All posts by Andy Yoga

Yoga Teacher & Photographer serving East-Central Illinois RYT-200 Yoga Alliance Ashtanga Immersion 50 hr CrossFit Level I trainer CF Olympic Weightlifting Gymnastics Movement Former Army Drill Instructor Microbiology, mycology, plant pathology, Ph.D. Fly fisher, kayaker, backpacker, musician Husband, friend, dog lover Runner, Olympic weightlifter, CrossFit (Rocket Yoga 100 hour, Feb 2016)

Its not Tendonitis

The poor little tendons always get a bad rap. Then people want to mash on them when its not their fault.

I’ve told this story before. When you get tightening in your muscles, resulting in trigger points, the muscle shortens and stays shortened. That’s the answer. You don’t have to read further.

But if you insist, muscles stretch much further than a tendon ever could. A tendon only stretches to 2-5% of its length, which is not very far. A tendon’s function is to attach a muscle to a bone. Its function is not to stretch. It needs to be very firm and solid to the bone.

But we tend to want to rub all over it and blame it for our woes. Yeah, sometimes you feel pain in the tendon. So we call it inflammation of the tendon, or "tendonitis". When really it doesn’t have much to do with the tendon at all. Its the muscle that is shortened that is pulling with all its might against the tendon. Then, when we try to function by walking, squatting, or whatever we do, we feel it in the tendon. When the problem is a muscle that has shortened and seized into that position.

If you work out the trigger point through massage, heat, and stretching, then the tendon pain will go away. Its as simple as that. It can be released in a single massage session or may take some extra work to release. But I promise you it will release and you won’t have pain in your tendon anymore.

Click on the "Book Now" button on my Facebook page to find healing. Thai Yoga Massage was made for this. Not only do I use focused pressure at the trigger point, but I also stretch it to get the muscle fibers gliding properly again. Come see me!!

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Thai Yoga sequence

Much like teaching yoga, I have a basic sequence I follow for Thai yoga massage, but I find a lot of tangents along the way. It all depends on what a client’s body is telling me. Each has a very different story.

Not long ago, I found myself working 3 things at once. I often do 2 things at once. As an outsider, you might say that not having a single focal point dilutes the effect. But I strongly beg to differ.

The key is proprioception. If someone has a significant issue, say like a hip flexor. When you begin to manipulate that area, your brain often yells “CAUTION!!” and tends to seize or ward against pressure. Its the way it protects itself. If a muscle you are working on contracts, it nullifies what you are doing. But, if you can put pressure on an antagonist or even unrelated area, your brain doesn’t know how to handle it. It confuses it into releasing the place you want to work. Thai yoga massage was made for this distraction.

So, I was working the ilioicostalis, the psoas, and gluteus maximus all at once. I didn’t mean for it to happen, it just happened. Its so cool that the Thai Yoga asanas set us up for these situations. You just let it all flow together. It is such an effective way to treat pain.

Fallacies: IT band syndrome

Here we go again! The first few websites I read are totally wrong!!

A friend of mine just posted about having IT band syndrome. Having experienced this and know of the serious pain it causes, I was curious as to what the "experts" say you should do to treat it and what they say the causes are. Let me clear this up.

What NOT to do (that the experts say to do):

1. Take a Foam Roller directly to where you feel pain. NO, please Heavens NO!!! Connective tissue like the IT band is literally hard as a rock. For one thing, you are rolling in the wrong place. Secondly, rolling probably does more harm than good. But mostly it does nothing to the IT band.

2. Ice it. OMG NO!!! If you want to continue to feel pain and never let it heal, apply ice. The whole RICE fallacy has been disproved by the person who invented it. Ice slows the healing, just like it slows the movement of molasses through a tube. What do you do if you want to move molasses through a tube? Heat it up. Then it flows freely. All of your nourishing red blood cells and healing white blood cells are increased in circulation by heat. The rest of RICE is wrong too. Please don’t rest it. Instead, move it. And certainly don’t compress it. Its the friction across your bony surfaces that’s making your feel pain in the first place. Why do you want to create more friction by compressing it? Not very smart!

3. Stretch it. Haha, the experts are idiots!! First of all, a tendon stretches at maximum 3-5% of its length. The force that it takes to stretch a tendon is pretty extreme anyway. And why do you want to try to stretch a tendon in the first place? The tendon isn’t the problem. What does stretch are muscles. You see this standing, leg cross over, and lean to one side business that the experts describe and diagram? If your physical therapist tells you to do that, laugh over your shoulder while running away from him or her. You are not attacking the real problem.

OK, enough ridicule of the websites. Lets talk about something serious. Muscles contract and lengthen. Through a cascade of processes, muscles shorten (in the end) due to calcium deposited where actin and myosin fibrils unite. That’s what causes the contraction to take place. This in turn shortens the muscle. Potassium is an end product that aids the release of contraction. Sometimes, the brain will tell the body to dump calcium to shore up a structural issue and the muscle seizes either in a cramp, or a more semi-permanent contraction. The brain is saying "26.2 miles? Nope, I’m not doing it anymore. I’m going to stop this right now!!" This contraction essentially shortens the muscle. You can feel its effects when a whole bundle of muscles shorten and stay contracted. It is a taut fiber along the entire length. This taut fiber is continuously tugging on the tendons where they are attached. And that tugging of the tendon may causes downstream problems and pain.

So IT band syndrome is really taut fibers of muscle pulling excessively, probably in opposite directions creating pain just above the outer knee. Rolling, stretching, icing, or any other voodoo you do to an IT band does nothing. You have to deal with the taut fibers that are attached to either side of this upper tendon. And, as a matter of fact, the gluteus maximus, the largest and strongest muscle in our body attaches to the IT band. On the other side is another extremely strong muscle called the Tensor Fascia Latae (TFL). When one side goes bad, the other often does too. And both end up pulling on the IT band. Quit blaming the poor IT band and abusing it with a foam roller. Its not the IT band’s fault. Its the fault of those huge muscles at the top.

My best suggestion to you for IT band pain is to deal with the source of the problem. First of all, of you figure out how to palpate your own body, you can easily find taut fibers. Nearly all of us have taut fibers in our forearm muscles and in our neck. If you start to lightly find these fibers with your fingertips, you can figure out where the problem is. Go to the belly of the muscle, usually at the center or at the meatiest part, and don’t roll along its length (like you do with a foam roller). Instead, move across the fibers. Either roll your implement, like a lacrosse ball, massage stick, or a hardened metal bar across the fibers at the belly. Don’t be afraid to go hard at it. A gentle massage will do nothing to it. If you think about a powerlifter who squats 1,000 pounds, most of which comes from the gluteus maximus, those fibers are really dense and hard. You have to give a lot of pressure to open them up.

So what are my DO’s? Do the opposite of what the websites say:

1. MASSAGE BUTT & HIP FLEXORS. Get after the taut fibers of the gluteus maximus and the TFL. Massage really hard into those muscles. Maybe even use a TENS unit or electrical accupressure pen. That will allow those contracted trigger points to release so you can lengthen your muscles again. The release of the taut fibers means that it releases the pull on your IT band as well.

2. HEAT IT!! Yes, there is a reason we go to Hot Yoga and not Cold Yoga. Imagine that. You go to cold yoga and end up pulling and tearing every muscle in your body. That’s not a good scenario. You got to Hot Yoga to allow your body to lengthen more than it usually does. Heat is what you want, not cold. RICE is wrong!!

3. STRETCH IT! This also means, no Rest (part of RICE). Instead move and stretch the appropriate parts. Don’t stretch the IT band because it can hardly be stretched anyway. Instead, stretch the glutes and hip flexors. Pigeon pose, deep lunges, lizard pose: these all stretch the glutes. For the TFL, Warrior I (for the back leg), any bow pose (upward bow, bow [dhanurasana]), and any other pose that puts your hips into extension. Don’t rest or ice it. Instead, move it and heat it up. That’s what heals.

Lastly, because of the first few websites that popped up about IT band syndrome, always question what they say. For some reason, they all get this wrong. Learn to think for yourself. Our bodies are not magic. Well, they are, but that’s another blog post. We can figure out these problems for ourselves. All it takes is a little self-education and common sense.

Svadhyaya: Self Study

Svadhyaya means literally "one’s own reading" or "self-study". It is the fourth Niyama, which are the personal observances representing the 2nd limb of Ashtanga Yoga.

However, this meaning can have several connotations. Among them:
1. Introspection – looking inwardly and studying our own being.
2. Self-study – as in trying to find more information on our own as opposed to only looking for wisdom from a teacher.

The latter is what I am thinking about. In some religions, it is frowned upon to study scriptures on your own. They expect that an ordained priest will interpret the scriptures for you and hand them out to you in person. Many people feel this about many things. They’d much rather have a doctor tell them what’s wrong with them. They’d rather have a mechanic tell them what’s wrong with their car. They’d rather go to a professor to work out a complicated idea.

I shouldn’t be proud, but I am in that I try to be self-sufficient. These days, anything you need in life can be found on YouTube. When I was replacing a cam sensor on my specific model of truck, I had several YouTube videos that I could go to to do just that. I’ve had a leaking problem in the first floor ceiling on the South side of my house. There is obvious water stains and its been a problem for some time. We had talked about finding a contractor or handyman to fix it. Then I thought, hmmm, I could just go to YouTube and figure out the drywall myself. It will cost a tenth of the labor and I know I’ll do a good job. Svadhyaya.

When I started CrossFit, I did it completely on my own. But I studied it a lot. I subscribed to CrossFit Journal and learned a lot on my own. Nobody taught me how to lift, how to do a butterfly pullup, or how to Snatch. I taught myself. I coached myself. So when I finally started going to a box, I was already there. Coaches often taught things wrong because I had already read from the best. Some coaches had a lot of ego and didn’t want to hear that I had studied something on my own. They wanted total control of what you did and what you learned. Its why I eventually moved away from a box. I do love the community, but the ego of some coaches is unsettling.

The same could be said of Yoga. Krishnamachurya, the Father of Modern Yoga, said, "The moment I say that I am a yogi – I am not a yogi". Yet so many yoga teachers call themselves Guru or Master. I would agree with the founder that they lost sight of its meaning. They are no longer humble to svadhyaya. They see a false image of themselves because of their pride and ego. We never arrive in yoga. Once we think we do, then we’ve lost touch. I know of teachers who brag about themselves often. They always tout their qualifications and abilities. They’ve clearly lost their way.

I teach people a lot of things in yoga. But I always implore them to practice on their own. They can seek other sources of information. Look at Kino’s videos to learn more about Ashtanga. Listen to Larry Schultz to get the intention of Rocket practice. He invented it, so he should know a lot more than me. What I give is my interpretation of Rocket Yoga. I trim a few things out that I don’t like or that doesn’t feel good with my body. And I probably add a few things to the practice.

To be honest, just last night I was watching Larry talk about the BC and AD of It’s Yoga; how people who don’t know the practice don’t understand the methods. He was talking about the perils of Yelp. He got a bad review because he didn’t teach sun salutations. And how his senior students were the example to follow, not him. It speaks to the responsibility and ownership a student has with the Rocket. It bolsters my feelings about this practice even more.

I would encourage you to hop onto YouTube a lot for your svadhyaya. Yes, read Yoga Mala and the Sutras as well. But YouTube has the Cliff Notes that you need. I get bashed a bit because I don’t read the book but wait for the movie. I’m not a voracious reader. Well, I read a lot online and I do read books. But the amount is relative. Yes, you can watch 2nd and 3rd generation teachers teach a practice very effectively. But to see Pattabhi Jois firsthand is 5 times better than seeing Kino or Sharath teach it. And its better to hear Larry share Rocket than any of his star students, Amber Jean, David Kyle, and others. Its not that you shouldn’t hear the other teachers, but to hear from the Founder of a practice is super special.

I highly recommend the book Guruji. It presents testimonials of many of Pattabhi Jois’ students experiences from being taught by him. Guruji talked about 99% practice and 1% theory. But when you read testimonials, it almost always talks about the 1%. When you hear Freeman, Swenson, and other Ashtanga contemporaries talk about Ashtanga, they are not talking about the practice. Its all about the 1%. That’s where Svadhyaya helps you grow.

Svadhyaya is about depth of knowledge. On the surface, you can do all the asanas perfectly, but if you don’t understand their meaning, then you’ve lost the intent of the practice.

Coconut Oil Coffee

I don’t know why I got away from putting coconut oil in my coffee. Maybe it was the flaky residue on all my mugs afterward from the oil. Regardless, I’m back at it. The best thing about it is that I don’t have to put Chapstick on my lips. They are always so silky smooth!!

This should hold me for my intermittent fast and extended Keto. Happy day my friends!

Diet Inspiration

Its been a sad past week since my Dad has grown very ill. He has type 2 diabetes, a common malady that hits the Native American population very hard. I talk about it a lot, but it has become very real for my family. My family and my brother all met in Oklahoma not even a month ago. We went to the Oklahoma Spring football scrimmage and had a wonderful time. We talked about a lot of things. Among them was concerning me being the executor of their estate should something happen. In the back of my mind I was thinking, I hope that day never comes. Well, its at my doorstep now. Somehow, his medication got mislabeled and he was taking the wrong amount of insulin. Then, when he ran out, there was an issue getting re-prescribed. He ended up in a diabetic shock and was rushed to the E.R. Since then, the most basic tasks are a challenge. He has forgotten how to put his arm into his shirt and how to open a car door. A CT-Scan didn’t show brain damage, but there is clearly something wrong. We are hoping for full recovery. But often, a degradation in quality of life leads down a steep slope. I’m most worried for my Mom since she depends on him so much.

So when I am talking about diet, I’m talking life and death. Actually, it is true for all of us regardless if a problem is at our doorstep or not. Diabetes and heart disease are too close to me. So this is all the more reason to consider my health. I’ve always been health conscious and a serious athlete throughout my life. But I need to ramp it up another notch.

So I was listening to an Onnit podcast this morning with Ben Greenfield as guest. Ben is a lifelong biohacker. He experiments on himself with so many things and adopts very alternative ways of thinking. He is also well-read and shares what he is experimenting with at the time.

Here is a list of a few key points that I will take to heart:

– Intermittent fasting – I was initially doing this for weight management. Now its to prevent death. Breaking up the insulin hypersensitivity cycle is key for my family history of diabetes. A 12-16 hour fast every day is good and not that difficult. Stop eating at 9pm and then don’t eat again until after 9am or lunch. Or, if you crave breakfast, stop eating at 6pm, then wait for breakfast to eat again.
– 5:2 method – for 5 days a week, you eat a normal caloric load. Then for two days, you go to a minimum, like 500 calorie day. It has the same effect as intermittent fasting creating hormonal balance and better management of your health.
– Meatless Mondays – I have no social stigma concerning diet. But this could be a tool to reduce total protein intake one day a week. Protein is super necessary for muscle maintenance and growth and animal sources have a higher assimilation coefficient than any other form. But, having a continuous load of protein in the diet has been shown to decrease longevity. Make the low protein day on a rest day so you don’t risk catabolism of muscle.
– Also, having a NO carb day or days is good too. It buffers harmful insulin imbalances that occur from constantly having sugar in the diet. Yes, carbs are sugars, either single molecules or in long chains. This includes breads, pastas, and other grain products; fruits and many vegetables too.
– Research shows that making lunch the biggest meal of your day has health benefits. This would be the toughest for me since that means I’d have to add a lot of meal prep to do this. And I love dinner the most. But maybe I’ll try to shift some calories to a late lunch.

That’s enough for now. I will definitely be embracing these strategies more than ever before. My path has been set for me with my genetics, so I need to do all I can to stave off that journey.

Lastly, let me give you an insight into nature. Nature likes homeostasis. However, growth often occurs in times of trouble. A wildfire is actually a good thing for nature in the long run as devastating as it is in the here and now. Intense cold can kill off harmful insect populations for the coming year. And predator-prey coupling theory is real on all levels. There is a constant cycle to life. Cancer, or metastasis of cells, happens for a reason. When you smoke a pack of cigarettes every day, your body has to replace dead cells over and over in your lungs. A woman’s monthly cycle says that it needs to create new tissue every month. Whenever you have repeated trauma to an organ or tissue and the body needs to create new cells, sometimes the signal to turn that process off fails. Then what happens is you get new tissue when you don’t want it. And eventually that process and rogue cells can take over your entire body.

What you need to do in life is to break that cycle. You need healing. You need to not expose your body to things you can control. It may be drugs, alcohol, or smoking (anything, not just cigarettes). But it may be your diet too. Type 2 diabetes is preventable. But you need to break the sugar cycle. A fast now and then, being hungry at times, being exposed to extremes of heat and cold, and intense exercise are perfect ways to reset your body. Instead of your homeostasis being a mildly straight line, give it lots of peaks and valleys instead. You can always come back to the center. A status quo of sedentary life isn’t enough. Find the challenges in the extremes.

Luk Pra Kob

I used my Thai herbal compression balls yesterday for the first time. They were shipped from Chiang Mai, Thailand and took forever to get here. But they were worth the wait.

I love the effect of the heat and the healing properties of the herbs. And it smells wonderful too. These balls are used just like the therapist would use hands, feet, knees, or elbows. They allow the muscles to release and it calms the nerves.

If you’d like to try them out, they can be added on for a fee to any hour or longer treatment. You can click here to schedule your appointment:
https://app.acuityscheduling.com/schedule.php?owner=13935358