Posts in yoga
Health VS Wellness

I woke up this AM and spilled coffee grounds all over the kitchen floor while trying to make a daily brew. I know it’s not spilled (expressed breast) milk and it shouldn’t cause me too many worries, but at 4 o’clock in the morning on a Monday, it started to go down an unpleasant path. With the coffee grounds spread all over the floor like termite droppings there was no other way around the mess. I had to walk through it to get to the broom which meant tracking little black crumbs all across the kitchen floor. And those little bits of caffeine seeds start poking into my feet, waking me up from the outside in rather than the inside out like they normally do. 

After I had finished sweeping up the entire kitchen and cleaning my feet, the situation became real. All of the coffee grounds were in the dustpan, along with tangled strands of hair, sand from Venice Beach, a green twisty-tie thing, red and brown acupuncture needle tabs from my lab coat, and an unidentified black substance, possibly food related.

I’m usually composed, and I’d like to think that the yoga is working in relation to my ability to decide what to get stressed about, but that’s after yoga. You understand?

After the morning yoga practice it’s ok for the coffee to spill. It’s ok to be stuck in traffic. It’s ok for the toothpaste to vomit down my shirt. It’s ok because I’ve had my leg behind my head, or I pressed myself up in a back bend that felt like my ribs were separating and my heart was exploding with light. The ‘noise’ of honking cars is muted after twisting my arms around my knee. It all seems a bit more trivial.

Here’s why.

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The process of aging

All complex systems begin to break down randomly and gradually at different times. It’s why in our genius we have built in back up systems to nuclear power plants, and back up systems for the back up systems. It’s why there are back up systems in the human body; an extra kidney, a second lung, liver cells that regenerate, etc. Systems in place that if the primary one fails a back-up can take over while making repairs or replacing the primary system. The secondary system isn’t as efficient or effective as the primary, but keeps the entire operation moving forward another day.

For most of our species existence on this planet the average lifespan of humans was around 30 years. It’s only in the last century that the average lifespan of humans has increased to about 80. The modern human is, in a sense, a freak. A mutant. An unnatural pheromone.  

When we talk about aging with respects to our yoga practice we are entering uncharted territory.

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Can Ashtanga Yoga improve the health of the human reproductive system?

Should women practice Ashtanga Yoga during their cycle? How does this yoga help with regulating the menstrual cycle?

In the essential text on Ashtanga Yoga, The Yoga Mala, Jois states, ‘Some women suffer from abdominal pain during menstruation. This is removed by the practice of these asanas (Marichyasana.) The womb becomes powerful and enables a woman to carry a child strongly, and miscarriage due to weakness is cured.’

It’s impossible to deny that there is a flow of energy through the body. “It’s been called by many names. In ancient Chinese medicine, it is called Qi. In yoga, it is called Shakti. In the West, it is called Spirit….the yogis call energy centers chakras.” (The Untethered Soul - Michael A. Singer) Traditional Oriental Medicine links these centers with our internal organs. Both systems involve using natural remedies to allow the body to heal itself.

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Ashtanga Yoga and the Circulatory System (part 1)

“your heart is one of the masterpieces of creation. It is a phenomenal instrument. It has the potential to create vibrations and harmonies that are far beyond the beauty of pianos, strings, or flutes. You can hear an instrument, but you feel your heart. And if you think that you feel an instrument, it’s only because it touched your heart. Your heart is an instrument made of extremely subtle energy that few people come to appreciate.” - The Untethered Soul Michael A. Singer

I didn’t want to separate the organ systems into groups because I didn’t want to give the impression that the systems work independently of each other. This seems like a, ‘No shit Sherlock’ moment, but I didn’t realize this very basic concept until a Human Systems Development class in college. Until that point I believed that the digestive system worked with food. Period. The respiratory system dealt with gas exchange, oxygen and carbon dioxide. Period. And the circulatory system dealt with blood. Period.

I didn’t recognize that the nutrients from the food we eat are carried around in the blood stream to their targets. Or that the organs, ALL of the organs, are made from the food that we eat. That all of the organs are supported by the blood that enriches them with oxygen and nutrients. I also didn’t realize that the lungs needed the contractions of the heart muscle to bring the oxygen around the body in the blood. I thought these gasses floated around inside of us, like the broken down bits of food. They eventually would get to where they were going.

There was this big “Oh!” Moment for me in that freshman class followed by this bit of anger for being taught the systems independently and lead to believe otherwise. 

For this, and other reasons, I am not going to separate the Respiratory and Cardiovascular systems. I will attempt to put the pieces together into one category. But please understand that these systems are unified with the other systems to form the perfect being that you are. 

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Ashtanga Yoga for improved digestion (part 1)

The practice of ashtanga yoga is a formula designed to keep us paying attention. It keeps us on our toes and keeps us able to pursue our spiritual journey. 

On a physical level one way the practice restores or sustains our health is by keeping our digestive system strong. 

The digestive system works to serve the other organ systems. The cardiovascular/respiratory, neuro, reproductive, endocrine, etc. These other systems work to keep us on our spiritual path. The digestive system is made up of a number of organs, glands, and tissue. Digestion begins before we take the first bite.

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How to practice Yoga alone

I’m afraid of the dark. I still run for the bed after turning off the lights at night. The bed is safe. Under the covers, I’m protected. Maybe I watched Gremlins, or Jaws, or It and they left an impression that plays out every time the lights go out until I’m safe in bed?

The point is I’m a grown man. I shouldn’t be afraid of the dark, but I am. And only at night. At 4am when I’m stumbling around to the shower before practice, the darkness doesn’t bother me. I have no fear at 4am. I’m not thinking enough to be afraid.

The first 10 minutes of my practice is on autopilot.

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Why practice Ashtanga yoga?

There was a time when practice was a form of punishment. A punishment worthy of the crime I felt I had committed. Getting up in the AM to be alone on the mat was part of my penance. I was, Doing Time. Doing Mysore.

The beauty of these feelings being contained to practice was that I was able to work through my crap. Examine it, dissect it, experiment on it, and own it. 

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