Tag Archives: mental

Everything is Mental

mental

I’ve read that a doctor can place a patient’s leg on their head with a straight leg while under anesthesia. The stretch reflex is not active and the body moves freely. That’s not to say there aren’t real obstacles to muscle length in an AWAKE person. I’m also NOT saying that a person is mentally weak if they can’t touch their toes. But it IS something to think about.

Many top athletes tell you that sport is mostly mental. Sure, you have to have genetics and good training to realize success. But you can’t get over the fact that how we perceive and make things happen is largely mental. I have books about ultramarathons where people run 100 miles or more in stage races. Even when their bodies begin to fail them, they somehow still manage to do amazing things. If you look at programs like the SealFit Kokura program, they put people through physical rigors akin to real Seal BUDs training. But the focus is on building mental toughness. You can be an All-Star running back at the highest level, but still fail these types of training. Why? Its a mental thing.

This comes around to my current diet. In our minds, we think we’ll die if we don’t have 3 meals a day. If we’ve always had meat-potato-veggie or hamburger-fries, then that’s all we know. A professor went on a convenient store food diet of Twinkies, Ho-Ho’s, and other assorted junk food. He carefully monitored his calorie intake to be in deficit and ended up losing 27 pounds in like 3 months. That’s not to say his blood work and health didn’t take its toll. But it proves the point that calories DO matter! You can’t just eat clean and expect to lose weight. Believe me, I’ve tried.

Yesterday, I lived off of 621 kcals. I wouldn’t recommend doing that, but I’ve come to realize it is a mental thing. The biggest culprit in dieting is not necessarily the meals themselves. Its the numerous snacks that we constantly graze on throughout the day. That all adds up. I’ve lost 9 pounds and feel healthy as ever. The Fat Secret app is what has done it for me. I carefully monitor what I eat and how many calories I burn with exercise. I am roughly burning 2,000 calories more than I take in every day. I teach and do yoga, do about 20 mins of cardio, and do either CrossFit or Olympic weightlifting every day. And somehow, I’m not starving and my performance is still going strong.

Sure, I know there are physical things happening that are real. I know my stomach has likely shrunk so it doesn’t take much for me to feel satiated. My energy levels aren’t nearly as dynamic in amplitude (aka. no highs and lows). And I feel so much better. In the first week of my diet, I fasted most of one day and finished my day with half of a Little Caesar’s pepperoni pizza. It was SO yummy, though I wouldn’t make a habit of this. Lately, I keep saying I’ll reward myself with a Culver’s Burger or something like that. But I don’t need it. I’m too excited for my weight loss. Once I hit my goal, I’ll moderate and enjoy those foods again. But I won’t let my weight creep back up again…EVER!

Its mostly a mental thing

 

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On The Edge

merman pose

This morning, I did a hard CrossFit workout. People who dislike CrossFit always point out how form breaks down as you get tired. That seems to be the biggest detraction from this form of high-intensity exercise. Truth is, they always show a video of a beginner who is still in the process of learning proper movement patterns. Yeah, you could say maybe they shouldn’t be doing an Olympic clean & jerk in the first place. But the same could be said for a simple pushup or air squat. All of it is interconnected. What I have found is that mid-way through a workout (WOD), I find a few form glitches just because I’m trying to move faster. But as I get really tired, my form actually improves. A single 135# clean & jerk starts to look like an attempt at 245#. I get set, focus on my pulls, and focus on form. Its the only way you’ll get the weight up. So form degradation is really not happening.

This leads me to yoga. The other day, I taught a Rocket Yoga class. At the end of 5 sun salutation A’s (surya namaskar A) and 4 sun B’s, I had them jump right into a forearm stand (Pincha Mayurasana) for 10 breaths. Usually, when I have yogis do harder inversions and arm balances, I have them rest in child’s pose first. Then they can focus on form and putting strength where it needs it. But we jumped right into it.

This could be done for any technical movement. It might be a difficult yoga pose, a heavy weightlifting movement, walking a slackline, or posing on a Stand Up Paddleboard. It makes you reign in the chaos of your mind, forget the lactic acid in your muscles, and makes you focus hard on the task at hand. So, after my hard CrossFit WOD this morning, instead of laying on the floor and bragging about the sweat angel I made, maybe I should do a handstand or forearm stand. Maybe I should do a set of slow, deep squats. Or balance in Chair Pose on a Bosu Ball. Then, I’m not only training my body, I’m training my mind. It is a true test of focus.

(pictured: me in Merman pose, a man’s version of mermaid. Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)

Mental Plasticity

frog brain

The primary emphasis of my yoga teaching is in Rocket Yoga, which is a free-flowing variation of Ashtanga Yoga. It requires me to stay on my toes a lot because variation is the key for this practice to grow. However, there are still core sequences involved with the practice making the variation not as great. Also, it is always intense and has the same basic tempo.

Where I really find myself being challenged is when I substitute teach for other classes. If I teach Fundamentals/Beginners yoga, I am first making sure I meet needs where they are. I don’t want a student to take their first class with me and have them turned off of yoga for life. I trim back heavily on using Sanskrit, deeper alliterations to describe poses, and a lot less of the spiritual/mental aspects.

Yesterday, I taught Gentle Yoga at a health facility that caters mostly to senior adults. Again, I need to meet people where they are and for their current needs. It is actually my favorite class to teach. I end up talking with students long after class and they ask for specific ways to help them through life. It is so fulfilling as a teacher to actually help people who need it most.

The most difficult class I’ve ever taught is Restorative Yoga. The teacher who I substituted for is full of wisdom in her teaching. It wasn’t until after I became a teacher that I realized the nuances and timing of her teaching. I told myself to slow down and be patient with my timing. And yet, I still ran out of poses with 15 minutes still left in class. I need to add this to at least a weekly practice on my own to make my teaching more effective.

Sometimes, we teach a class that is somewhat unknown. It is open to interpretation. Classes like “hot yoga” or “vinyasa flow” usually means an all-levels class of moderate intensity. Then you go completely by feel and intuition. Even by breath and the look in yogis’ eyes. You want them to be engaged and breathing. Maybe even laughing when appropriate. These are fun classes to teach, but you never know where its going to go.

Overall, with anything we do in life, its best to not always be comfortable. Its nice to be challenged with different circumstances. I enjoy experimenting and trying something that just feels good. I did this yesterday in class. I had them do something that I have never done myself, yet it felt really good. Be creative and enjoy what you do. Whether it is at work, taking a different path while running, or taking time to sit in the park and soak up all the goodness that’s around you.

Be aware, be present, and live life to the full.