Yoga: Gateway [Drug] To Eastern Religion

“Are we teaching yoga in public schools now?” he asked. “Are parents notified?” – New Mexico state representative Alonzo Baldonado (R, but like you couldn’t guess THAT). He said these comments and more in a meeting of the Legislative Education Study Committee where he is a non-voting member, during a session meant to demonstrate things that educators are doing to combat obesity and assist in the general health of schoolkids. The committee studies current educational metrics in New Mexico and makes recommendations for funding or changes to educational law.

During the meeting, a local PE teacher was describing her stretching routine to help warm the kids up before engaging in other sports, and this is when Mr. Baldonado chose to speak saying that he, “didn’t go looking for a discussion on religion. It just came up.”

Never mind the fact that the state representative’s own children are home-schooled, far from the overly influencing realm of regular classrooms and gym class and stretching. Good for them (?). However, Mr. Baldonado is extremely concerned that other people’s kids will be exposed to non-Christian religious practices without their knowledge or consent of their parents.

Yoga for Westerners = Stretching in Tight Pants

Never mind the fact that yoga, as Westerners know it, has approximately zero to do with its own traditional roots. According to Mr. Baldonado, who has “nothing against Buddhism or Hinduism”, “yoga could be seen as a gateway to Eastern religion.”

I won’t spend this post talking about what might happen if, indeed, some kids became interested in Eastern religion, whether that interest was sparked by a book they read or a conversation at school or a television show or gym class stretching. Conversion from one religious thought system to another is rare and not my topic for today.

Instead, my topic is on yoga: Mr. Baldonado could use just a wee bit of schooling himself. On eastern religions, on Christianity’s hold on upbringing, on yogic traditions, and on physical activity as a contributor to mental/academic performance. But mostly on what in the heck it means when a person says, “yoga”.

Do YOU know what yoga’s traditional roots are? Do you know what yoga really means? Let’s do a brief overview, keeping in mind that I am not a trained scholar on the history of yogic practice. So this will be quick, and it will be assisted by other folks online who are better experts than I.

Yoga – the Driving Analogy

Calling the stretching and exercises that we as Westerners call yoga, “yoga”, is like calling your ignition key your car. The key is a tool, used in the whole process we call “driving from one place to another”. Other parts of the process are things like the car itself, the roads, your knowledge and experience with driving, how much you know about your destination, the traffic along the way, and even the mental decision that made you choose this destination and this day and this car to take you there. Whew.

Similarly, the whole system and concept and world of yoga is a journey and an education, with goals along the way, rules, guideposts, and teachers. A yoga teacher of mine likes to say that we “will never have a perfect pose or session or day – that is why you call it yoga practice!”

Yoga: the four letter word with eight parts

Eight limbs of yoga

What that tiny four letter word YOGA encompasses is EIGHT areas of focus that ultimately touch upon all of a person’s life:

  1. Yama: self-restraint. Otherwise known as not going overboard in a Western consumer kind of way.
  2. Niyama: introspection, self-study.
  3. Asana: activity, stretching, body alignment.
  4. Pranayama: breathing, study of breath.
  5. Pratyahara: quiet sitting, detachment from distractions.
  6. Dharana: calming the mind, preparing for #7.
  7. Dhyana: contemplation, meditation.
  8. Samadhi: bliss or enlightenment, or just plain feeling at one with everything.

THAT – all of it – is “the yoga”. What looks familiar? The word “posture” should have been a sign – it’s number 3 on the list. That is what most of us – we humans who go to yoga class and bend and twist and say hello to our friends and their new shiny yoga mats – do and call it yoga. From now on I will call what Mr. Baldonado and everyone else refer to as yoga by its name on the list: asana. (Asana is also referred to as “hatha yoga” – so if you go to a yoga studio that says they practice Hatha Yoga you can be sure that you’re getting…. yoga. Just like you expected. As opposed to a meditation studio or such.)

There is nothing wrong with asana all on its own. Physical movement, especially habitual daily patterns as is common with asana practice, is extremely good for us.

Most of the other steps and practices are also helpful in our cluttered lives: steadying your thoughts, breathing in different ways to enhance your desired goals (slow to calm down, forceful to awaken, et cetera), meditation. These are practices that would benefit nearly every human on the planet. Ok, I’ll go on a limb (har) and say it could benefit EVERY human.

And that’s nothing that a schoolkid’s parent should have to sign a consent form for.

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BNT: Animated GIFs in the Key of Lovely

Friday and I think I ought to lighten things up just a tad. Next week I’ll have lots of serious shit to post about health and nutrition and other amazing and scary things, so, for today, let’s have some fun.

In the style of Rachel Maddow, this is my “best new thing” submission for the internet as I’ve seen it of late. 🙂

If you’d asked internet experts back in 1999 what thing they figure would make a comeback in the next 10-15 years, you can bet that very few would have said, “hey, these animated GIF things are super rad!”

And yet…. here we are. They range from cheesy to cute, but WIRED just put together a nice little list of well-designed examples from the pros.

http://www.wired.com/design/2013/09/the-rise-of-subtle-tasteful-and-commissioned-animated-gif-illustrations

And for the art aficionados, we have another set which is a bit more subtle but still cool:

http://www.wired.com/design/2013/10/these-wild-gifs-bring-greek-sculptures-to-life/

Pick Up Ethical Meat on Your Way Home

Roadkill: quite possibly the only ethical meat if you are squeamish about animals raised with the express purpose of ending up on your plate.

I suppose hunting and fishing would also fall into this category, but then YOU actually have to kill the thing and for some folks that apparently steps over some line of culpability.

But roadkill? That’s like the dollar-bag of wilting produce at your favorite hoity-toity grocery store where local carrots with the dirt still attached are like $9.89/lb and the cashiers have dreadlocks AND mustaches.

In some states it’s legal, in others it’s just . . . tolerated. Usually.

As to the actual culinary merits, that’s up to you. Get some recipes ready and your butchery skills honed.

http://modernfarmer.com/2013/09/eating-roadkill/

A Fair Amount of Kale Involved

Just a quickie today – I read a decent article in The Atlantic about food, our guts, and skin health and a quote popped out that made me smirk:

Maybe if you’re 20 you just have good genes and you can have pizza and beer every day and still glow. But if you’re over 40, often there is a fair amount of kale involved. – Robynne Chutkan, author of Gutbliss

Expectation does not Equal RealityYeah, that’s true – taking care of ourselves is a moving target that can shift from year to year, decade to decade. And yet, it is all to easy to find “inspiration” (or the more insidious varieties called thinspiration or fitspiration) for how we should look or feel or perform in people who do not resemble us AT ALL. They are almost always possessing of several attributes that are conveniently forgotten:

  • young
  • they are fit for a living
  • at the end of a long diet process
  • starving and dehydrated on photo shoot day

… those “amazing” looking women on the cover of Shape are – more often than not – dehydrated and almost about to pass out from hunger. They are likely at their lowest weight point of the previous (or upcoming) six months.

In short, THEY DON’T REALLY LOOK LIKE THAT. Just like you don’t look like the 10 years-old photo on your driver’s license, or the tiny and cute avatar that’s been attached to an email account for eons, or the glamor shot used for your corporate bio at your firm. And that’s OK, as long as you see the parallels in the disassociation from reality in both camps.

Hey, Me: Shit or Get Off The Pot! Love, Me

This blog post is part of the Week of Self-Love hosted by Anne-Sophie Reinhardt of annesophie.us. (Even though the week is technically over, I still want to give her link-love for the great idea!)

Decisions-images

Today marks just 5 days before I am scheduled to venture up into the scrubby hills between Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon for an inaugural 100 mile race. Problem is, my body isn’t excited about this prospect, AND there is a much closer, locally-organized shorter event the same weekend. So, as is usual for me, I am torn.

Normally my course of action is to wait until a decision foments on its own, but that is not how I’d like to BE as a participant in this life. Deciding is not a bad thing, not a scary thing, not to be avoided at all costs. So, to make this be an effective behavioral change, I think I should set a hard deadline for the choice (24 or 48 hours from now), and make the choice and deal with it. Lovingly, without regret or self-recrimination, or even too many “but, if….”s in the mix.

Self-assuredness is a quality I could use a bazillion percentage points more of. Here’s my pledge to make that happen, little by little, with care and compassion for my own flip-floppy mental state.

Why One Square of Chocolate is Not Enough

. . . for me, that is.

Tons of health oriented websites and nutritionists and dieticians love to talk about moderation. “Everything in moderation!”, they chirp, “even, sometimes, moderation! (giggle)”.

What if they are dead wrong?

Is moderation what saves people? Some articles in the last few years have started to unravel this concept, stating dramatic reversals like, “Everything in moderation is making you fat!” or “The Moderation Myth“.

Here’s something to chew on: what if they are BOTH RIGHT (or) BOTH WRONG? What if the whole thing is as silly as t elling a redhead they really ought to be blonde; what if moderation success is based on INDIVIDUALS rather than a rule for all?

That’s when I found Gretchen Rubin‘s awesome Abstainer/Moderator theory. It’s simple: some of us are Moderators and we CAN have just a few bites and be done with it, and some of us are Abstainers and “just one” often ends up being “the whole damn package“.

eat-all-the-things

The outcome of this theory is really, really easy. You KNOW which one of the two you currently are (even if you flip-flop during times of stress or hormonal cycles – you’ll still know what situation you are currently IN), and therefore you can change your behavior**.

If you have always, always, been able to have one perfect chocolate square or one bite of ice cream and then stop with no pangs, no worry – you are a moderator. If your eating and sleeping and activity is good, don’t worry one bit and have your bites.

However, if you have always been the EAT ALL THE THINGS kind of snacker, then you are an abstainer. Avoid the things that start as delicious indulgence and often end up as guilty regret – it is far, far easier to just not start. This makes it simple – you don’t have that shit in the house, you don’t order dessert, you keep your mitts off the french fries. If you have a rare indulgence, go into it with joy and pleasurable acceptance. You might eat the “whole thing”, whatever it is, but piling on guilt and regret is honestly the last thing good to load on top of your aching belly. Drink some water, go for a walk, forgive yourself, meditate, and go to bed early. Done.

**P.S. I do actually think that your “type” is not set in stone, and that you can, through some other behaviorial changes like better sleep, high-nutrient diet, and such, you can influence to some degree which of the two camps you fall into.

Procrastinating Is Easy When You Are Not Suffering

I recently found myself in a quasi-challenge with a friend to remove a few things from our daily eating habits that were making us generally cranky, or were bothering our guts. No problem, right? Sometimes you are totally ok to walk by the ice cream at the store?

WRONG.

Here’s the thing. We are both very, very healthy. We feel good a lot of the time, AND we eat well, move around, and sleep a decent amount. Therefore, what we are doing is just the window trim, or the fluffy frosting rose on the otherwise done wedding cake. We are fine-tuning.

Dinner Option 1

Dinner Option 1?

And, fine-tuning sucks.

That’s a lot of the source of resistance to “whole food eating” (whether you call it Paleo or primal or ancestral or vegan+bacon, whatever) to average/normal people: normal people feel FINE most of the time. Sure, we have allergies, or we get sick, or our necks hurt a lot, or we poop weird a lot of the time, but hey, that’s just getting older, isn’t it?

Why the hell should we adopt this very specific diet because whatever we are eating now will/might/could make us disease-riddled in 30 years??? Fat chance. And thus, perhaps, we ensure some negative consequences down the road. But they are down the road.

Folks who have MS, rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s, Crohn’s, or any auto-immune condition – THOSE are the highly motivated who turn their life outlook around when they use diet and lifestyle to fix themselves. They have everything to gain and only some minor inconvenience to deal with as they transition away from ramen and fried cheese balls and Pop Tarts. When they feel better, they feel GREAT.

And then they tell everyone about it. But, those they tell – the rest of us – are not highly motivated, usually. Normal folks are not-so-thirsty horses that don’t really care to be led over to the water, thanks.

Dinner Option 2

Dinner Option 2

I still think the “whole fooders” are right (whatever that means), and they are doing great things like:

But. Hmph. Sometimes the only marginally motivated just want some damn ice cream. Challenge? Hmph.