I’m Not in Good Enough Shape!

This is the most crowed phrase I hear from prospective students; whether it’s Tae Kwon Do, Yoga, Running or whatever..

The interesting part for me is that this is seemingly a universal line of reasoning; in that neither gender has a clear cut lead in its use.

First I want to explore this line of thought.  Physical fitness, in whatever form, is something that requires practice to improve.  It’s typically not something that someone starts at the pinnacle of performance out of the gate.  With that in mind, I would feel pretty safe in assuming that there is some sort of ramp up regimen which leads to better performance and skill growth.

cartoonbigguyyoga

So why would anyone ever think they needed to be “in shape” to start a new program?  I understand the desire to have a baseline fitness level for activities.  However, if I don’t do anything, my fitness level will never improve.  And if my fitness level never improves, I will never start a new program.  Wait, isn’t this where I started?

My breaking point this week came when a parent of one of the Tae Kwon Do students was watching a class and I asked why they didn’t join; they were there often enough, and had expressed interest in joining many times.  This is what came up for them.  They referenced the class that was going on at that time (an all adult, high rank class; students with 2-7 years of experience) and said they couldn’t see themselves doing that.

Image courtesy of like_shipwrecks    / Flickr.

Image courtesy of like_shipwrecks / Flickr.

My response was not on the first day.  Honestly, no one does on their first day, and this perceived external expectation that I as an instructor might expect them to boggles my mind.  Okay, I think that covers my venting for today.  After doing a little breathing and making space for both my reaction and their comment, I wanted to explore this seemingly reflexive statement.

What are the reasons that anyone would not do something (assuming physical and financial means aren’t an issue) that they knew was going to help them?  I came up with four; fear, lack of desire, habit and time constraints.  In this instance, time isn’t an issue because they are there anyway, just sitting watching class, so I’ll drop it here.  Lack of desire is also off the table because they’ve expressed an interest in joining the program.

That leaves fear and habit.  I’m not sure these are entirely separate here.  What I mean by that is that fear becomes the habit.  A fear of not measuring up, so don’t try.  A fear of getting hurt, so don’t test your limits.  A fear of change, so stay with what you know; and so on.

Image courtesy of LWPrencipe    / Flickr.

Image courtesy of LWPrencipe / Flickr.

Fear for me is not something to avoid.  Fear is more of an early warning system; sort of a “hey, you are about to do something stupid/dangerous/ill advised, don’t hurt yourself.”  How each of us reacts to our fears determines the scope of our available choices.  If I see fear as something to shy away from, I will be less inclined to take a chance and grow in ways that are challenging.  But if I see fear as that early warning system, I’m left with many more options in challenging times and more opportunities for growth.

Like so many other things in life, how we each deal with our fears is a choice.  We can choose to react out of habit, or we can choose to make space and time for our reactions and then we can choose to walk a different path.

Image courtesy of deeplifequotes    / Flickr.

Image courtesy of deeplifequotes / Flickr.

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Breathing; A Comparison of Methods

We all can agree breathing is important; after all, if you aren’t breathing, you’re dead.  I have talked about breathing before, and had a few exercises around bringing your attention to your breath.  Breathing is a cornerstone of yoga and the different breathing methods in yoga can seem a little odd at first.  I am going to talk about different ways to breathe; both yoga and non yoga.

 

Image courtesy of andreasivarsson  / Flickr.

Image courtesy of andreasivarsson / Flickr.

Believe it or not, there’s more to it than inhale, exhale and repeat.  I draw from my own experience with two types of breathing; Korean Ki Gong and Indian Yogic breath.  I’ll describe the breathing philosophies of each and a little about the benefits of each and why I believe them both to be valuable over the course of the next few posts.  Today is a little comparison of the general philosophies of each and then a deeper dive into each.

 

 

 

Korean Ki Gong breathing focuses a lot on using breathing to regulate energy (Ki) flow within the body.  By using variations of breath a practitioner can settle and calm their energy, accumulate or increase their energy, or raise their energy.

 

Image courtesy of longtrekhome   / Flickr.

Image courtesy of longtrekhome / Flickr.

Breathing focuses on the duration of inhale vs. duration of exhale with no holding of the breath in between.  The energy (Ki) follows the properties of water.  The longer the exhale, the more heat is expelled from the body allowing it to cool and for the energy to settle.  Matching that to water, if you put water in the freezer, the liquid freezes and the energetic properties of the water solidify (calm).

 

By having a longer inhale, the state of one’s energy increases and heat is generated.  This is akin to boiling water; it becomes excited as heat is applied, boils and turns to steam.  This is the breathing technique favored for warming up before workouts, or for waking oneself up when you feel sluggish.

 

Using even breathing (inhale and exhale durations being equal) brings a calm, centered state to the body and clarity to the mind.  This is the favored breathing for meditation.

 

Indian Yogic breaths come in many flavors and also focuses on duration of inhale vs. exhale.  Two important distinctions are that Yogic breathing does include holding one’s breath in between the inhale and exhale, and the duration of inhale and exhale is almost always even.  The breathing techniques for raising energy, calming energy and meditating focus on intensity and cadence of the breath to determine the effect on energy and the body.

 

Image courtesy of NazarethCollege    / Flickr.

Image courtesy of NazarethCollege / Flickr.

In keeping with the water analogy, Kapalabhati breathing is similar to a pump, where air is forced out of the lungs and passively allowed to refill sort of like a squirt gun.  This breath (depending on cadence) can be good for focusing the mind and it can boost/awaken your energy.

 

Bhastrika breath (bellows) is more like a sump pump.  It actively pulls air and forces it out.  This is great for waking up energy when you feel sluggish.

 

Alternate Nostril breathing (Nadi Shodhana) is a slow, steady breath done while closing of alternate nostrils with one hand (typically the right hand).  This breath is calming, centering and is great setting the mind for meditation.

The invitation for this post is to carve out a little time and sit with these different breathing techniques.  I recommend that you spend a little extra time on the techniques that you are not familiar with and see how you react with each one.  I would also recommend working with each one multiple times to really let each one land.

Image courtesy of Moyan_Brenn   / Flickr.

Image courtesy of Moyan_Brenn / Flickr.

Options for Men Friendly Yoga…

One of my original intentions for this blog was to compile a list of places that had men focused yoga.  Women have gyms that are tailored for women and are havens where they can go, work out, and feel comfortable.  I believe guys would benefit from this same model when it comes to yoga.

 

I’ve spent a few posts discussing some of the barriers and some of the attractions of yoga to men.  It’s my desire to set up a resource where men can find yoga that is welcoming to them, invites us in, and allows us to have fun.  As I have said before, yoga is not really a competitive sport.  It is about giving the practitioner comfortable space to practice and grow.

 

I have done a little (by no means exhaustive) searching to see what I could find.  I am disappointed to say that the options I was able to find were very sparse.

 

I am adding a page to hold what I have found so far, and I welcome additions to this list.  I would like to make this a resource for finding guy focused yoga anywhere.  I hope this is useful and something that grows over time.

 

For those in the New Jersey area, the options are:

 

Yoga for Dudes – a six week series at Devotion yoga starting Tuesday October 15 2013.  This is run by a very good friend of mine, Jay Karlinski.  This is an energetic, challenging guy’s version of yoga.  You can find more information at the following sites.

Devotion Yoga

http://www.devotionyoga.com

For the schedule and to sign up

https://clients.mindbodyonline.com/ASP/home.asp?studioid=2184

 

Surya Yoga in Hoboken is great hot studio that has lots of guys come to classes.  A variety of teachers keep the classes varied, challenging and fun.

http://www.suryayogaacademy.com/

 

Pride Center Yoga in Princeton, NJ also has guy focused classes.  I haven’t been there myself, but here is the link to the site

http://www.pridecenter.org/group/yoga-for-men/

 

 

For those in the New York area:

 

Broga Yoga in Riverhead, NY.  I have heard good things and they are focused solely on guys.

www.brogayoga.com

 

Manhattan

JoshInNYC – Runs classes specifically for guys in the heart of Chelsea.

http://www.joschinyc.com/men/

 

I ask that if you can, support these endeavors.  And if you have others, please post/send them to me and I will add them.

How to Make Dinner Decisions Less Stressful

Pardon the interruption, but I’m taking a break from my normal posts because there’s something so exciting brewing at my house I just had to let you in on it.

You might know that Jackie, my wife, helps busy professionals lose weight and revitalize their energy even when they don’t have time to work out or eat healthy.

Well this Thursday at 8:30pm EST she’s hosting a FREE training call that will help you quickly and easily answer, “What’s for dinner?” with healthy meals you feel good about and your family loves to eat.

On this FREE training call you’ll learn our best secrets for:

  • Easing dinner time stress and anxiety without hiring personal chef
  • Creating meals you family loves that you feel great about serving
  • How to serve a nutritious meal even when you’re running late

 

These are tools you can implement immediately the food in your pantry and fridge right now.  (Seriously, I told her not to give away so much good stuff, but she said you have to have this info.)

http://eepurl.com/Fz589

You’ll might be surprised to hear this, but a few years ago, I dreaded talking with Jackie about dinner.

See, I work from home, so I make dinner. But I only eat dinner with the family a few days a week.  So I would call Jackie at work and ask her was she wanted for dinner. She would typically say, “It doesn’t matter.” (Which guys know really means, “I want you to read my mind.”) Sometimes we could decide easily, but a lot of times we argued or just had whatever was easy (read: eggs or pizza). These conversations would leave us both frustrated.

Eventually we decided we’d had enough of this game and developed a strategy. And it was so simple!

On Thursday’s call Jackie will share exactly how we went from dinnertime stress to dinnertime success.

Reserve your spot on the life call here:

http://eepurl.com/Fz589

And don’t worry if you can’t make the live call on Thursday. Register anyway and she’ll send you a complete recording after the call.

Oh, and if you happen to know someone else who’d love to make dinner an event to look forward to feel free to forward this post to them. This stuff is too good to share.

Yoga, Healthy Eating and How to Survive Vegatarianism

What to do when your spouse (wife/husband/significant other) goes insane (vegetarian/vegan).  Or, how to help your significant other cope with you wanting to go vegetarian/vegan.  There are options.

 

1. Go along for the ride.  Not really.

2. Eat at restaurants exclusively.  While that does have some appeal, there is a certain moment where walking into the restaurant and having your order arrive at the table before you and you realize that maybe you are there too often.

Or there is option 3.

chickensoupclipart

And what is this magic option 3?  Chicken.  Yes, you read that correctly, chicken.  I have found over the years and specifically over the last few months of this little adventure that many vegan and vegetarian dishes are absolutely fabulous…with chicken.  Sometimes it is converting the “meal” to a side dish.  Sometimes it is adding the chicken right in (easiest when eating leftovers).  And here is the best part.  It creates harmony in the house.

 

 

 

 

 

What was that?  Not having to give up meat and still creating harmony?  Yep.  And here’s how it goes.

 

1.         Be supportive of the changes

by racheldragonfly

by racheldragonfly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.         Be clear that you are not interested in making the same changestretching

 

 

 

 

 

 

3.         Go the chicken route, and make it organic; progress = less resistance… and chickenpotclipart

4.         Offer to help cook

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And it really is that easy.  The other thing is to make sure you know what is going into the meal.  That way you know how you want to prep the chicken.  Trust me, chicken with a Mexican/Tex Mex flair added to a dish that is all eastern Asian and tamari sauce (if you don’t know what that is yet, you will; very, very soon) is NOT a good taste combination.

 

And it is not just chicken, but pork, beef or any other meat can be used.  One of the things that helps me is that my wife is a health coach, an endurance athlete and a Texan.  Every now and again she still craves “animal based protein” for dinner. pigclipart cowclipart

 

Before closing, I will add my plug for eating local and organic.  I taste the difference.  I like the local/organic option more because of that difference in taste.  This difference in taste was driven home while on a trip to Argentina.  All meats are hormone free (or at least were when I was there).  The difference in the quality and flavor is (wait, wipe drool from mouth) almost unimaginable.  If you haven’t, I recommend trying the organic meats.

 

 

 

 

Good planning is important, and it is a good excuse to actually talk to your spouse (or them to talk to you) so that may or may not be a bonus.  Plan, match ingredients, chat.  Cooking has always been a great way to connect with family and friends, and even if one of them (we won’t point at her) goes a bit down the unbeaten path, it is still a good way to bond.