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)

Common Self-Discipline

For normal healthy people, you’re not going to die when you are a little hungry or thirsty.

So I’ll start the disqualifications right up front. If you are a diabetic or have hypoglycemia or any other condition where blood sugar, protein, or other needs have to be met regularly, I’m not talking about your condition. For someone who is seriously dehydrated or is depleted in electrolytes, this is not for you either.

I’m talking about normal, healthy people.

I’ve said this many times, but some people think you need to graze; not just people, but the FDA too! I guess they think we’re cattle or bunnies. The average bodyfat for men ranges from 18 to 24% bodyfat. Its much higher for women. Essential bodyfat, meaning the lowest healthy range to maintain life, is between 10-12%. Believe me, most people are closer to the average. With that amount of bodyfat, you aren’t going to die if you miss a meal.

Here is the Rule of Threes for Survival. You can [roughly] survive for…:
3 minutes without oxygen

3 days without water
3 weeks without food

Much of our attitude about these things has to do with conditioning. If we’ve been pampered all of our lives to get whatever we want when we want it, then every second is a tragedy. But for those who have lived in want, those who don’t get 3 meals a day, and those who have been in survival situations, you know you can go for quite a while without dying. Honestly, nobody wants to be in such dire straits. But lets try to fall in the middle of the spectrum somewhere.

Here are some things I’ve done to learn to go without:
1. For short runs out on the trails even in hot weather, if a run is a 10K or less, I don’t bother carrying water with me. If I pre-hydrate correctly, I won’t need water. And "correctly" means, with adequate electrolytes to prevent hyponatremia, which can result in death. If your mind knows that you aren’t going to die, you know you’ll make it to the finish without trouble. But I see people out for a 1-mile walk with a huge water bottle taking a sip every block. That is wholly unnecessary and is a waste of effort. I know there are people who have dry mouth and feel the need to sip incessantly. But train yourself to do without and it won’t be as disastrous as you think.

2. I fast regularly. I use Intermittent Fasting (IF) as a tool for weightloss. But it is also a means of being more productive. I love coffee in the morning. That keeps me from feeling hungry throughout the morning. And without an insulin flood in my bloodstream from eating sugars (and yes, carbohydrates are long-chain sugars), my mental state stays on an even keel. Ever wonder about that circadian trough after lunch that makes most people want to take a siesta? Its the crash after eating so much for lunch with sugars and carbs. With IF, I do away with those problems. If I feel low on energy, I can take some coconut oil. That provides energy without triggering insulin production (and fat-production and fat-storage). I say this all the time, but eating Fat does not begat Fat. Healthy lipids are super useful for hormone production and lots of other healing properties. Its eating sugar and carbs that causes fat to balloon in your bodies.

Mentally, what do these restrictive habits do for you? If you discipline yourself to restrict immediate desires, you learn to have patience. You learn self-assuredness. You can do this for your children too. Don’t jump at every whim. They can learn early on the value of contentment. Focus on something else than that addictive desire for something. Food can be like a drug. You are dying for that Dopamine Dump. If you are worried about dehydration, drink your water or sugar-free electrolytes. But if you have normal salt intake (please don’t restrict salt; its super bad for you), you will always have a good balance of electrolytes where drinking water won’t cause hyponatremia.

When I was in the Army, the most painful things we did were stand in parade formation in the hot sun. You had all these people watching you, so you couldn’t lose your bearing. Imagine standing in 90F degree heat. Those black polished shoes absorb the suns rays roasting your feet to a crisp. That thick polyester Class A uniform with a long-sleeve shirt and t-shirt underneath aren’t doing you any favors. You can feel sweat trickling from under your hat into your eyes and ears, but there’s nothing you can do about it. It is a very painful position to hold for many tens of minutes without even the slightest movement. That is what we call discipline.

Find ways in your life to develop your mental fortitude. Diet can be an area where you learn about yourself. It is the weak who end up failing. Instead, find strength. Strong people are winners in life.

Calorie In — Calorie Out
Burn more than you take in.
Its as simple as that.

There aren’t any excuses. If you are on medication, it doesn’t matter. There isn’t magic in calories. Its very simple. If something makes you desire food, trim those desires. Don’t keep chips and cookies in your house. Its as simple as that. Resist fast food. You don’t have to eat it. Resist the donuts in the break room. The strong survive. There aren’t any tricks to it. There isn’t any magic. A morbidly obese person stranded to a couch has to be fed by someone if they are going to eat. The simple solution? Feed them less. Easy as that. Don’t give into their whims. And don’t give into your own desires. Calorie In — Calorie Out.

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Killed my GoPro?

I thought I killed my GoPro. I was showing off and selfie sticked it through a bird bath full of water, forgetting to close the lid after charging. I shook it out and it seemed to work. I often charge it in my truck. So I was out on a run yesterday and I took it along. But when I pushed the button, didn’t work! When I read what to do, everything said not to turn it on or charge it after getting it wet. They talked about the putting it in rice thingy and even tearing it apart and washing components with isopropryl alcohol. I just left it out in my hot truck with the lid open. Once it cooled in the house, it worked. Yay!! I just hope it keeps working.

Must Run Trails

Or better yet, can’t run roads!

I’ve said this too many times, but I was a runner all my life. My first 10K was in the 6th grade and I haven’t looked back. A hard landing during adult gymnastics damaged something in my left calf that has hobbled me for the past several years. If I try to run, the left calf totally seizes up.

But what I’m realizing is that my left calf only has a problem when I run flat concrete surfaces. If I run in grass or on trails, I don’t have a problem. I can still feel tightness but it never goes into full blown Alles Kaput mode!

And don’t even say it, its not that I am NOT running in shoes. That will take us on a whole other tangent. But I will go there briefly.

For me, being a natural, barefoot, minimalist runner, a natural gait is one in which I can midfoot strike. That is, I land mostly on the center of my foot. I probably feel a lot more spring from the forefoot when I do this because I am rolling toward the forefoot when I press off. This is a natural gait and should be for everyone.

The worst kind of foot strike is a rearfoot strike. You see this in most shod runners, a.k.a. those who run in shoes. If you read the book "Born to Run", there isn’t a single shoe manufacturer who will say that their shoes scientifically prevents injuries. Imagine this, take a 10 pound solid glass ball. Now wrap it the best you can in bubble wrap or whatever. Maybe wrap it in foam. Now extend it with arms overhead and just drop it on the floor. How well do you think it will fare? Now take a 120-200 pound human and wrap their foot and see if you can prevent an injury. Its really quite a chore. Try dropping the ball a thousand times. That’s the number of foot strikes you land in a single run. Shoes are not the answer. And dependence on shoes makes you think you are protected. So instead of using the elasticity and shock absorption of your arches, calves, ankles, knees, etc., you become wholly dependent on a half inch or so of foam. Its not gonna happen.

So for me, being a barefoot runner, when I’m on a very hard, unnatural surface, I think I tend toward more shock absorption with a slightly forward forefoot strike. If I didn’t have a predisposing condition, this would work just fine. But that nagging calf problem gets overloaded. I’ll never say never. I’m a Thai yoga massage therapist, so I’ve been trying to self-heal. And I know it will happen. Some day.

I swore off roads about 15 years ago anyway. Those evil humans were out to get me. When a drunk driver weaved all the way to my side of the road, I said I’d never do it again. The trails fit my personality better anyway. I love nature and embracing Mother Earth. I love all the challenges and obstacles they present. I love the variety of hills and twists and turns. I love seeing so much wildlife and smelling the honeysuckle and feeling the crunch of leaves under my feet. It is the best way to run. And for the most part, I prefer solo. I love being with a friend now and then just to be able to say out loud how beautiful the trail is. Otherwise, I love the pitter pat of my own feet and the breath from my lungs.

Strength

Being strong is not about how much you can lift. Its not about bragging on social media about what you can do. Its not about lifting more than someone else.

Being strong is an attitude.

I was walking across the parking lot just now. The sun is just now beaming down onto my back with that early morning smell of thick moisture. But as I walk, I can feel purchase with my feet. I have to wear shoes for work, but if I were barefoot, its as if I was a lion clawing with each step. Its not just ambulating or moving forward. Its more of a pulling at the Earth’s surface and all its mass. I can feel it in my feet, my hips, my back. My shoulders roll back and I stand taller. The computer bag strapped over my shoulder is weightless. It could be 5 pounds or 50 and it wouldn’t matter. My senses are hyper aware. I know what’s behind me without looking. In my peripheral vision, I am keen to the bird 100 feet up on an antenna. Yet I can see the worker illegally smoking next to paint cans at the shop. I sniff to confirm the smoke but the thick air is slowing moving away from me to the West. I see the angle of the sun and from whence it rose. Last night, instead of the sun setting due West at 270 degrees, I noticed it was more like 300 degrees West-Northwest and I wondered why. It was a New Moon and funny things happen then. But this awareness gives me strength.

So many of us bobble head our way through life. I read that most people have lapses in time in their daily rigor. They drive to work but forget everything about the drive. They didn’t notice anything special. But there is something special in everything. They didn’t see the person smile at them as they walked by. They didn’t notice the line of ants busily doing their work without much reward other than a job well done. They didn’t notice the chicory along the highway and wondered what that would taste like in tea or Cafe Au Lait. The latter whisks me back to a muggy morning in New Orleans with the sounds from a rusty old trumpet along the street. Every sight and sound connects me with a memory. But if we aren’t aware of all the things of life, we’ll miss out on that strength. The strength in connecting. We plug into the tunnel vision of our smartphone. We put blinders on to what is around us. And we miss all the syrupy goodness of life.

Strength is confidence. Strength is resolve. Its knowing that you can defend yourself with extreme prejudice, but instead you turn the other cheek and walk away. Strength is in your voice that speaks confident truth. It doesn’t make excuses or find a scapegoat to send into the desert with the lies you tell yourself. Strength is knowing you lay your head on your pillow at the end of the day and know that not a single minute was wasted. You are conscious of your surroundings and become one with the eclipse of the moon.

Strength is seeing something and knowing you can pick it up. It may be a boulder on your neighbor’s lawn. It could be a steel vice that blocks your path at work. Without thinking about the mechanics of the lift or the potential damage a cold lift can do, you just know its possible. You don’t have to lift it, not even for yourself. And you don’t have to take a picture or yell to everyone to gather around. You just know.

That’s the strength of a grown man. The strength of a mother. The strength of the Veteran lying on his death bed. Its the strength that they know they’ve fought the good fight. And as a new day dawns, the next fight is around the corner. But the calm, silent warrior in all of us errs on the side of strength. It doesn’t flame social media posts to better their opponent. That is only cowardice. Instead, strength crouches in the shadow like a catapult on an aircraft carrier. Strength says that I know my character. And I have nothing to prove anyone. I hold it for when its important. And then I do my best with strength.

Be strong my friends.

Moderated CrossFit: On being SWOLE

When I first started CrossFit, I jumped in feet first. Yeah, I felt a lot of pain and sometimes frustration. But that all spurred me to work harder and learn the technical aspects of movements. I ended up taking lots of courses in Gymnastics Movement with Carl Paoli, Olympic Weightlifting, Adult Gymnastics classes, and eventually lots of Yoga classes. The latter led me to become a registered yoga teacher, which I still do.

What is both inspiring and difficult about CrossFit is its competitiveness. You really try to beat your own time. But for some of us, our goal was to be at the top of the leaderboard every class. And I always went Rx’d, which means we used the prescribed weights and reps without scaling down.

This led to a lot of injuries. Mind you, none of this was because of the coaches or programming. I mean, I was in my 40’s when I started CrossFit. So I knew better how to take care of my body. But I didn’t. I ended up with numerous problems. I have a chronic disk degeneration in my back too, which should have told me to be careful. I ended up tearing a pectoralis major muscle during the CrossFit Open. This was during my own workouts, so I blame myself. But numerous injuries in a body quickly finds the weak link in the chain. Then bad things happen. I still have shoulder problems that are problematic. And the adult gymnastics thing? Well, I over-rotated when doing a flip at the end of a trampoline run. I landed on the ball of my foot and badly tweaked a calf muscle. That injury ended a 30 year career of trail running and ultra marathoning. I’m still trying to recover from that.

But like I said, naysayers are going to blame CrossFit. The only people we can blame are ourselves. Through yoga, I’ve learned about Ahimsa. That means creating no harm to others or ourselves. It also means no judgement. I no longer compare myself to others. I don’t care if someone has a sub-3 minute Fran time. I mean, good for you, but I’ll just do my own thing. I don’t have any problem scaling down my weights and reps for a workout. In fact, I usually program my own workouts with fairly mild numbers for weights and reps. I can always lift heavier after or do some kind of afterburner work. But I don’t have to kill myself in a WOD any more than I already do.

There’s a lot of freedom in doing your own thing. But the test will be when I go back to CrossFit in a few weeks. Can I still hold back my ego and do my own thang? I’m working on that.

The Key to Success in CrossFit or any working out:

Isotonic!! That’s the best word for it. You walk around with "tone" in your body. That means you feel a sense of flexion and a bit of a pump as you walk around. Its that SWOLE feeling. Yes, it may also be called a mild soreness, but that doesn’t sound as good as SWOLE! This way, you can do another WOD day after day. Yeah, a general tiredness may mean you need to rest. But there’s no reason you can do active rest and recovery on an off-day. This may be going for a walk or a bike ride. Or maybe a light run. Even better, a yoga class, a massage, and an epsom salt bath.

Doing 100 pullups, pushups, situps, and air squats is fine every blue moon. Its a good test of your physical and mental ability. But it shouldn’t be par for the course. Your normal workout should keep your heart in target range while working through a wide range of time and load demands. Variety is the key. And being SWOLE is the goal.

Making Up Poses

There is a book called "2,100 Asanas: The Complete Yoga Poses".

There are others like it, but this seems fairly comprehensive. Yet, if you look at the poses in all 6 series of Ashtanga, that in itself would blow your mind.

The problem is, one ancient text says there are 80,000 poses; another says 80 million poses. Yeah, that’s right.

Yet in yoga classes, I always find that teachers try to make up poses. I think its like stars in the sky. People want to name a star or have it named after themselves. So they try to find something unique. I once did a pose on social media and the person who thought they were the rightful creator thought they should have been credited for making up that pose. Haha!! I don’t think she studied the ancient texts. You didn’t make that pose silly girl!

Even with the most basic poses that you’d find in the Ashtanga Primary series or even a "Dummies Guide to Yoga", you’d find the variety is amazing. Yet somehow, teachers are making up poses. They are looking for their signature pose. Or maybe their signature sequence. Everybody is egocentric that way in that they want something to call their own.

If you haven’t figured out already, I have an Ashtanga bent to how I do yoga. But its really a good basis for all practices. I adjust every class based on a Primary Series kind of sequence.

For every class, I try to include the following to make a complete class:

Warming Sun Salutations – there are many variations
Standing Poses – Warriors, triangles, and the like
Balance poses – Trees, dancers, and such
Wide Leg Standing poses – Prasaritas and goddesses
Seated poses – Forward folds, Heroes, and Baddha Konasanas
Back Bends – Camel, Bridges, and Upward Bows
Inversions – Headstands, Shoulder stands, and others
Twists – Seated or Reclined
Savasana

I’ve been to classes where only 2 or 3 of these elements are covered. I basically never sat down in one class. I’ve been to classes where not a single backbend is done. I once went to a class and walked out afterward with a teacher with whom I did teacher training. She said, "My body feels angry". She explained that the class missed so much. It didn’t work antagonistic muscles. So you end up feeling lopsided. Or it is so Tamasic that you didn’t get rid of the Vritti. In other words, your mind & body are still in pent up chaos.

When you lay down into savasana, you should feel like every body part received warmth and stretching. You want your breath and circulatory system to have felt challenged. But if those needs aren’t met, then you are still bound to tension and stress.

I don’t even blame teachers for this. I blame teacher training for this. Yes, teachers need to engage is Svadhyaya (Self-Study), but the root of their education should have come in their training. When you learn 2+2, you know the logic in the answer. But if a training is focused more on a feeling or emotion and not something tangible, then it gets lost. It needs a strong foundation first.

Learn the basics, the principles, the intentions, the drishti, the breath. Then you can’t go wrong.

Natural Talent

When I think about anything, there are those who are naturally gifted, and then there are those who have to work hard to be successful.

I admire the naturally gifted types. I say this because I don’t think I’m naturally gifted at many things. I think I’m a natural leader, but I still had to work hard to be that person. I am naturally joyful. That’s something you can’t fake. Otherwise, I don’t think I have natural gifts at sports or fishing or any of my hobbies.

The problem with natural giftedness is that these people don’t often excel in things where you actually have to study or learn your craft. When I first started running 5 and 10K races in about the 6th grade, I would actually train for them. Yet, I’d run a race with my brother and he’d stay right there with me. He later did well in other track events and especially soccer. He could juggle and do lots of neat things. But it was all natural to him. Yes, he practiced, I’ll give him that. But he could basically do all those things because of his natural gifts.

Me, on the other hand, had to work for everything. I had all the books on everything. The older brothers and sisters to the kids I would guide would call me "Teach". And I mean that in the most derogatory way possible. They would make fun of me for setting up track & field events in the backyard. In fact, they made it a regular thing to come over and ruin my fun. But the kids would take to me. I would teach them how to sprint out of blocks and set their marks for the long jump. I had a discus that I would use to teach kids how to spin. I was always this way since I was a little kid.

So when I became a team captain for Wrestling, then an Army Drill Instructor, a University Professor, and eventually a Yoga Teacher, it all made sense. But I surely had to work for everything. None of this was natural. I still envy the naturally gifted. But I’m also proud of the sweat and tears I put into what I do.

I see a lot of similarities in the brothers in the movie "A River Runs Through It". My brother was the Brad Pitt and I was the geeky goodie two shoes of an older brother. I was the responsible and studious one while he got the girls and went to all the parties. And do you know what, its all OK. We both turned out to be pretty good people.

If you are naturally gifted in something, then play to your strengths. But never underestimate the value of a good education. Learn a craft. I’d even say learn something you struggle with. That’s where you true grit and determination shines through. Easy things come easy. But a difficult thing is a challenge worth accomplishing.