Mike Kueber's Blog

November 7, 2016

78258 and walking the walk

Filed under: Aphorism,Issues,Philosophy,Politics,Uncategorized — Mike Kueber @ 5:15 am
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One day after yoga practice at Lifetime Fitness I was talking to a couple of progressives about diversity.  One was Anglo, the other Asian/Mexican.  As progressives, they were very proud of San Antonio’s diversity.  I mentioned to them that San Antonio may be diverse, but it was also one of the most socio-economically segregated cities in America.

Although my statement surprised them, they seemed to accept it, and we moved on.  But when I got home, I decided to confirm my accuracy.  A quick google search took me to the news item that I had based my statement on.  According to a March 2016 editorial in the San Antonio Express-News:

  • Overall, San Antonio is middle of the road for big cities when it comes to prosperity and distress. But where we stand out is in our segregation and inequality. We lead the nation when it comes to the extreme differences between our more prosperous neighborhoods and our most distressed neighborhoods. Put another way, our prosperity is not at all shared among the city’s residents. We are the least equal city in the country.
  • Case in point: ZIP code 78207, our poorest. The index highlights this ZIP code and compares it with 78258, on the North Side, and our most prosperous ZIP code. In 78207, nearly half of the adults don’t have a high school diploma. Nearly 60 percent of adults are not working. Unemployment is up. Income is far below the state’s median level. The poverty rate is stuck at 42 percent.
  • In 78258, only 2 percent of residents don’t have a high school diploma. Two-thirds of adults are working. Incomes are way above the state’s median income level. Employment is zooming. The poverty rate is 4 percent.  “These communities look like two different countries,” said Steve Glickman of the Economic Innovation Group.

I forwarded the editorial to my two friends and then pointed out the ultimate irony – they both lived in 78258.  So, although they advocate for diversity and integration, they live lives of homogeneity and segregation.  Sort of like public-school advocates who send their children to private schools.  Or carbon-fuel opponents who consume prodigious amounts of fuel.  And it’s not just progressives.  There are all sorts of conservatives who don’t walk the walk.

This reminds me of another yoga teaching about changing myself and that will change the world. Or as Gandhi said, “You must be the change you want to see in the world… As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world – that is the myth of the atomic age – as in being able to remake ourselves.”

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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.

 

August 1, 2015

Conversation and missed encounters

Filed under: Culture,Philosophy — Mike Kueber @ 3:10 am
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A couple of days ago at Lifetime Fitness I attended a special Yoga under the Stars.  As I was leaving, I noticed an acquaintance whom I hadn’t seen for a couple of months.  I swung in his direction, said hi, and bumped fists with him before continuing on my way to the locker room.  After I got to the locker room, I regretted not stopping and catching up with the guy, so I went looking for him, but he was already gone.

Why didn’t I stop in the first place?  I wasn’t in a conversational mood and had only an instant to decide whether to stop and, if I did, what to say.  So I took the easy way out, and afterward was disappointed.

This incident brought to mind two concepts:

  • Encounters.  Last year, I blogged about the recommendation of French philosopher Gabriel Marcel that people should pay more attention and energy to their day-to-day encounters.  Author Michael Novak described this philosophy as follows: “Marcel brought new light to daily experiences, such as recognizing the ‘presence’ of other persons and ‘encounter’ with another person – in other words, not just a passing, inattentive moment with another human being, but something more.  He drew attention to the difference between sitting between two people on the subway for an hour – treating them without recognition or interest or attention – and the act of having a memorable exchange of personal qualities.”
  • Conversation.  A few weeks ago, I blogged about the art of conversation in the context of cocktail parties and how this art can enhance encounters.  Indeed, several episodes of Downton Abbey include situations where conversation is treated as an art to be learned and practiced.

In hindsight, I kick myself over the missed opportunity after Yoga under the Stars.  Next time, I will be ready.

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 8, 2014

Yoga doesn’t care….

Filed under: Culture,Fitness,Philosophy — Mike Kueber @ 9:56 pm
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This morning, as I was sitting with a good friend at the back of the yoga studio waiting for practice to begin, I started talking about some of our classmates. Although the term “catty” may be associated with the fairer sex, I take a back seat to no one when it comes to being catty.  The targets of my cattiness today were people who seemed to be excessively proud of their appearance. I mentioned to my friend that back in high school we used to call these people “stuck up.”

My reference to life in high school reminded me of how much yoga practice resembles high school, one of the most egalitarian places in America. In high school, at least at my high school, you were judged mostly on your personality and your character (the way you treated other people). It didn’t matter how much money your parents had or whether you were a great intellect or possessed a strong work ethic or had some special skill (music, athletics).

After high school and college, however, things change. Socio-economic status becomes more pervasive and invasive. Relationships often involve either networking or deferring to those with higher socio-economic status.

But yoga is different. It harkens back to the egalitarian days of high school. Students dress mostly the same and people aren’t treated better just because they are more skillful with the various asanas. Your relationships with your classmates depend on your personality and character, not on whether you are “successful” in a socio-economic way.

Coincidentally, at today’s yoga practice, my yogi read a poem (from Elephant Journal) that relates exactly to what I was already thinking. The following are some excerpts:

  • Yoga isn’t about our lifestyle, our beliefs, our weight, our diet, our flexibility, how spiritual or enlightened we are—yoga is just about showing up and doing our dance on our mats.
  • Yoga doesn’t care if you wear Lululemon or Spiritual Gangster.
  • Yoga doesn’t care if you are vegetarian, if you eat meat or know what Kombucha is.
  • Yoga doesn’t care what kind of mat you have, brand new or eating away at itself.
  • Yoga doesn’t care what religion you believe in.
  • Yoga doesn’t care what color your skin is or what gender you choose to love.
  • Yoga doesn’t care how much money you have, what house you live in, what car you drive.
  • Yoga doesn’t care if you fall over in Trikonasana.
  • Yoga doesn’t care if you ever make it into head stand.
  • Yoga doesn’t care if you smoke cigarettes and drink whisky.
  • Yoga doesn’t care what political party you vote for.
  • Yoga doesn’t care if you are single or divorced.
  • Yoga doesn’t care if you shop at whole foods.

Yoga is just happy you show up.

October 10, 2014

Happy Drugs and yoga

Filed under: Fitness,Medical — Mike Kueber @ 11:57 pm
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I recently blogged about the possibility that yoga, like good sex, causes the human body to produce drugs that cause immense happiness. The science behind this hypothesis is explored in a popular book and an interesting scientific article in Psychology Today, both published in 2012:

  • Book – Meet Your Happy Chemicals by Loretta Graziano Breuning
  • Article – The Neurochemicals of Happiness by Christopher Bergland

Breuning’s book focuses on four chemicals:

  1. Dopamine – the joy of finding what you want, which motivates you to keep seeking rewards.
  2. Endorphin – the oblivion that masks pain, which motivates you to ignore physical pain.
  3. Oxytocin – the safety of social bonds, which motivates you to build social alliances.
  4. Serotonin – the security of social dominance, which motivates you to get respect from others.

Bergland’s article addresses seven neurochemicals, including Breuning’s four:

  1. Endocannabinoids – “the Bliss Molecule”
  2. Dopamine – “the Reward Molecule”
  3. Oxytocin – “the Bonding Molecule”
  4. Endorphin – “the Pain-Killing Molecule”
  5. GABA – “the Anti-Anxiety Molecule”
  6. Serotonin – “the Confidence Molecule”
  7. Adrenaline – “the Energy Molecule”

Both Breuning and Bergland approach this subject from the perspective that humans (and other mammals) are programmed so that they feel happy when engaging in activities that are conducive to their survival. To create this feeling of happiness (and encourage this behavior), the body produces various chemicals during those physical activities.

Unfortunately, as life has become more sedentary, the chemicals aren’t being produced as much, with a deleterious effect on happiness. The authors suggest that certain physical activities can reverse this trend. Because Bergland’s background is as a self-described world-class endurance athlete, his focus is primarily on how these neurochemicals can be produced by athletics:

Endocannabinoid: sustained running produces a runner’s high.

Dopamine: the high resulting from setting a goal and achieving it.

Oxytocin: skin-to-skin contact, lovemaking, affection and intimacy.

Endorphin: strenuous physical exertion, sexual intercourse, and orgasm.

GABA: yoga is much better than reading a book.

Serotonin: actions that increase self-esteem and reduce insecurity.

Adrenalin: distress and fearful situations.

Based on these findings, yoga could easily be helpful in producing endocannabinoid, dopamine, endorphin, serotonin, and especially GABA. And there is a subsequent study in Psychology Today reporting that yoga helps produce oxytocin.  That leaves only adrenalin unaffected by yoga, and, personally, I am willing to avoid the high produced by escaping a fearful situation.  No parachuting for me.

The connection between yoga and oxytocin is the most interesting to me.  Breuning describes the function of oxytocin as follows:

  • When you have a good feeling about someone, oxytocin causes it. When you feel you can trust a person, or you enjoy their trust in you, oxytocin is flowing. The feeling of belonging, and of safety in numbers, is oxytocin too.  Social trust improves survival prospects, and it feels good. The brain motivates you to build social bonds by rewarding them with a good feeling, and thus promotes survival.

The social component of yoga is undeniable.  I have commented to several friends that I select classes to attend primarily on knowing which of my classmates are attending which classes.  We visit some before class and often afterwards.  And during class, there is a ubiquitous reference to sharing your energy with those around you, especially when the practice gets physically demanding.

Breuning says, “Touch triggers oxytocin,” and although our Lifetime Fitness classes don’t often involve touching, earlier this year I attended a special practice conducted by a master teacher from Minnesota, and preached lots of touching.  First he placed our mats only a couple of inches apart and then twice had us introduce ourselves to our mat mates (the second time was to demonstrate how often an introduction is forgotten within minutes).  Later in the practice, we held our mates arms and feet to help with balancing poses.  And finally, after we were all sweated up, he had us give our mat mates a big hug.  That is touching, big time.

I suspect the master teacher’s routine hasn’t been adopted in SA because many of my classmates aren’t ready for that level of familiarity.  In lieu of that, for the past few weeks I have been taking baby steps in that direction by shaking hands with those on adjoining mats immediately after practice and thanking them for a great practice and sharing their energy.  I believe that is oxytocin talking.

And after one especially demanding practice a couple of months ago, I mentioned to my two mat mates that the practice felt like a religious experience.  That, too, was the oxytocin talking.  And that’s a good thing.

October 9, 2014

Yoga sequencing revisited

Filed under: Fitness,Self-improvement,Sports — Mike Kueber @ 6:31 pm
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About a year ago I blogged about yoga sequencing based on reading a book on that subject and on my experience with the “signature” practices at Lifetime Fitness.

Essentially, the best sequence consists of some introductory sitting poses and perhaps breathing exercises to get your mind right, followed by three sun salutations (each performed about five times), with Sun A easy, Sun B hardened by including chair and a warrior pose, and Sun C hardest by including a panoply of poses that challenge the entire body. By the end of Sun B, you realize that your body is totally warmed and primed to take on the challenge of Sun C. By the end of Sun C, your body is totally engaged and clicking on all eight cylinders.

But everyone knows that it is preferable to gradually cool down a motor, so instead of abruptly relaxing after Sun C, proper yoga sequencing shifts from the vinyasa flows of sun salutations to a few stationary, but challenging asanas that keep your engine running for a few minutes. Finally, the practice ends with some stretching/flexibility asanas and the savasana.

Although this sequencing sounds pretty simple, it is difficult to execute. Because of varying abilities of the students and because some yogis are more lenient while others are more sadistic, the pace of the class often doesn’t meet the needs of the particular student. To avoid this result, our yogis regularly remind us that our practice is our own and that we should modify the practice as necessary to meet our needs. That is hard to do because of indirect pressure from yogis and peers to keep up.

Personally, I rarely find a class to be too easy. Much more often, the class is too difficult. Instead of yoga being like good sex (right down to the post-coital cigarette), it is like the Bataan Death March. A couple of days ago, I experienced that type of class, and another metaphor came to mind – i.e., in the last few minutes of practice, instead of my engine running on empty, it was running on fumes.  That is not a good feeling.

Speaking of good sex, I’ve read before about how good sex generates four “happy drugs” in your body – oxytocin, serotonin, endorphins, and dopamine – and I suspect yoga does the same thing. Sounds like something I need to research further.

 

March 13, 2014

Yoga practice jades a guy

Filed under: Culture,Fitness,Sports — Mike Kueber @ 1:54 am
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Yoga aficionados claim that regular practice helps them with strength, conditioning, tranquility, flexibility, and balance.  But my non-yoga activities already give me adequate strength and conditioning, and I’m already a tranquil guy.  So when friends ask me why I practice yoga so often, I tell them it is to improve my flexibility and balance.

But there is another reason – the women.

Nationwide, women comprise about 80% of yoga practices, and that number seems accurate for Lifetime Fitness in San Antonio, too.  But it is not just the quantity; it’s the quality.  I used to notice how tanning salons attracted such attractive women, but yoga studios seem to be even stronger beauty magnets.  In fact, the yoga women are so attractive that it is easy for guys to take them for granted.  Two examples of this occurred to me this week:

  1. Following a practice at Club 281, an extremely attractive woman introduced herself to me and said she had some questions for me.  Apparently she had been taking various practices for a few weeks in preparation to teaching, and she had noticed me at several of those classes and wanted to get my thoughts on those classes.  The shocking thing was that I had never noticed her in those classes.  I’m not the kind of guy to not notice an attractive, new woman, but there are so many attractive women in these classes that one more will usually not stand out.
  2. Following a practice at The Rim, I was visiting with the yogi about politics, and our conversation drifted onto a prominent older politician who had recently married a trophy bride, all well documented on Facebook.  As we were talking, a couple of women walked by and the yogi said hello.  As soon as they were gone, the yogi told me that, in an amazing coincidence, that was the trophy bride.  Aside from the coincidence, the shocking thing was that I had looked at the woman only briefly before returning my attention to the yogi.  The trophy bride in the context of a yoga class was just another woman.

Admittedly, women don’t look as good in exercise clothes as they do in tailored designer outfits, although they do wear colorful, shapely, revealing stuff.  And their make-up isn’t as professionally applied.  But I believe the dominant reason why I’m not noticing these uber-attractive women is that there are so many of them.

The outside world would probably consider three-fourths of the women in a class to be extremely attractive.  I’m like a photographer surrounded my swimsuit models.

Jaded is defined as “tired, bored, or lacking enthusiasm, typically after having had too much of something.”

After a while, they all look the same.

 

 

November 27, 2013

Sunday Book Review #113 – Yoga Sequencing by Mark Stephens

Filed under: Book reviews,Fitness — Mike Kueber @ 8:04 pm
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As a yoga aficionado who is interested in going beyond my rote participation in a daily 60-minute practice, I have checked out several yoga books from the local library.  Unfortunately, most of those books focus on the spiritual aspect of yoga, which is mostly beyond my current capability to enjoy.  Instead, I am interested in learning more about the physical practice, which consists of a series of poses (asanas).  Yoga Sequencing by Mark Stephens is exactly what I was looking for.

The genesis of yoga goes back almost 5,000 years, and it has evolved in an informal way.  A foundational text of 196 sutras (aphorisms) was written by Patañjali a couple of centuries B.C., but he was not the first to write about yoga and he used others’ writings in his work.  Those 196 sutras create the so-called eight limbs of yoga:

  1.  Yama refers to the five abstentions vis-à-vis the external world.
  2.  Niyama refers to the five observances: how we relate to ourselves, the inner world.
  3. Asana: discipline of the body.
  4. Pranayama consists of breathing exercises.
  5. Pratyahara: withdrawal of senses from their external objects.
  6. Dharana: concentration on a physical object.
  7. Dhyana: steadfast meditation.
  8. Samadhi: oneness with the object of meditation.

Yoga classes consist almost entirely of the third limb – asanas – although some practices touch on the breathing techniques in the fourth limb – pranayama.  Yoga Sequencing is subtitled “Designing Transformative Yoga Classes,” and its objective is to explain how the variety of asanas (or poses) can be fitted together to create an effective class.  The first concept to accomplish this is the Yoga Class Arc Structure.  According to Stephens, an effective class has five parts:

  1. Initiating the yogic process;
  2. Warming the body;
  3. Pathway to the peak;
  4. Peak exploration; and
  5. Integration and savasana.

These parts are really common sense and intuitive.  I remember a few weeks ago sending a note complimenting my instructor (whose name happens to be the 7th limb of yoga or Dhyana) about the great pace of her class that day:

  • Great ashtanga practice today.  Let me count the ways – (1) quick, solid warm-up without getting frenetic; (2) deceptively difficult standing poses that had the entire room sweating like pigs; and (3) yin poses that managed to keep the fire going all the way to savasana. Bravo!

The 60-minute yoga classes at Lifetime Fitness are Single Peak Class.  The book describes three other possibilities – Two Peak Class, Multiple Peak Class, and Gradual Arc Class – but I assume those classes are feasible only where the classes last 90 or 120 minutes.

After determining the desired pace, the next step for a teacher is to arrange the asanas in a sequence to accomplish that.  The yogic process is often initiated with sitting poses that help “establish your intentions” for that practice. It might also include some breathing exercises (pranayama).  The body is warmed usually with one of three sun salutations (namaskaras) – classical, A, or B.  The pathway to the peak includes two or three asana sequences of increasing energy, climaxing with the peak, followed by some calming down with some asanas on your yoga mat.

The author warns, “The peak should not be confused or conflated with the point of maximum internal heat generated through prior actions and poses; it is not so much about peak heat as peak openness.”  He also warns that “poses” suggest something superficial, but that actually they are essentially internal.  (As I noted in the opening, this mental component is beyond my current capability, so I think of peak as the time when the sweat is flowing liberally and I think of the asanas as physical poses.)

The book contains an abundance of guidance in selecting pose-by-pose sequencing, with the objective shifting from some times wanting complementary poses of increased or decreased challenge to other times wanting counter poses to balance what came earlier.

To assist teachers in cueing the various poses, the author provides an assortment of sequencing cues.  Because breathing is an important component, there are separate cues for the inhale and the exhale.  For example:

  1. Inhale – reach the arms out and up from Samasthihi to Urdhva Hastasana;
  2. Exhale – fold forward and down into Uttanasan;
  3. Inhale – extend the spine and heart center forward into Ardha Uttanasan;
  4. Exhale – step the right foot back, knee down to the floor, toes back;
  5. Inhale – draw the torso and arms up into Anjaneyasana;
  6. Exhale – swan dive the palms to the floor;
  7. Inhale – step back to Phalakasana;
  8. ….

In addition to providing sequencing for beginner classes, the author provides specialized sequences for intermediate and advanced classes, plus life-cycle sequences – kids, seniors, and special conditions of women (pregnant, menstruation, menopause).  There are also sequences with an emphasis on standing asanas, core awakening, arm balances, back bends, twists, forward bends, hip openers, and inversions.  Appendix B contains 96 pages with pictures and descriptions of countless asanas.

From the wealth of information contained in this book, I feel confident that my yoga instructors at Lifetime Fitness are highly competent and know what they are doing.  They create a class that is “assessable, sustainable, and transforming.”  Their asana sequencing results in a wonderful arc structure, all based on a foundation of clear cueing.

As I previous told Dhyana, bravo.

 

August 9, 2012

Dress codes and yoga

Filed under: Culture,Fitness — Mike Kueber @ 10:28 pm
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The year I graduated from high school (1971), a Canadian rock band called the Five Man Electrical Band had a hit song – Signs.   Although the song takes on a lot of society’s bugaboos, including materialism, snobbishness, and anti-green behavior, it includes multiple reference to dress codes, and that is what prompted me to think about it earlier this week when Lifetime Fitness decided to impose a ban on topless yoga.  It seems that some presumably-matronly women thought the sight of sweaty, shirtless men in their midst was disagreeable, and Lifetime Fitness decided to accommodate them.

Coincidentally, only a week earlier I had blogged about yoga etiquette and defended the practice of going shirtless.  But beyond the substance of this particular issue, I think that my coming-of-age in 1971 has almost hard-wired me to rebel against rules that seem to have mainstream people imposing their values unnecessarily on outliers like me.  Perhaps that is why I have always been inclined to live in an apartment community instead of a suburban development.  And why I love the slogan, “Keep Austin weird.”    

Not coincidentally, “Rebel Without a Cause” is in my Netflix queue.

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