Flexibility is about more than Hamstrings
This does not mean that one can never be too flexible. The human form is beautifully balanced between strength and flexibility. If a joint becomes too mobile it can be more easily injured. If it becomes too tight it can be more easily injured. Moreover, as a whole the form exists in balance …. each joint works in combination with the others within a complex balanced system. The same thing can be said of the mind. Someone who believes and follows the last person with whom they spoke is going to get into as much trouble as the person who never changes their position even in the face of absolute proof of their incorrectness.
With holidays this means that it is important to meet changes to the expected with an eye to what matters, and the ability to bend. Will your holiday really be ruined if you do not get the window seat? (I used to really covet that seat, but generally was placed between my two younger brothers in an effort to curb battles).
Flexibility also balances habit. Habit is a powerful thing. One of the most frustrating things for me as a teacher is going to a class with someone who does movements almost like mine with small differences. My body wants to go into the same groove it is used to. But to move out of the comfortable groove requires seeing where the groove takes you and that requires svadhyaya.
Become the Self that Observes without Judgement
I know people who come to the mat as though they are on one side of a sparring mat and their legs (somehow as a separate entity) are on the other and they are doing battle. I think it can be helpful, even before practicing ahimsa to practice observation.
The same is true in life. Non judging observation is one of the best tools to begin to work on habit. Like keeping a food diary lets us see exactly how we eat. (Assuming we log everything in, which is hard). So just as you notice as you step on the mat if you are lifting your shoulders again, or leaning on one leg, and make small changes, it can help to notice a pattern of action or reaction with events and people. A child whines, you yell. Perhaps one could offer a sandwich. Or a game of fish. (Actually I found that I would be halfway through saying I was taking a toy away and realized I was reacting angrily where it was just making things worse and would add I would take it for 7 million years. We all knew it was a joke and tended to decrease the tension. At least when the kids were six or so.)
Of course, what do you do with what you observe? Is it “Wow, I am weak in my shoulders, I am going into headstand RIGHT NOW!”
Headstand is not for Everyone or Every class and Hard Postures need Preparation
Not every pose in yoga is about bending. Some are about grounding. Some are about strength. One things you try to do in a yoga practice is decide what postures you need. And you cannot write a list one day and that is it for every day for the rest of your life. Figuring out when and in what order is as important as what. Some people need to practice forward bends, and some need to practice plank. And the same person may need different things different days. Also, you cannot tackle a posture like eka pada koundiyanasana (look it up if you don't know it) the first time you come to the mat.
There are times where you do need to stand firm. On the other hand if you never met an issue where you do not believe you are absolutely right and anyone who disagrees with you is an idiot you need to practice flexibility (and humility). But if you give in on everything, if you never see yourself as capable and strong that is just as much as a problem. The important thing is to pick your battles. Fight for the ones that really matter. And have the patience to wait till the time is right. Thanksgiving might not be the best time of year to go on a fast. That does not mean you cannot moderate your pleasures (remember the black and white thing? Rather than “I am going to eat every pie I see until I am completely stuffed for the next month” You might try “I am going to eat and enjoy some homemade treats during the season.... one a day, but not eat the prepackaged store made junk that is full of trans fat, food coloring, and chemicals.) It might also be not the best time to have a conversation about your child's grades in French. Such conversations do well when there is lower stress level, and less distractions. I believe most people can master headstand. Most. But not everyone will want to, and that needs to be honored. And advanced difficult postures need to be approached with caution and preparation.
Despite what the Ancient Texts Say You are Probably not going to cure every Disease with Just Yoga and it is a good idea to take advantage of Modern Medicine
This is a serious one. Ever since I was old enough to read fashion magazines I have seen articles suggesting bubble baths and candles and alone time as a cure for a stressful day. I agree with the principle, though I do not like bubble baths (massage therapy on the other hand...). However, if stress, and worry moves into anxiety or depression.... if you are dealing with more than the normal variation in mood all humans have, … if things seem unbearable or unyielding, … if life seems like walking through oatmeal.... talk to someone: your physician, a school health counsellor, your spiritual leader, or contact the NAMI help line:
If you do not Step on the Mat you will not have a Practice
It can seem easier sometimes to sit difficult things out. The age of the internet makes it easy to avoid messy human interaction. But engagement is key to living. Do remember the balance principle: If you are attending events like attending to an 150 item to do list it is like doing yoga at 140 beats per minute. None of the poses are going to have a chance to do much, and you are likely to end up injured. Balance rest and play. Choose events and people you believe will enrich your spirit and give you joy. Do not bring what is harmful to the body or mind or spirit to your mat. But turn your face to the sunlight, and open your heart to possibility. Remember what Mother Theresa said, “The most terrible poverty is loneliness....”
Remember in School when they Asked “For what are You Thankful?”
Exercise, especially aerobic exercise can be a really important part of maintaining health and wellness of body, mind, and spirit. The yoga mat is a place at its best for that journey toward peace and joy, health and wellness.
I would say, for me as a teacher, the greatest honor over the years has been to welcome students whose bodies or spirits are not perfectly fit and flexible and strong, but who seek those things. Years ago I was working as a trainer at a small gym, and a woman walked up the stairs into the club: middle aged, a little plump, a bit out of shape, never having been in a gym before. Twenty years almost later I still remember her. What courage it took to walk into a place so foreign to her, to risk opening herself to possible criticism and judgement. (She actually chose well. This place was welcoming to the non fit). Her trust and the trust of others like her have been among the greatest gifts I have been given.
"I Hope You Dance"
I hope you never lose your sense of wonder,
You get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger,
May you never take one single breath for granted,
GOD forbid love ever leave you empty handed,
I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean,
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens,
Promise me that you'll give faith a fighting chance,
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance.
I hope you dance....I hope you dance.
I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance,
Never settle for the path of least resistance
Livin' might mean takin' chances but they're worth takin',
Lovin' might be a mistake but it's worth makin',
Don't let some hell bent heart leave you bitter,
When you come close to sellin' out reconsider,
Give the heavens above more than just a passing glance,
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance.
I hope you dance....I hope you dance.
I hope you dance....I hope you dance.
(Time is a wheel in constant motion always rolling us along,
Tell me who wants to look back on their years and wonder where those years have gone.)
I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean,
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens,
Promise me that you'll give faith a fighting chance,
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance.
Dance....I hope you dance.
I hope you dance....I hope you dance.
I hope you dance....I hope you dance..
Lee Ann Womack “I Hope You Dance”
One way to begin strength training is to buy a set of dumbbells and start moving them around. Over time, bit by bit, we come to understand that we can get better benefits by being more precise: we start organizing our lifting into sets and reps, measuring the amount of weight lifted, planning out which days to train, and so on. What a good trainer understands though, is that there is a step missing here. Like a student who teaches themselves piano and then goes to a teacher only to struggle with hand position ( I can remember at 19 struggling with using the correct fingering. What I had taught myself worked, but made certain reaches almost impossible to get past.). Or like building a lego tower without attention to the structure of the base. It is fine up to a point, but get to a certain height and the whole thing falls. With legos you can pick it up and build again rather easily (with a few tears depending on your age), and is a good way to learn proper building technique and patience and resilience. But with an actual building, as with your actual body, the stakes are bigger.
Most of todays trainers will not start 'pumping you up' until they address the base. For the body the base is where your body is in terms of alignment. We look to musculoskeletal alignment at rest, and then with movement... from the core through the whole kinetic chain (movement from one joint through others). Before you run, how do you stand? Before you lift a 10 pound dumbbell is the shoulder misaligned? A fencer may have muscles overdeveloped on their weapon side, a parent who holds a 12 pound baby on their hip may have tight muscles on one side. A person with scoliosis, or one leg longer than the other will have muscles that are either tight or lengthened. It is important to understand both what the human form and human movement looks like in theory, and what it looks like in your own form. Then it is important to understand the difference between those overuses that can be balanced, and those that must be worked around (Remember the prayer of St. Francis?)
At its best this understanding needs to go deeper than what the muscles and bones are doing. Even if your goal is to strengthen,or to sculpt the muscles, the actions of those skeletal muscles and bones will affect the heart, the other internal organs, the fascial web.
So what does yoga offer to strength training?
A long time ago when I was actively doing personal training I had a client come to me who worked in economic development in underdeveloped countries. She was going to be traveling to a place where she would have a small room, where outside running, or even walking without an escort was dangerous, where available equipment was non existent, and the length and difficulty of that travel made carrying weights a real challenge. Even access to clean water was an issue. I offered her a yoga practice, which would help with keeping her flexibility, her stress reduction, her overall health, as well as her strength.
In strength training we distinguish between intrinsic and extrinsic training. Extrinsic training is about lifting, moving, or carrying weights: a dumbbell, a barbell, a child, or a couch. Intrinsic training is about moving one's own body against gravity: a push-up, a pull- up, getting out of a chair to make a sandwich. There is research available on the benefits of each. My sense is that unless you are training for a specific end (a body building competition, a cycling competition, and so on) it is less important to choose training that gives the best result within micorunits, but to do things that you enjoy, that give results, that minimize injury, and that vary, because varying the load helps minimize injury. So I think it is good to do some of both. For my client in that month she was traveling she could use the body weight exercises of the vinyasa yoga routine, and do whatever activities of daily living that were required of her, and then return to the weight room when she got home.
I can remember a real divide between the yoga people and the strength trainers years ago. I would say I see less of it now, but that may be because I walk more in the yoga world these days. I can remember body builders rejecting stretching or yoga as likely to undo the sculpted bulky muscles they had worked to create. I also remember vividly women particularly coming into the gym for the first time and being quite adamant that they only wanted to do cardio as if they did weights they thought they would get bulky. Leaving aside the competitive athlete, whose goals are specific and require a specific program of training, we need to remember that everything we do affects everything we are. The muscles you build with strength training are the muscles that work to burn calories during cardio. Strength training, cardiovascular training, flexibility training, balance training: these all focus on a different part of the human organism, but the systems they target exist in an interdependent web. Just as if you kill off the bees the plants will have problems, and if you kill off the plants the plant eaters like mice will have problems, and if you kill off the mice the hawks will have problems, and up the chain.
Yoga is associated with flexibility, but once you begin to practice you understand that while it enhances flexibility it also enhances other things: balance, focus, breath control, stress management, mind body coordination, and, yes, strength.
I think what yoga has to offer for strength training comes in a few areas. First goes back to the idea of creating alignment and balance of muscles before starting to strengthen any one area. Yoga is a system that is based on the idea of finding imbalance and creating balance so as to decrease compensation of tight or week muscles, and thereby allowing proper range of motion within particular muscles when training that muscle.
Yoga promotes (through dharana and pratayahara) kinesthetic focus that helps avoid chronic or acute injury. You move into positions slowly and with mind focused on what you are doing and what you feel. You are encouraged to back off if something feels wrong. I always tell my students that pain is their friend because it warns them where not to walk.
Yoga promotes balance between joint stability and joint mobility. Too much flexibility leads to joint instability. Too much stability decreases the ability to attend to activities of daily living, and decreases appropriate range of motion in individual joints. Yoga done improperly will lead to injury, like anything else. Yoga done properly can cause an injury, like any other body system, but is much less likely to as long as we adhere to the principles. I have had one or two injuries, but in each case it was not out of the yoga, but other aspects of my training. I have some ligamental damage from high impact aerobics with a poorly trained instructor. I had a shoulder injury from carrying heavy groceries after attending 2 10 hour days of a personal training convention almost 20 years ago. Clearly I was not listening to how fatigued I was. But after decades of yoga I still find the yoga helps me to work around where I have problems, rather than creating them: as long as I do not try to do ninja yoga, or forget to be present in my practice.
Yoga teaches us to decrease momentum, and thereby to increase control of our movements. This helps us keep the work within the range of motion and the particular muscles we are targeting.
Through the use of mulha bandha and uddiyana bandha yoga teaches us to work from the center (physically in this case, philosophical or spiritual centering is part of it, but not what I am talking about here) learning to engage not just the rectus abdominus, but all of the structures of the core.
And in its practice of pranayama yoga promotes the avoidance of breath holding, that in weight lifting is associated with transient increase of blood pressure. Breath work in yoga is good for many things, but very transferable to weight training in its avoidance of the valsava maneuver.
I thought about ending by recommending a few strength building postures, but I am hesitant to do so. I fear it would be like giving a new person entering the weight room 2 ten pound dumbbells and instructions on doing bicep curls. Really good in themselves, but if done repeatedly in the absence of a balanced program not enough, and likely to create imbalance, rather than balanced results. I hope if you do yoga you will consider trying a few of the strengthening postures. I hope if you do a lot of power yoga, you will consider trying some alignment and breath focused classes as well. I hope if you have injuries you will seek out someone with training in restorative yoga, as well as a good physical therapist. I hope if you are in my classes you will talk to me about what you feel and what you want and what you need in your class. I hope if you do not do yoga you will maybe give it a try. And I hope if you are going to give it a try you seek out someone who walks the middle path..... with experience and training.....who looks for more than the quick burn, and the most extreme moves. Most of all I wish you well wherever the path takes you.
Head, heart, and hands
This past week has been really busy. Actually things have seemed rather busy for a while now. It is at the point that the piles of 'to be done when I get the chance' on my desk have dates at the bottom of the pile that would be way past due if they were cartons of milk. Some of it if it were packaged cheese. At least I am not at the dried bean stage.
I started to think last night as I was setting the alarm and preparing for bed about what the options were for a strategy to reduce the problem going forward. First I thought, “I am really tired, but maybe getting up earlier will give me time when I am fresh”, unfortunately past experience has taught me that though I do get up earlier if I have, say, a 5 am class to teach, if the work is not actually scheduled in I am more likely to hit snooze. It is kind of like when one says to oneself “Starting tomorrow I will begin a healthy eating plan (i.e. a diet, though that word is out of fashion) and then one gets up groggily and pours coffee and grabs a slice of white bread (not to say a pop tart) and then says “oops, well, I'll have to start tomorrow”, and eats everything in sight because, well, starting tomorrow one will not be eating any of it. That is one of the problems with the whole all or nothing plan. Occasionally it works, often it collapses and makes things worse. And trying to begin anything first thing in the morning is, I think, usually a bit hard anyway. So I decided, yes, occasionally getting up earlier is a good idea, but I should let it be a naturally occurring thing, if I can manage a few extra minutes in the morning I will use it to get a healthier breakfast into everyone.
Then, of course, the natural thought is, if I need more time, and it is hard to get moving in the morning, how about if I stay up later? Again, unfortunately, my self knowledge was a bit problematic. Most of the time in the evening I am very tired and find focus hard. When I was in college I often stayed up late reading Thomas Mann and Fyodor Dostoevsky (two of my favorite authors of the time), but in my fifties my clock has shifted. Folding laundry; not a problem. Doing the accounts, or writing.... well, I tend to sit looking at the screen, maybe checking facebook, or getting distracted by a story someone posted, and by the time I have to admit it is a question of diminishing returns it is pretty late, and if I had just gone to bed earlier I might have made option one happen. The other general problem with staying up late is I have seen some reports (sorry I do not have the citation) that one tends to eat more calories if one stays up late. That was certainly true when I was in college. I was particularly fond of ice cream and steamed broccoli (not at the same time). So, again, I think I am best leaving this as an open possibility for nights I do not have to be up super early the next day, and/or there is something particular needing to be finished on a tight deadline.
If, therefore, (as the logicians say) I cannot easily add to the total available minutes for 'doing things', can I be more efficient with the minutes I have? This is certainly a possibility. It takes a little discipline and self knowledge, but can be tackled in easy chunks. If I need to watch a training video it is easy enough to schedule it for a big pile of laundry to fold. If I have errands it is easy enough to map them out and do them on one day, with a list organized in a geographic line out of town and back in. If I have ink cartridges to take to the office store, and batteries to take to town recycling, it is easy to store them in the car for when I drive by. A lot of this can be done with an online to do list. Actually, I already do a lot of this, but a review of where I am with everything might lead to some efficiency. Of course, the mistake here is to delete all down time. If I remember correctly in the children's book “A Secret Garden” the older boy's mother said 'the two worst things for children are to always have their own way, or to never have it' (do not remember the whole quote), but down time is like that. Take none and you will eventually loose all of your energy and productivity, take too much, and it will be the same (you know I am going to say it... we are back to Aristotle)
Another option is to decrease the minutes of required work. There are a few methods for this. First I could outsource. This works best if you do the math ….. can you hire someone who will do a much better job, and/or will charge less than you would be able to make in the same amount of time so you do not have to work more hours to pay for the work? I no longer steam clean the rugs. It is an annual job (we have asthma and allergies in the house, so this is a priority), so the cost is not incurred too often, but for me to do it takes significantly more work than the wonderful gentleman I have found who comes in with his backpack. I take shirts to the laundry because they do a better, quicker job pressing than I do. I do not hire a housecleaner anymore though, because the cost is high for a recurring expense. Right now I really want someone to repair my lawn mower, as I have been struggling for hours with it. The mowing I do not mind, but repair takes too much time for me, as I am not experienced or naturally gifted with this. A lot of us do this with food.... we cook less from scratch and buy more premade. This is something that has to be really well planned. I do not see most families baking bread weekly, or soaking beans overnight several times a week, and making sofrito and hummus, or pickling their own vegetables, and so on. All of these things are good to do, but we need to pick and choose.... and if we buy premade read the labels very carefully. It can be done, but the cost to health of buying pre packaged junk may outweigh any extra minutes we get in any case.
Another way to decrease the required work is to rewrite that to do list. Shift the standards on how much or how often, or how thoroughly something needs to be done: Wash bed linens every week? Or every second or third week? Move the furniture when you run the swifter? Write the blog every week?.....
Actually, the blog is kind of like dessert for me. Well, actually all of my teaching, of which writing is a part. I am very fortunate to have work that I truly love. I would be on the mat twice the number of hours I am now, but I have to balance it with the daily work of life, the needs of my family and household. I have to remember that I left full time teaching to practice the karma yoga of raising a family, and that job is not done yet. It is balancing all these threads, these competing demands on our time that takes a little strategy. And some logical thinking. One of the best classes I took in college (and one of the ones that at the time gave me the greatest despair) was symbolic logic. Though yoga teaches us to open our hearts and to connect the heart and mind if we ONLY practice bhakti (heart opening) we do a disservice to our mind. Jnana balances bhakti. Logic and the ability to organize conceptually are tools as important to develop as emotional resilience or strong muscles.
Someone recently asked a question about the history and practice of traditional yoga, and I suggested reading up on the 1893 world parliament of religion. I thought it might be helpful to explain why this event matters for people who do yoga.
In 1893 there was a world fair. As happens (still today as it did then) such a gathering meant lots of people, and lots of smaller meetings grew out of that meeting. One was the first formal meeting of delegates representing various major religions, both eastern and western. The person who represented India (and Hinduism, and also yoga.... not the standing on the head variety, but the philosophical variety) was Swami Vivekananda. As a matter of fact his opening speech was so powerful that he became the highlights of the meeting. He went on to travel and give talks, and found Vedanta societies, and so on through the country. He was not the first person to bring yoga to the west, but he was seminal as someone who was talked about, listened to, and someone who opened doors to many others to bring these ideas to a wider audience. Although he personally represented Hinduism more than yoga, and meditation and spiritual quest more than posture and physical practice, his status and presence helped create interest in other aspects of eastern thought and practice, including yoga.
If one spends one's whole life in a small town, never traveling, never meeting people who think, or live, or eat differently than oneself, it is harder to find the commonality with, or to learn from the differences of others. As long travel became easier the movement of people, and with them culture and philosophy, also became easier. Today in Rhode Island I can make Japanese Mochi in my own kitchen, I can listen to Sanskrit chanting on my ipod, and I can turn on the computer and see news from all over the globe. While I have no interest in accepting everything from everywhere as inherently good because it is different, I also do not reject it because it is different, and it enhances my life. I am grateful every time I eat a piece of chocolate. I am grateful to Vivekananda and others of that time because without them and those who listened to and learned from them I would not be doing down dog on my mat today.
These connections are interesting, in the richness of possibility they give us. In the words of Swami Satchidananda (and Ghandi) “Truth is one, paths are many”. The shifting history that brought to the west yoga gave us a tool to look at things a bit differently, but not really a whole new 'truth'.
Before the world parliament of religions at the world fair was the founding of the Theosophical Society in 1875. At least one of the founders was, in my opinion, likely a charlatan of great proportions (Blavatsky), but the ideas of the society were interesting: universal brotherhood, the study of faith and thought from around the world, and investigation of the powers within humans for improvement. Although the original society broke into factions later, theosophical societies still exist today. One of the original ideas was that we needed to prepare for a great world teacher (or guru). In 1909 the leaders of the Theosophical society decided they had done just that in the rather sickly quiet adolescent figure of Jiddu Krishnamurti. Coming upon the boy one of the leaders decides he has an amazing aura, and proceed to talk his family into allowing them to take over his upbringing.
He was embraced by the society and groomed to be their great leader. It was a little like the 'My Fair Lady' project. He was given education, a life without want, and the opportunity to travel and speak before followers. He was also given the idea that he was to have a special role as leader and teacher. But when the moment came, and at a large meeting where he was supposed to take on this role, instead he made a speech in which he dissolved the society, (though many of the followers did not accept that), and refused the role of 'guru'. This was his “Truth is a pathless land” speech, in which he said “....the moment you follow someone you cease to follow Truth”, and ecouraged people to be their own leaders. Whatever the rest of the backstory of Krishnamurti may be (and the whole story is complex, as are all human stories) we can learn something it.
How many of us, offered the opportunity to stroke our own vanity.... to be adored, to have wealth and status, would choose to follow our own truth instead? I do not entirely agree with him. I think the problem with truth is that it is not pathless, but marked with so many footprints it is hard to follow. I think it is useful to follow teachers, just to make your own choice of how far, and where to stop, and look for other guidance. In other words, the teacher points the way, but we each choose the path. But the simple beauty of holding truth more vital than ego has always seemed powerful to me.
There have been, and continue to be, in yoga (and in any activity that has a power dynamic) the temptation to take advantage, to exploit. It is true in fitness as in spiritual endeavor. The difference is that people follow the beautiful body, rather than the beautiful words. There is the temptation to seek gratification through adulation, rather than within oneself. There is also the temptation to seek ego gratification not through one's own work and thought, but by attaching oneself to someone with charisma, or power. Many of the greatest teachers have succumbed to this. Swami Vivekananda himself said “Of one hundred persons who take up the spiritual life, eighty turn out to be charlatans, fifteen insane, and only five, maybe, get a glimpse of the truth. Therefore, beware.”. That seems a little harsh to me, but it is true we need to choose our teachers carefully, honor ourselves and our paths, find our strength within, and forge community with those others who see and honor us in our simple humanity, rather than for what they want to see, or want from us, wherever, and from whatever culture they come.
One of the things that brings people to gyms, exercise studios, bike paths, and personal trainers is the desire to reach or maintain healthy body weight. Overweight at a level that has health consequences is common. Worry about weight pervades our culture. It would be hard to get through a day without seeing at least one magazine cover about weight loss, or hear at least one ad about it. For many thinking about their weight is as integral to their day as brushing their teeth. But because weight is such a difficult thing to control (for all sorts of evolutionary, biological, and societal reasons) there is an awful lot of input and advice on how to make it happen. I am not qualified to give a plan for weight loss. But I would like to suggest a few things I think are helpful in terms of deciding where to go to get help, guidance, and information when one is ready to take on the process.
I think it is important to decide how much information and or help you want, and what kind of help you need.
Mutual support within one's circle is the base of the pyramid: Friends going grocery shopping together, supporting each other in trying to avoid buying junk food, friends swapping recipes on Facebook, friends going to the gym together. Maybe one has worked out for years, and the other just starting. This kind of relationship can be really helpful. It is the base of the journey to behavior change. If one spends time with friends who smoke, or drink and drive, or live on twinkies and chips, it is harder to avoid those things oneself. Conversely, finding walking buddies, and recipe buddies, and yoga buddies, and dog walking buddies, and buddies just to talk with when the white noise of the day gets to be too much, make a world of difference.
However, remember that your friend has been in the gym working on their own body. Perhaps they are taller. Well, the type of equipment they have used will reflect their body type. They might love a piece of equipment that might put pressure on a shoulder tendon for you. And if your family has a history of anemia, or gluten intolerance, and your friend does not, some of their diet might not work for you. So although mutuality is the base it needs to be strengthened with knowledge.
It is important to keep up with current science, though sometimes difficult with the sheer number of published studies, and opinion pieces, and most especially people with a motive to sell something masking advertising as science. Most of us can remember a study coming out and people rushing to take something, or avoid something, and then backtracking when another study comes out saying the opposite. That some science is not well performed does not imply that science does not work, but that the particular study was amiss. It is better not to restock your kitchen until the result has been replicated in other studies. Given that it is hard to read and understand technical articles if you are not in that field, and given that plenty of people will try to make things appear a certain way to get you to buy their products (like the word “natural” on food labels that is not regulated, and thus has no real meaning), having someone to help get to the truth is helpful.
You may have a friend who is really knowledgeable, but it can be extremely helpful to go to a professional for some guidance. But what sort of professional? After all, if you went to your chiropractor and they cheerfully told you you needed achilles tendon surgery, and they had just taken a two week online training in foot surgery, and would be glad to take care of it for you..... well, I think most of us would choose to find a trained foot surgeon. And that friend in the gym is great, but having a session with a certified athletic or 'personal' trainer, will provide you with someone who learned how exercise affects people with lots of health histories and goals. Professional training in a field is important, and respecting the scope of practice within that field also matters. And remember: if you go to someone for a diet or fitness plan that includes expensive supplements that the person will sell you directly you at least need to ask whether the money they make from selling these products drives their interest in selling them.
There will be many types of professionals that will be interested in helping you with food choices. Your physician is a good place to start. They can provide baseline testing, such as blood work, and give you a go ahead for exercise or diet, and often provide referrals. Most physicians though do not have the time or training to do meticulous diet plans. Where you go from there, I think, can vary.
One option is to find someone to provide support, general information on fitness or nutrition, suggestions for further reading, and a network of referrals in other fields. One professional who can help you here is a personal trainer. If they have a nationally recognized certification and/or a degree in fitness they will have training in the connection between food intake and exercise and metabolism, and the mechanics of personal change and habit, and so on. Quite a number of trainers do additional training and certifications on diet and weight loss. This can be helpful. A life coach can also be helpful, either as a source of good recommendations or referrals, (though keep in mind life coach is a broad category, and is not always well regulated. Personal charisma can be very motivating, but make sure they also have knowledge. Just remember that there is a difference between a weight management certificate, which may only take a couple of weeks (or days) to get, and a certified nutritionist or dietitian. There are dozens of weight loss certifications. Some are very thorough, and some are worth maybe the paper on which they are printed.
As far as yoga and weight loss goes, I am inclined to agree with William Broad's contention that research does not show that even the very athletic forms of yoga have a strong calorie burning effect. (and that is the basic, after all. Weight gain comes down to: if more comes in than is spent it gets stored. There is a lot about this that is complex, but the basic principle is simple). However, yoga broadly speaking in promoting self acceptance, self control, self regulation, stress reduction, and mind body connection helps forge inner mechanisms that help promote healthier eating along with other healthy lifestyle choices. A great number of yogis (not just people who do some yoga, but people who live yoga) are vegetarian. And that is associated with physical health also.
Mental health is definitely a part of weight loss strategy. Stress, anxiety, depression,.... things like this can affect one's food intake greatly. Yoga, meditation, tai chi, and things like that are great, but just as you may do well with a personal trainer with a certificate in lifestyle management giving general guidance, or you may want a dietitian giving specific diet plans, you may find it extraordinarily helpful to hook into a support group, or work with a therapist.
If what you want is actual meal plans, and analysis of nutritional intake then you want a nutritionist, or a dietitian. And how do you find one? Physical therapists, personal trainers, physicians: lots of people with whom you may already have ties of trust within the allied health field will know of people they can recommend.
So where does this leave us?
Create a base of friends for walking, shopping, cooking, and other forms of mutual support. Join a group if that works for you. Read widely, with particular attention to current research, but don't base your actions on any one study or book. Have a physical if you have not done so in some time. Start with one professional you trust and get some referrals and recommendations. See a trainer, if not regularly, at least once to start you on an exercise program based on your needs and goals. (exercise and attention to food are both important in this process). See a nutritionist, if not regularly, at least once to give you a good base of knowledge. Include some mind body work in your daily routine. Use a life coach if it appeals to you. Seeing a massage therapist is wonderful. If there are interpersonal, or emotional issues affecting you work with a therapist. Avoid quick fixes, promises of magical transformations without any work on your part, especially if they involve you buying lots of stuff.
And finally, ask yourself, “Am I really ready to do this?” Because you being present in this endeavor is the final, absolutely vital part of the journey.
Yesterday while watching one of my favorite news shows and folding laundry I saw an ad that really struck me. It showed a person with big holes through her body, and then after making use of the product they wanted to sell her the holes were filled in and she was happy and healthy. That is it in a nutshell isn't it? All of us have holes: insecurities and emotional wounds.... some on the surface, some buried deep, some scarred over but still likely to open, and some healed. A lot of advertising involves being very good at finding and exploiting those holes, or even punching out new ones where they did not exist before. If someone wants to sell me hair dye it will be a lot more productive to remind me that I am in my 50s and older people are worth less, less desirable. If a person is already aware that society tells them over and over just that lesson such an ad will underscore that feeling of inadaquecy …. making it so much more likely that they will feel the pull to go buy the product to be like the young looking happy person in the ad. It is really hard to meet that kind of pull with the response: yes I am 50, no I do not mind grey hair, I am valuable as I am, maybe I will color my hair sometime, but it will be because I like to explore style, and not because I am hiding who I am, or devaluing it, or runin from the natural process of aging. And anyway, I could take that money and give it to the animal shelter to help feed abandoned animals, or give it to the Village Bank program to help some poor woman in Guatamala who has so little that if she gets pregnant her teeth start to fall out because her nutritional status is so poor, and I maybe developing my kindness is going to do more for my 'attractiveness' than putting dye on my hair.
Well, that is a bit of a rant. I do not really object deeply to hair dye or makeup, or fashion. I actually think those sort of things can look really cool. I do object to being asked to feel insecure or less, and that if I give someone money for something I will then be good.
This kind of marketing can exist with anything. People who work in fitness or health sometimes cross the line. Like the yoga teacher who promises if you follow their and only their program you will be not only strong and beautiful, but spiritually enlightened. Or the trainer who promises the 'perfect' body. The thing is exercise, and yoga, are really good for one. They do bring real health and happiness benefits. But is it ok to get someone to buy a class, or membership, or training by poking open one of those wounds. Sometimes the motivation is not just 'I have to keep up my sales numbers for new members this week', but genuinely 'If I can get this person who can barely climb stairs to come in she will really have so much new joy in herself”. I think about this sometimes. I really believe in and have experienced the benefits of this work. I love to share it, but I want to do so in a way that is respectful, and caring. In a perfect world I would not need to sell what I do, but could just share it. Well, maybe. That is a whole different conversation and conundrum.
The other problem is from the point of view of the consumer/student/client. If I go to wash the dishes and while I am filling the sink I do not put in the stopper the sink will never fill. If the reason one eats the tub of ice cream has to do with hunger that is not in the stomach, it will never be enough. And that is true about what we eat, or practice, or chant. We need to find and plug the leaks before we can replenish ourselves.
It seems to me the first step is to find where the holes are, to recognize one's own frailties and wounds, the second step is to work on healing them, and the third is to allow your focus to move away from them. (On my Facebook page I have the quote from the Buddha “Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” There are plenty of venues for this work. Some people use therapy, or group therapy. Some use support groups. Some have a good friend with whom one can have long, deep, conversations in a place of trust and love. Some come to the yoga mat. Some run. Running can be running to or running away, but of course ANY of these places can be a place to which we bring the role we are playing rather than the self we are. There are plenty of people in yoga who play a role of very loving connected self, without being willing to look into their own eyes. And this journey takes a long time. Building trust with the self, and with a mentor/teacher/physician is not an overnight journey.
And there is another turn of the screw. For if the journey only is about knowing, caring about, and acting to improve the self it will not be enough. Being completely immersed in one's own physique, or one's own spiritual journey can be narcissistic and empty. Physical health and strength and spiritual health and strength need to radiate out and actually see and care about others. We cannot allow the social part of our being to atrophy at the expense of the other parts.
I am a fitness professional. More than that I am a teacher of yoga. People pay me to teach them exercise and yoga. I believe I am pretty good at what I do. And I believe in its efficacy. But heaven knows I cannot magically make anyone whole or healed, or 'perfect'. I have plenty of holes myself, and my own journey. What I try to offer is to promote an atmosphere where there is no judgement, but kindness. Where our essential interconnectedness is cherished. Where each person can feel safe to work toward openness, health, strength, or whatever they need. I speak my mantra to close most of my classes: I seek to understand, to care, and to act. And always I hope we can try to begin this work from the heart.
“Asking yourself Questions Instead of Questioning Oneself is being a Masterful Student and creating powerful Transformation. Inspiring Others to Ask Themselves Questions Rather Than Qeuesioning Themselves, is being a Masterful Teacher and Facilitating Powerful Transformation.”
Pair O' Dime Shift 7; Sword, Shield, or a Hug?
When I was a child one of the most wonderful moments of the year was when peaches arrived in the store. I can remember the smell.... and peeling one where the peel slipped off the ripe flesh almost in one fluid movement.... and biting into it and feeling the juice run over my chin. I also remember sitting on the porch and listening to the crack of a watermelon as my dad stuck a knife in it and cut it apart. The thing is, you waited for peaches to be in season, or strawberries, or asperagus, and there was such a huge joy in getting a box of them fresh. It was so much better than the frozen, and even though we had to make a small amount go between a rather large family, they were so good, and I think the fact that you had to wait for the growing season made them taste even better.
Today of course, you can get almost anything almost anytime. I mean, pomegranates were strange rare things you opened like Howard Carter opening the tomb of Tutankhamun. Now you get pomegranites all year long, or if you don't want to open it yourself, you can get a plastic container (to throw away) with the seeds already cleaned and ready. Or you can get seltzer flavored with pomegranite, or candy with (sometimes artificial) pomegranite flavor.
Part of this is that fewer people are taking on the full time management of the household, and it is hard to work full time and cook everything from scratch. I mean, I have tried to bake bread weekly, and sometimes managed for 3 weeks.... But in addition to the pressures of how we live, there is the fact that processed packaged food creates big profits. And for packaged food to be able to be shipped on the global level, and make maximum profit it has to have stabilizers and additives. And cheerful thin people in ads, whose lives look so together, with their shiny kitchens tell us how we 'deserve' whatever they want to sell us. I mean, we had fruit candy when I was a child... it was called jelly candy. Now someone decided to call jellied candy 'fruit snacks', stick in some vitamins, and now people give their kids candy in place of actual fruit. I have bought them in the past. I have kids, and of course they loved them. Few kids do not love candy.
I think for most people making a big sudden change to growing your own vegetables, doing a weekly baking, and putting up your own jelly from your own plants (yes I did that, I even tried making cheese once) is a bit much. It is kind of like someone deciding they want to get fit and declaring one morning they will spend an hour in the gym every day, walk to work, and eat 1000 calories a day. It is very heady to stand on a hill watching the sun rise and state “today I will remake myself to what I want and know I can be”. But you know, first of all, eating too little is not healthy, loosing too much weight too fast is likely to lead to yoyoing, and trying to look like Arnold in a week is a good way to pull a muscle, or loose your motivation. Sometimes one does have a transformational moment. My friend Tom did. His commitment to fitness and healthy eating is matched by his spiritual and emotional quest to understand and connect to his world. He lost a ton of weight and has kept it off. He just certified as a trainer, and I suspect will be awesome. But.... I think there is no reason no have to wait to make some small steps until we are ready for a big transformation.
What are some small steps to try? Actually read labels when you shop. I LOVE potato chips, but I make myself read the label when I am thinking of getting some, and most of the time I just cannot put them in the cart when I think about the fact that that stuff is going into me, to BECOME me.
Take five minutes a day to meditate. It does not have to be a lighting candles, burning incense, chanting experience. It can just be shutting your eyes and counting your breath: in for 3 or 5, out for 4 or 6, feeling the rise and fall of the ribs.
Walk. Even just through your home if you cannot go outside. I used to walk blocks and blocks when I was an undergraduate. I got a car when I was 40 and walked less and less for the next 10 years. Lately I am trying to walk more.... and my dog is very happy for that.
Every once in a while, when you can, try to cook something from scratch.... something as simple as oatmeal cookies, or an omelette. Or bread. Bread takes some time, but reading the labels on the supermarket bread spurs me on as often as I can to do it. And if you have a 10 year old let them knead. It develops arm strength and makes a great alternative to wrestling with their siblings. Or make soup. Soup is the ultimate comfort food. I spent the last week with a lingering cold and have been thinking of soup a lot. When I am feeling better I am going to do a big pot of soup. And I think I will offer a gift to finish.... my recipe for chicken soup. I do not eat a lot of meat now, but do still eat some chicken.... that is my small step...
with apologies to Fannie Farmer who gave us standardized measurements (before which you might read “take a handful of flour” and “a few almonds”, I do not have this written down, and I do not measure it , so I am giving it to you the way I make it:
Put a chicken in a pot (yes, take it out of the wrapper and pull out the bag of gizzards, and yes, I do recommend cruelty free, for one thing the non kosher/free range chickens are full of hormones and other gross stuff) on the stove top. Add a box of low sodium organic chicken broth, enough water to cover, and some vegetable bits. I like to put in a few garlic cloves, a stick of celery, a carrot, and part of an onion. These will add nutrients to the broth. Cook until the chicken starts to fall off the bones. This takes an hour or so, maybe a bit longer, but it is hard to wreck it. I have left it on for a couple of hours and it is fine. Cover the pot while cooking. I usually turn the heat up to start, and turn it down later. After this you can put the pot in the refrigerator and finish cooking it later that day.
Strain the broth into a bowl, put the solids in another bowl. Discard the vegetables, pick the meat off the bones and discard the bones. Decide what vegetables you want in your soup. I usually grate some onion (maybe half an onion), and add a couple of carrots (I am the only one who eats them, so not too many), several potatos (my son loves potatos), definitely garlic (tiny pieces), sometimes green beans. You could certainly add leaks, or celery, or tomatoes. These have to be washed and cut into bite sized pieces. I do peel my potatoes.
In the now empty pot (which you have not washed) you put 2 or 3 tablespoons of olive oil (I do not really measure, so just enough to saute), and heat on medium just a bit till warm, but not burning. Put in your chopped vegetables and cook just till slightly darkening. (I acutually do my onions first, and cook them till quite golden, then remove them and do the other things and then add the onions back in, but that is because my family pick the onions out unless I caramalize them). Add the broth back in, and the cooked chicken. You may want to add some more stock or water. Another hour should be enough to finish, but you could lower the flame if you want it to take longer.
When you are about 15 minutes to dinner put a small pan on medium heat, put in one tablespoon of butter, and 2 tablespoons of flour, stir and cook till you have a not burned, but tan sludge. This is roux. Using a whisk add it to the soup. It will help thicken the soup. If you really must you can use olive oil, but I really like that small bit of butter. Add to taste: salt, pepper, thyme, dill (the dill is very important). Slice a fresh lemon and add a little squeeze.
I have been known to add matzo balls when I manage to remembe to mix and cook them in time, as they have to be done is a separate pot, and take a while to do.
Yes, I know it is a whole lot easier to get a frozen pizza or something premade, but for a special occasion, or when someone has been feeling sick, this is kind of like those strawberries that signaled the start of summer.
Over the years I have seen quite a few runners find their way into the yoga studio. Typically the reason cited is “I'm so tight!”. Stretching muscles tight places is a benefit a runner can certainly get from yoga. I do think there are some others as well. I also think it is useful to think about what kind of practice, and what sort of asana work might best serve the runner's needs.
There are two ways to take this post: you can decide to stretch by using some asanas from yoga. This is not exactly the same as yoga, as yoga is not just asana. Or, you can do a yoga practice that includes the breathwork, focus, sequencing, balance, meditation, etc, as well as the asanas, but include emphasis on the things that help balance the work of running. Either one is fine. I of course, come from yoga and embrace the discipline fully. But I use Pilates, and weights, and other things within my work, taking the pieces that best serve my needs.
Running is an activity with repetitive movement. A three part movement is repeating over and over: pushoff, recovery, and landing. The primary muscles involved are: at the hip the flexors and hyperextensors, at the foot the plantarflexors and dorsiflexors, and at the knee the flexors and extensors. If one is going up hill the knees and the seat (glutes) will get a bit more use. So the muscles that get used most will be: the four muscles of the quadricep group, the three muscles of the hamstrings, the gluteals, in the hip iliacus and the psoas, and the gastrocnemius and soleus in the calf. There can also be some strain on the tibialis anterior (front of the shin). The hip rotator muscles are also used to stabalize the hips.
Runners actually use stabalization muscles a lot. If the abdomen is really loose and can't stabalize the low back, it is more likely that the pelvis will tilt and there will be low back stress.... and compressing the low back and then putting repeated stress on it as you land on the feet over and over is not conducive to good back health. Running with crouched posture due to weak back muscles creates stress and fatigue, and makes it hard to breathe deeply.... something rather useful when engaging in an aerobic (with oxygen) activity.
My basic practice with a tight area is to stretch everything around it, but to give extra time and attention to the tight part. This is a good way to rebuild balance, rather than to create a new tight area. So the first thing I suggest is to do stretching and strengthening activities, including all major muscles and the core along with the running. It is also really useful to speak to your health care provider if you have a specific physical limitation or injury before starting either running or yoga. For example, forward bends are really good for runners, but with certain kinds of back issues they can make things worse (e.g in spondylosisthesis it is usually better to keep the knees bent).
I also would recommend that stretching before running is probably less useful, than stretching afterward, or better yet, making flexibility a standard part of your weekly schedule, rather than just a quick tug on the leg after a run.
If you have done a lot of yoga in the past you may not need a teacher, and may have a 'home practice'. If you are new to it, there are lots of books and youtube videos, and DVDs, but working with an experienced teacher at first will give you an awful lot of good feedback and help. If it is at all possible I do recommend trying to find such a class. I have a blog post about finding a yoga teacher if you are interested.
When doing yoga try to find a teacher who is conversant with the practice of pranayama. The breath work will help your focus and rhythm. This does not mean someone who says “deep breath” over and over, but someone who will help you to understand how to focus on the breath, and the ways that the mind, the lungs, the muscles of respiration, and the working muscles function together, and how you can use that system most effectively. You also want to learn to use mulha bandha. Developing the belly strength and core control to protect the low back will help with form and flow, and help protect the spine. Vinyasa can be helpful partly because it promotes range of motion around the joints. That stretch and contract process is good for creating and maintaining joints that move fluidly. It is also a great way to work on breath rhythm and control. Forward bends are very helpful. I would suggest starting with the supine or standing bends, rather than the seated ones, as they are easier on the back if you are tight in the legs. And always balance your forward bends with some back bends, unless you have a specific medical condition that limits this type of bend. Down dog is very helpful. In addition to the forward bend aspect, you get a stretch through the plantar fascia, through the achillis tendon, and straight up through the gastrocnemius, into the hip, and as a bonus, into the shoulders. A good technique is to take a few breaths with one of the legs and then the other bent, or both bent at once, and the body weight slightly pushed back to the heels. The bent knee takes the gastrocnemius out of the stretch and lets you get into the soleus. Do be very careful if you have plantar fasciitis, or any other condition. And if your heals are quite a bit off the floor put a rolled mat or blanket under them. No it is not cheating. Yes, it lets your legs relax into the stretch, rather than fighting you by tightening so they do not get overstretched. Hip openers are also really important. I like pigeon partly as it lets you stretch the tibialis anterior as well as having multiple ways to adapt it to send the stretch into different muscle groups. If you are really tight you will probably need to pad yourself well. But there are other hip openers if for some reason that is not going to work for you. Back laying postures are particularly good.
And do not forget the importance of the meditative, relaxing part of yoga. Running can be a wonderful way to destress after a hard day, or when life is challenging. But tyoga is a place of respite as well. A teacher who follows yoga philosophically will try to provide a place where kindness is the rule, where limitations just mean one needs a slightly different path, and where all who come in the spirit of kindness and non judgement are welcomed. I think we all need a place like that sometimes.
If you think of the historical path of yoga kind of like an hourglass, with various threads moving together, and then moving out into diverse variations at the center of the glass is Patanjali's “Yoga Sutras”. It is harder to see that today as the flow of yoga has become very asana focused, and as the philosophical and cultural underpinnings and shared belief systems of practitioners have shifted so much. But those whose practice digs deepest usually reach a place where they uncover the sutras.
The sutras speak of the components of yoga practice still recited today: Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi. At the time the sutras were written the first and last of these would have had precedence. Today that pride of place is given to Asana, and to some extent Pranayama, (breath work) or Dhyana and Dharana (roughly the mental practices). I think though there is something to be learned from understanding what the Yamas and the Niyamas are, and to thinking about their application to our lives.
Roughly together they are the ethical, or moral code of yoga: the to do list, and the not to do list. Though we might not normally think of a moral code in relationship to the practice of yoga I do not think it is such a strange idea. I think I have written before about understanding the human as a being of many aspects: physical, intellectual, emotional, social, and so on, and that developing only one aspect while letting others atrophy is as counterproductive as doing leg presses on your right leg and never working the right. In addition you can see the benefits for physical disciplines and sports of having a shared code. A person who has no code of fair play will happily cheat to win. A person who does not see their body as valuable, or sees attention, or riches as more valuable will by quite ready to inject whatever might make their muscles bigger. A person with no code of shared responsibility for the world and each other easily slips from self improvement to narcissism.
The most important of the Yamas is nonviolence. That is probably still the one with which most people are familiar. But the others are: truthfulness, non stealing, sexual control, and non hoarding of possessions. It is often said that they have to do with how the yogi behaves in relationship to others. The Niyamas are more devoted to how one is with oneself. So sauca, or cleanliness can mean taking a shower, or can mean trying to avoid the poison of hatred and resentment. Santosa, or contentment is about that state of peacefulness where we are (Remember the scene in the old movie “Gone with the Wind” where Scarlett has a mouth so full of food she cannot speak, and is gesturing to the waiter carrying more?) Tapas are austerities, are practices of tolerating the pain and suffering of daily life. (Generally this does not mean yogis should go sit in the snow on purpose or cause themselves hurt on purpose. Aside from being rather silly, and dangerous, it absolutely goes agains the First Principle: non violence). On the other hand, it does mean that one sometimes has to get dental work and one does one's best to understand and tolerate it. Svadhaya originally stood for devotional study, and Isvara-pranidhana meant devotion to God.
I would like to work a bit backwards and say a bit of what I understand of the last two. In a pluralistic society the understanding of what is a devotional text, and what God is is something each person entering the yogi path must decide for themselves. The point is that it is part of who we are to ask such questions and seek understanding, but that the seeking is what matters. Structurally yoga grew out of a primarily Hindu culture, but people of many faiths, or no faith practice it now. And that is one of its strengths. Whether your devotional text is to chant 'Om Shanti', or read the 'Sutras', or St. Thomas Aquinas, or Thoreau, or Einstein, or an encyclopedia of science, our paths are different. But we must and should walk them, and we will make the pilgrimage of life in greater strength if we can walk together.
It is also probably important to look at brahamacarya. Yoga was originally one of many traditions the end point of which is liberation from the world. In that context giving brahamacarya the more literal translation of 'celibacy' makes sense. If you see the sensory world as a trap and a vale of pain and suffering, and the goal to get beyond that, then you can see that physical pleasure is going to be more likely to bind you to that physical world. There are yogis today who do maintain this practice literally. But I think more people would see this as one of the ideas that they would not find helpful. That is, both that life is something to be liberated from, rather than to be engaged with and enjoyed, and that physical pleasure is good. However, what yoga reminds over and over is that balance is everything, and I think it is helpful to understand it as control. Again we always come back to the idea of balance, self understanding, and self control.
But the most important is finally the first, and the best known. Ahimsa. Where these are dueling requirements this comes first. Truth is a Yama. Do you tell the abusive person asking you that their partner is hiding behind you? It may be the truth, but it is not Ahimsa. The Sutras would be pretty rigid that Ahimsa means a yogi is absolutely not to eat meat. Ever. For any reason. If they are on the yogi path. But again, if we want to reunderstand this within a context of …. it is part of the natural order that balances the web of life that some creatures are carnivores, but that if we are to eat meat it must be done without torturing the animals to do so, or polluting the earth we share with industrial by products.
Many yogis will violently disagree with me on this. I think that is fine. I do not want to state that we must all stop swearing at cars that cut the queue onto the turn off. I do not want to suggest that everyone has to give up their glass of merlot. I do not want to suggest that everyone has to start meditating every day. I just want to suggest that the vinyasas and down dogs are just like the part of the tree we see above ground. And a lot of the benefits of the practice have to do with understanding ourselves as more than muscle and sinew and skin. And that no one teacher has the answers for you. As that old Chinese proverb goes: The teacher opens the door; you must enter yourself.
by the way, I am thinking of doing an upcoming blog post with some short question and answers from classes. If you have any questions about yoga, or whatever else you think might be within my scope of practice or ability to answer, please send to me on the 'contact Ariadne' button.