Mike Kueber's Blog

October 26, 2016

Jonny Kest – master yogi

Filed under: Fitness,Sports — Mike Kueber @ 12:24 am
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Yesterday, I traveled north to Austin to participate in a yoga practice being presented by Lifetime Fitness’s master yogi, Jonny Kest.  Kest runs a yoga studio in Birmingham, Michigan called Center for Yoga, but has vastly expanded his influence by guiding the yoga programs at Lifetime Fitness clubs, with 129 locations nationwide.

I have been practicing yoga at Lifetime Fitness since 2009, and I was interested in seeing how a Kest practice differed from the practices I have been receiving from Kest-trained/guided teachers.  Even though the Kest practice was 90 minutes instead of the Lifetime 60, there was surprisingly  little difference –

  • After getting our focus, Kest led us though three Sun Salutations – A, B, and C – followed by some logs and yin and savasana.

A couple of friends were especially interested if knowing if Kest’s Sun C sequence had any particularly interesting sequences.  Not really –

  • Started with a chaturanga and right lunge and then quickly turned to the left side of our mat, deep squats to the left/right/left, dragonfly to the front, side angle to the left, fingers locked behind our heads and then three elbow crunches to right knee, archer’s pose, triangle, turn to the back of the mat into pyramid, three balancing poses (Tree, Dancer’s, Warrior 3?), and finally some hopping handstands.

The entire Sun C consisted of standard stuff at Lifetime San Antonio.  So, what was different about this practice?

  1. Due to Kest’s popularity and fame, the practice was conducted in a gymnasium instead of a studio.   Inexplicably, Kest conducted the practice without a microphone, so his cues and side-bar joking were often lost on half the class, especially until we became acclimated to his soft voice.
  2. Although the practice was in a large, sterile gymnasium, the mood leading up to the practice was actually better than a studio because of the dimmed lights, sideline candles, and auspicious music.  Plus the excitement in waiting for the star’s performance.
  3. Speaking of the music, Kest seemed to prefer power ballads instead of the hip hop that my San Antonio’s Lifetime yogis favor.  Advantage Kest 😉
  4. Before practice started, Kest asked everyone to squeeze toward the front and center to make room for others.  Later we realized that there was still empty space in the back, but Kest wanted us close together so that we better connected (physically and spiritually) with our neighbors.
  5. Kest had an extra 30 minutes for his practice, and he seemed to devote them to getting our focus at the beginning and taking us down at the end.  The Sun A, B, and C seemed to have the same duration as the 60-minute practices at Lifetime San Antonio.
  6. Kest started the practice with a long, simple inversion of standing and bending at our hips.  That was interesting.  And nice.
  7. I was lost during the lead-up to Sun A because I couldn’t hear the cues and couldn’t copy my neighbors because they couldn’t hear either.
  8. Probably the most unique aspect of the practice was the number of times that we did a group pose, gaining support by holding our neighbors’ hands.  Probably five or six times between sequences.  Warrior Three, Chair, Boat, etc.  We do this occasionally in San Antonio, but probably once a month, not six times in one practice.  I’ve always hated holding hands with Boat/Canoe because your neighbor’s hand usually hurts more than helps.  Kest took it one step further and had us go from Boat to Canoe to Plow before coming forward to Standing.  Imagine doing that while holding the hands of two different neighbors.  Yeah, right.
  9. I don’t have much recollection of the logs (holding a series of challenging poses for a minute or two each) or the closing yin poses on our mats.  Suffice to say that the logs were not nearly as challenging as I am used to in San Antonio.  Guess Kest wanted us to leave with good thoughts of him instead of the stink eye that our San Antonio yogis sometimes get.
  10. And finally, a Kest idiosyncrasy – whenever he cued us into a chaturanga, he reminded us to cleanly lift our trailing foot so that it didn’t scrap our mat.  He said this technique strengthened our calves.

I have noticed that the best yogis have gained control of their egos.  Despite Kest’s fame, he came across as someone without huge ego problems.  Because of this ego control, I suspect he would be happy to know that his yoga teachers in San Antonio can teach a practice alongside him any day.

 

October 6, 2015

Pop honors John Carlos

Filed under: Culture,Issues,Media,Politics,Sports — Mike Kueber @ 10:09 pm
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The past two editions of the Express-News have contained articles concerning the Spurs’ Gregg (Pop) Popovich honoring John Carlos by giving him the opportunity to speak to the Spurs players at their training facility. For those of you who don’t recall Carlos, he and running mate Tommie Smith disrupted a medal ceremony in the 1968 Olympics by standing with heads down and black-gloved fists up (and shoes off) during the playing of our National Anthem. They asserted that their protest was to show support for the black-power movement. Their conduct resulted in them being kicked off the American Olympic team.

In the first article, Dan McCarney reported that Pop brought Carlos in to create a cultural opportunity for the team:

  • Bringing in a guest speaker of such stature is about what you’d expect from Popovich, who makes a concerted effort to push his players to expand their attention beyond the basketball court.

Shooting guard Danny Green seemed to appreciate the gesture:

  • We got a chance to interact with a legend. He paved the way for us. For us young guys, learning the history of where we came from is important. It was important to Pop. He felt the need to share it to us.

Huh? In what sense did John Carlos pave the way for Danny Green? Black athletes were already well established in 1968. Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, et al.

I responded to McCarney’s article with the following online comment:

  • As Vince Lombardi famously said, “What the hell is going on out there?” Carlos’s claim to fame is a notorious attempt to politicize the medal-ceremony at the Olympics. By all accounts, that tactic has been thoroughly discredited and would be met by even more ugly reactions today. So why does Pop glorify the guy? Pop’s hubris is beginning to annoy.

Not surprisingly, my comment was not well received. One of the paper’s most prolific commenters weighed-in as follows:

  • Idiot. Hundreds of Mexican students protesting the extravagant spending by the government in the midst of staggering poverty and oppression were killed and arrested. The order to shoot and arrest came from a totally corrupt government and is well known as the Massacre at Tatelolci (plaza de las tres cultural) and those of us who witnessed the athlete’s expression of solidarity know the truth. All you are is a right wing mouthpiece who has no clue.

I thought that would be the end of the matter, but the newspaper decided to double-down on the matter by publishing a similar article the next day. In this article reporter Mike Monroe reported that the Spurs’ interaction with “civil rights icon John Carlos … continues to resonate with the team.” He also provided Pop’s explanation for the visit – “It’s just an effort to honor somebody who deserves to be honored, and to let our team know the world is bigger than basketball.”

Monroe provided two new examples of the continuing resonation:

  1. Starting forward Kawhi Leonard said Carlos’s talk to the team will be an inspiration throughout the season. “He’s an icon to America. Him coming in here and saying how much he likes your team, you get an enjoyment in your heart and want to keep fighting and make him proud.”
  2. Guard-forward Kyle Anderson was left with an indelible impression. “That was awesome, a great experience. For Pop to actually bring him in and give us a chance to interact with him and ask him questions and learn from him was great. That really meant a lot to us. I felt a lot of pride. When he did what he did he had people in 2015 in mind. He had his kids in mind; he had his grandkids in mind; the future in his mind.”

Do these basketball players know what Carlos did? Although Carlos was only known to me for his outrageous medal-ceremony protest, I decided to consult with Wikipedia to learn if he did anything else noteworthy. Wikipedia reported nothing of significance in Carlos’s life since the medal ceremony other than being kicked off the Olympic team, receiving death threats, failing to catch on in professional football, and writing a memoir.

I commented on Monroe’s article as follows:

  • Carlos’s memoirist complains that the sports world has long treated this medal-stand protestor as a toxic element for attempting to politicize black athletes. Are the Spurs attempting to revive this utterly, comprehensively repudiated concept? Some have suggested that the hiring of Hammon was a political statement; perhaps this is Political Statement #2 from Pop and the Spurs.

Not surprisingly, a guy name Alonso disagreed:

  • You complainers are missing the point. Coach Pop knew his players would like meeting him and he was right. The politics of the Spurs coach and players should not have any impact on whether we root for them on the court. At least it doesn’t for grownups anyway.

I responded to Alonso:

  • The politics of the Spurs coach and players don’t have an impact if they keep those views to themselves. But if they want to start preaching to us, see what happened to the Dixie Chicks. Incidentally, Pop said he wanted to honor Carlos, but nowhere have I seen exactly what he is to be honored for. Disrupting a medal ceremony?

‘nuff said.

 

 

July 25, 2015

Colin Cowherd

Filed under: Media,Sports — Mike Kueber @ 1:20 pm
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Earlier this week, radio talk-show guy Colin Cowherd was making an argument about how simple the game of baseball was when he offered as supporting evidence the fact that most of the major leaguers were from the Dominican Republic, a country noteworthy for its weak education system.

I believe Cowherd’s statement, although irrelevant, is true, and Cowherd has since provided objective proof of it.  But it is also, in the mainstream media, something that is not said in polite company.  Therefore, ESPN has taken Cowherd off the air.

I don’t envy being a radio talk-show guy, especially those employed by politically-correct corporations.  These guys are supposed to be edgy, but their livelihood is at risk if they say anything that offends an important stakeholder of the corporation.

p.s., if I had a dollar for every time I heard a northeast liberal make a snarky comment about the intelligence of southerners, I could retire 🙂

Playing reporter

Filed under: Media,Sports — Mike Kueber @ 1:14 pm
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There were a couple of items in the news this past week in which I think the media completely missed an important angle to the stories:

  1. Border sieve.  Kate Steinle was a young woman killed in San Francisco by an illegal immigrant.  The media has focused on the fact that San Francisco is a sanctuary city, so even though the killer was a felon who had been deported multiple times, the city had shortly before the murder released him from an custody instead of turning him over to ICE.  Although the sanctuary-city issue is an important one, I also think the incident does serious damage to the Obama administration argument that our border security has improved.  Rather, the fact that this guy was able to illegally cross our border at least six times shows that the border remain a sieve.
  2. Pre-game preparation.  One of the big story angles leading up to the British Open was whether Jordan Spieth should have gone to Scotland a week early to get acclimated instead of competing in the John Deere Classic in America.  When Spieth competed strongly in the British Open, the argument seemed to have died a quiet death.  But I think the argument should have ended with an exclamation mark because the man who defeated Spieth by one stroke in the Open was Zach Johnson, another golfer who played the John Deere Classic before catching a chartered red-eye to Scotland.  The John Deere Classic should have an easier time filling its field next year.

July 6, 2015

Sexism

Filed under: Culture,Sports — Mike Kueber @ 10:19 pm
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In the wake of the American women’s success in World Cup soccer, the Washington Post took the opportunity to charge Great Britain with sexism.  The charge was prompted by the Brits’ national organization congratulating the women’s team for making it to the semifinals with the following tweet:

  • “Our Lionesses go back to being mothers, partners and daughters today, but they have taken on another title – heroes.”

According to the Post, the tweet is sexist because it was not something that would ever be said about a men’s team.

I agree that something like that probably was not uttered to men on the Golden State Warriors as they returned home from winning the NBA title in Cleveland, but does that make it sexist?

According to Merriam-Webster, sexism means “behavior, conditions, or attitudes that foster stereotypes of social roles based on sex.”  Based on that definition, any belief that family generally plays a larger role in the life of a woman than it does in the life of a man is sexist.

I suspect, however, that makes much of America sexist.  Although feminists are free to pressure women to discard the traditional outsize role of women in raising a family, the vast majority of American women continue to reject the feminist call.

Perhaps the term sexist should be limited to attitudes that reflect negative stereotypes because surely the political-correct policemen don’t expect us to cease making general comments on the other sex.

p.s., the Post article commented that the British women soccer players were much more “accomplished” than their male counterparts.  “Accomplished” means highly trained or skilled.  The women may be relatively accomplished, but I don’t suggest they compete on a level field against the Brit men.

April 8, 2015

John Saunders is rooting for the home team

Filed under: Culture,Media,Sports — Mike Kueber @ 9:41 pm
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This week on The Sports Reporters, John Saunders’s “Parting Shot” consisted of his lament that there were no black coaches in the Final Four and only one in the Sweet Sixteen. According to Saunders, this development is not a mere aberration. Rather, it is a reflection of a disturbing trend in college basketball – i.e., the return of racial discrimination. How else would you explain that during the last decade, the percentage of black coaches decreased from 25% to 22%? (Maybe the fact that blacks comprise on 13% of America has something to do with that.) How else would you explain that twelve black coaches had been fired this year alone? (Maybe they didn’t win enough games.)

I don’t begrudge a black man for rooting for black coaches. I was rooting for Wisconsin because it started four white guys while the other three teams had none, and I wanted the Wisconsin players to show that white men could play winning basketball. I considered the Wisconsin players to be underdogs, and I suppose Saunders continues to think of black coaches as underdogs, too, even though they have had and continue to have plenty of opportunity to prove their merit.

If I were famous, however, I suspect that my rooting for the white team would be challenged by many as racist, whereas Saunders’s statement sailed by without any concern.

Of course, Saunders has a history of this. A few months ago, he was euphoric over a Chicago little-league team, Jackie Robinson West, winning a national championship because it was all-black. Again, this is rooting for the underdog. Unfortunately, the team was stripped of the title a few months later because of illegal recruiting.

No one will accuse Saunders of being politically correct, but, of course, he is.

December 22, 2014

Sucking the joy out of yoga

Filed under: Fitness,Philosophy,Self-improvement,Sports — Mike Kueber @ 11:41 pm
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This past Sunday one of my favorite yoga teachers was conducting a special practice called “108 Sun Salutations.” This practice is traditionally done on the Winter Solstice and consists of 108 Sun A’s.

At the same time as the practice, one of my fellow yoga students was doing a marathon-training run. This morning he told me that he thought about the 108 Sun Salutations just as he finished Mile 17 of his run, and decided that he was fortunate to be running instead of saluting. What’s that say about 108 Sun A’s?

After sharing that bit of wisdom, my friend and I embarked on a Hot Vinyasa practice. Consistent with the Lifetime Fitness format, the practice primarily consists of three Sun Salutation series (A, B an C) before throwing on a few “logs” – i.e., holding a series of strenuous poses for several minutes. They are called logs because the three Sun series are supposed to generate a blazing fire in our bodies while the finishing strenuous poses are supposed to be “logs” to keep the fire blazing a bit longer. Although today’s logs weren’t particularly sadistic, the logs this past Sunday were. They caused me to wonder, is that really yoga?

So I asked Google – “Is yoga supposed to be hard?” The first result came from a Fitness blog, with an entry titled, “Is yoga supposed to kick your butt?”  The author seemed eminently qualified because she taught both yoga and high-intensity interval training (HIIT). In a nutshell, her answer is “no”:

  • “I don’t look at my students before a yoga class and think, ‘This class is going to kick everyone’s butt today.’ (Full disclosure: I do have those thoughts before teaching my HIIT classes!) With yoga, the intention is different. We are there to shift our energy and find inner peace. That doesn’t mean the class is just gentle stretching. We build power and heat doing Down-Dog flows. We discover our strength in Warrior and Plank. We challenge ourselves with balancing and other advanced poses. But all that’s done with a mindfulness toward inner peace, a sense of stability and a deeper connection with oneself. No one feels ‘beat up’ after class.”

Other blogs talk about yoga expanding its boundaries in recent years to include strength and cardio fitness, and that is what has happened at Lifetime Fitness. Its website describes a Hot Vinyasa practice as follows:

  • “Enjoy an energetic yoga class that uses a flowing series of postures to create heat within the body as you increase strength, flexibility, endurance and balance. The teacher first guides the class through the flow together before freeing each student to move at his or her own pace. Hot Vinyasa is good for new students who are physically active, those interested in the fitness benefits of yoga, and anyone who wants to dive in to a strong, multi-faceted practice. This practice is typically accompanied by more upbeat music.”

The concern with an energetic yoga class is analogous to the concern with vitamins and medicine – i.e., if a certain dosage is good for you, is a double dose twice as good for you. Some yoga teachers inevitably start thinking that more energy is a better class, so they push their students to use more energy, which can leave them feeling “beat up.”

The solution, of course, is for each student to modify their practice to suit themselves. The problem is that many teachers, either explicitly or implicitly, discourage modifications. In fact, after practice one day last week, a yogi came up to me and gravely asked if I were injured. When I said I was fine, she said she had noticed so many modifications that she assumed I was injured.

LOL!

December 19, 2014

Aphorism of the Week #23 – Youth is wasted on the young

Filed under: Aphorism,Sports — Mike Kueber @ 3:02 pm
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Earlier this week there was a shocking report on an NFL football player, Chris Conte, who opined that he would accept a shortened lifespan in return for a career in the NFL. He loved NFL football that much.   I fully expected Conte’s sentiment to be quickly repudiated by the politically-correct ESPN, but instead ESPN interviewed two thoughtful, former NFL players – Mark Schlereth and Herm Edwards – both of whom agreed with Conte.  Both suggested that the quality of their lives was more important than the quantity.

Amazingly, this story has developed little further controversy. No one is questioning Conte’s sanity. And no one is suggesting Conte shouldn’t have the right to make this decision.

But this morning’s SA Express-News contained a Roy Bragg column that attacked the issue from a different angle – i.e., instead of criticizing Conte, the column criticized the American public for idolizing sports and its heroes. Indeed, Bragg compared sports fans to drug addicts:

  • Comparing sports fans to substance abusers might seem ham-fisted, but there are some similarities to consider. Addicts want to get high or drunk right now, and damn the consequences. They want to get high all of the time, and damn the consequences. We, by the same token, want sports all of the time, damn the consequences. Our addiction has created a juggernaut sports economy that feeds off our addiction. Hence the proliferation of sports platforms — paper, online, broadcast, cable — reporting the same trades and injuries and arrests, over and over, 24 hours a day. Occasionally, as a bonus, they mix in some scores and highlights.”

I disagreed with Bragg and left him the following on-line comment:

  • Roy, at least you take an unexpected tack by blaming us instead of blaming Chris. But I think you are wrong because your assertion is based on a hyperbolic exaggeration of America’s love of sports in general and football in specific. I know lots of sports fans and none of them is consumed by their love of the game.”

Regarding Conte’s thought-process and analysis, I expect most young athletes would come to the same conclusion about an NFL career. Giving up some vague future is easier to do than giving up the glorious present. And although I would be disappointed if any of my four sons felt so strongly about an NFL career, I suspect that my only son who played high school football would make Conte’s decision in a New York minute.

As George Bernard Shaw said – “Youth is wasted on the young.”

December 3, 2014

Aphorism of the Week #22 – How they made you feel

Filed under: Aphorism,Sports — Mike Kueber @ 12:50 pm
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While walking into yoga practice a couple of days ago, my yogi asked me how my Thanksgiving went. Because I tend to respond accurately instead of rotely to such question, I gave her an ambiguous response because that was my immediate feeling. Later, during practice, I questioned and reflected on why I felt ambiguous about my Thanksgiving.

My Thanksgiving consisted of having a nice breakfast in my apartment and then picking up my son Tommy for an enjoyable drive to Austin (Hutto) for a Thanksgiving dinner at another son’s house – Bobby. Bobby’s wife Heather made us a fine feast while we were able to play with Bobby’s three young kids, mostly inside although the weather outside was perfect. We were joined for the feast by another son, Mikey, and his new girlfriend, Alex, plus Heather’s grandparents, her brother, and his Army friend.

Everything sounds perfect, and it was, although Mikey and Alex had to leave in the early afternoon to join her family’s feast in Boerne. Then at 3:25 Tommy and I started watching the Dallas Cowboys play, and the game went horribly, with the Boys being blown out by the Eagles.

At the end of the Dallas game, Tommy and I headed for home and as we drove home past DKR-Memorial Stadium we tuned in the game on the radio and learned the Horns were already down 13-0. I was able to watch the end of the blowout at my apartment.

So, now back in yoga practice, it dawned on me why my Thanksgiving felt ambiguous – at Lifetime Fitness, the yogis like to remind us of a Maya Angelou quote:

  • People will forget what you said; people will forget what you did; but people will never forget how you made them feel.

That explains my immediate response of ambiguity about Thanksgiving this year. Although my brain tells me that it was a wonderful day, couldn’t be much better, my heart was invested in the Cowboys and Longhorns that day and their devastating defeats put a damper on my feelings.

November 26, 2014

NFL scheduling

Filed under: Sports — Mike Kueber @ 10:25 pm
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Last week on Facebook, one of the ubiquitous Dallas Cowboy haters complained that this year the Cowboys benefited from the easiest schedule in football. I responded that the Cowboy schedule, with top-10 opponents San Fran, Seattle, Arizona, and Indianapolis, was a lot more difficult than the schedule for my friend’s infamous Cleveland Browns, with Indianapolis its only top-10 opponent.

Why was Dallas given such a tough row to hoe, while Cleveland was given an easy slide? I vaguely recalled that NFL scheduling was based primarily on a rotating schedule, with some match-up of cellar-dwellers and pennant winners. A quick check of the NFL website confirmed my understanding. Every team plays 16 games as follows:

  • Home and away against its three division opponents (6 games).
  • The four teams from another division within its conference on a rotating three-year cycle (4 games).
  • The four teams from a division in the other conference on a rotating four-year cycle (4 games).
  • Two intra-conference games based on the prior year’s standings (2 games). These games match a first-place team against the first-place teams in the two same-conference divisions the team is not scheduled to play that season. The second-place, third-place, and fourth-place teams in a conference are matched in the same way each year.

Cleveland and the AFC North won the lottery this year because they rotated to play one of the worst divisions ever – the NFC South – which has a division leader at 4-7 and a combined won-lost record 17 games below .500. Its other divisional opponent – the AFC South – is only marginally better at 14 games below .500, entirely on the shoulders of its leader, 7-4 Indianapolis. In fact, every team in those two divisions other than Indianapolis has a losing record.

Because Cleveland finished last in its division last year, it was awarded the right to play the two last-place finishers in the other AFC divisions. The cellar-dweller in the West was Oakland, currently 1-10, and, in Cleveland’s only bit of bad luck, the cellar-dweller in the East was Buffalo, which is a surprising 6-5 this year, compared to the East’s current cellar-dweller Jets, who are 2-9.

In sum, the Browns’ non-divisional opponents are 39 games below .500, and that goes a long way toward explaining the Browns’ illusory record of 7-4. That also explains why the preeminent analytical website, fivethirtyeight.com, gives the Browns less than a 25% chance of making the playoffs.

Unless they move up Johnny Manziel.  Then all bets are off.

 

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