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Practice Practice Practice

Yeah, and I’m talking about yoga teaching here. But its true anywhere.

Last weekend, I subbed a Yoga Fundamentals Class, which is a beginner’s class. However, how the regular teacher teaches it, it is more like an Iyengar workshop. Its a study on anatomy and alignment that gets deep into the details. I’ve gone to this class even after becoming a teacher because there is so much to learn. In fact, I wish everyone, teachers included, would go to this class. We can all know the basics of yoga better. And teachers need to continually hone their adjustment skills, which is done a lot in this class.

I also subbed a Yoga Flow for Beginners class a couple days ago. That was fun too. It wasn’t as much of a workshop of poses, but a basic flow. I still did a lot of instruction on proper alignment and other concepts in yoga, but it was more to learn how to flow. I showed transitions from Warrior I and II, along with other related poses. Foot position is everything in yoga. We talked about appropriate body tension and the focus of Drishti. It was an entirely different slant from what I taught in the other class.

After Fundamentals, I went on to teach Rocket Yoga directly afterward. This is a freeform Ashtanga class that includes many of the higher series of Ashtanga. We went from winding slowly down the road with guard rails to racing at top speed in blind abandon. The emphasis totally shifts from restraint to letting-it-loose! Its such an amazing transition.

Similar is true with my basic Yoga Flow class. I went from that to Hot Yoga where we cranked up the music and got a little crazy. I had a few Rocket Yogis in there so I felt obliged to give them some Rocket. It was such a fun time.

I see these levels of study and experience in all walks of life. When I do a CrossFit WOD, I try to keep all the technical aspects in tact, but that isn’t the focus. The focus is to get my heart pumping out of my skin and working to the point of exhaustion. I call it red-lining in overdrive. But there are also times to study; to break down movements; maybe to only study one portion of a movement. I’ve done dips and push-ups where I don’t bend my elbows. I just slowly move through the full range of motion in my shoulder joint. I do isometric handstand holds and planks. I may flow through something with very light weight, like overhead squats. There is time for technique and quality of work, and there is time for throwing gasoline on the fire.

With yoga, with everything, we practice. As teachers, we explore something different. Sometimes that enlightenment happens during a class. And if it works, then you’ve added something new to your routine. The same is true with our personal practice. I always flow into something different. Its such a fun way to learn.

IF Update

If you haven’t already figured this out, most of my blogs are spurred on from listening to podcasts. I was listening to Froning & Friends and they discussed a little about Intermittent Fasting (IF). They had talked about a minimum of a 12 hour fasting window for those who fast daily. When I started to think about my eating habits, I first thought that I had met a minimum of 12 hours. But not really.

During the work week, when it is easiest to abide by IF for me, this is usually how my day goes:

Wake 5am – walk dogs, drink coffee, watch news
*630 am – make a cup of coffee at work (new: bringing back a tablespoon of coconut oil)
~1130 am – maybe have some cashews or a scoop of peanut butter
pm – drink lots of water, no coffee
3pm – have a granola bar or Boost High Protein drink
4pm – workout
5pm – dinner – eat a hearty meal
830pm – snack – usually yogurt with berries

So, what I was violating for the past several months is that I would basically have breakfast when I got to work. I would have a granola bar with peanut butter. However, this dumps sugar back into your system and triggers the insulin (fat-storing) response. This is counter to my goals. So my IF window is now expanded to about 15 hours. Even then, I only take in enough sugar to keep my blood sugar at a responsible level. Then another quick shot at 3pm to prepare me for my workout.

Now, I know I don’t workout nearly as hard as Rich Froning and his CrossFit Mayhem Team. They mentioned how they couldn’t possibly put out a full effort without a lot more calories in their bodies. Maybe that’s why I’m fortunate enough to have a little more bodyfat. Because I feel fine when I workout when on IF. From doing yoga, especially Rocket, Ashtanga, or Hot Yoga, I found that I need to have an empty stomach or things don’t go well. Even eating 3 hours before a class makes me feel so heavy that I can’t lift my body off my mat and I can feel bloated. So this has worked for my workouts too. The best part of doing CrossFit in this ketogenic state is that I burn a lot more fat too. But I am honestly very HANGRY after my workout. So I chow down harrrrd after the workout.

If you do IF, think about coconut oil or other non-sugar energy sources. You can actually take a good amount of calories that way without triggering insulin release (fat-storing) at all!

WOD 2 July 2018

Sometimes a workout doesn’t have to kill you. Sometimes the goal is just to keep your heart pumping and keep working non-stop.

Here was my WOD yesterday (all for time):

row 1K

//21-15-9
air squats & push-ups//
ski 1K
//21-15-9
hyperextensions & sit-ups//
run 800m

I love how this made me feel!
#unbroken

Ashtanga Flow

(yeah, not the ashtanga version)

At Thai Bodyworks in Evanston, IL where I take my Thai Yoga Massage training, certain classes teach an ordered sequence of poses with transitions in between. It can be a lot to remember and we end up repeating sequences many times to learn them. The time consuming part of it is the actual treatment where you give repeated compressions and stretching poses of various styles. So when learning the sequence, we will often flow before we move on. "Flow" is a term we use to move our body into proper position, begin the compressions, but then kind of brush hands through like we’ve already done it. So you end up only spending a few seconds at each pose. It is so helpful for me to learn a sequence.

I’ve also done this with Ashtanga and Rocket Yoga. Sometimes, I don’t have time for a full practice. Most often, I’ll just shorten it and take out poses. But other times, its useful to actually go through the sequence. But instead of holding each pose for 5 breaths, you may only hold for 3. Or maybe even 2. Yes, I know the purpose of 5 breaths is to get beyond the stretch reflex. But for a nice warming and dynamic practice, the Flow is nice too.

The opposite is to stay longer in poses. I have been to workshops where we’ll hold poses for 5 minutes or more. Its more restorative type poses, but a fish or baddha konasana held that long is wonderful. Maybe do a flow, but add a 30 breath headstand. Or maybe take 10 breaths in all of the standing poses. It is a nice variation to the sometimes mundane primary series.

Change it up now and then. I know Ashtanga is a method and many are disciplined to that method. And I know Rocket seems to bastardize the method. But if you keep an open mind, maybe you’ll learn something for yourself as you explore.

Free your mind, open your heart, embrace your practice.

Me…A Yoga Teacher?

Yes you!

Here are some of the excuses I hear about not becoming a yoga teacher:

But I don’t know all the poses.
But I haven’t had a serious personal practice for very long.
But I’m afraid to be in front of people.
But I can’t handstand or forearm stand or Shiva pose.
But I don’t know Sanskrit.
But I’m not in good enough shape.
But I’m not sure what I’ll do with a yoga teaching certificate.
But I don’t need or want a second job.

We all have life experiences that we can use to contribute to a yoga class. It all comes into play in providing context to yoga.

Here is my example. I am older so I wasn’t really sure if I’d get my money back from teacher training to teaching part-time. I have a bad back too. So what happens if my back goes out for long periods of time? I am an athlete, doing CrossFit and endurance sports. All that muscle breakdown leads to muscle and connective tissue tightness. How will I ever grow in yoga?

I had many excuses to NOT become a yoga teacher. It was the same feeling I had when I was placed in the position of becoming an Army Drill Instructor. I really was hoping I’d transition out of my Army unit before actually having to do that. But I’m like a 200% better and different person than before going through all of that. I can say the same for yoga.

The truth is, the negative experiences you’ve had in life, the hardships, the excuses for not becoming a yoga teacher are all the reasons for becoming one. They make you human. They make you relate-able to your yoga students. All these picture-worthy poses that the 1% of the yoga population does are not something 99% of your students will ever even try to attempt. So none of that matters. What matters more is, can you teach someone downward facing dog and warrior I? Those are hard poses to teach. Chaturanga is even more difficult. You don’t have to be “elite” to be a yoga teacher.

My bad back? Yeah, do you know how many people walk around with a bad back, knee injuries, ankle & foot problems? Yeah, this is what people need to know about. They need to know you can empathize with them. The teacher who has never gone through hardship, whether physical, mental, or spiritual, is at a great disadvantage as a teacher. Their teaching becomes sterile because they can’t relate to their classes. Its better to have flaws as a teacher.

When I was an Army Drill Sergeant, we couldn’t ever show flaws. We couldn’t fall down, we couldn’t sweat, we could never show weakness. But that’s how a yoga teacher relates. We show we’re human. We have humility. We embrace pain and despair. Its how we can show there is always light at the end of the tunnel. Its how we can show that we never arrive in yoga; there is always something more to learn. If a teacher thinks they know everything, run away from that teacher because they really don’t get it.

Everyone can teach yoga. Everyone has something to offer. You can teach one class a week, or many. It’s all up to you. It will help you understand your own personal practice better too. There aren’t many really good reasons to not do it.

You CAN do it!!

The Crux of the Issue

I have a problem with my house. On the South side, there is an overhang at the 1st story. These soffits have vents to allow moisture to seep out of the rafters. The only problem, with a strong storm with South winds, rain pours into these vents and then causes dripping through the dry wall in the ceiling. We’ve talked about having someone come and fix the drywall in the ceiling and repaint. But without fixing the soffits first, the problem will always return. The unsightly and troublesome problem won’t got away without fixing the Crux of the Issue.

Mexico:
We complain about separating children from parents when they cross the border without using proper ports of entry and procedures. However, the real problem is why are they leaving Mexico in the first place? Let me let you in on a little secret. Most people love their home and their homelands. They were born there, they know the culture, they know the language. If it was their choice, they wouldn’t leave. But when drug cartels threaten your life, when they buy out politicians and police, when you have no one to protect you or stand up for you, then you have no choice but to leave. For the uninitiated, the drug cartels routinely hang politicians and police who don’t comply from bridges. Its not a nice scene as you are driving kids to school or to work. If Mexico was safe and prosperous, we wouldn’t be talking about people entering this evil land we call the U.S.A.

Syria:
Ditto from Mexico. We wouldn’t be talking about border crossings into Europe if Syria and other war torn countries didn’t have sectarian violence, genocide, and truly evil governments. People think the U.S. is bad. Well, you really don’t study other societies very well. Women in Saudi Arabia made the news recently because they were permitted to go to a soccer game. Not long ago, they were allowed to drive a car. Yet people in the U.S. protest more nuanced issues of privilege when other countries don’t even have the most basic of rights. A peaceful homeland means people don’t have to leave their homes. That’s the Crux of the Issue.

Chicago Gun Violence:
Yeah, I’m going to say things you don’t want to hear. It comes down to the basic family unit. I’m not going to try to persuade you as to what family unit means. But if it looks like my mother and father, then so be it. My parents love me, they love each other, they took me to church every Sunday, they taught me right and wrong, they were responsible to their jobs and to raising children, they encouraged me in my schoolwork and athletics, and I live out what they taught me today. I’ve been married for 29 years and they’ve been married more than 50 years. So we must have done something right. When kids don’t know right from wrong, when they don’t have role models in their own homes, when they haven’t been given a code to live by, then they become irresponsible teenagers and adults. You can blame governments, school systems, poverty, lack of jobs, etc…yet there are people who rise above all of that. When you start with a home full of love and respect, you have a much better chance at life. When there are consequences to your actions from a very young age, then you learn there are consequences later in life too. Only those consequences are more serious. We complain about jail overcrowding and all this other non-sense. But instead, lets focus on raising our children to be responsible adults. Lets focus on not being friends to kids but parents. Parents who love children and guide them with a firm hand. All this tangential stuff flies out the window when you do these things.

As a scientist, we often study cause and effect. We follow the scientific method. That is:
1. Observe a phenomenon
2. Ask questions
3. Develop a hypothesis
4. Test the hypothesis

I’m sure you get all of this. But what most don’t know is how to create the test. When you ask why does a behavior take place, you include a null hypothesis. This asks "What if the cause isn’t responsible for the effect?" You also suggest alternative hypotheses. That is, what if the effect is caused by something other than what we’ve hypothesized?

In life and social science, we forget to ask these questions and truly test the causes. Instead, we get mired in emotion. We see images on TV and make suppositions without knowing anything about the facts. We see the latter part of a Facebook Live video not knowing what led to that incident. We go into everything with rabid emotion without studying the facts. And the people who need to know this most won’t even read this far.

Find the Crux of the Issue. Study the Cause & Effect. Keep an open mind to the solutions. And, most of all, don’t yap your gums about something you know nothing about. Activism is futile. Instead, if you want to make a change, do responsible things to elicit change. You don’t need violence or yelling. Instead, make a difference. Give money to causes. Give until it hurts. Because talk is cheap. And emotions are deceiving.