Yoga Teaching: Perceptiveness

Empathy as a yoga teacher is a tremendously important quality. Have you heard about the youngest yoga teacher? I think she was either a pre-teen or young teenager. There is no possible way that such a young, while admirable, yogi has the wisdom and experience to teach yoga to the masses.

When a teacher has been through hardship, they can relate to a class better. When a teacher has had serious injuries or illness, they can feel with a student who is going through some struggle. When a teacher has been so sore from a run that they can’t walk for days, they know what the runner has been through. Empathy is different in that it is an understanding of the feelings of another, usually from experience.

I was looking for inspiration since I don’t attend enough yoga classes myself. So I went to YouTube. There was this young lady teacher who has lots of likes who’s class I decided to follow. I would say not 3 poses in, she did a pose that was so deep, it would certainly injure the average person. I see this all too often. Something easy for the teacher may be extremely difficult for the class. This is where a super flexible teacher who isn’t perceptive to those who struggle doesn’t do anybody any favors. And if you put a huge ego on top of that, its a recipe for disaster.

One of my learning grounds as a teacher was a gentle yoga class full of senior yogis. If you did something too crazy, they would certainly let you know about it. It was like playing the game Operation. You slide your tools in to remove an organ, but if you touch the sides, it buzzes and lights up. That’s how this class was. I learned quickly of poses that I shouldn’t go near in those classes.

Yoga teachers need to be able to put a governor on our abilities so that we teach appropriately to the level of class being taught. Its where a little age and experience go a long way. Everyone can be "aware" in their class. You just have to watch and listen to the subtle cues. Like the physician’s creed "Do no harm". That goes for yoga teachers too! #ahimsa


Rectus Abdominus Is Not That Important To Me

But the six-pack sure does look good. Haha!

Functionally, I rarely focus on rectus abdominus. In every day life, pulling our ribs to our pelvis isn’t a natural thing. In fact, flexion of the spine is often seen as a bad thing. More often, it comes into play in an isometric sense (non-shortening fibers). When we lift heavy things, we focus more on transverse abdominus. Of all the muscles of the abdomen and back, I’d say rectus abdominus is the least of our concern. It is the outer, superficial layer and is kind of a last resort muscle.

That being said, R. abdominus is really sore on me right now. I did crunches (with one of those funky crunch things you buy on late night TV for $19.99). As much as CrossFit’rs, powerlifters, and any other serious lifter laughs at crunches (except bodybuilders), they do work. Even though R. abd is the primary focus and not as important, you can’t help but enjoy working them.

I actually worked to fatigue several times last night and even had to rest to complete my reps. They are surely aching today.

Go ahead and work them now and then. I give you permission.

Sometimes, Boys Will Be Idiots

I’ve always been a huge fan of BJ Penn. I’ve always respected him even though I had questions about him. There were always reports that Dana White was calling him up or asking about him to make sure he was training for an upcoming fight; that he wasn’t drinking or just surfing all the time.

I remember the old fights with all the biggest names: Matt Hughes, George St. Pierre, Takanori Gomi, Frankie Edgar. He’s fought them all. He always looked like the smaller fighter. And I most often root for the smaller guy. I always loved his fighting spirit.

But like I always say, play with fire or you’re gonna get burned.

I think a recent YouTube with Chael Sonnen put it best. If you fight for a dollar, then you are worth a dollar. That’s it. Its all so cheap.

So he has litigation against him for domestic abuse. That one is hard for me to ever overlook. A man who beats on a woman is worthless. So maybe he’s worth less than a dollar in my eyes.

Then he get caught beating up a bouncer at a strip club. OK, so he’s what, 40 years old? I think if you’re older than being a man-child, like mid-20’s, and you’re still going to strip clubs, then something’s wrong with you. Yeah I said it. Come at me bro! Haha! Worthless.

When I was in the Army, I would stay up at the club until the doors closed. Well, sometimes. I got really sleepy. I was in Germany and would party to all hours. Then again, I was like 19 years old. Definitely not a real man yet. I was still working my way into being a man. Those times were probably my last for burning the midnight oil. I never had a reason to stay up later until I started working as a loader for United Parcel Service. I worked from Midnight until 5am while I was in college. It was super hard work and I never liked being up all night. But that was the price I paid. I never wanted to do anything like that again. A year before that, I was a security guard for these big companies and I’d stay up all night then too. That was definitely not fun. Before that, I had this old Tandy computer, one of the first personal computers to come out. I was on this fantasy game that you loaded in DOS or I was flying somewhere in the flight navigator. I wouldn’t even realize but I’d end up staying up most of the night playing it.

When I look back, it was all so stupid. If you stay up to those hours, you are definitely going to get burned sooner or later. You are going to get attacked, beaten up, robbed, and just plain violated. I’m not saying anyone asks for it or deserves it. But when you are welding and wearing flammable clothes, sometimes that spark is going to ignite and its definitely not going to be good.

All I can say is Grow Up BJ. Actually, grow up everybody. Maybe you’re someone who’s getting high and needs a fix, then you probably aren’t reading this blog anyway. But Grow Up! Tell your kids to Grow Up. That fire is going to catch up with you sooner or later. I always say "never blame the victim". But if I hear you are a victim at 2am out in the city streets, I’m not going to be surprised. And if you turn out OK and you can learn from it, I may just slap you and ask you why you were so stupid. I mean, Grow Up!

Parenting Gone Awry

There is a report in the news of a teenager who is going deaf and blind and a host of other physical problems because of eating only junk food. The human body needs a host of nutrients that come from various foods. Junk food doesn’t meet those requirements.

Apparently, his parents tried to get him on a better diet regimen only to fall back into the junk food.

My question for this situation: Is this child independently wealthy outside of his parents room and board?

I was raised in the country in Kansas. We were in small farm communities where people worked for a living. None of us were raised with a silver spoon in our mouths. We always had food on the table and had a roof over our heads. I personally baled hay, unloaded derailed train cars, and worked as a janitor in a large commercial building. We didn’t have a lot of extras. And, living out in the country meant a trip to town was a big deal. We drove 10 miles to the nearest metropolis for movies, shopping, and restaurants. When we got to go to Burger King or Pizza Hut, it was a huge treat for us.

But for us, a daily trip to McDonald’s wouldn’t even be physically possible. For one thing, I wasn’t of driving age. My Dad worked in a town 10 miles away and most of the time, he wasn’t making another 20 mile jaunt after he got home. We went to church in town, so that was our main opportunity to go out to eat. But, for my parents, it meant being able to get a nice sit-down-meal. That means, no fast food. So even if we went to town, it wasn’t always junk food for our treat.

For people who had real parents, parents who weren’t just our friends, but parents who actually parented; they knew what was right for us and made us abide by their rules. We did chores like mowing the lawn, vacuuming the carpet, and cleaning up after whatever pets we had. We also had to keep our rooms neat and beds made. And if we didn’t abide by the rules, there were consequences. We didn’t get any of the treats, even though we rarely had dessert anyway. And for more egregious offenses like throwing a rock and breaking out the living room window, we got spanked. I know people these days frown on those things. But as I look back, I always knew there were consequences for our actions. When you don’t have parents who set rules and actually have rewards and punishments, then you never learn about those things.

Today, they have what are called "helicopter parents". These are parents that hover around their children at a safe distance, but let them make all their own decisions. They are only there for safety. There aren’t real rules. They do everything for them and answer to every beckoned call. I see parents on the phone in the freezer section at the grocery store arguing with a child about what brand they want them to get. I see kids throwing fits because they are not getting what they want. In my house, fits didn’t happen. We got what we got and were appreciative.

Well, not always appreciative. I had a real hate of broccoli when I was a kid. Actually, almost anything green food-wise wasn’t something I enjoyed. But we had rules. I had to clean my plate for every meal because we weren’t wealthy enough to let anything go to waste. And my parents knew what was good for me even if I didn’t agree. So I sat there as I saw kids in the yard playing football. Sometimes I was stubborn because I thought after a few hours, my Mom would say, "OK, you can go play now". She never did. I ended up eating cold, hours-old broccoli.

But now, as I look back, I really appreciate how I was raised. It made it easy for me when I went into the Army. In the Army, you can’t really be a vegetarian, or have gluten allergies, or peanut allergies, or any other food preference issues. They put food on your plate and you eat it. And because you were always starving, you ate everything. And you ate it really fast. You get handed C-rations for the field. Yes, you may trade with someone for something else, but mostly you ate what you got. And because of how I was raised, it was easy. And I ate tons of broccoli and green beans too. I grew to love those things. It reminded me of home.

In some ways, I wish we had mandatory military service for everyone. We’d be a much better country if we did. Then, as parents who went through that process and knew what was going to be expected of them, they would prepare their children for their service. They would have rules and ask everyone to be polite. In the military, yes sir and yes ma’am are commonplace. You learn chivalry there. You learn about honor and country. You wouldn’t have groups like Antifa or Skinheads or gangs. We would all be on the same playing field working for the same team.

Don’t feed your kids whatever they want. Instead, be a parent and give them what they need. Give them nutritious meals and don’t cave to their every desire. Its up to you to grow a child with good character, values, and beliefs. Don’t put perverted ideas in their minds just so they are genderless and seemingly accepting of anything. Be a parent! Teach them what is right and wrong. Don’t put crazy ideas in their minds and wonder later why they are so messed up. I mean, kids don’t even know which bathroom to go to anymore. They don’t even know how to dress. And they certainly don’t know how to eat. Its up to parents to do these things. And if you are going to be a parent, be a parent. An honorable man (or man-child) will accept their role as parent if they parent a child. Marry the girl. And raise kids right. Society falls apart when we no longer have family. Even homosexual relationships have a man-woman modeled partnership. There is always a man and woman no matter what. You need that for the development of a child. The number of single parent homes, especially in inner city and poor communities, is astounding. The number of young people who shack up and never get married is remarkable. Actually, its catastrophic! People don’t want to commit anymore. They always want an easy way out. And if you don’t get married, then bonds are easily dissolved. There is no more belief in a higher power that honors a relationship. It is a different feeling from when I was raised.

Kids should never end up deaf and blind because of poor parenting. Be a parent! If you make a child, be responsible to that beautiful creation. Both man and woman. It takes a man and woman to make a child. So own up to that.

Calf Update

I’ve told you before the story of my life of running from 11 years old to, ahem, near 50. One day, my left calf seized up one-half mile into a run. I was preparing for a 50K race at the time. I let it rest a little only to find the same problem. I can barely even walk on it when that happens. So I’d let it rest long, like a month. Then longer. Eventually it was a year. It made me so sad that something I’ve done all my life was now gone. This past year, I’ve used Thai Yoga Massage to get myself back out there. I would last longer before having the seizing problem again. It helped, but not enough. I needed a solution.

Truth be told, I work out a lot. I do Olympic weightlifting, powerlifting, strongman, calisthenics, and lots a yoga, all as part of my CrossFit regimen. But in all honestly, my journey into functional fitness somehow trimmed away the need for calf-specific training. Of all things, I thought the calf work would cause more problems for my running. Boy was I wrong.

So I’ve been on a calf raise kick lately. I mostly do singles with a dumbbell in hand on a 4×4" block. I focus mostly on eccentric contraction. Then I’m sure to stretch a lot afterward. The other day, I programmed sets of 20 with both feet as part of a CrossFit MetCon. I really think its working. My calves felt stronger and less susceptible to strain.

I end up giving a lot of advice to people with all the experience I have and the yoga and Thai yoga massage background. But sometimes, I don’t abide by my own advice. Eccentric contraction along with contract and relax type stretching (PNF) can be very healing for muscles and tendons that have problems. I’ll paraphrase that by saying there isn’t such a thing as tendonitis since its really a muscle problem. Tendons don’t often cause us problems unless they tear, which was a muscle problem in the first place.

Eccentric contraction is the lengthening of muscle. It is usually the lowering phase of a lift that lengthens muscle. Your little myofibrils both like it and hate it since eccentric contraction is where most soreness arises. But if soreness is an indicator for your growth, then so be it. Its a win-win in that case.

For any pain symptom in your skeleton, try eccentric contraction along with stretching and lots of heat (before and after). NEVER ICE! Haha, sorry to yell. But even health professionals will tell you to ice. Don’t do it. It will totally slow your healing. Yes, it feels good. But morphine numbs too, so numbness isn’t necessarily a positive characteristic. Instead, use heat to heal.

Misnomers About Lifting Sports

If you ever wanted to see uneducated comments about sports, look at YouTube comments. They are flush with people trolling videos they know nothing about. When, most likely, they are people who spend most of their time on their parent’s old couch in the basement pilfering wifi bandwidth.

I posted a picture of a hook grip not long ago. I borrowed the picture above to show how to get into a hook grip. Most Olympic weightlifters tape their thumbs to get an even better grip. So I got a lot of concern from people thinking I injured my thumbs. Haha! Since you have to use an overhand grip with both hands in this sport, it helps to hold onto the bar. At first, its quite uncomfortable and doesn’t make sense. But after you use it for a few years, you realize how indispensable it is. Its not controversial; just a bit odd looking.

The Continental Clean is another one that gets a lot of flak on the interwebs from so-called "experts". The pic above is Hafthor Bjornsson, one of the strongest men in the world, doing a continental clean. A strongman axle is much thicker than an regular barbell. So you deadlift, or really high clean pull, it with a mixed grip (one hand overhand, one hand underhand). You try to pull it to your chest or belly with your first pull. Then you flip both hands to overhand while its resting on your belly. You inch it up from there until you can clean your elbows underneath. Then you press overhead. But you see people (especially CrossFit’rs) get ridiculed for poor form and technique doing this lift. The uneducated among us are always the loudest.

The other movement that is mercilessly shamed is the kipping pull-up. For some weird reason, lots of people hate CrossFit. I think CrossFit’rs post a lot on the internet, so they are subject to public debate. But I see just as many people skateboarding, waveboarding, juggling, and yoga-in on the internet too. To be honest, I think the hate against CrossFit is the coverage it gets. They have been on ESPN when other lifting sports are rarely if even on mainstream sports channels. I think bodybuilders are the ones who dislike kipping pullups the most. Even my own brother, a former amateur competitive powerlifter, ridicules this move. But if you watch bodybuilder’s form in movements, they don’t have much to talk about. When you are only bench pressing 6 inches down and calling those reps or curling massive amounts while jerking your hips, you can’t really talk much. But there is a purpose for that too and I totally understand. I just wouldn’t call them strict movements. The truth is, CrossFit’rs didn’t invent kipping pullups. Kipping is a movement that is used beginning with pre-teen gymnasts. And you see it in high level gymnastics when they mount a low bar to get themselves high on a bar. When you talk about performance for reps, you do all you can to meet the requirements. Its not the same as when you are doing basic fitness. But the uneducated among us are oblivious to these facts.

Probably the most controversial (yes even more than kipping pullups) is the high arch while bench pressing for powerlifters. Its one that I probably won’t be doing anytime soon. But then again, I’m not a competitive powerlifter. However, it comes back to bodybuilding critiques again. A bodybuilder doing bench press has a different goal from a powerlifter. A bodybuilder is building mass in their chest, so they lift it with their back flat on the bench. A powerlifter is eeking every muscle of their body, not just their pectorals, to get the weight up. They end up using a strong leg drive and actually pulling with their latissimus dorsi when they lift. It becomes a totally different lift when it comes to performance.

For the commenters on YouTube and elsewhere; I’d think it wise to just stay in your lane. If you don’t know what you’re talking about, then leave it alone. Its usually those 20-somethings or old has-beens who haven’t touched a barbell since high school football who are the loudest. But you also hear die-hard promoters of their gym or style who are threatened by something that can take money out of their own pockets. If you decide to make a comment, at least educate yourself on a wide range of subjects. Education goes a long way.