Stands With A Fist

stands with a fist
There is a character depicted in the movie “Dances With Wolves” with the name given to her “Stands With A Fist”. She was a Caucasian woman taken in by the Lakota Sioux for a reason I don’t remember. She had been with them for so long that she no longer spoke English. Apparently, she was given this name because she didn’t take any gruff from anyone. She wasn’t a weakling of a person who sought special privilege. She Stands with a Fist. You have to admire a person like that. Someone who isn’t looking for a handout. Someone who makes the most of every situation.
When you are proud, you try to do things yourself. You appreciate help, but you don’t seek it. It is about personal responsibility and value of self-worth. In that time, a Native woman would wander off to a lonely place in the woods to give birth. It was a completely different mindset. Don’t get me wrong. I like all the accouterments of modern life. But you have to admire the mind of someone who does something on their own. Its why I like to fix my own car. YouTube is good for that. There is nothing that we are incapable of doing these days if we have the courage to put our minds to it.
It doesn’t take the government, or some official, or a college degree to tell me if or what or when I can do something. I will do it. And always on my own if I have the tools to do it. We should all learn to Stand With A Fist!
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Meditation with a Mala

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I have read many methods of using a Mala for meditation, but I’d like to share you mine. A Mala is a beaded necklace, or bracelet, that is used for prayers in various faiths. A rosary is a similar device used in Catholicism. The one I use has 108 beads, which is a significant number to many. Other forms are divisions of half or a quarter of that number. For instance, a mala bracelet may have 27 beads, or one-quarter of 108. There is often a head bead that has a tassel or other design that lets you know when you reach the end.

The method I use for meditation usually ends after yoga practice of opening stretches allowing you to find a better seat, or asana. I may use blocks or a Zafu/Zabutan cushion to sit on. I may light a candle or find a place that is serene. It may be a boat dock or someplace that is private and quiet. I wear enough clothes to keep a comfortable temperature.

I will sit cross-legged in Siddhasana, but you may choose Sukhasana, Lotus, or half Lotus. My spine is erect and my hands are open in front of my knees. I keep my head balanced on my shoulders with eyes closed. I take the Mala in the peace fingers of my right hand. I find the notch next to the head bead. Then I begin my breathing, or pranayama. If I rate the sound of my Ujjiya breath from 1 to 10 with 10 being the loudest, I’ll take maybe 1-3 level for meditation.

Now, I focus on an intention. It may be a specific word or short phrase, or mantra. It could be the word “peace” or “love”. Or it may be a self-affirmation, like “do well today” or “be in the present”. My breath is continuous except at the bottom where there is a natural respiratory pause. In that pause, I silently state my intention to myself. Only, I must have complete focus on that intention in order to advance to the next bead. If my mind wanders, I don’t move forward. If I have time, I’ll go through the entire 108 beads. Other days, it may be half or a quarter of the beads. Whatever I do, I make sure I end on the head bead. I don’t want to have to open my eyes to see how far I’ve gone.

It is such an incredibly satisfying and grounding practice to meditate. My other favorite method if I am in a class, at the end of a weightlifting workout, or if I’m out on a run is to sit in vajrasana (thunderbolt pose). I place my hands in my lap in dhyana mudra. In this method, I’ll focus on my breath with my eyes closed, but focused on the tip of my nose. Then I’ll imagine colors, cool blue air as I inhale, and red hot air as I exhale. It is so refreshing. Try meditation and find the peace you’ve been looking for.

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I Like Big Butts…

Over and over in podcasts and my readings, everything comes back to the butt. Think about the major places where bodies bend: elbow, knee, ankle, wrist, shoulder, hip. The hip is where the largest and strongest bend occurs in the body. The largest muscle in the body is the gluteus maximus and all the associated muscles in the buttal region. At the cellular level, mitochondria is the engine of the cell. It is where energy conversion takes place. Bigger muscles, mean bigger muscle cells, means more mitochondria, means more fat burning, means less fat on your body.

Long story short—

If you want to burn fuel, build more ass muscles!!

I’m not saying that is all you should do. But everything starts with the squat. If you don’t have time for anything else, do squats and lunges. Everything else will fall into place after that.

I’ve heard excerpts from Christmas Abbott’s book “The Badass Body Diet”. She has a very ass-centric view on health and fitness. And people like Cory Gregory, President of MusclePharm, are advocates of Squat Every Day. You can see my previous post on Lunge Every Day for more on that. Think of Olympic weightlifters who squat every day because it is the primary mover in getting weight from the ground to overhead. And when you get old, do you know how you die? You die when you can no longer get up off the toilet (aka squat). It is very unhealthy to not be able to squat anymore.

See dudes walking around with a bony butt with a ghost-like presence in their jeans? Don’t be that dude. And girls, yeah you may get a bigger butt by squatting a lot. But guess what, keep doing it and the fat will melt away leaving you with a toned, leaner-than-ever, bikini butt.

It all starts with the butt! So get after it! Get up and do a few lunges and squats. Right now!

Yoga Variability

I used to teach a morning class on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It was my proving ground for everything creative and unique. I think it is where I developed the most as a teacher. It was a small class of 4 or 5 yogis, all about my age and equal ability. They were game for anything. But they also had the maturity to know what they wanted and you could tell if something wasn’t right. So I had to be meticulous about how I taught that class.

My style has gravitated most closely toward Ashtanga yoga. And if you know the Primary Series, it involves a lot of forward folding. I teach Rocket yoga now, a mish-mash of the primary and higher series. There is a lot of variability in my teaching, but still not what I had from my morning classes.

I just saw a picture on social media of someone doing Wild Thing (Camatkarasana). I thought to myself “how long has it been since I’ve done that?” There are a host of poses that aren’t done in Ashtanga that I don’t do regularly. I need to be open to subbing other classes and taking classes from different teachers. That is the way to keep me in the groove of creativity. And maybe staying involved with crazy yoga challenges on social media. They think up some outrageous things on there.

We always explore and learn new skills. But if we are caught in the ditch, we need to claw our way out and breathe the fresh air. Its what keeps us alive.

The Cost of Education Today

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.

Feb: Lunge Every Day

Before you think I’m crazy, hear me out.

I listened to Cory Gregory for about the 5th time this morning on The Barbell Life podcast. He espouses the Squat Every Day axiom along with several others. I think he went 600 days squatting every day, hard and heavy! Now, Travis Mash, an elite powerlifter, and others follow similar guidelines. The book by Matt Perryman “Squat Every Day” is an excellent reference for these ideas. But many are talking about it.

But before you think this is a fad, hear me out!

A story is told of Milo of Croton who, when he was young, saw a calf in the field and hoisted it onto his shoulders. Every day he would go out and lift the calf. Only over time, the calf grew larger and eventually was a full-grown bull. Regardless of the story’s truth, there are people who actually work hard every day. They swing a 10 pound sledge hammer every day in rain and cold and heat. Nobody says “you need a rest day”. Nobody says “you need to swing your sledge on alternate days”. Roofers roof; miners haul; mothers pick up toddlers; and some kids may walk a mile to school every day. Nobody will tell you to take a break from your duties. Weider and Atlas developed ideas for lifting since the 1950’s and we claim their ideas as fact. When they are not really based on science. But people still take rest days, which is fine, but they aren’t always necessary. Olympic weightlifters lift 6 days a week for hours twice a day. And they only see steady progress. We adapt. We survive.

Perryman, in his book, talks a lot about soreness, fatigue, overtraining, and all these other things that we’ve concocted in our minds to avoid doing the hard work. I hate to sound like some muscle-headed Neanderthal, but most of our excuses are fluff. There is a French speaking man (sorry to forget his name) who says “Burn the questions”. Don’t ask, should I do this today? Am I too sore to workout? Why do I have to do that? Just do it. My softer side will say, keep moving. It rushes synovial fluid to your joints, it lengthens muscles thereby releasing scar tissue, and it moves lymph to usher healing hormones and growth factors to speed the process of healing, recovery, and strength building.

Over the years, I have dedicated a month, usually in July and November, to Squat Every Day. I always gain so much from doing that, not only physically, but mentally as well. Cory not only talks about squats, but he also Lunges Every Day. He started doing lunges for a quarter of a mile. And sometimes, he’d work up to a mile of lunges. If you have ever done lunges, it doesn’t take too many to make your buns so sore that its hard to sit down or stand up. That’s how good they are. Cory and Travis also talk about if you have a hole in your fitness, if you want to get your heart beating without running, if you have back or sciatic pain, then lunges are for you. And if you want to build buns for Spring Break that are shapely and strong, there is nothing better.

So lunges it is. I have an Advanced Rocket Yoga training coming up in the end of February and a CrossFit competition in April. The timing is perfect for Lunge Every Day!