Tag Archives: growth

It may be YOUR practice, but…

…it’s still their class!

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Here was the progression for me:

  1. Starting yoga, I would try out a bunch of classes with the idea that more is better.
  2. Whittle down to a style I’m drawn to…notably Ashtanga yoga.
  3. Feel pressured into taking teacher training, so I do so somewhat reluctantly.
  4. Do teacher training, keep taking classes, and practice teaching for free.
  5. Become a teacher and sign up to teach anywhere and everywhere. Still take classes.
  6. Get burned out. Cut back on classes I teach. No more volunteering. Stop taking classes.

So, eventually I got away from taking classes and mostly did my own personal practice when I could. I wanted to hone my craft and was working on MY style of yoga. I wanted my own unique brand. And, for the most part, I feel I’ve done that. But…

Unless you seek some outside influence, you stop experiencing what others feel. You stop finding intriguing ways to do what you do. You no longer integrate new words, feelings, and postures. And you grow stagnant and close minded as a teacher.

In the past few months, I’ve found a resurgence of energy. I’ve found a (non-yoga) workout routine that doesn’t completely drain my energy. And I’ve started taking yoga classes again. I went back to Yoga Fundamentals last week and thoroughly enjoyed it. The teacher is so knowledgeable and creative. And since she is adjusting such a large class, you stay in poses forever. In Ashtanga, we stay in poses for 5 breaths, which seems kind of long. But in Fundamentals, it seems like you hold for 5 minutes!!

I’ve also taken classes from newer teachers. I love hearing their perspectives and how they flow. Maybe its not always what I prefer for my body. But its THEIR CLASS. Yeah, I may be a rebel and stop early or go into the next pose too early. But I am still experiencing their breath. Honestly, when you take a yoga class, you are experiencing what yoga teachers prefer for their own bodies. So you are actually doing what they do for themselves. We don’t teach something that doesn’t feel good for our bodies. Although, sometimes I include poses that I am terrible at doing. But I usually only teach what I enjoy.

As teachers, it is good to be open-minded. It’s good to express humility and follow others. No matter who they are, we can learn from other teachers. I go to traditional Iyengar or Ashtanga trained teachers. I go to CorePower or YogaFit teachers. In the end, I learn something and challenge my body. I eliminate my own biases and strengths. And I often find inspiration for my own classes. I see what students enjoy and I can emulate that for them in my classes. Its really about them and not me anyway.

Free your Mind and your Heart will Follow!

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The Correct Soreness

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It has taken me this long in my life to finally find the balance. When I was young, and even not so young, I thought I had to hammer my body into perfect shape through brutal means. I was doing the prescribed 100 reps of everything. I was running for 8 hours straight. I pushed the extremes…always. Even when I got into yoga. I always thought if I wasn’t sweaty and spent from Ashtanga or Power yoga, then it wasn’t worth my money to go to class.

It wasn’t until several years ago when I took yoga teacher training that I learned I could let go of my ego. And believe me, I had a huge one. It was all “Go Hard or Go Home” for me. I learned meditation. I learned the balance between Raja and Tamas to find the true center of happiness, Sattva. I found doing very hard, strenuous poses followed by Yin and Restorative poses brought you to bliss, or Samadhi. But this also bled over to CrossFit and my other pursuits. I stopped doing prescribed workouts and instead found my own way.

The key to CrossFit and high-intensity training is to find intensity over time. The time could be 2 minutes or 45 minutes. This was brought to light in the Olympics. I saw 200m sprinters completely exhausted after putting everything they had into their race. They were like top-fuel dragsters who put their bodies to the extreme. But you watch a 5K run and there is the same intensity. The same cup-full of energy is poured out more slowly, but the same effort is given overall.

When I went to the CrossFit Level 1 trainer course, they mentioned how intensity can’t be measured in sweat. One instructor said that in Atlanta with no air-conditioning in the gym, you can break into a full sweat just tying your shoes. Sweat doesn’t equal intensity. In some respects, I believe that soreness also is not a perfect indicator. Soreness is more linked to eccentric movement (lowering a weight or lengthening muscle). However, muscle soreness does indicate that you did something that caused micro-trauma to muscle tissue. So it does measure that aspect of working out pretty well.

The key to soreness for me is the right level of soreness. When I used to run ultra-marathons, it would take a full week for me to walk normally again, let alone run. It may take 2-4 weeks to find full recovery. I just listened to a podcast with Sara Sigmundsdottir, the CrossFit Games 2016 champion. She said it took 45 days to finally feel normal again after the Games. Extreme competition is admirable and its amazing to see what the body can do. But for most of us, that is way too much. As non-professionals, we need to live out our professional lives too.

I still vary the time periods from 2 to 45 minutes for my workouts. But most fall in the 5-10 minute range. I may do 2 to 4 different workouts of this nature in one session. If I’m doing strength or Olympic Weightlifting too, I may do a WOD as my warm-up for lifting. I may also tap into a 2 minute all out effort or Tabata Intervals (8 rounds of 20 second work and 10 secs rest). BTW, search for “Tabata Songs”. They are very useful for Tabatas. When I took high school physical fitness classes, they defined a mild soreness as being isotonic. It means that you have a nice tautness to your muscles as a result of exercise. You don’t have to kill yourself to get this feeling. But I believe you should feel something.

Here is an example from yesterday:
6 rounds for time
6 deadlift jumps with a trap bar with 111 pounds6 burpees
6 lat pulldowns on a cable machine

You don’t have to do 25, 50, or 100 reps of an exercise to feel the effect. To me, that is all about ego. If you want to grow and function in real life, let go of the ego. You’ll be nicely sore, fulfilled, and always ready for more.

Arm Blasters

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If your focus is on building a better body or maybe even in being a body-builder, then think about this. When we are starting out doing the prescribed 3 sets of 8-12 reps of dumbbell curls, you may be starting with 20 or 30 pound dumbbells. And if you have massive guns and that is working for you, then read no further.

If you are willing to experiment and go deeper, then read on.

First, consider a pull-up. Say you are a man between 150-220 pounds. Regardless of how you do a pull-up, whether strict or kipping, you are lowering your full bodyweight to the full extension of your arms. That eccentric contraction is a massive load on your biceps. Sure, it is meant to focus on your lats and other back muscles, but your biceps take a brunt of it as well. Considering your bodyweight, you would have to lift 75-110 pound dumbbells in each hand to equal the eccentric load of a pull-up. What if you can’t do a pull-up? Find a bar or stand on a box that allows your arms to bend slightly as you reach the bar. Then jump to a full chin-over-the-bar pullup, hold, and then slowly lower down. That eccentric load will be good for lats and biceps alike.

Second, for the advanced lifter, nothing makes my arms more sore than repeated hang cleans with a heavy weight. The same is true for hang snatches, but maybe not quite as much. It is a distant side effect of Olympic weightlifting that can build massive guns. My biceps are crying right now, so this is the main reason I’m writing this. I did sets of 3 hang snatches yesterday and I can surely feel it today. Consider that you are lowering a heavy weight, much heavier than you’d ever do with a barbell curl, with a huge eccentric load. The eccentric loading is where most muscle growth occurs. You can do this with any barbell with or without bumper plates since you don’t need to drop the weight on the ground. But bumpers help if you got them so you can do full lifts.

Try these two movements and see if they work for you. And if you don’t grow, you’ll definitely get stronger.