I’m an Anti-Activist

Haha, I say that in jest. Because, truth be told, I’m probably an activist by just writing this blog post. But actual activists do rub me raw most times.

I say that every activist is most likely a hypocrite:

Anti-Fossil Fuel: They are buying electric cars and doing everything electric, when most electricity comes from the burning of fossil fuel. A smaller percent is nuclear energy. And way at the bottom are renewable sources. Every building you visit is either heated or cooled by fossil fuel by way of electricity. Every product you can buy is probably fueled by fossil fuel. Every vegetable, tofu, couscous, Chia seed, avocado, and kombucha likely involves the burning of fossil fuel either in production, transport, marketing, or storage for sell. You can’t pretend that you are not a consumer of fossil fuel. So you are a hypocrite if you think otherwise.

Anti-Plastic: I’m all for cleaning up oceans and reducing plastic usage. But behind every anti-plastic activist you’ll find a raging hypocrite. Plastics are all products of petroleum refining. But beyond the paper bags and plastic straws they decry, look at your car dashboard and all the trim on your vehicle. Look at your bicycle hand grips, helmet, and seat. Look at any synthetic fabric in your clothes. Look all around your house and tell me there isn’t any plastic. Hypocrites!

Anti-Animal Products: This is a big one since its so hard to find a yoga teacher who isn’t vegan/vegetarian. I also don’t know many of that sort who doesn’t wear makeup, use lotions, soaps, cleansers, or other products that aren’t tested on animals. Even if the product is not directly tested on animals, its likely that the substrate for the product is. Another thing you’ll find is leather. You’ll surely find leather on an anti-animal use person or somewhere in their dwelling. Even in the most ethically harvested vegetable you’ll find a root to animal testing or even use in production. Anti-animal folks are generally anti-hunting, but they are very short-sighted on the ecology of such things. You could go far and wide with the research and evidence that goes against their disdain for that activity.

On this latter point and the others as well, most of what we do in life is a knee-jerk reaction. And that reaction is largely based on emotion. We see a cute face with pretty eyes and want to save it. I do too. But if something is unsightly or just plain ugly, we scream and run the other way. Even though, that animal, spider, rodent, bacterium, fungus, etc. is an organism with a right to live as well. Do you still swat at mosquitoes and flies? Do you dislike bacteria? Do you kill plants for food? So along the continuum of life, where is the cut-off for what you can kill and what you can’t? Maybe it is cute eyes and a heart that makes the criteria? But then its OK to kill something that is ugly? I’d call that organism shaming. What gives you the right to kill any living creature for your benefit? This is where the vegan/vegetarian ideas fall apart. I once had someone tell me that it depends on if the creature has a soul. Huh? Now humans are interpreting what has a soul? How self-centered is that? I used to teach a botany lab. We studied thigmonasty, which is a plant or fungi’s response to touch. They respond to our breath as CO2 enters their stomata. They have a physiological wound response. Plants have many negative responses to what humans do to them. Yet who is standing up for plants? My Ph.D. is in plant pathology, the study of plant diseases. I say let the plants live!!

For every -ism there is a hypocrite. Stay in your lane. And stay true to yourself. If you don’t walk a pure life, then don’t throw stones. And by all means, social media isn’t the platform to promote your activism. Walking the streets is largely ineffective. Pinning signs to the sides of the poor trees isn’t the way. Kneeling at a football game when you are millionaire and can do something tangible in depressed communities. Its weak to make visual social statements. Instead, work within a system to find the most effective way to elicit change. Write a proposal that leads to legislation. Present your ideas to your city council, to your congress person, or to any representative. If need be, talk with a lawyer and bring suit against an offending activity. But don’t send out a tweet or witty meme on Instagram. That is weak and ineffective. If you want to help a homeless person, don’t talk about it; actually do something. If you want to give to charity, don’t tax people to give charity; give of your time and money and physical effort yourself. Don’t talk about it. Do something!

The Hardest Yoga Classes to Sub

I’m ranking these based on the current offerings at our studio. In {loose} order of priority, this is based on specific style, energy needed, preparation time, and overall yoga knowledge.

So, from the easiest to the hardest, here we go:

8. Vinyasa
7. Hot Yoga

6. Gentle/Slow
5. Beginners
4. Fundamentals
3. Restorative/Yin
2. Rocket
1. Ashtanga

Both vinyasa and hot yoga include a lot of beginners. They are intended as beginner-intermediate classes. A teacher could easily get away with not even "teaching" class. You could just facilitate without teaching any poses or anything at all. They could demo a class or even just verbally talk them through. For the anonymous yogi who just wants to get in and out, that’s what most expect from these kinds of classes. Its the least strict and as freeform you can imagine. There isn’t any format or preparation required.

Fundamentals, Beginners, and Gentle/Slow attracts many beginners. Anything with beginners can be a little more of a chore because you first want to keep them safe. Secondly, they have limitations that are obvious. So you need to give lots of options and modifications. And you have to slow the class way down to workshop poses. It helps to prepare for these classes. A little preparation goes a long way. And you actually have to "teach" the class. Not teaching is not an option. You also have to be very aware of bodies. They can be very challenging classes to teach.

Restorative & Yin are not the same, but in the same category. A very good knowledge of body types, anatomy, and props are needed. You always need to prepare for this class. You have to have lots of patience with yourself. It helps to know calming phrases and imagery to usher yogis through such a thoughtful class. I’m more of a yang teacher, so teaching a yin-style is difficult for me. I may prepare 6 or 7 poses for the class expecting to hold in those postures. But I often end up running out of poses because of too fast of a tempo. It really requires a teacher to "teach" and also be very present. It takes a very special teacher to do this.

Rocket and Ashtanga are very difficult classes to teach. They are very stylistic from Ashtanga. Technically, there is one right way to do a pose. Options and modifications are [sometimes] possible, but the intention is for you to do the correct posture. These are timed sequences that vary little in the practice. And many of the postures are very difficult to accomplish. It requires a teacher to "teach" a lot! They need to adjust poses and to have a hypercritical eye. Overlay all of this with the breath, bandhas, and drishti and you end up with very complicated practices. For the experienced teacher, a lot of preparation is not required. But to be accomplished, the teacher is required to walk the walk. They need to practice a lot on their own. There is no way to fake the practice. They are by far the most difficult styles to teach.

I’ve left out several styles just because we don’t currently have those in the studio. On the same level of Ashtanga would be Kundalini and Iyengar styles. You could echo the Ashtanga paragraph for these styles. Baptiste and Bikram also follow sequences like Rocket and Ashtanga, but they are more focused on the heat and intensity aspects. They are not nearly as technical as aforementioned styles. The technical styles of Ashtanga and Iyengar are unmatched elsewhere.

For most teachers, you begin with general vinyasa styles. These styles are creative and can get very complicated and with lots of wisdom and ambience created. The effect of all styles can be the same on a student regardless of style because they aim to get to the same final point. That is, to rid their minds and bodies of random chaos and find their peace, or bliss, in the end. But for the styles that require a lot of knowledge to abide by the specific style, a lot of personal practice and study is required.

#yoga #yogateaching #styles #yogastyles #teachingstyles

We Need Yoga, not just “Mobility”

I was watching a video yesterday of some of the most elite CrossFit athletes taking a Power Yoga class. It made me so happy to see it. They were focusing on breath and I could tell they were feeling the poses. These athletes are super strong and have amazing abilities. And their movement positions are faultless. The amazing thing about CrossFit is that is encompasses any fitness modality that you can think of. And while they do become extremely proficient in some sports, they cannot possibly be proficient in all.

CrossFit athletes do "mobility", which is a functional form of stretching. This includes warming exercises, soft tissue manipulation (foam rolling, lacrosse ball,…), stretching, and often assisted stretching with bands and other props. I think its an amazing set of tools to have. But I sense that most don’t do actual "yoga".

Mobility includes yoga poses done in specific ways for their benefit. But they are not really doing yoga. I think CrossFit’rs and other athletes would benefit greatly from yoga. As a yoga teacher and CrossFit’r, I could easily tell when their positions were out of yoga alignment. I work with bodies all the time and can see issues quickly. I can picture the muscles that were causing them problems and was identifying in my own mind how I could help.

Believe me, I admire these athletes so much. I’m their biggest fans. They do things that I can’t even fathom. They can do a workout in 2 minutes that takes me 10 minutes. Their aerobic capacity and strength is through the roof. I have no doubt in my mind that a regular yoga practice would help them immensely. When I watched these athletes, I saw limitations in their flexibility. Tight hamstrings and glues are among the most obvious, but shoulders, thoracic spine, and other areas are issues too. If they could open these areas, they would feel better about themselves and likely improve performance.

But its not just flexibility. Yoga requires a huge amount of specific strength. When I watched the Fittest Man on Earth struggle with crow pose (bakasana) and an L-sit lift (Brahmacharyasana), I was shocked. When I saw Sara Sigmundsdottir with a fairly flaccid Warrior 3, it made me wonder. I could see not only tightness in hamstrings and glutes, but I saw weakness. What if they could be stronger in those poses? What would it do for them?

For me, it does a lot. I am a much more capable, well-rounded athlete because of yoga. Yoga is super amazing for overall well-being. But it also helps with sleep, hormonal regulation, and the breath. All of these are supremely important to athletes. Then add on recovery, rehabilitation, and injury prevention and you have a winner!

Give yoga a try! Not just one try, but several before you decide if you like it or not. And be sure to visit several teachers. Every teacher has a bias and their own style. So its important to visit different ones.

Come in Peace

When I started deep into this yoga journey, I had a yoga teacher who was someone I really enjoyed taking classes with. She had this free spirit but was also grounded with a good foundation of yoga knowledge. She always interacted with her students and was very gracious with them. Her happiness was contagious and I learned so much from her.

One particular day, this teacher was clearly not herself. She taught this candlelight yoga class that exuded peace and serenity. It was still vigorous enough to build heat, but it was mostly chill. But this day, she didn’t interact with her students like she normally did. She was more to herself and closed off. And this normally chill class turned into Power Yoga to the nth degree. She never smiled. She didn’t interact with us. It was like a one way street. Her fireball of emotions landed on us and she felt nothing back.

As time went by, I mentioned my feelings about that class to her. She totally acquiesced to my observation. She said that it was a really bad day for her with personal things happening in her life. She said she should have stayed home and cried instead of coming to class like that. I wouldn’t say she was angry or hateful to us. But she was surely hurting.

I wrote a recent blog post about this, likely spurred on by an Ashtanga Podcast with guest Mary Taylor. I will surely write more about that once I process it more in my mind. Yoga can have a profound effect on our personal lives. But as a teacher, we can’t take our students down a path that they don’t deserve. If you struggle with pain in your life as a teacher, you need to take some time away to resolve those issues. And you certainly don’t want to take it out on your students.

If need be, make sure you allot time before class to do a personal practice. Then take some time to meditate. During this time, your intention should be forgiveness, releasing darkness, and finding peace. If you can’t come to class with a clear mind, then maybe its not your time to teach. Find someone else to take your place.

Spread joy and peace. It happens through your words, your body language, and your touch. That darkness in your heart doesn’t stay there. It goes to everyone you meet. And you can’t hide it. It has to be released. If you don’t, those around you will pay a price. And like this podcast expressed, releasing those feelings can result in physical opening in your body as well as a spiritual awakening. But repressing those feelings can result in unfathomable pain in your body and mind. It can result in sickness and pain in your body. And it can totally take away your peace and joy.

Find peace my friends. Talk with me about it some day. I’d be happy to help you find your path.

Energy Transference Through Touch

When I go and touch my dogs, they always react. If I approach softly and gently, their skin quivers as my hand lightly touches only the hair first. When I start long gliding strokes, they yawn and wiggle their tails. When I scratch along the backbone, my one dog taps her back foot on that side like she’s doing the scratching. If I’m a little rougher and playful, they roll on their backs and kick and squirm. They are very in tune with the touch.

I get a multitude of reactions from people with Thai Yoga Massage. I make sure my first touch is gentle but always firm. I want to know that I’m there with confidence, but it is a safe place to be. When I adjust yogis in class, its the same thing. I am not going to hurt them or push them beyond their abilities. If anything, my hand is there for awareness. It lets them know I’m there, I care, and to encourage movement. The touch works miracles in people.

In Thai Yoga Massage, they call the touch giving Metta, or "loving kindness". It has roots in Buddhism but is not solely a Buddhist concept. The belief is that the giver can transfer kindness into a person through the touch. Before a session, I am going through a mindful meditation while I’m preparing the space. After communicating with a client, I do a short Wai, or Wai Kru, to breathe and cleanse my mind. Some traditional therapists actually have a more elaborate Wai Kru with singing or music and will quote an invocation or poem. Its a special time in a Thai session.

On the other hand, I also feel if a therapist has a lot of negativity, then that can also be transferred to a client. Its really a tough time all over the world with political unrest. People let politics take over their lives. They yell and scream and get down right nasty about their hatred of someone. But not only politics. They get angry at philosophies, like capitalism or socialism. They are very vocally against religious ideologies and outspoken people. It an unbridled hatred that can’t be contained in some people.

As a Christian, I have to be careful with how I react to this hatred. I can turn the other cheek and just let it go. I’ll mindfully pray for that person and hope that their hatred can find peace. I rarely go into re-training a person, though that is often what I should do. I should show love and grace. But I’m not perfect either. None of us are. Sometimes I am hurt by these things. I see someone post anti-Christian rhetoric on social media, and then I’m shocked when I see other friends jump on the hating bandwagon too. Would they say these same things to my face? How do they really feel about me? I’ve always been kind to them. I even consider them as friends. Do they say these things about Buddhist, Jewish, Islamic, Catholic, Mormon, Hindu, or other faiths? Do they even realize what they are saying?

I should try to help people understand my viewpoint. Its just scary when they are foaming at the mouth about their hatred of a religion or a President or some ideology. All I want to do in those cases is get away. I want to diffuse the situation so that I don’t escalate the hatred. So I do the chicken way out and unfollow them on social media. Sometimes its the safest way.

The unfortunate part of this is, what if that person is a yoga teacher, or an elementary school teacher? What if they say outrageous statements and then appear to emulate peace and harmony in a yoga class? Are they hypocrites or maybe just good actors? What if they are bodywork healers? Will they transfer their negative hatred onto their clients? I worry about that. When I entrust myself to a professional, I’m assuming I won’t be hurt and face negativity. But I’m wary about going to any business owner who doesn’t have my best interests in mind.

Its a difficult situation in business. Do you remain outspoken and stand by your values? Or do you temper what you say in polite society so as not to push away your clients. Hopefully, even if you feel strongly about something, you can do it in a positive way without slander and crawling in the mud. But when you fling mud, you really don’t know the innocent people it will hit. Its not an innocent thing. Some of us have strong views too, though we’re not as outspoken. There is often a silent majority out there. But we just walk away and wish you peace.

Growing a Thick Skin

In this day and age, every word matters a lot to people. A lot has been said of the “cancel culture” of this generation. You do something decades ago and people reduce you to nothingness. Its happening on college campuses today. They are ready to get rid of holidays, statues, flags, and traditions in our common culture. Its a one strike and you’re out kind of situation.

I try my best not to fall into this trap. I try to give people grace and let them grow and find who they are as people. Maybe some day they’ll come around to reason and acceptance. But sometimes, its so very difficult to give grace. I think something you said or did in your past is quite different from what you are currently saying and doing in real life today.

I say this often, but people are very accepting of mystical ideas from a distant land. They get tattoos of deities, of religious symbols, and words in Sanskrit or simplified Chinese. They do this without knowing their real meaning or what it means to abide by that faith. In fact, the faith they are honoring is often more restrictive and intolerant than the faith of their parents, grandparents, and colleagues. It is strange to me how they are so accepting of something so foreign. It is this counter culture idea. Its like opposite day…every day! You’d think people would grow up. When they were 18 year olds and they wanted to do whatever their parents told them not to do, but they still act like that today. It makes no sense.

So, I truly believe that its different what you’ve done in the past versus what is happening today. I try to grow a thick skin, but its very difficult. Especially when you are constantly bombarded by the same person. Sometimes, its better to live in bliss than to really get to know a person, like on Facebook or other social media. We get to peer into peoples lives and learn something that is not so nice about them. And I’m not talking about years ago; I mean today!

I’ve interacted positively with someone for years. In fact, I’d like to think we were good friends. I knew they had alternative views about the world, so I just unfollowed them on Facebook. Sometimes its better to not know a person’s inner thoughts. Since then, I’ve had a happy friendship with this person. They are always professional, giving, and kind in person. However, its difficult to hide the facts of who they really are. You see them comment on someone else’s page and it all boils to the surface again.

I’m OK with someone not liking something materially about me. If they don’t like my car, root for a different football team, have a different diet from mine, or maybe don’t agree with my politics, then I’m super OK with our differences. But when they openly criticize your beliefs with memes or blatantly abusive words, its hard to look the other way. People say we need to “tolerate” other cultures and beliefs. They accept snippets of ideologies from distant places, but completely trash the church down the street from them. They say “be accepting of people who are different” in one breath, then they totally trash what you believe in the next. It doesn’t make sense.

I don’t tolerate open abuse of other people. So those people don’t get to interact with me anymore. And they don’t get my business. My skin is only SO thick.

Icarus Flew Too Close

  • Play golf during a lightning storm.
  • Swim in shark infested waters
  • Play cards in a rattlesnake den
  • Ride your bike at sunset in mountain lion country

Yes, you think I’m crazy. But people do this all the time. There are other ways we do the same thing.

  • Drive around town at 2 am when the bars close
  • Eat fast food and sugary treats all the time
  • Walk down Bourbon street showing a lot of skin
  • Go out for drinks in an unfamiliar town by yourself

You never blame the victim, but you will surely get burned some day for your choices. Meanwhile, if I never dip a foot in the ocean, only golf on sunny days, and don’t go anywhere near a trail at sunset in mountain lion country, I’ll probably never die due to one of those situations.

People do stupid stuff all the time without thinking about it. Not far down the line is running up credit card debt, living beyond your means, and not saving for retirement. Its just stupid. So don’t do it.