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Protection from the Wolves

sheep dog

Who will protect the sheep from the wolves?

A humble servant watches in the shadows intently scanning for those who want to do you harm. The wolf is looking for softness and vulnerability. The sheep hide hoping for someone who is brave enough to fight.

I hope you have that someone in your life.

When Loved Ones Hurt

I have a good friend in the hospital. At least, I think I still have a friend.

A long, long time ago, when I moved out after getting married, my little brother went off the deep end. He was adopted by my parents and we loved him dearly. He was born with fetal alcohol syndrome, so he was prone to just about anything addictive. This time it was huffing paint. My parents found him in the living room with paint all over and him stoned out of his mind. He proceeded to jump out of a large plate glass window and run away. My parents had to call the police because he was so uncontrollable. It took a half a dozen grown policeman to apprehend him, and he wasn’t that big. Its amazing what drugs will do to you.

Meanwhile, I didn’t know any of this had happened. My other brother moved to Phoenix and I don’t have other family in the area. All I knew was that my parents weren’t anywhere to be found for days. I started searching and wondering. I never thought to look at the living room window. All I knew was the house was dark and nobody ever answered the door.

I don’t blame my parents one bit. They went through the worst of the worst. They were in a hospital with my brother and he was strapped to the bed. They were worried sick. I don’t blame them that they never called me. They didn’t leave a note or anything. Maybe if they knew I was worried for them, they would have called or something. It wasn’t fair to me. But my brother was the priority, and I completely understood.

Mind you, I was raised in a loving but respectful household. I knew not to talk back to my parents. We were always mindful of our position in the family. One time when I was an older teenager, I talked back to my Mom and basically stopped her from trying to give me a spanking. I was too old for that and I was a wrestler in high school. Well, that news got to my Dad and he wasn’t too happy about it. It was the one and only time he threatened to throw down with me. I sorely regretted that and I never stepped over the line again. Well, maybe until this incident with my brother.

I mean, I was somewhat hysterical. I didn’t yell, but I had some stern words for my parents. I was training to be an Army Drill Instructor at the time, so I knew how to yell. I didn’t have a clue what had happened to them. Then, my Dad being my Dad; he put me in my place. He told me I was in the wrong, which in a way I was. I was showing I cared, but what they went through was worse. My anger quickly melted into empathy and compassion. He was completely right. I had no right to be angry at them for leaving me in the dark.

My friend left me in the dark too. She is in the ICU and in a really bad state. I’ve been so worried. There isn’t anyone there to contact me since I live some distance away. And she is really not in a situation to send and receive messages. The not knowing is the worst for me, but nothing compares to what she is going through. Then I open my big mouth and lash out looking for information. I’m hopeful for her return to full health. But I’m doubtful I have a friend anymore. I think it is possible to care so much that you freak out. I freaked out. I’ve done it before with my parents and brother.

My brother died some years back. He was found at the bottom of a tall bridge in Washington State. We don’t know if it was suicide or something else. I’m hopeful for my friend. I really wish her well. But I’ll be quiet now and try not to worry anymore. She’s in God’s hands now.

Yoga Style vs. Safety

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The style of yoga that I embrace the most is Ashtanga Yoga. It can be very specific, even a bit militant, in the exact shapes you make. My friends in Iyengar probably find this even more true. Each style of yoga comes with a specific flavor unique to their practice. And it is all very well and good. Style is what makes something unique. However, a different style, doesn’t mean in a general context that a shape is right or wrong. What CAN make it wrong is if it becomes unsafe. Here are some top issues of safety that I believe connects all styles.

Inversions: Looking to the side
If there was a top safety issue that was repeated more often in yoga teacher training, it is this. The cervical spine in the neck is very prone to injury should you look to the side. This is especially true in shoulder stand (salamba sarvangasana), but also for the reverse in chin stand (uttana salabasana). The position of the head should remain neutral in all inversions.

Tree Pose: placing foot on knee
I see this all too often. Most of us will agree that the side pressure to the knee is not desirable, especially those susceptible to cruciate ligament or other knee injuries. The foot should be placed on the calf or thigh, or even resting lightly on the floor.

Shoulders caving in
Look at many planks and pushups. Most people are in a good position looking forward with elbows back. I don’t mean elbows hugging in to the sides, but just so the shoulders don’t cave forward. When I was an Army Drill Instructor, new recruits would almost always pushup with head down, elbows out, and shoulders curved in. Its not a good position. This is very common in chaturanga, almost all forward folds, upward dog or cobra; actually this can be expressed in any pose. Just don’t do it. It causes shoulder impingements leading to possible rotator cuff and other injuries.

Lunge: knees going past the toes
This is a point of contention for me. I still teach this in classes as a general rule. But I don’t think this is a real issue. Look at pictures of people squatting while making dinner or doing laundry in most new world countries, their knees are way past their toes. And, if you look at all pictures of Olympic weightlifters deep in the catch position, their knees are also in this condition. It isn’t a real issue for me.

Floppy Feet
This is one I see the most. A common cue in yoga is internal rotation of the thighs, which opens the sacrum and overall pelvis in the back. This is crucial to all forward folds, but can be found in virtually every pose. A key way to know that internal rotation occurs is when yogis engage into the ball of their foot. A flexed or flointed foot is desired. Though you’ll see many dancers point their feet. I think this is stylistic, but most in yoga will teach flexed or flointed. This is most evident in one-leg forward folds and in the Marichyasanas. As far as safety, I list this as a lesser issue since I don’t think it will necessarily lead to injury. But, it greatly reduces the effectiveness of forward folds and is an indicator of a lack of proper training and alignment.

There are so many style issues that are important to a practice, but most are largely irrelevant from a safety standpoint. Fingers spread or together, where you look, sometimes foot placement, hand placement, and the transitions are stylistic. That’s not to say they shouldn’t be emphasized if you are doing a specific style of practice. But for a general vinyasa flow class, these stylistic differences aren’t something of great concern.

Unrealism in Lives of Comfort

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For most of us, we don’t know what its like to live in discomfort. And for those of us who have, we easily forget.

We rise from a comfortable bed, complaining in our minds how cold the floor is when we step on it. We flick on a light switch, not thinking of what a miracle of science it is. We pull on our pants manufactured in a far off land. We wander in for our daily $5 cup of coffee. And then we have another. Our smart device reads our thumb print and we get lost in this bustling world around us. Yeah, most of us have it pretty well.

We live in this world where the most mundane and inconsequential tasks are no longer tedious. So its easy to complain and worry for things that don’t really affect our lives. They just make us feel better about the guilt we have for having all this around us. So we focus on racism, sexism, intolerance, green things, capitalism, and all the other -isms. All the while you take for granted the pretty flower made in the froth of your $5 coffee.

I hear my many friends talk about this horrendous event in Orlando, and for good reason. I ache in my heart for those lost and their families. But, instead of focusing on the source of the problem, we look at this assault on a lifestyle choice. Our focus is so much on political correctness and fear of offending that we overlook what is real. We live these cushy lives without a worry in the world and not see the real problem.

We focus on how refugees from wars end up on our shores and we hate our governments for not letting them in and sharing with them the same comforts we have. But do you ever think about what you are saying? There is a reason they are refugees. Do you think they really want to pack a few of their belongings, leave their homes, their homelands, their families, their rich cultural history, and move to an unknown foreign land where they may not speak the same language or share the same culture? No! Absolutely not! Most would rather live a comfortable existence that they have lived for generations. Yet no one was there to stop the plague. Nobody was there to protect them. Who stands up for the little guy?

What we overlook while we rest under the security blanket in which we live is that there are people who are meant for evil. Maybe most of you haven’t tried to rationalize with someone who is drunk off their skull; who is drugged beyond reproach; who are starving and would give a brick of gold for bread and water. You can’t rationalize away the core of their existence by explaining your -isms to them. You can’t say choose peace and love and think they’ll change. Their laws don’t allow that. They want you to abide by their laws and believe the way that they do. If you don’t, they want to rid you from existence on Earth. Its that plain and simple. People have bumper stickers that say “CoExist.” There is no room for that in their ideology. They want genocide.

We complain about so many silly things in this country of peace. Yet people are tortured and executed in places when you don’t believe the same way. And these ideals are being spilled onto our own lands. The SOURCE of the problem is where it starts. They first take and kill and displace and spread fear, taking up land and resources as they go along. They need to be stopped at the SOURCE. And often, the true SOURCE isn’t where you think. They are being financed. And their false ideology is being propagated. Their financing and propagation must stop.

Every wildfire has a source. It may have been a bolt of lightning; a spark from a lawn mower; a flick of a cigarette. If you let the inferno grow, it swallows forests and cities. If we could have contained the spark, it would never have grown. But now its a beast.

When Friends Fade Away

organs from wsmr
ViviLnk

I can still look at pictures from the past. I think of the warmth or cold, the wind, what I was wearing, who I was with. We take a last glance before we leave. We sit on the airplane thinking about what we’ve seen. Will we ever see it again? But when we get back to the comforts of home, we appreciate its safety. We know where everything is. We sleep soundly without odd noises or wondering who’s head was on your pillow before you. We wake the next day with our mental checklist, checking off things of daily life and work. Its back to the mundane task of sitting at the computer, typing out things that you wonder if anyone will ever read.

The beauty you just saw is now a distant memory. It vanishes like the wind. Maybe 5 or 10 years from now, you stumble on an old photo. Facebook pops up a memory of old and you vividly remember that moment once again. But its so distant you wonder if was even you.

Its how life is. We see the face of a friend and wonder how we could have deeply known them like we did. We want to reach out to them and reconnect, but you’d only have to leave again. We value what we can reach out and touch. Those distant sights and people are just that…distant. Memories. One moment you long for them. The next, you’re caught in the present.

Savor the times you’ve had. But like a luxurious dessert, once you’ve tasted the goodness, the goodness is gone. And we move on…

A Country Boy can survive

  
I was a country boy raised in Kansas when I went into the Army straight out of high school. We didn’t have to lock doors, we respected Sundays, and we said yes sir and yes ma’am.We got out the guns and went shooting on Thanksgivings.

 I was shy, introverted, and humble. I was subject to pranks the Drill Sergeants played because I appeared gullible and naive. One DI told me to run over to another DI and ask for a T-R double E. It was stressful because we were on the hand grenade range and everyone was scared to death. Thinking it was an acronym and always doing what I was told, I did it without thinking. Yeah, a TREE! I had so many “friends” in the barracks borrow stuff and never give it back. My platoon sergeant borrowed $900 from me and I got $200 back. I’ve been ripped off because of my own stupidity many times. 

Over time, you become skeptical, even cynical. I know nothing tangible in life is free. It has to come from somewhere. Be responsible to yourself. To your family. If you believe in charity, do it out of the goodness of your own heart. But don’t force others to give unwillingly. Don’t just talk the talk, walk the walk. If you don’t like something, don’t buy it. And don’t make me buy something I don’t want. Let me live my life and leave me be. 

I’m not as gullible as I once was. I admire idealists. I hope for a better life too. But I balance it with a good dose of pragmatism. You start to think these ways once you have a mortgage, career, and family to care for. Live your life and don’t let others crush your dreams. 

Water, water, everywhere

  
Two things:

  1. I may or may not have a urinary tract/bladder infection. 
  2. I ate a lot of food last week when visitors were in town.

Warning:

Hyponatremia is real. I witnessed someone die 20 feet in front of me in the 2nd mile of an ultramarathon. When you drink too much water without balancing it with needed electrolytes (salts), your heart no longer contracts properly. There was a lady who was challenged by a radio station to drink like a gallon of water in one sitting. She did and died not long after. So make sure you take electrolytes when drinking lots of fluids.

Good or bad, I have a lot of experience with cutting weight for wrestling early in life. I have also competed in bodyweight sports since then that require you to make a certain weight. So, given the two things I listed above, I need to lose weight in a healthy way. Dehydration diets do not work. When you begin to overly restrict food or drink, your body secretes cortisol and other hormones that put you in conservation mode. In essence, you start to store fat and try to conserve water. It doesn’t work, especially for people who are active and workout a lot.

Here is my experience. When I was in the Army, we often pre-hydrated before long road marches and hot weather training. Sometimes I would drink so much water, that I had trouble eating. I realized that I felt full when I was fully hydrated.

So, learn to drink a lot. This should be mostly water supplemented with salts. Be careful of sugary drinks like Gatorade or fruit juices. This will counter the effect you want. Instead, eat healthy meals and add a little extra salt to your food. Water is the best solution. Tea and coffee are OK, but the diuretic effect will also be counter to your goals. 

This is my plan:

  • Wake up and drink several cups of coffee (tea if you like)
  • Then switch to water. Maybe have a protein bar for electrolytes.
  • I make dinner my biggest meal (Warrior Diet style). I often skip lunch.
  • But…before you ever eat anything, drink a glass or two of water. 

Only weigh yourself in the late afternoon after drinking lots of water. Try to hit your high weight. This will tell you that you are drinking a lot.

You roughly lose a pound of water in your sleep. You also lose a pound with intense exercise. And even more in hot weather doing work and in hot yoga. So, weigh yourself every Friday first thing in the morning. This will be your weekly weigh-in. You will be fluid full most times and your cells and body will function better. Essentially, you are cleansing. But I can’t implore enough that you need electrolytes. I’ll let you know how it goes for me. Maybe you can tell me if you try yourself.

I Don’t Fit The Mold

I never did.

  
I never will.

I have a colleague who is an Iyengar-trained teacher. She shared that, having come to Iyengar later in life, she was going to have a very tough time reaching the next levels of her practice. Bodies that are naturally flexible or have potential to be flexible will move up the ladder in a progressive manner. But there are limits to those of us who have been around the block to open something that has been closed for decades.

I would never say never, but some realities are just that….realities.

I have embraced Rocket yoga and recently had advanced training in it. It is such an uplifting, playful, and empowering practice. It is adult play time. And others see that in the practice as well. I have people who attend my classes who can imagine themselves one day reaching an enjoyable climax to their journey. It is attainable.

I agree. Yoga is not a competition. I believe in ahimsa, non-judgement, not harming self or others. Rocket teaches us “Function over form”. It is what is so freeing about Rocket. However, I believe true Ashtanga is “Form over function”. You have to fit the mold, or you’ll never fit in. If you always stop at Marichyasana A and are never allowed to proceed beyond that point, then you’ll never grow. 

Some yogis believe that all there is…is yoga. I’m quite fine with that idea. If that’s what you want, then fine. But I have more in my life. I enjoy strength-building, among other things. I’m fascinated with Olympic weightlifting. But I also embrace powerlifting, strongman, and CrossFit. The goal of these are not flexibility. The goals are to get stronger. And to get stronger, you need layers of muscle and thick connective tissue. It is why yoga is a perfect compliment since it can help maintain length and quality of life. But to the yoga-centric person, it is counter-productive to reaching the next pose. You will never fit into the mold if you continue things outside of yoga.

I realized yesterday how true this is for me. My mind was already opening to new opportunities. The dead end to my journey in true Ashtanga came yesterday. I’m doubtful that I’ll ever go back. I don’t fit the mold. And I refuse to give up the other loves in my life. It is a freedom that I hope to share with others. I still admire Ashtanga and the roots and history of the practice. But I am not a practicing Ashtangi anymore. I’m a Rocket Man. I’m free to fly. I’m worthy. I’m not deficient. I’m not tight. I am strong. I am me. I am capable. I won’t be defeated anymore.

This Ole Friend

I walked in the room and it was like his face was in a tunnel. All I could see was his gleaming smile. He smiled and I smiled back. All the others in the room were ghosts. The yoga mats and props riddling my path were passed without a thought. Without thinking, we connected in a manly hug that meant so much. We are the kind of friends that go well beyond shaking hands. He is like a brother to me. He was sorely missed.

Truth be told. We ARE like brothers. While we are connected by yoga and many of its ideals, we are probably socially, politically, and ideologically opposites. But yoga is stronger than all of those -ologies.

We did our 200 hour yoga teacher training together. We’ve laid hands on each other and the dozen or so others in the class as well. We instructed each other and adjusted our positions. We are a band of brothers and sisters. We’ve seen tears, heartache, and deep bonding through our trials. Most of us showed hearts outside of the skin, while others were more guarded. I was probably the latter. It seems the younger you are, the more outspoken you are. Old, wise people like me often sat and pondered quietly.

The past few months, my brother in yoga took a long, many day adventure by bicycle. Having participated in backpacking adventures and ultramarathons myself, I knew of the travails of such escapades. I thought about him and even worried for him at times. It only takes one person texting while driving to end a life. But it was his journey to take and I admire him for it. While I wouldn’t have the courage to do such a thing, I’m thankful for his bravery now that he is safe.

Now that I write this, if someone saw us from afar they’d think we were strangers. But we have this magnetic resonance that can’t be severed. Everybody needs people like this in your life. It is something special.