Archive | February, 2012

I’ll stop getting injured when I’m dead

I don’t enjoy getting injured and try to do all that I can to prevent it. I also HATE it when a student gets injured. Thankfully, I have had few students get injured over the years, but it does happen. Despite finding injury something to avoid, I accept that the only extremely dull people don’t get injured. Furthermore, every injury that I have sustained has been an excellent learning experience. Or at least that’s how I’ve spun it after the fact.

I feel fortunate that I’ve never had a super serious injury. Surprisingly, no bones have been broken during the assortment of physically demanding activities I have engaged during my life. The worst injuries have been spraining a shoulder skiing, a second degree burn from fireworks, bicep /shoulder trapeze injuries, rolled ankles playing tennis, and rope burns doing aerial.

That said I feel like I am good at preventing injuries. Being strong, having good balance, and being relatively flexible for my build are amazing tools for keeping from getting injured. As is having a regular yoga practice, daily exercise, and getting frequent body work. It’s also an attitude thing. When I start to feel a minor thing start to bother me physically, I take care of it and get rid of it right away. I feel like I shouldn’t have nagging things holding me back.

It amazes me that people don’t do this. I’ll talk to someone about their low back / knee / shoulder / neck issue and ask them how long it has been going on, and they will say weeks, months, or years. I don’t like letting things go hours. It amazes me how people will just live with things. Even worse is when someone knows what is causing the problem and makes no changes to address. The biggest waste of time to me as a body worker is doing body work for someone to alleviate pain for someone unwilling to address the actual cause of the issue.

For instance, lower back pain is usually caused by one or all of the following: a weak core, tight glutes / hamstrings, and bad posture. I massaged a woman once who had lower back pain. Her shoulders hunched and her glutes were so tight that they yanked on her lower back so immediately went to work on these problem sources. While doing so, I explained to her why she was having back pain and what steps she could take to address it. At the end, she commented what a small portion of the massage I spent working on her back. I asked her how it felt and she said her back felt better, but that she felt I should have spent more time on the lower back. I had just explained to her that her lower back was weak and overly flexible and that the last thing I wanted to do was loosen it more so that the overly tight surrounding areas could overpower it. In this way, pain is a good thing. It is a wakeup call that there is something wrong. I have no interest in being snooze button for this alarm.

I got into body work and eventually become a full blown licensed massage practitioner because I wanted to be able to do more to help my students prevent injury and then be able to do more if injury happens. You can be a great yoga teacher and still have students get injured doing basic exercises with text book form.

After finishing my yoga instructor training, I had a very good friend come to take my classes to support me. I taught a twist class and we went through a sequence of basic spinal twists and at the end I was proud of the class that I had taught. The next day, I found out that my friend’s back had gone out later that night and that she blamed me. She wasn’t particularly fit. After my class, she went to help a friend move and ended up carrying a lot of heavy items. Later that night, she went to an office party in four inch heels and went dancing. At the time, I felt horrible and wondered what I could have done differently so that my friend wouldn’t have become injured. I questioned my teaching and class sequencing. I talked to a mentor and he said, “the girl is out of shape, carried stuff way heavier than she is used to after doing an activity she isn’t used to and then went dancing in heels that aren’t good for anyone… why are you blaming yourself for this? She brought it on herself.”

The reality is that if you teach enough classes and students, people will get hurt. It is not to say that you shouldn’t do everything you can to prevent this and be prepared to handle it, but it will happen. Over the years, I’ve seen many really, really bad injuries at various activities and events that I have been at. Some of them were due to negligence, but a lot of them are also random. I love being a massage therapist and being trained in Thai massage because I feel like I can usually do something when something happens or know enough to get the person the right kind of care that they need. It is pretty empowering to be able to help people. I honestly think that the best thing that any yoga instructor can do is become a massage therapist to have more tools in case the worst does happen. With just a yoga instructor training under your belt, you will be next to useless.

It’s also important to learn a lesson from every injury. When I separated my shoulder, I was skiing with new skis that hurt my feet. A friend invited me to go outside of the terrain of the ski resort to try a “natural half pipe.” Even though I was a very good skier, it was at the end of the day, I was tired, and my feet hurt from equipment that didn’t work with my feet. Not wanting to turn down a challenge, I did it anyway and got badly injured. After the accident, I did a couple more runs even though I couldn’t lift my arm because I didn’t want to put a damper on the other’s fun. Many, many lessons were learned from this experience.

In a yoga class, a teacher taught us to take thin, flat foam blocks and stack them under our front leg while attempting the splits and then pushing down into the foam. As our legs loosened up, we then shed blocks and pushed down into the new, closer-to-the-ground height. I was amazed how well this worked and soon found myself in the full splits all the way to the ground for the first time in my life. Then it started to hurt and I tried to get out of it and knocked my sacrum out of place in the process. I learned to be careful when trying out new techniques and to not rush flexibility training.

I have also learned patience from injury. I’ve been fortunate that I’ve been able to recover from every injury that I’ve ever had. I now know that my body is pretty sturdy but that the healing process takes time. I was doing a cartwheel and strained my Achilles tendon. It took over three years to heal. I saw various doctors and tried various techniques. After a year, I felt like I would have to limp out of bed every morning to the wall to do a quick Achilles stretch before being able to walk normally every day for the rest of my life. After sometime, I accepted this as a price to pay for my active and adventurous lifestyle but I still regularly stretched and iced the tendon. At some point, I realized that I didn’t need to do it every day. Then I stopped needing to do it at all. It fully healed but it took more than three years!

At this point, when I hurt something, I take a quick inventory of what I can do immediately to make things better. Then I look at what I can do over the rest of the day (ice, call people, make appointments, etc.). Then I look at near term care and how to try and remedy the situation. Later, after it is no longer urgent, I reflect on what I did wrong, what I could have done to prevent it, and what changes to make going forward. Then I create the ideal situation for the injury to heal. I also have the confidence of knowing that everything has been able to heal up to this point in my life so I have no reason to believe that the new injury won’t be the same.

It is important to realize that a fit and active lifestyle will lead to occasional injuries. People should do all that they can to prevent injuries and have a plan in place to address them as they happen. A regular yoga practice, stretching routine, and being fit will help prevent and treat injuries. A good support team (doctors, chiropractor, body worker, etc.) are also important for athletic people. Patience and acceptance that this is part of the process of life are key to being able to keep injury in perspective.

Cooking Phad Thai

I’ve decided to tackle a far less controversial but for more important topic for my next blog post: food! One of the best ways to take control of your health is to learn to cook. To help on this front, I will post a series of videos showing easy to cook and relatively healthy dishes.

I spent the late spring / early summer of 2011 in Thailand refining my Thai massage skills. While there, I also was fortunate enough to go to two Thai cooking schools. Wheat is not a staple grain in Thailand and a significant number of Thai are lactose intolerant so Thai cooking is mostly gluten and dairy free. I’m also a huge fan of spicy cuisine.

Phad Thai is one of the iconic Thai dishes. It also varies greatly. I really like this simple and not so sweet version of Phad Thai. It’s a dish that can really be dressed up with whatever seasonings and vegetables that you like.

You can cook it with rice or glass noodles. Glass noodles are actually made from mung beans and are also known as mung bean noodles or just bean noodles. They are slightly more expensive than rice noodles but I like them a lot better.

Phad Thai (one serving)

  • 250 grams rice or glass noodles
  • 50 grams tofu cut into third of an inch cubes
  • Optional 50 grams of meat or fake meat
  • 2-3tbsp oil (olive, peanut, canola)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1tsp sugar
  • 2tbsp fish or soy sauce
  • 2tbsp oyster, mushroom, or teriyaka sauce
  • 1 or 2 eggs (depending on how much protein you want)
  • 5 to 8 cloves of minced or pressed garlic
  • Thai chilies (chopped and up to eight)
  • Vegetables

Garnish

  • Lemon
  • Chopped green onions
  • Chopped nuts
  • Veggies

Instructions

  1. Heat oil over low to medium heat, add garlic, and cook until you can smell it.
  2. Add chilies, tofu, and the optional meat. Cook until the tofu is slightly browned and the meat is cooked. Can also add vegetables here that take a long time to cook.
  3. Break the egg(s) and drop them into the pan. Stir into ingredients until cooked.
  4. Move the food to the side, add water and noodles, and stir until the noodles soften.
  5. Add the fish/soy sauce, oyster/mushroom/terriyaki sauce, sugar, and whatever other seasonings you desire. Taste test it. If too sweet, add soy/fish sauce. If too salty, add sugar.
  6. Add quick cooking vegetables like spinach or bok choi.
  7. Remove from heat.
  8. Garnish with lemon juice, chopped nuts, chopped green onions and serve with fresh vegetables like bean sprouts, or chopped cabbage.

Keep it in your pants

Women greatly outnumber men in most yoga classes. I’m always a bit curious of straight men in yoga classes and what their motivation is for being there. I don’t care if one of a male yoga student’s reasons for coming is to possibly be able to meet a yoga girl. When it comes to straight men teaching yoga classes, it is an entirely different matter. I tend to avoid straight male yoga teachers and am really suspicious of their intentions. I realize that there are probably perfectly decent and well behaved straight men teaching yoga classes, I just haven’t encountered many and I’ve done a lot of yoga.

Women and gay men have sex available to them easily. Straight men have to work a lot harder for sex. A straight male in a yoga class is an anomaly. If he is passably attractive and friendly, he will end up meeting a lot of women. A reasonably attractive straight man teaching a yoga class is going to be at musician / celebrity levels for access to nubile women.

Straight men aren’t used to this. Women have societal stigma and a lifetime of dealing with sexual advances to moderate themselves. Gay men usually binge for a couple of years (or decades) before adjusting to readily available sex and the novelty wearing off. The straight male yoga teacher with classes loaded with fit, flexible, sexually empowered, and adoring women is going to be plenty tempted to tap this abundance.

For this reason, I tend to avoid straight male yoga teachers. It’s prejudiced and not a 100% rule, but it is a general policy. I’d steer most people in the same direction (male or female). And as a male, I’m not worried about being harassed, I just get annoyed be dealing with watching it.

For years, people have known I’m into yoga and asked for advice for finding a yoga teacher. My general advice for someone when I don’t know their particular community is to go to Anusara.com and look for an Anusara teacher in their area. I am not even an Anusara devotee, but of the major, readily-available styles of yoga, they are the most likely to churn out a teacher that will be friendly to beginners, practice good alignment, and not hurt anyone.
The founder of Anusara is John Friend. I’ve never even met the man but heard positive things from peers I respect about him and that he is a friendly and wonderful person. I also have trained with enough Anusara people to respect their attention to detail and sound alignment. John Friend was described to me by a very dear friend as someone whom just want to give a big hug. There has been a lot of talk about him lately in the yoga world:

http://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/02/my-interview-with-john-friend-regarding-ijfexposedi-accusations/

http://www.yogadork.com/news/john-friend-head-of-anusara-wiccan-leader-sexual-deviant-pension-withholding-homewrecker-the-accusations/

I honestly could care less about the drug stuff, or even the Wicca thing, and have no idea about the pension matter (which is disturbing if true), but his admission about having sex with female students over the years, including married ones, is just kind of what I’ve come to expect from straight men in the yoga world.

I have three close friends, all women, who have studied with another major yoga guru / celebrity. One of them is highly, highly devoted to him and has followed him all over the world attending his workshops and trainings. She is in her fifties. The other is a sexy thing in her thirties who has done a few workshops with him but more casually. The other and warned me that he is only about the young, pretty girls. With all of this information, I went to a week workshop with this teacher, the two other female friends, and a gay male friend.

As a male and especially a muscular, non-traditional yoga body type, I usually get more than normal attention (not sexual but just instruction wise) from teachers at workshops because I stand out. At this workshop, my male friend and I did not exist in the teacher’s eyes. The guru forgot and then stumbled over the VERY easy name of my 50 something friend who has been his devoted student for years. His eyes just about bulged out of his sockets for my hot thirty-something female friend. Throughout the workshop, he leered at the hot girls and just walked past the men and older / less attractive women. It was almost silly how cliché the whole thing was.

He was good though… good enough that I might actually take another workshop from him. I’m not a person for whom meditation comes easily but I had great experiences with him in this realm. However, that made his sketchiness even more frustrating. Why waste so much talent? I’d rather be able to give a heartfelt endorsement for him instead of telling people only to train with him if they are looking specifically for XYZ and that they will have to deal with him being a sketchy, juvenile, dirty old man.

This isn’t just a national thing or just a problem with yoga celebrities. Locally in the greater Seattle area, there has been a rash of issues with inappropriate advances and “adjustments” by straight males. It’s almost epidemic. I’m sure that there are straight men who are perfectly legitimate yoga instructors who know how to keep their sexuality in check. However, most that I have encountered haven’t mastered this level of self-control. This is why I still avoid straight male yoga teachers and tell others to do the same.

Kill your TV

When I was in college, I was working a lot and finishing a computer science degree. I was nineteen and in somewhat of a panic over all I needed to get done as finals approached. I was really stressing about it and complained out loud, “I just don’t have enough time!” Then I realized I was watching TV. I noted that I had been watching TV for three hours while I was supposedly too busy to get everything I needed done.

I snapped. I decided to try not watching TV that week as an experiment. I was shocked that I not only had enough time to finish homework, study for finals, and work, I also time to go to the gym and cook. That was seventeen years ago and I’ve never looked back… literally and figuratively.

When I say I’ve never watched TV since, I mean I’ve never had cable TV or even anything attached to my television other than a DVD player since then. I’ve watched some TV series on DVD that friends have recommended and watch some movies and streaming sports events online, but I don’t watch TV regularly.

Growing up, my dad sold cable TV when that industry was in its infancy in the early 80s. I remember the first cable boxes and the gigantic remote controls that actually had wires attaching them and individual buttons for 33 different channels. I remember having to physically attach filters to the cable wires to get the premium stations like HBO, Showtime, and Cinemax. With my dad a cable company employee, we had every station possible. Back then, that was around thirty stations.

TV became a part of our life. My sister was allowed to have a TV in her room and her own cable box. She would actually program two different VCRs to record different shows that happened to be playing at the same time (this was WAY before Tivo).

At this early age, my sister slipped into a pattern of obesity. I became overweight as well. I remember planning out my schedule to watch Roseanne, the Cosby Show, Cheers, Night Court, Seinfeld, and a host of other shows.

At this point in my life, I have no idea what is on TV. I’ve never seen an episode of a reality TV show. I’ve never seen Friends. I had someone try to get me to watch Glee and my eyes glossed over. It was silly and banal to me. My time is precious and I have so much I want to do. Being force fed generic and mass produced entertainment has no appeal.
Obesity has become an epidemic in the United States. From http://ht.ly/8Rm6G

Year Percentage of obese Americans
1960 13%
1970 14%
1977 15%
1988 23%
1999 30%
2003 32%
2006 33%
2010 34%

A study at Harvard suggests that obesity will plateau at 40%. And this is just obesity. Two thirds of Americans are already overweight. Compared to previous generations, we are eating 2-5 times larger portion sizes, 31% more calories, and 15 pounds more sugar. Sadly, things are going to get a lot worse since 8-18 year olds are spending 7.5 hours a day on the Internet, in front of the TV, or playing video games.

I was a software engineer at Microsoft for ten years before starting Knotty Yoga. I am not surprised at all by the near tripling of obesity in the nation. It corresponds directly with the widespread adoption of cable TV and the development of a tech centered society.

A career in the tech industry is unnatural on many fronts. You spend forty or more hours a week sitting and working at a desk with a keyboard and mouse. I hated it. We didn’t evolve sitting and our bodies don’t handle it well. As a body worker and fitness professional, I see and feel the effects of this all the time in client’s slumping posture, mouse knots in the upper back and shoulders, and tight hamstrings. The widespread adoption of multiple monitors can be spotted in the wide range of asymmetric issues in the neck and spine.

All of this is on top of widespread obesity. I remember watching the new college hires each year. Many would show up at a healthy weight and somewhat fit (though in the computer world, a sizable chunk of the 22 year olds are already obese). The first year, most would be overwhelmed by the new job and immediately spend more time at a desk than they ever had before. They would begin gaining weight. Within five years, it would be sad how much weight most had gained.

People always claim that they don’t have the time to exercise. That is rarely the case. There are 24 hours in a day. Subtracting six to eight hours a day for sleep and two hours for commuting and eating leaves fourteen hours in a day. Even the crazy workaholics aren’t routinely logging fourteen hours of work a day every day. And if they are, they should quit and find something more sustainable. People who have kids might argue that they don’t have time because of the kids. I would argue that finding the time to take of your health is doubly important for parents to set a good example for their kids.

People choose not to exercise. That is an important distinction. When I go to take my dog for a walk, he is always excited. When I finish a workout, unless I was sick of injured and ignored that to do the workout, I never regret working out. I really don’t know anyone who finishes a great workout and wishes they hadn’t. We evolved being active. Sitting in front of a TV or computer is not natural and when you do these things, you are choosing to do that instead of working out.

People should log how much “screen time” they have in a day. This includes time at a computer, TV, in front of a phone, or an iPod. People whose jobs have a lot of built in screen time, should actively avoid it in their private time and balance it with exercise and social activity. People should be active and social and then retreat to a computer / video game / TV after if they still have time and they still want to.

Regularly scheduled classes starting today, Monday, Feb 6th

Please sign up for the mailing list at:

http://www.KnottyYoga.com/

Thank you for those of you who were able to attend our successful opening!

Today is the start of normally schedule classes at Knotty Yoga. I am offering a monthly unlimited pass of $120 (versus $160 for the normally monthly pass) because we are part of the way into the month and it is a short month. If you recomend a new student who signs up for an unlimited monthly pass, your next monthly pass will be half off ($80). I’m also offering a fourteen day unlimited pass to new students for $40 so please tell your friends. I will now be taking credit card payment. Pricing for punch cards and drop-ins (highly discouraged) is at:

http://www.knottyyoga.com/index.php/fitness/pricing/

Remember that Knotty Yoga Tour of the Core is highly designed to be paired with either the end of Knotty Yoga Beginner / Intermediate or the beginning of Knotty Yoga Intermediate / Advanced to create a ninety minute class option. People may also pair Knotty Yoga Core and Stretch with the preceding class to create a two hour class. The schedule for this week is:

Monday
5:30pm-6:30pm – Knotty Yoga Beginner / Intermediate (Beg/Int/Adv)
6:30pm-7pm – Knotty Yoga Tour of the Core (Beg/Int/Adv)
7pm-8pm – Knotty Yoga Intermediate / Advanced (Int/Adv)
8pm-9pm – Knotty Yoga Core and Stretch (Beg/Int/Adv)

Tuesday
6pm-7pm – Knotty Yoga Boot Camp (Beg/Int/Adv)
7pm-8pm – Knotty Yoga Advanced (Adv)
8pm-9pm – Knotty Yoga Core and Stretch (Beg/Int/Adv)

Wednesday
5:30pm-6:30pm – Knotty Yoga Beginner / Intermediate (Beg/Int/Adv)
6:30pm-7pm – Knotty Yoga Tour of the Core (Beg/Int/Adv)
7pm-8pm – Knotty Yoga Intermediate / Advanced (Int/Adv)
8pm-9pm – Knotty Yoga Core and Stretch (Beg/Int/Adv)

Thursday
6pm-7pm – Knotty Yoga Boot Camp (Beg/Int/Adv)
7pm-8pm – Knotty Yoga Advanced (Adv)
8pm-9pm – Knotty Yoga Core and Stretch (Beg/Int/Adv)

Saturday
9am-10am – Knotty Yoga Boot Camp (Beg/Int/Adv)
10am-11am – Knotty Yoga Core and Stretch (Beg/Int/Adv)

Free preview classes Sunday, Feb 5th

I am having free, all-level preview classes on Sunday, Feb 5th, at these times:

noon-1pm
1:30pm-2:30pm
3pm-4pm

Feel free to invite others and I appreciate the giant show of support at my grand opening today :)