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.
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.
Do you ever wonder how certain creatures are stuck and have not appeared to evolve?
What about crocodiles? If you look at pictures of what people claim are pre-historic, why do they show crocodiles?
How about pelicans? If you look at pictures of Pterodactyls, I would say they are pelicans.
What about ferns? Why no seeds? Where seeds? Why don’t they start producing seeds? What’s wrong with them?
We see pictures of changes in life. We don’t see the changes happen.
Do you remember the adage, “Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny”? Much of it stems from human embryonic development. At some points in development in the womb, you can see a salamander with a tail, a fish with gills, maybe a bacterial blob. And just because you can picture each of these stages, the hypothesis was that each stage represents a different creature in its evolution. That theory has been wholly debunked.
But we still have these pictures and say that one creature came from the other. In the sciences I’ve studied, we depend on replication of experiments. Sample size, error rates, all the statistics that matter come into play. Yet how does scientific reasoning apply to these pictures? Somehow we get lost in comparison and contrast; cause and effect; correlation versus real relationships.
I would propose a few experiments. Let’s change a common squirrel into a chipmunk. Or let’s change a crocodile into an alligator. Is that too difficult? How about something simpler. Let’s change Escherichia coli into Salmonella typhimurium (bacteria if you didn’t know). Show me the study and evidence and then let someone else recreate your study in another independent lab. Do that, and I’ll give you a Nobel Prize.
I used to wear a hat everywhere. I was wed to my wedding ring; well, really to my wife. I’ve stored the ring as a keepsake and kept the wife. I have a drawer full of watches over time, and useless batteries should the watch go dead. And wallets. Don’t get me started on wallets.
Today, ball caps give me a headache. Rings hurt when I do pullups and I’m afraid of catching on something when working on stuff. And I have an iPhone that keeps time pretty well, so I don’t wear a watch. I didn’t mention shoes. I barely wear shoes since I teach yoga and other activities that allow me to go shoe-less. Its all about the feeling of freedom these days. Unencumbered is the way for me.
So my recent thang is the wallet. I started to notice that a thick wallet full of credit cards, IDs, and bills is affecting my spine. Adding 1-3 inches of thickness to one side of your butt can’t be a good thing.
So I’m trying out an iPhone case/wallet. It only has 3 slots, so I carry my work ID, driver’s license, and a credit card. I’ve learned at an early age to consolidate to one credit card. Its easier to manage and you’re less likely to spend willy-nilly on things you don’t need. Oh, I’m debt free too. I save for big purchases like vacations and vehicles. I’m replacing a roof this year, which will cost $11,000. Yeah, I’ll pay it with cash. Not because I am especially wealthy, but I save well. I’m a penny pincher. One credit card, used rarely and with lots of rewards for purchases. That’s the way for me. Its safer and more efficient.
Healthwise, I think being Walletless will make a difference in my body. I’ll not be tilted to one side for 8 hours of work everyday. Or driving in my car or sitting in meetings somewhere. I can keep an ID wallet secure in my vehicle with other cards, like Sam’s Club and Autozone. And I may go to a money clip for bills. Like a nice stylish one that is fun to carry. We’ll see about that. Its the little things in life that make you slim, trim, and healthy.
All is not pleasant in the Land of Lincoln. I have friends who teach at the University of Illinois where I used to work on the faculty. Even when I was there, they continually sought cost cutting measures to survive. They consolidated departments and either cut or did not renew administrative positions. Administrative support staff went to a third or quarter of what it was in just a few years. They kept talking about salary freezes and shut-downs due to budget impasses at the State Government. They are currently without a budget and threats of the same remain.
Another friend works in the Admissions office. There are record numbers of students coming in despite talking about putting a cap on enrollment. Buildings are still going up and diversification of revenue is ongoing. They are trying to attract large companies to enter in the Research Park for collaboration and student mentorship. Yet despite all of this, there is so much fiscal unrest.
The community college in town has frozen employment. I keep tabs on this since I would like to teach a few classes if I can. Yet they keep expanding and student numbers rise. Tuition rises and academic incentives decrease. The effects of the State budget impasse and possibly poor management internally at the colleges is causing havoc in the system of higher education.
Yet, politicians talk about free tuition, absolving student debt, and other freebies that make no sense at all at a fiscal level. These politicians have no clue what it takes to run education, let alone a country. I’m not sure how you pay professors who put so much into their own education. I was lucky in that my doctoral education only took 12 years of study. Some in liberal arts take much longer. That is 12 years when I am not contributing dollars to society or making money toward retirement. If I became a carpenter or plumber out of high school, I would have much more toward retirement from the git go. It makes you wonder what education is worth if you don’t reap benefits from all that work. We raise tuition, we try to raise salaries of professors to get the best and brightest in the world, and we try to make living on campus attractive as possible. Yet, somehow politicians think all of this comes out of thin air. I really don’t get it.
In fitness, they talk about adaptation and specificity. Our bodies are remarkable in that they respond to stimulus in order to survive. If we walk or run longer, lift or stretch more, we begin to adapt to those body movements. And this adaptation takes place in very specific ways. If we change the stimulus, even slightly, then our bodies must then again respond to that change. If we always do 5 sets of 5 reps of a bench press, and we switch to 3 sets of 20, our bodies will likely be sore and will eventually adapt to that new rep scheme.
“Outlift a runner; Outrun a lifter”
That is what my t-shirt says that I bought while working at a CrossFit Games Regional event. It follows the CrossFit definition of fitness “Constantly varied, high intensity, functional movements performed at broad time and modal domains”. It means that maybe we’ll not be the Master’s of any sport or fitness activity, but we can adapt pretty well to anything that pops up. If you say run 10 miles and then lift a 200 pound generator into the back of a truck, we could probably do that at the drop of a hat. We are generalists who can do almost anything.
I’m attending Rocket Yoga training at the end of February. So the goal I have is to be Yoga Strong! Using the specificity model, I could focus only on yoga and get there without doing anything else. But then I sacrifice other areas of my life. There are yogis out there who do amazing things. Their strength-to-weight ratio is remarkable. But that is only one kind of strength. Their specificity is yoga. If you asked them to run 2 miles for time or lift a refrigerator, their specific strength may not lend to those activities. They are Yoga Strong. And that’s what I need to be too. But I am a different kind of athlete. I need the quality of life that allows me to do other things as well.
So I am on a program. I love Olympic weightlifting and I think that lends to so many areas of life. I am doing a lot of rowing and skiing on my new Ski Erg by Concept 2. So strength and cardio are there. I am using gymnastics tools like paralletes, rings, and high bar. And I am certainly doing plenty of yoga. This is not a lot different from what I normally do, but my mind is focused on Rocket Yoga. I am also running. I think my waistline impedes my ability to do twists and folds comfortably and, for me, running is the fastest way to reducing body fat. But at the top of the list are bandhas, which I will describe more later. The fitness world would call it “core”, but Ashtangis would refrain from saying that. It plays a huge role in yoga strength.
I wish you well in your goals and pursuits for 2016. Remember, it is good to have specific goals, but your primary goal should be quality of life. Enhance your well-being, both body and soul.