Category Archives: mindfulness

Knocked Silly or Body Reset

 

2014 08 21 14 56 53
2014 08 21 14 56 53

My back has been finicky for going on 3 weeks. I have chronic back pain, but it is usually held off with yoga. Most times, I can go into a yoga class not feeling very well and leave feeling amazing. I was actually feeling better on Tuesday and thought a hot yoga class would take me to the 100% mark. But it didn’t take despite enjoying the class and the teacher. The next morning, I woke up with even worse pain. I took AcroYoga last Sunday thinking the same thing. When you lay on your back and you fly someone on your legs, its really therapeutic to my back. But I really felt terrible afterward this time.

So I taught a Rocket yoga class on Weds and wasn’t feeling good. I went into teaching Power Yoga last night and left feeling amazing! I mean, like almost 100% healthy. I had tons of fun. And while my back is still sore this morning, I’m amazed at how much better I felt.

I’ve read stories of Ashtangis who were practicing at the Shala in Mysore, India. They did their 6 day a week practice starting very early in the morning. Some days, they were sick, sore, or injured and asked Pattabhi Jois “Guriji” if they could take the day off. They would ask to do the Primary Series instead of a higher series. Or they’d ask to sit out on part of the practice. Guruji would smile and say “You Do”. Yoga Chikitsa, the primary series, is called the healing series. It really has that effect on people.

Sometimes, I would go into lifting heavy squats or deadlifts against my better judgement. But quite often, my sore back or sore whatever would feel fine. Firing all those muscle fibers to a hard effort is kind of like greasing an old, rusty gear box. You often have to force it into working properly. I know that sounds Neanderthal, but it really works. Like last night: I was doing locust pose and bow pose with the class knowing my back hasn’t been in good shape. But it actually felt better totally engaging into those muscles. I forced my muscles into submission and, in the end, it was therapeutically healing.

There are times for rest. There are times for healing. But sometimes, there are times to push through and move your body. I think most times deserve the latter. Even when you’re sick, increasing your circulation and moving your lymphatic fluid around can only be a good thing. Listen to your body; but also don’t listen to your body. Sometimes if it tells you to stop, thoughtfully and carefully do what you’re gonna do anyway. You may be surprised by the results.

What’s the Soup of the Day?

Doesn’t status quo make you want to jump off a cliff some days?

No, its not that bad, but the rebel in me makes me want to whap people on the head.

I have so many friends who ask the waiter at the restaurant “What’s the Soup of the Day?” But, then they never (ever) get the soup. Its just something they think they should do. Maybe Mary Manners in some magazine they pick up at the doctor’s office tells them to say that. Why ask about soup if you are never going to get it?

And when people feel obligated to say “God Bless You” every time someone sneezes. A friend of mine once told me her cardiologist said that our heart stops for a split second when we sneeze and we are nearly (literally) dead for that short period of time. First of all, I’d find a new cardiologist. The idea is that if you are dead, you have to say “God Bless You” so that evil spirits don’t occupy that dead space. I don’t know what you believe. I do believe strongly that there is a God. But I don’t believe in this mumbo-jumbo one bit. It is complete nonsense. And some of my friends who don’t believe in God…well, they say this too. Does someone say “God Bless You” when you sneeze when you are completely alone? No they don’t. And you are still sane and not demon possessed. Its crazy.

Now this isn’t a status quo thing, but its a what the heck thing! I also have friends who go to a hamburger restaurant and get chicken. They go to a chicken restaurant and get roast beef. Huh?!! If a restaurant specializes in something, doesn’t it seem smart to go with what they do best?

I wish people would learn to think for themselves. Common sense always rules over tradition and superstition. When people mindlessly do things for no good reason, ask them to consider why they expend useless energy for nothing.

Spread Happiness

Have you ever smiled at someone who is not smiling and suddenly their face brightens to return your smile? It really happens. I saw a nice older lady at the grocery store yesterday and when I smiled at her, she just beamed from ear to ear back at me. Happiness is truly contagious.

We talked about the dynamics of a yoga class in teacher training. I had a day in Rocket Yoga not too long ago. I was very tired and sore from my workouts, but I tried to put on my best “teacher face”. But it wasn’t enough to overcome my lack of energy. I don’t know if it was me, the weather, the moon, or whatever, but everyone seemed to feel like I did. I offered a few challenging poses but nobody went for it. They all took a gentler version. We were all in an energy slump.

Then just a few days ago, I taught a Rocket class that was completely the other way. Even before class, I couldn’t get people to quiet down when I read the announcements. Everybody was talking together and giddy with excitement. And to top it off, one of our Ashtanga teachers who just glows with goodness came to class. I think everyone was feeling good, but especially my yoga teacher friend. Her energy and the effort she put into each pose brought everyone else’s levels up too. It got super hot in there with all the energy. It was one of the best classes ever. Again, happiness is contagious.

Unfortunately, you can’t fake happiness. There are people who are truly having hard times. There are people who’s demeanors are naturally depressed and tamasic. Biting words, sarcasm, dark thoughts, and frowing faces are the norm for them. Teacher training talked about these kinds of people. It only takes one person who can spread negativity to an entire class. While yoga teachers aren’t usually therapists, it is helpful to talk with them to make sure they are OK first. But you also have to set an expectation of living in the now. Forget your troubles of the past or agonizing about the future and live for now. Make it a happy now. You can always choose to be happy.

Recent generations have been burdened with feelings of unworthiness, self-loathing, and negativity in their view of the world. They are not comfortable with the color of their skin or the gender to which they were born. They’ve complicated all of life with lots of clutter and chaos. Most of it is completely unnecessary. Most of it is selfishness. When you think of someone truly in need, where water and warm clothes are lacking, they are only focused on what is real. The unecessary frivolities we worry about are obstacles to happiness. When we live in comfort and excess, we have the opportunity for burdensome worries.

My recommendation to them is this, come backpacking with me for a weekend. We’ll hike back a few miles into what is real. All you can have is what you can carry in your pack. You can’t burden it down with unncecessary things or it will drag you down, both physically and metaphorically. If you’ve ever carried a 100 pound pack, you know what I mean. You only take the essentials. You make your own fire to stay warm and cook food. You use a filter to clean your own water. You consider weather and wildlife when setting up your sleeping area. You don’t get cellphones, headphones, or anything that distracts you. All you get to think about are the leaves at your feet and the stars in the sky. You listen to the coyotes in the distance and squirrels rustling in the brush. All that clutter in your mind goes away when you are down to only a few ounces of water. When you are needy, you prioritize what is important to you. Believe me, all this social nonsense goes away. It really isn’t very important in the grand scheme of life.

Simplify life. Seek nature and the little things. Find love. Believe in something greater than you. You don’t always have to be in control. Find a beautiful animal that will always love you back. Go to the park and watch the kids run barefoot. You can choose to be happy. You don’t have to wallow in negativity and despair. And if you don’t know how, I’m always here to help you. Someone can help. Its not hard to do.

When Yoga Class is Hoppin!

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Hot Yoga class last night was totally full. Yogis just kept streaming in and we kept squeezing for more space. I was so excited to teach.

This happened before with another class I taught. My last class was full and SO exciting, and then I left. It made me so sad. Its easy as a teacher to regret leaving and moving to other things. I’m feeling the same about a Saturday yoga class. I keep being tempted to say “nevermind” and keeping my same ole schedule.

But for me, hot yoga doesn’t make a lot of sense when its 100F degrees outside. Yeah, I could do it, but I don’t understand it. When it gets cool again in the Fall, I’ll try to pick it back up again. But I’ll leave the hot yoga for other teachers for now.

The energy I felt in class last night was amazing. Usually, in hot yoga, I don’t do a lot of adjustments just because I know some people are very aware of how sweaty they are and don’t like to be touched. But I went ahead and did it and received good feedback. Sometimes as a teacher, I’m hyper-aware of the class energy. When I was an Army Drill Instructor, I felt like I could see everything. If someone had a thread out of place, I could see it from across the bay. Last night was similar. I was able to spot if toes were slightly turned the wrong way. I had x-ray vision into spines that weren’t twisting properly. I saw the slightest lack of engagement in a thigh. I really love when I have that feeling as a teacher.

I think sometimes yogis want to just hide in a class. They don’t want to be seen and will drift to a far off corner. Maybe they are tired or simply unmotivated. Maybe they can do full expressions of poses, but are simply not feeling it. But what I want to do is bring up their energy and to make most of the time we have together. I want them to be changed people when they leave class. I want moods to go from dreary and lethargic to bright and energized. The truth is, the people closest to me are less obvious than those who are in the corner. I flock to the edges because I know those are who need the most help.

Yoga goes beyond poses. It goes beyond what we’re wearing and how we look. It delves into the mind. It eliminates comparison and judgment. We live on our yoga mats in the now. What happened before in the day doesn’t matter. And we aren’t commiserating about the future even one little bit. It is about being present in mind and body. Our Kundalini rises and we look down at our physical self as if we aren’t even there. That’s the essence of yoga.

Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind

Don’t Fight Angry

unequal_fight_2

I probably should use angrily since its an adverb, but this is a better title. And, better yet, avoid a fight at all costs. We’ll all be better off with less fighting. But if you’re a fighter, then here ya go!

A top-fuel funny car or dragster can clock a quarter-mile time in 3.278 seconds. I mean, you have to admit that is super fast. The only problem is that a good percentage of the time, these cars blow-up, spin their tires, or crash due to some little wobble that makes it uncontrollable. But when they are on, they are something else.

Now take a Rally Car. It may run several hundred miles in a race on 4-cylinders without much horsepower compared to a top-fuel dragster. But it can go the distance making calculated strikes with gas mileage, speed at taking turns, navigation, and whatever it can to efficiently make it to the end with a win.

When I wrestled in high school, I was the dragster. I may have gotten “real” wrestling fitness toward the very end of the season. Otherwise, I was always gassed if I went the distance. Well, the distance is only 6 minutes, but you really have to be there to understand. Prepping for a match, I would mentally psych myself out. I would imagine my opponent hurting my little adopted brother. I would get foaming at the mouth mad and my adrenaline would crank through the roof. I would say that in about 40% of my matches, I pinned my opponent in the first minute, all with a lot of anger. But if we got past the first round, I was in trouble. I might hang on for dear life holding on to the points I scored in the first minute. Otherwise, I could barely fight at the end.  Sometimes, I had to be helped off the mat since I was so tired.

If you’ve ever gone to a powerlifting meet, the consequences of this psyching is clearly evident. Some of these guys will stomp around and yell, sniffing smelling salts while their coach pounds on their shoulders. They build their adrenaline and lift enormous loads. But you have to time that adrenaline dump if that’s your style. If they lose too much energy in the minutes before a lift, or even hours before, then they gas out and often don’t complete the lift. Elite powerlifter Travis Mash talks about this a lot. He was more even-keeled with his emotions. And he ended up being one of the greatest powerlifters ever. He timed his energy not wasting it on emotion, but on the lift itself.

Here is my advice:

  1. First, develop a good chin. Learn how to take a punch. Learn to resist the emotional first response. If you hear something that is politically or personally offensive, let that first shot glance off your bow away from you. The worst thing you can do is go off on somebody and make poor decisions in the heat of the moment.
  2. Second, make your jabs efficient and effective. Put power behind them, but not with a ton of emotion. Make them calculated hammers to the face & body. Use words that are crisp and calculated. Don’t be the quarterback who runs for first downs head first in the first quarter only to be taken out early. Don’t let emotions draw you into a brawl. Keep your elbows in and your guard up. Breathe and don’t let yourself get winded. Stay in a zone where you can recover and fight the long fight.
  3. Third, take the mindset of Iowa wrestling. Instead of conditioning for 7 minutes on the mat, condition for 30 minutes. Put that beast into 2nd gear and stay there. Keep grinding non-stop and don’t let up. Don’t blow it all on emotion and all out efforts. If you lift 30 reps of clean & jerks with 135 pounds for time, focus on how you’ll do the last 5 reps, not the first 5. Don’t let someone capitalize on your weakness when you’ve lost your endurance. Don’t end a fight not even being able to lift your arms. Finish strong.

 

Why Glowga?

glowga

Why not? 🙂

Actually, it is a good question that was posed to me on social media. Why do we do things that seem opposed to what yoga is meant to be? Doesn’t it take away from our Dharana—our ability to have focused concentration? Doesn’t it distract Pratyahara—our exclusion of the external senses?

Maybe.

I taught a Rocket Yoga class this past New Year’s Eve. I actually embraced these concepts. Usually, when we get on our mat, we live in the now. We forget about the past, our current limitations, our negative feelings, and our expectations for the future. We live on our mat at this time and place without judgment (Ahimsa). But in this class, I asked students to allow the memories of the year to creep into their thoughts. I wanted them to “burn the bad” with their Tapas, or inner flame. Use their sweaty discipline to clear the negative from their lives. But then they were to savor the good, like a salty caramel treat in their mouths. Instead of wishing the New Year to come with haste, embrace all the good with every last fleeting minute of the year. It was the opposite of Pratyahara.

There are times when I’ve done yoga at the edge of the ocean; I’ve meditated amongst towering trees; and practiced my breath while perched inside of a kayak on still waters. These are times when we are not excluding the external. We become one with our surroundings. We are grounded to the Earth’s vibrations of AUM. There is a time to be at peace and time to celebrate.

Glowga, or glow light yoga with neon bracelets and blacklights, is a celebration! Its a time when we can share breath, dance to the music, and burn our inner fires. The 8th limb of yoga is Samadhi. It means we have found our bliss. It is an internal, spiritual renewal that refreshes us to live another day. Some may use other ways to build endorphins and allow serotonin to bathe our senses. But Yoga, or Glowga, is as good as it gets. And maybe it does get a bit chaotic and frantic. In the end, we burn all of that away. Once we settle into savasana, we can find Dhyana, our meditative state. We’ve charred the excess and savor the fragrance of peace.

My answer to why Glowga is many fold. Celebration. Chaos. Fire. Bliss. Peace.

99% Practice, 1% Theory

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Pattabhi Jois “Guruji” often said “Practice and all is coming”. If you keep up your yoga practice, or really any skill you are developing in life, you’ll eventually find mastery and delight in what you do. You will never find accomplishment if you sit on the sidelines and never play.

The same is true when Guruji would say “99% Practice, 1% Theory”. But I’m of the opinion that this is only true as you begin your journey.  When I was a Drill Sergeant in the Army, we don’t often let trainees question why we have them do something. We just have them do things by repetition and eventually they realize why they are doing it. It may not come until years later when they are leaders themselves that they truly understand. In Rocket Yoga, we usually go to handstand after every navasana (boat pose). So I say:

Roll forward and go to handstand…don’t think about it, just do it!

A lot of times, if you are doing something skilled, it needs to flow naturally. If you overthink something difficult, you’ll often fail because your brain gets in the way. You’ve let the vritti, or chaos, enter into your mind clouding what your body should do.

This is what I think about 99% practice, 1% theory. If your body continues to practice something, the movement becomes more natural and instinctual. If you are running 3 miles a day and it is difficult, eventually the 3 miles is not enough. Your mind starts to drift to other things in life. The running becomes natural and your mind is allowed to think. At first, in Ashtanga or Rocket, you struggle just to do the pose. But with practice, you find your breath, your drishti is more focused, you find yourself more grounded in bandhas, and the real practice of yoga begins.

If you read the book “Guruji”, testimonials from students of Pattabhi Jois, you’ll find you are learning less about Ashtanga poses and more about the philosophy of Ashtanga yoga. The book becomes 95% theory and 5% practice. They’ve answered in their minds the “Why?” They’ve found mastery in their practice.

Guruji always said “You Do”. This was many years before Nike’s moniker of “Just Do It”. “You Do” and all will come to you. If you lift weights, run, read philosophy, whatever,…the more you do it, the more light bulbs of revelation go off and you find the deeper meaning in life.