. You could go far and wide with the research and evidence that goes against their disdain for that activity.

On this latter point and the others as well, most of what we do in life is a knee-jerk reaction. And that reaction is largely based on emotion. We see a cute face with pretty eyes and want to save it. I do too. But if something is unsightly or just plain ugly, we scream and run the other way. Even though, that animal, spider, rodent, bacterium, fungus, etc. is an organism with a right to live as well. Do you still swat at mosquitoes and flies? Do you dislike bacteria? Do you kill plants for food? So along the continuum of life, where is the cut-off for what you can kill and what you can’t? Maybe it is cute eyes and a heart that makes the criteria? But then its OK to kill something that is ugly? I’d call that organism shaming. What gives you the right to kill any living creature for your benefit? This is where the vegan/vegetarian ideas fall apart. I once had someone tell me that it depends on if the creature has a soul. Huh? Now humans are interpreting what has a soul? How self-centered is that? I used to teach a botany lab. We studied thigmonasty, which is a plant or fungi’s response to touch. They respond to our breath as CO2 enters their stomata. They have a physiological wound response. Plants have many negative responses to what humans do to them. Yet who is standing up for plants? My Ph.D. is in plant pathology, the study of plant diseases. I say let the plants live!!

For every -ism there is a hypocrite. Stay in your lane. And stay true to yourself. If you don’t walk a pure life, then don’t throw stones. And by all means, social media isn’t the platform to promote your activism. Walking the streets is largely ineffective. Pinning signs to the sides of the poor trees isn’t the way. Kneeling at a football game when you are millionaire and can do something tangible in depressed communities. Its weak to make visual social statements. Instead, work within a system to find the most effective way to elicit change. Write a proposal that leads to legislation. Present your ideas to your city council, to your congress person, or to any representative. If need be, talk with a lawyer and bring suit against an offending activity. But don’t send out a tweet or witty meme on Instagram. That is weak and ineffective. If you want to help a homeless person, don’t talk about it; actually do something. If you want to give to charity, don’t tax people to give charity; give of your time and money and physical effort yourself. Don’t talk about it. Do something!

The Hardest Yoga Classes to Sub

I’m ranking these based on the current offerings at our studio. In {loose} order of priority, this is based on specific style, energy needed, preparation time, and overall yoga knowledge.

So, from the easiest to the hardest, here we go:

8. Vinyasa
7. Hot Yoga

6. Gentle/Slow
5. Beginners
4. Fundamentals
3. Restorative/Yin
2. Rocket
1. Ashtanga

Both vinyasa and hot yoga include a lot of beginners. They are intended as beginner-intermediate classes. A teacher could easily get away with not even "teaching" class. You could just facilitate without teaching any poses or anything at all. They could demo a class or even just verbally talk them through. For the anonymous yogi who just wants to get in and out, that’s what most expect from these kinds of classes. Its the least strict and as freeform you can imagine. There isn’t any format or preparation required.

Fundamentals, Beginners, and Gentle/Slow attracts many beginners. Anything with beginners can be a little more of a chore because you first want to keep them safe. Secondly, they have limitations that are obvious. So you need to give lots of options and modifications. And you have to slow the class way down to workshop poses. It helps to prepare for these classes. A little preparation goes a long way. And you actually have to "teach" the class. Not teaching is not an option. You also have to be very aware of bodies. They can be very challenging classes to teach.

Restorative & Yin are not the same, but in the same category. A very good knowledge of body types, anatomy, and props are needed. You always need to prepare for this class. You have to have lots of patience with yourself. It helps to know calming phrases and imagery to usher yogis through such a thoughtful class. I’m more of a yang teacher, so teaching a yin-style is difficult for me. I may prepare 6 or 7 poses for the class expecting to hold in those postures. But I often end up running out of poses because of too fast of a tempo. It really requires a teacher to "teach" and also be very present. It takes a very special teacher to do this.

Rocket and Ashtanga are very difficult classes to teach. They are very stylistic from Ashtanga. Technically, there is one right way to do a pose. Options and modifications are [sometimes] possible, but the intention is for you to do the correct posture. These are timed sequences that vary little in the practice. And many of the postures are very difficult to accomplish. It requires a teacher to "teach" a lot! They need to adjust poses and to have a hypercritical eye. Overlay all of this with the breath, bandhas, and drishti and you end up with very complicated practices. For the experienced teacher, a lot of preparation is not required. But to be accomplished, the teacher is required to walk the walk. They need to practice a lot on their own. There is no way to fake the practice. They are by far the most difficult styles to teach.

I’ve left out several styles just because we don’t currently have those in the studio. On the same level of Ashtanga would be Kundalini and Iyengar styles. You could echo the Ashtanga paragraph for these styles. Baptiste and Bikram also follow sequences like Rocket and Ashtanga, but they are more focused on the heat and intensity aspects. They are not nearly as technical as aforementioned styles. The technical styles of Ashtanga and Iyengar are unmatched elsewhere.

For most teachers, you begin with general vinyasa styles. These styles are creative and can get very complicated and with lots of wisdom and ambience created. The effect of all styles can be the same on a student regardless of style because they aim to get to the same final point. That is, to rid their minds and bodies of random chaos and find their peace, or bliss, in the end. But for the styles that require a lot of knowledge to abide by the specific style, a lot of personal practice and study is required.

#yoga #yogateaching #styles #yogastyles #teachingstyles

We Need Yoga, not just “Mobility”

I was watching a video yesterday of some of the most elite CrossFit athletes taking a Power Yoga class. It made me so happy to see it. They were focusing on breath and I could tell they were feeling the poses. These athletes are super strong and have amazing abilities. And their movement positions are faultless. The amazing thing about CrossFit is that is encompasses any fitness modality that you can think of. And while they do become extremely proficient in some sports, they cannot possibly be proficient in all.

CrossFit athletes do "mobility", which is a functional form of stretching. This includes warming exercises, soft tissue manipulation (foam rolling, lacrosse ball,…), stretching, and often assisted stretching with bands and other props. I think its an amazing set of tools to have. But I sense that most don’t do actual "yoga".

Mobility includes yoga poses done in specific ways for their benefit. But they are not really doing yoga. I think CrossFit’rs and other athletes would benefit greatly from yoga. As a yoga teacher and CrossFit’r, I could easily tell when their positions were out of yoga alignment. I work with bodies all the time and can see issues quickly. I can picture the muscles that were causing them problems and was identifying in my own mind how I could help.

Believe me, I admire these athletes so much. I’m their biggest fans. They do things that I can’t even fathom. They can do a workout in 2 minutes that takes me 10 minutes. Their aerobic capacity and strength is through the roof. I have no doubt in my mind that a regular yoga practice would help them immensely. When I watched these athletes, I saw limitations in their flexibility. Tight hamstrings and glues are among the most obvious, but shoulders, thoracic spine, and other areas are issues too. If they could open these areas, they would feel better about themselves and likely improve performance.

But its not just flexibility. Yoga requires a huge amount of specific strength. When I watched the Fittest Man on Earth struggle with crow pose (bakasana) and an L-sit lift (Brahmacharyasana), I was shocked. When I saw Sara Sigmundsdottir with a fairly flaccid Warrior 3, it made me wonder. I could see not only tightness in hamstrings and glutes, but I saw weakness. What if they could be stronger in those poses? What would it do for them?

For me, it does a lot. I am a much more capable, well-rounded athlete because of yoga. Yoga is super amazing for overall well-being. But it also helps with sleep, hormonal regulation, and the breath. All of these are supremely important to athletes. Then add on recovery, rehabilitation, and injury prevention and you have a winner!

Give yoga a try! Not just one try, but several before you decide if you like it or not. And be sure to visit several teachers. Every teacher has a bias and their own style. So its important to visit different ones.

Come in Peace

When I started deep into this yoga journey, I had a yoga teacher who was someone I really enjoyed taking classes with. She had this free spirit but was also grounded with a good foundation of yoga knowledge. She always interacted with her students and was very gracious with them. Her happiness was contagious and I learned so much from her.

One particular day, this teacher was clearly not herself. She taught this candlelight yoga class that exuded peace and serenity. It was still vigorous enough to build heat, but it was mostly chill. But this day, she didn’t interact with her students like she normally did. She was more to herself and closed off. And this normally chill class turned into Power Yoga to the nth degree. She never smiled. She didn’t interact with us. It was like a one way street. Her fireball of emotions landed on us and she felt nothing back.

As time went by, I mentioned my feelings about that class to her. She totally acquiesced to my observation. She said that it was a really bad day for her with personal things happening in her life. She said she should have stayed home and cried instead of coming to class like that. I wouldn’t say she was angry or hateful to us. But she was surely hurting.

I wrote a recent blog post about this, likely spurred on by an Ashtanga Podcast with guest Mary Taylor. I will surely write more about that once I process it more in my mind. Yoga can have a profound effect on our personal lives. But as a teacher, we can’t take our students down a path that they don’t deserve. If you struggle with pain in your life as a teacher, you need to take some time away to resolve those issues. And you certainly don’t want to take it out on your students.

If need be, make sure you allot time before class to do a personal practice. Then take some time to meditate. During this time, your intention should be forgiveness, releasing darkness, and finding peace. If you can’t come to class with a clear mind, then maybe its not your time to teach. Find someone else to take your place.

Spread joy and peace. It happens through your words, your body language, and your touch. That darkness in your heart doesn’t stay there. It goes to everyone you meet. And you can’t hide it. It has to be released. If you don’t, those around you will pay a price. And like this podcast expressed, releasing those feelings can result in physical opening in your body as well as a spiritual awakening. But repressing those feelings can result in unfathomable pain in your body and mind. It can result in sickness and pain in your body. And it can totally take away your peace and joy.

Find peace my friends. Talk with me about it some day. I’d be happy to help you find your path.