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.

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When Yoga Teachers Fail the Student

There are a few cues in yoga that teachers use that I just don’t understand. I’m sure they copied something from another teacher, but never asked why. I’m imploring you, study your practice and ask why?

1. Bringing feet together before jumping to half forward fold in sun salutations. This isn’t how I learned Ashtanga. But I realize everyone isn’t doing Ashtanga. But when your surya namaskars look like how I was taught, then you are probably doing ashtanga. For some reason, I’ve found teachers have students bring their feet together from downward facing dog before jumping to half-forward fold, ardha uttanasana. There is really no purpose in doing that. And there isn’t a count in Ashtanga that allows for such a move. My recommendation: keep your feet hip width apart like they should be and jump forward from your downward facing dog.

2. Leaning forward transition from warrior 2: The other one I see is from Warrior 2, teachers have students reach forward before going to exalted warrior, viparita virabhadrasana. Maybe they are seeking length before extending and opening their side body. But the pose itself does it for you. You don’t really need to add that extra move. I see this kind of cue in other ways too. They are usually just flowery excess and totally unnecessary. My recommendation: keep your posture and don’t overextend yourself with excesses.

3. Not balancing your body movements: Remember the days when young men would go to the gym and just do bench presses and barbell curls. Really stupid, right? It creates major imbalances in your body when you don’t balance out the antagonists. A bench press with some kind of rowing movement balances chest and back. A biceps curl should be combined with a triceps extension. But in yoga, we are doing the same thing. We do a bunch of forward folds without doing a back bend. If you work one side of the body, make sure you work the other. Some teachers say, "that’s my intention for the day; to just do one side of the body". But never make your intention to create imbalances. Otherwise you send your students home with a lot of Vritti (chaos). My recommendation: Create balance in the body.

4. Warming appropriately: Muscle is a like a rubber band. A cold rubber band will easily snap apart. But a warm rubber band stretches nicely. In Ashtanga, our common warm-up is sun salutations. Its the best possible way to prepare for an intense practice. In a gentle yoga class, a gentler warm-up is needed. However, when you go to a class like Hot Yoga, the heat accelerates the warming process. You’ll be able to find length without doing as much. I strongly believe that a vigorous hot yoga can do a lot to increase circulation and remove toxins from our body. But too much can be a bad thing. Instead, the value of heat is in body lengthening. To me, that’s the winning secret for hot yoga. And, if you come to class after running a marathon or a Super Hero WOD in CrossFit, you should come prepared. Don’t expect the warm-up a teacher gives to be sufficient. You will need to take a hot tub, foam roll, and some warming up before the warm-up. Otherwise, you are likely to get injured. My recommendation: Always warm your body knowing your body and your environment.

5. Goofy alliterations and misguided beliefs: As a yoga teacher, we are prone to flowery words, fantastic imagery, and spouting a spirituality that is often not organic to our normal lives. It ends up looking very fake. I once had a yoga teacher who’s major was Religious Studies. But he was a wise young man. He knew that people pay homage to many different gods or a religion of no god. So, to not offend anyone, he let everyone celebrate in their own way by not imposing one belief. Its why a Buddha statue or Ganesha picture is never appropriate in a yoga studio. Its imposing a belief on you that is unnecessary and inappropriate. The same is true with the imagery and alliterations we use. I’ve heard people talk naturally to me, then I hear their prayers and I don’t know who they are. They suddenly turn into a television evangelist. Its not how they normally talk. Yoga teachers do the same thing. They have a natural plain language that they seem to check at the door. Instead, they suddenly turn into a completely different person. My recommendation: be true to yourself, be yourself, and communicate effectively.

I always say, all yoga is good yoga. But there is a context to that. As a yoga teacher, I know you have a complicated scheme in your mind for how you plan your yoga teaching. However, with each and every class, imagine that someone comes to your class without ever having attended a class before. Imagine someone visiting your class from out of town who is very experienced in yoga. How do you come across? Are you getting the job done by meeting the needs of mind and body? Or are you on a mission to only work biceps that day because you’ll work on triceps next Tuesday? Instead, make every practice a complete practice. Meet the needs of the body as a whole, not just part of it. Otherwise, your students will walk around with bound up Vritti that can’t be released until the next class you teach. That just doesn’t work. And by all means, don’t create a bad impression on a new student who may never come back because of your poor teaching. Be vulnerable and open. Communicate your intentions without the goal of beating your own chest. Instead, make it about the student. How can you best meet their needs? Yoga teaching is totally about the student, not the teacher!

#yoga #yogateaching #betrue

Brains vs. Brawn

I was into bodybuilding when I was young. I think every young man dabbled in this realm at some point in his life. Its a vain attempt at manhood, but an otherwise healthy endeavor.

I’m not saying I was some buff superhero, but I had my qualities. So I was out by the pool with two young ladies who were sisters, one of whom I was dating at the time. The other sister was dating someone who was in school to become a medical doctor. While I was just a lowly undergrad.

Somehow the conversation drifted to muscles in men and how I somehow got lumped into the mix. While playfully ribbing each other and having a good time, siblings can get competitive. The sister I was dating was bragging about how buff I was and how the other sister’s boyfriend was not. So the other sister comes back at her that her boyfriend had the "smarts" and that muscles aren’t everything.

Haha…I mean, AHEM! I was sitting right there. So the other guy is smart and I’m not? Wow! Does med school make one person smart and the other not? [side note: I ended up with a Ph.D. myself…just sayin]

I don’t think brains and brawn are mutually exclusive entities. Just like a woman super model can also be a scholar of the highest regard. Having beauty doesn’t negate intelligence one bit. Its a stereotype that you wouldn’t reflect on a race, religion, or anything different from you.

Regardless of what you think about someone like an Arnold Schwarzenegger, he eventually used his physique to become Governor of California. He is an icon who’s business acumen is well-regarded. His close friend, Franco Columbo, is a chiropractor and author. He came to the U.S. and went on to a professional degree while English was far from his first language (he spoke fluent Italian and German). Our current First Lady speaks 7 languages, and she was a model herself. Dolph Lundgren, former model and actor from Rocky 4 fame, has a Master’s degree in chemistry.

It’s fun to highlight people who go against commonly held stereotypes. In fact, its one of my favorite parts of humanity. You take close-minded, ignorant people and make them realize the folly of their misgivings. Its the best "in yo face" ever!

The Army runs on Diesel

immersion heater germany

I stumbled on this pic from my old unit in Germany. When you pulled KP (kitchen patrol) out in the field, it was an all day gig. They’d wake you up at like oh-dark-thirty (~3am) to start getting chow ready for the field site. We often worked to about 2100 since a lot of the field doggies would come in late. We would fill these huge trash barrels with water, usually by dragging two 5 gallon jugs to and from the water buffalo. That got old fast in the snow. You’d need at least one can for washing and another for the rinse. Sometimes, we’d make an extra can for a nice hot tub bath later. We usually worked through chow so we didn’t get to eat until after everyone else did. And leftovers were kinda gross.

The heaters are fueled by a big can of diesel on the side. It would drip fuel in at a slow rate to keep it burning. But you had to be super careful. So I started a drip, I lit some paper and dropped it in. You have to keep you head far from the opening or it could blow in your face. Well, I dropped in the lit paper. I waited a good 20 seconds and nothing seemed to happen. So I peek in to see and BOOM it blew up in my face. It blasted my head up and I just turned and fell face first into the snow. I wasn’t sure what I had just done to myself. I managed to burn all my eyebrows and eyelashes into crispy, burnt-end curls. My buddies got a big laugh at how it looked.

Other fun chores we got in the field was guard duty. I almost forgot my birthday one year. I was standing at the entrance to our site on top of a snowy mountain in Germany with my Mickey Mouse boots on and my parka hood cinched down to about a 2 inch opening. The snow was coming down hard. I was standing there wondering what day it was, so I looked at my watch. It was almost midnight, 16 Jan 1984; my birthday. Oh well. I did get some candlelight that night. A few hours later, I was startled by a bright light. I look over and one of the tents caught on fire. Each tent had a diesel burning stove. Its pretty safe unless it overheats, turns to cherry red, and then something close by or the stove pipe catches fabric on fire. That’s what happened. They were yelling, I was yelling, it was mass chaos. Fortunately, everybody made it out alive. But they lost a lot of their gear.

We also got to pull 60K generator duty. We had to keep it filled with diesel to make sure all the communication rigs were kept running. We also started all the backup 5K generators that were on trailers once a day. I drove for a lieutenant, so among all my other duties, I had to drive him/her around to different field sites and HQ to receive orders and missions. But I also had to set up their tent and attend to their needs. Then we sometimes went on foot patrol to check our perimeter. Sometimes we had a unit of Infantry guarding us. But most times we were on our own. They said if the balloon ever went up, we’d be alive for about 7 minutes since they’d target communication links first. So our outside perimeter was the least of our worries. Such good times.

Heal Thyself

thai yoga tfl stretch
thai yoga tfl stretch

The other day, I had a headache. So I started working into trigger points I knew in my neck that could be responsible for it. I could just use my fingers, but better for this bodypart is an EPS (electronic point stimulator) accupressure device. In less than a minute, my pain went away. A few days before that, I had a toothache. I worked into my jaw muscles and poof—pain was gone!

Note: Where you feel pain is most often not the source of pain. There is a chain of events that occur that often leads to pain. The two main sources of pain are #1 glutes and #2 around the shoulder blade. These two areas are responsible for a majority of body pain. If you feel pain in your shoulders and your therapist just rubs your shoulders, your pain may come back in a day or two. Its good for their business, but not good for you.

Here’s a great idea! Download any one of a number of Trigger Point apps and start to figure things out for yourself. They will have a zone highlighted on the body. Click on the zone and it will present to you the most common culprits first. They are prioritized based on years of evidence from Claire Davies, Travell & Simons, or other pioneers in trigger point therapy. It isn’t difficult to figure out.

Then take your fingers and palpate the area. If you want some practice, almost everyone has taut fibers in their forearm and thigh. Feel around for muscles that have lots of tension. Sometimes, you’ll stumble on a little knot that feels like a frozen pea. That’s a trigger point. I practice on myself all the time.

Once you find the trigger point or taut fiber, you can massage with your fingers, a hard lacrosse ball, or a Theracane (for those hard to reach places). For taut fibers, find the central, belly of the muscle. That’s where the trigger point is located. Also use contract-relax on yourself, which is a method to trick your brain into allowing your body to release for a few seconds. Engage the problem muscle, inhale, hold your breath for at least 5 seconds, then release and go directly into a stretch. It tells your golgi tendon organ that you are ok and to not resist the stretch.

Do these things multiple times over several days. Focused pressure, engaging, & stretching; these are the keys to healing. Broader pressure like with a foam roller is good for circulation and lymph movement too, but won’t be as effective as the focused pressure. Doing exercise and especially yoga will make sure your muscle fibers feel healthy and ensure the trigger point doesn’t re-form.

Sometimes, we walk around not knowing where our pain resides. As a Thai Yoga Therapist, I always (I mean always) find places in bodies that a client didn’t even realize was a problem. Sometimes, its difficult to identify what zone to start with in the Trigger Point apps. So, going to a therapist who knows trigger points can be helpful when you don’t know where to start. I know that I can find the source of your problems.

Once you have an idea of where to start, then you can apply the Thai Yoga Therapy principles on yourself. A traditional therapist is helpful and may be working trigger points without even knowing it. But someone with a clinical approach can be extremely beneficial to actual healing.

 

Wise Guy: Birthday Boy

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/31/tom-cruise-age-cocoon_n_1559050.html

I think 50’s are much younger than 50 in 1985. I mean, Tom Cruise still does his own stunts in Mission Impossible series. Wilford Brimley at 49 was already in the Old Folks Home.

Wisdom is a funny thing. Even as old as I am, I look to elders and think, "when will I be that wise?"

But do you know what? I think I need to give myself some credit. I see younger folk say, "now that I look back, I realize what my teachers told me. I thinking I’m figuring this out!"

Hmmmm?!!!

Here’s how I’ve seen things over my years:

In my teens, I was a wrestler. I could do anything. My parents guided my life, but I didn’t think they made much sense. Then I went into the Army right out of high school. I knew all that I needed to know and my body was invincible.

Same for my 20’s. I could eat what I wanted and keep my 6 pack abs. I was doing something every night. It was wallyball, touch football, or whatever we could drum up to do. I was out with friends or on dates until midnight and then working until 5am. I was going to college and pretty much ruled the world. I got married and settled down (for the most part). But I still had a lot to figure out.

In my 30’s, that’s when things started to change the most. Its where I started to figure things out. Garsh was I stupid before then. My metabolism started to slow down. When I met my wife, I could have eaten what my mother-in-law made me for dinner and all their plates combined. I started to realize I couldn’t do that anymore. But my counter was to workout harder. I started intensely powerlifting and long distance trail running. But I refused to change my diet. I bragged about how badly I ate; all justifying it by working out harder. But the battle of the bulge was real. I was slowly losing the war.

In my 40’s, I started to realize things needed to change. I transitioned into ultra marathons with my trail running. I was traveling around the nation running parts of famed ultra race courses. Eventually, running exacerbated my back so badly, I was often bed-ridden for days and barely ambulatory for many weeks. Its when my CrossFit days began shortly after it started a revolution. I realized I could worker smarter and be fitter and not have to spend 15+ hours a week running. I was starting to get fitter. Though I didn’t want to change my diet. CrossFit espoused the Paleo/Zone diets, but I didn’t buy into it. It was when I had a gall bladder attack that I found research that pointed directly to Paleo. In two weeks, I didn’t have pain. I never had my gall bladder taken out and I attribute that to Paleo. However, CrossFit led me to different kinds of pains and injuries. I mean, I was always banged up somewhere. And some of those pains remained for years. I tore a pec muscle badly while working out on my own. That led to my newfound love for bodywork. I started getting deep tissue massage and eventually Ashiatsu. And to heal my body more, I started doing yoga more intently. This led to me becoming a yoga teacher.

So now in my 50’s, I feel like I’m starting to really figure this out. I’m becoming a seasoned yoga teacher. I keep growing in that realm and its been wonderful. My love for bodywork led me to completing training in Thai Yoga Massage. I still call myself a CrossFit’r. I’ve refined what I do to maybe one workout minimum per day of 5-15 minutes. My CrossFit with yoga is a great combo. I will occasionally go for a run or bike. But that is just gravy on my biscuits. I’m still mostly Paleo. If I fall of the Paleo wagon, I start to feel discomfort in my gall bladder. So it keeps me on the straight and narrow. Honestly, I’m starting to reach a peak in my learning. I’ll call it a false peak. Because once I arrive, I know there’s a higher one looming ahead.

In a nutshell, life for all of us is like education:
High School: we start to get smart and almost know everything. And our parents become stupid.
College Undergrad: Now we know everything. Nobody can tell us anything. But our parents are occasionally (usually) right about stuff.
Master’s degree: Now I had to choose something specialized to do. And I realized, that thing is so special, that I’m one of few who know what I know. BUT (big BUT) I realize there is also so much I don’t know and can’t know.
Doctoral degree: I’m a big fat smarty pants. But what I know is so special, I know that I don’t know anything else.

Its very humbling that my Ph.D. actually made me feel Dumb & Dumber. I’m smart enough to know that I know nothing. The only thing that makes me smart anymore is YouTube. With YouTube, I can do whatever I want.

I see friends who turn 30 who are saying what I say right now. "I finally figured this out". So, I’ll say this to them, wait a few years first.

Thirty is the most tumultuous age ever. I’m finding this for everyone, but especially women. I know of several who have had traumatic changes because of abuse that happened earlier in life. Everything seems to well to the surface at that age and reality is right in front of your face. It seems like a lot of friends divorce at that age. What you have at 30 is a tell-tale sign of what’s to come. I mean, in your teens and 20’s, you can remake yourself over and over. But at 30, you are starting to lock things in. Without some major rebirth when you hit your mid-life crisis, you are locked in. People often say they wouldn’t want to be in high school again and suffer all that silliness and pain. But I’m thinking 30 is much more serious. Those high school antics don’t mean much. When you’re 30, everything matters.

The 50’s have been incredible for me so far. I’m doing things that I could do at 20, maybe even better than at 20. I go to yoga or other classes and don’t even see my own age. But as I’m riding this wave, I’m wondering how long it will last.

I’m hoping it lasts for a few more decades at least!

It’s all about the Butt: build your muscles

Just a thought.

I was listening to a podcast with an Integrative Medicine doctor talking about protein. She advocates an enormous amount of protein. She says that she doesn’t need extra carbohydrates because she can make enough with the assimilation of protein. Carbohydrates are the easy macros to get. Protein, not so much. You can listen to it on the Shrugged Collective podcast.

Regardless of this high protein diet, I’ve heard conversations with friends who say protein is overrated. They say protein is hyped way too much and we get plenty in our diets. But, before we make assumptions in life, we always need to ask “why?”.

An interesting concept from this podcast was the thought of muscle. We always talk about body fat percentage. Then, we “falsely” assume that the rest after fat is lean muscle. It really isn’t. There are bones, water and other chemicals, organs, connective tissue, fascia,… Truthfully, a healthy low range is desired. However, someone who is anorexic or elderly can have a 5% body fat, but be very unhealthy. And their muscle mass may be infinitesimal. That’s not a good way to live. The intriguing question that the doctor couldn’t answer for herself was “what is our lean muscle mass?”

She said that mortality is directly related to muscle mass. When we lose our muscle, we die. Recent studies points to strength as overriding the long-thought idea that Heart Health is most important. Stronger people live longer than strictly cardio people.

Anecdotally, I was a trail runner and ultra-marathoner for much of my life. During that time I had lots of back pain and other maladies, like skinny chicken legs. I still lifted weights so I carried some mass on my body. But you can’t overcome those skinny legs if you put in the miles. In the fitness community, an adage popped into mind from teaching, “if you can’t lift, then you run”. I know this isn’t true. I admire greatly runners and running. I have books about different runners and things they’ve accomplished. Its why I started into my adventures in ultra-running. I wanted to see and feel what they wrote about. But many people with smaller, thin frames gravitate toward running because what else are they gonna do? We didn’t have a lot of long distance runners or skinny basketball players on our wrestling team. We were mostly lifters and football players. We did strength.

My point in all of this, a lifter is always admired as someone who looks healthy. You can see the muscles when they wear a shirt (or better without a shirt). They walk around with confidence and strength. There was a colleague of mine, a senior professor at a major university, who I once spotted at a trail race. He actually finished pretty high in his age group. But, truth be told, I never thought he was an athletic person. He always looked sickly, he looked quite disheveled, and always had a snuffly nose. I think of several like that who I would have never thought were very healthy. They were all runners. Now don’t get me wrong, there are runners who really look healthy. But many do not appear any healthier than your average, sedentary population.

There is an older lady who lives across the street from me. I may even say she is “elderly”. I highly respect her because I’ve seen her out every day walking many miles early in the morning. She rode her bike all around town until she had a bad bike accident. And she is crazy about her lawn. So I see her mowing at least every other day during the Summer. I know she is healthy, but unfortunately she doesn’t look healthy. She is frail, she has a major hunchback, and appears very weak. Looks really matter. They tell a lot about our health. A person with muscles is a vision of health and hard work. You can’t always see that in an endurance athlete.

Mortality is driven by muscle. And muscle is built by protein. If you think about competitive bodybuilders, when they are building muscle, they eat all day. Most of their diet focuses on protein. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein that builds muscle. They wake up in the middle of the night to take in protein so they don’t go into a catabolic state. You always want to be anabolic. Muscle growth is important. For them, they err on the side of too much protein than too little.

Hmmm, maybe there is something there for us normal people to think about. Err on the side of more protein. More muscle is better!! Our biggest muscle is the gluteus maximus. When you sit on the toilet, your glutes are the primary movers. When you lift your groceries, lift your kids, or do anything important in life, your buns are involved. If I were to focus my strength on any area, it would start with the buns. Back, legs, shoulders,…they all fall in line afterward. But keep that big booty filled with lots of muscle. You’ll never be sorry for a nice butt.

Don’t be the saggy pants kids who have no butts because they sit around playing video games and watch TV all day. They haven’t earned the strength moniker by doing that. Don’t be the old dude who has to wear suspenders since they don’t have a butt to keep their pants on. Instead be that proud butted person who is strong and lives a long life. Before you go on a long run, prioritize a session of heavy squats, deadlifts, and lunges. It will serve you better in the long run and will be a lot less boring than steady state cardio.