Transitioning From Yoga Student to Yoga Teacher

This weekend I finished a teacher training intensive at my yoga studio. This intensive was 12 hours of yoga over the weekend (Friday night and 2 practices a day on Saturday and Sunday), with 25 other teachers and soon-to-be teachers from the Seattle area (though 1 person came in from Montana!).

My studio, Shakti Vinyasa, is a Baptiste Affiliate Studio, and this style of Power Vinyasa Yoga is quite popular nowadays. The training pushed us all to discover our own inner voice, our reasons for teaching and some of the key building blocks to leading an outstanding class.

Perhaps the most unnerving part of class was leading other students through small 3-5 minutes routines! In fact, at one point during yesterday evening’s class, while all of us were hanging out in downward dog waiting for the teacher to lead us to the next pose, we were asked to raise our leg if we wanted to teach the class.

Of course I did.

And of course I was then called on, and led the class through a little Sun Salutation B (with Crow thrown and a few Lion’s for good measure!). This was my first attempt at teaching a class this size at an actual yoga studio (in front of a bunch of other teacher’s no less!). It was a lot of fun.

Throughout the rest of the intensive, we had several practice rounds of teaching amongst smaller groups, with feedback (intense feedback I might add!) on what we did well and what we could improve on.
Feedback was a critical aspect of the training, and we were pushed to give feedback that focused both on “gems” (things we do well) and “opportunities” (things we could improve on). We were also repeatedly coached to not react to the feedback, and to just accept it.

I must say, that if you have never had to sit and listen to someone praise or critique you and SAY NOTHING…..you would not realize just how tough it is. No nodding the head or laughing or telling your story about why did such a thing…just sitting and accepting it quietly.

Through this experience, I have had a few realizations about making the transition from Yoga Student to Yoga Teacher:

It is far harder to teach a class (effectively) than I thought.

It is one thing to take class on a regular basis, and another thing altogether to remember the sequencing and cues for proper alignment that are needed when teaching. Remembering the proper breathing pace and cues also takes practice. From my own experience, it was as if there was a barrier between my brain and my mouth….and when I tried to teach, I smacked right into it! Already after just a few days of practice I can see that I’ve improved a lot. It’s also clear that I need to “study” more of the asana sequences and Sanskrit names more rigorously.

It is far more rewarding to teach a class than I thought.

It is a feeling that words cannot describe. On a practical note, teaching is an excellent way to really dial in your own practice. You also get to see many more people doing poses as an observer, which gives you insight into alignment issues you may be having in your own practice. It is also just so much fun. It’s like a runner’s high. I can also see how much you can contribute to society through effective teaching. You can help people remove stress from their lives and bring their bodies back into harmony. I’m so glad I’ve started out on this journey to become a yoga teacher.

For those of you who have read this far, are you a yoga teacher or student? If so, what is your motivation for practicing and/or teaching? Leave a note in the comments please!

Tony Robbins on NBC Today Show

In a recent Today Show interview, Tony Robbins speaks about fear, how society is facing situations (war, economic turmoil) that many people have never had to deal with in this generation, and the need to condition our emotions to deal with such situations effectively.

[Note: if you subscribe to my blog via e-mail, you may not see the embeded video. Just visit my website to check it out.]

Vegan Muscle

Those who don’t believe that you can be strong and healthy on a plant-based diet need to take a look at Robert Cheeke. Robert’s a good friend of mine, and is living proof that you can really achieve outstanding physical health as a Vegan.

Continue reading Vegan Muscle

The Simple Life

My friend visited from Portland, OR a few weeks and inspired me to take a massive step toward living a much simpler lifestyle. He has spend the past year or so as a “vagabonding,” most recently returning from a 4 month visit to Fiji, where he lived on about $10/day….and felt that he was living a fantastic life. Surfing, eating awesome fresh vegan food, and meeting great people every day.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no intention to retreat from the world or make such a radical shift to my lifestyle, but I have been adopting some of the concepts he has been using to simplify his life over the past few years.

It all started when he walked into my apartment, and threw down a modestly filled backpack on the floor. He strolled about my place and made an observation that I have a lot of “stuff.” That was the first time someone has really said that about me. Most people have the opposite reaction! My apartment is very new, and pretty sparse by most standards.

He then pointed out that his entire worldly possessions fit in the that single bag that was laying on the floor. It made me think about all the things that I had, and whether I really needed all of them. Over the past two weeks, I’ve found an incredible amount of enthusiasm, energy and happiness around the process of getting rid of things I no longer need to have in my possession.

After getting rid of this baggage, I feel an incredible “lightness” and much less encumbered. Just walking into my home feels much better. Things are better organized (since there is less stuff to clutter up) so I can find what I need and not bear the psychological burden of looking at a bunch of stuff sitting around.

So what have I down-sized in the past few weeks? Here’s a run-down:

  • My ward-drobe has been cut in half. I have dropped off at least 6 large garbage bags of clothing to Goodwill. This was tough to do, since many of the clothes were in great shape and fit me, but most of it has not been worn in over a year (and probably won’t be worn anytime soon). My closet now has plenty of empty space on the hangar rack, and my shelves have just a few stacks of clothes.
  • My library has ben cut in half. I love my books, but I had far too many. My bookshelf was tilting to one side from the weight, and they were stacked in piles on the floor and in laundry baskets next to my bed. Many of the books would never be ready (by me) again. They needed a better home, so I’ve given them away to friends or Goodwill. The books I keep are the ones that really matter a lot to me, or ones that I plan on giving away to friends as gifts over the next year.
  • My Visa credit card has been canceled. I already have a Visa Debit Card and have decided to use that for all my “card” purchases. I have an Amex card that I will not use, but keep active in case of emergencies.
  • My extra checking/savings accounts have been closed. I consolidated all my finances with a single company that is currently my brokerage firm. They have a checking feature to their brokerage, so I closed my separate checking and savings accounts. This way I only need to go to one account to manage my checking/cash balances.
  • My extra brokerage account has been closed. I had an additional brokerage account that I used for Roth IRA and special investment vehicles that I have been using for the past few years. These investments have done well (better than S&P consistently), but were a headache to manage (I’ll go into the details of this in another post….maybe). The funds from this account will be consolidated into my single active brokerage account.
  • My XBOX and 30 games that I haven’t played in years have been given to Goodwill.
  • A box of triathlon and tri-related gear has been given to a friend who is actually racing….since I am not 🙂
  • A whole bunch (3 large boxes worth) or miscellaneous goos have been given to goodwill.
  • Two paper bags worth of non-perishable foods have been given away (non-vegan stuff I won’t eat).
  • My iMac now has a new home! I have a MacBook laptop, and decided that I no longer needed two computers at home, so I posted the iMac on Craigs List. 12 hours later, someone stopped by my place and paid cash for it.

So there you have it. Hopefully this post has inspired you to think about where you can down-size. As for me, I am far from done with my own efforts, looking forward to giving away some more clothes, books and some nonsense furniture I have sitting around this week!

Climbing Everest

I’ve gotten hooked on a series on the Discovery Channel, Everest: Beyond The Limit. You can watch full episodes on the Discovery Channel website, download series 1 (2006) or series (2007) on iTunes, or get the DVD. It’s a great show, full of all the drama and adventure you could every want. Best of all, it’s real.

I am a big fan of mountaineering books and stories, though I have never actually strapped on (or even held) crampons before in my life. I just finished Ed Viestur’s new book, “No Shortcuts To The Top,” detailing his conquest of the world’s 14 highest peaks over 8000 meters, all without bottled oxygen. There’s something about these mountaineering stories, and the extreme effort, patience and long-term planning they require; that are really gripping to read. Even though any expedition has massive logistical and team considerations, there is a huge focus on individual will that just appeals to me in the same way individual pursuits like racing an Ironman or other endurance events have.

I’ve read dozens of accounts of Everest summit attempts, but I never really understood how extreme the effort really was. This show takes you all the way to the top, using helmet cams shots from base camp (using a high powered telescope). What I was also amazed with, was how so many of the adventurers were absolutely clueless about mountaineering, yet expected to summit. Several appeared extremely out of shape, and just plain uncoordinated and unskilled on the mountain.

I can’t imagine how someone could travel to a remote region of the world, spend 3 months and $50K to land on an expedition team….and yet not put in the full effort to at least master the technical skills involved with such a climb. At the same time, the power and strength of the Sherpa people was awe inspiring. They climb ahead of the expedition teams, breaking trail, setting all the fixed ropes (miles and miles worth) up the mountain, and climbing backbreaking loads. In many cases, top Sherpa crew members will summit several times in a single season! They are the real heros of the story.

Dealing With Lack Of Motivation

Lately I’ve been suffering from a lack of motivation to train hard in the gym. I don’t have much of an issue going to Yoga, but weight training has been very tough. I haven’t been making steady progress which is part of the reason why I am lacking motivation.

I can get to the gym without issue, but once there, my workout becomes more of a chore. In a conversation with a friend yesterday, he mentioned that too often we do things as a “transition” “from” something else and “towards” something else. In other words, what we are doing doesn’t have any purpose, it is just a gap-filler for some cooler, more fun and more exciting thing that might be happening in the future. That future never arrives, or at least if it did, I wouldn’t know it.

So what to do? I (this week) have been combating my lack of motivation in the gym, by going back to my roots, running! I’ve been starting my weight training with 10-20 minutes on the treadmill. I used to pride myself on never using a dread-mill, but at this point I’ve thrown all my pre-conceptions out the window.

There is something about running that gets me out of my head and lets me just be. I also work up a sweat (it takes about 10 minutes running at 8 minute mile pace indoors to do that for me).  As a result, my weight workouts are much more intense. They are not very long, but at least they are more intense. This is progress.

Raw Power Smoothie

This Raw Power Smoothie is highly alkalizing, satiating and tastes really good!

(ingredients for my Raw Power Smoothie) 

For the past few weeks I’ve been enjoying a big raw-food smoothie every morning. It’s a great addition to my diet. What prompted me to start doing this? I met someone about a month ago, who has been vegan for 20+ years, and mostly raw for almost as long. He is full of energy and very strong and fit. I never would have guessed he was Vegan, let along mostly raw.

I took a peak in his fridge, and was amazed to find it pretty much empty. Just a lot of dates, goji berries, some greens and other veggies. I asked him what he eats on a typical day, and he let me in on his secret smoothie recipe. I’ve been taking Vega pretty regularly, but I must admit that this homemade recipe tastes better and satiates longer.

Prepared as below it is about 700 calories, with about 15-20 grams of fat (mostly from avocado) and 15-20 grams of protein. There is a lot of sugar in it, but it is from whole food sources so I am not concerned.

After eating this I can pretty much go all day without eating (if I had to, this is not my goal). Perhaps the biggest benefit is that I just feel better after drinking it.

While it will blend best in a Vitamix, I have been using a standard Osterizer blender (my Vitamix is on order) and it works fine (will be just a little chunky).

Here’s the magic formula:

  • 1 small Banana
  • 1 small Apple (or 1/2 a large apple)
  • 1/2 an Avocado (this is where you get most of your good fats)
  • 2 palm-fuls of Goji Berries (buy the softer ones if you have a choice)
  • 3 large Medjool Dates (I buy the freshest looking ones I can find, with pits)
  • 2 heaping tablespoons Raw Hemp Seed Powder (I like Manitoba Harvest Brand)
  • 1 heaping teaspoon Ground Raw Flaxseed
  • 1 heaping teaspoon Maca Root Powder (great for adrenal gland support – for athletes or those in high stress jobs)
  • 2 heaping teaspoons Raw Cacao Nips (ridiculously high in antioxidants – use whole Cacao beans if you can find them)
  • 12 ounces of water (roughly…I usually just cover the entire mixture with water in the blender)

Blend the entire mixture on high for about 2 minutes. It makes 20 ounces of smoothie (medium thickness). Drink slowly and enjoy!

I Just Drank My Salad!

I was making dinner and started munching away on some local (organic) field greens. I literally shove the stuff in my mouth until I can’t fit any more in and chew it like a cow. My goal is to keep chomping until whatever I am cooking is cooked. Hey, it beat snacking on potato chips.

Today, after a couple mouthfuls, it finally dawned on me….I have a blender…why not use it? I’ve actually never blended my greens before. It seemed incredibly strange filling the thing up with Arugula, Spinach and Red Lettuce….but I tried it out.

In the end, I blended a massive tub (the size of one of the big pre-packaged tubs you see at Whole Foods) of green into about 24 ounces of semi-solid mush. It didn’t taste like anything, and was more of a drink than a solid. It went down really smooth.
This was so much easier than chomping down on the salad…and I consumed about 4 times as much as I normally would have! Bonus!

Add to that my 32 ounces of fresh carrot juice this morning (go Jamba!), 2 apples, 2 bananas and a large bowl of bean sprouts…and I’m running clean today!…as long as you don’t count the two soy dogs I just inhaled.

Get More Done. Check E-Mail Twice A Day Or Less.

I’m starting to crack down hardcore on my TIME MANAGEMENT SKILLS. I hate the term “time management” because the thought of having to “manage” anything can in itself be an utter waste of time. However in this case, the fixed cost investment will be well worth it.

The way I figure, since I an 27 years old right now….I have about 25,000 days left to live..give or take a few thousand (yes, I expect to live to at least 100 y/o).

Continue reading Get More Done. Check E-Mail Twice A Day Or Less.

How to Gain 34lbs of Muscle in 4 Weeks

Tim Ferriss has another motivating post about how to gain a massive amount of muscle in a short period of time. It is almost too big a change to believe, but I’ll let you be the judge.

What’s the most weight (muscle or fat!) that you’ve gained in a single month?

For me: +10lbs. Back in 1998, after school let out for the summer, I had an internship in NYC. I went from running, swimming and biking a ton, to just lifting a ton (and eating a ton) and not doing much else. The weight came on pretty easily. After the first month, I gained about 2 pounds each of the remaining 2 months.

During my 12-week challenge last year, I managed to gain +10lbs of lean muscle in 12 weeks.

Gaining 34lbs in 4 weeks is crazy. Even 1/4 that gain would be tough. The kicker is, Tim did it while training only 8 hours a week! I need to learn that technique.

Is life a game of checkers or chess?

In CHECKERS, you focus on one move at a time. Take pieces as they come. You aren’t thinking that far ahead. Action and short-term results are the way to win.

CHESS is an entirely different game. Outstanding chess players think a dozen moves ahead. They have a game plan. They are willing to trade-off short-term gains for potential long-term success.

Which is life?

You see, I would like to think that life is like playing checkers. You never really know what’s going to happen a few moments from now. You listen to you intuition or heart and act with congruency. This sounds like a great way to make decisions…IN THE MOMENT.

However, there is something to be said for thinking things through. Considering the effect of your actions. Considering you DHARMA (duty) and pushing through tough spells to gather insights and come out of a situation better of.

 Actions on the chess board of life could include having an investment plan, going back to school, sticking with a job through the “tough times” or starting a workout program. You’re doing things with a very long term view.

So, which is it? Are we playing a game of CHESS OR CHECKERS? Living in the moment or living “intelligently”?

I faced a very tough decision this weekend that dealt with this very subject.  The hardest decision I have had to make in years.

Turns out I’m playing CHESS. How about you?

Getting up early

One byproduct of getting your biological clock all out of wack with international travel, is that it gives you a rare chance to make changes to your daily routine. You pretty much get a clean start. I decided to take advantage of this.

I have been trying for a while to lessen the time I need to sleep each night. Seeing as how I throw away nearly a third of my life sleeping, I figure that would be a good way to be more productive during my days. When I was a kid I used to get up relatively early without much trouble. The older I’ve gotten, the harder it has gotten.

My normal routine is to go to bed around 11:30pm and wake up around 7am. If I didn’t have important meetings in the morning, I would sleep in even later. On weekends I would often stay up until 2am and sleep in to 10am. I would normally exercise after work.

I found that following this routine, I almost always felt a bit rushed in the mornings. I also felt the pressure of having to exercise after work and deal with the massive crowd of people at out gym [the one downside of Microsoft providing a free gym membership is that people often decide to use it at the exact same time everyday].

Perhaps the worst byproduct of this routine was that I would be starving by the time I left work (normally 6-7pm) but wouldn’t be able to eat since I hadn’t yet exercised! My new routine solves these problems.

Coming back from India, I woke up [completely unplanned] at 4am. I was wide awake. I tried going back to sleep but couldn’t. I therefore just got up, got dressed and went to work! The next day, the same thing happened. This time, I went to the gym and then went to work. And so the new routine began. For the past 10 days (including weekends) I have gotten up between 4-5am. While it has gotten slightly harder to get up after the jet-lag wore off, I am still not finding it all that difficult.

In this new routine, I wake up, do my pranayama and meditate, and then head to the gym. I finish my exercise and make it to the office by 7am or so. Some days I take the bus, in which case, I get in by 7:20 or so. Since I get to work so darn early, I end up leaving by 5:30pm at the latest. Frankly, by the time 9am roles around, I feel that I have done more than in an entire day on my old schedule. I also find that I am getting a lot more done at work. My brain is able to concentrate much better in the morning. It doesn’t necessarily work as “fast,” or multi-task as well, but I find the sharper focus to be invaluable. By 7pm I am eating dinner and by 9pm I am pretty tired and head to bed. So the cycle continues.

The biggest plus that I find, is that no matter how bad my day went, or how unproductive I was at work, the fact that I got up so freaking early makes me feel like my day was a success. That is a priceless feeling.

Top Ten Impressions From My Trip To India

I finally made it to my apartment this afternoon, wrapping up my three-week journey all over the Indian subcontinent. After 36 hours of travelling; one would think that blogging would be the last thing on my mind……but I am on a mission. The mission is to not get jet-lag, that ill-tempered disease of the cross-continent traveller!

Continue reading Top Ten Impressions From My Trip To India

Stay Well Through The Winter

Snow in Woodland Park

The winter-time is well known for family holiday’s, gift giving and getting, plenty of food….and of course….colds and the flu! Take a few precautions now, and your holiday season is bound to be more enjoyable.

This month, for your reading pleasure, is an essay by Dr. Raman-Caplan on how to stay well through the winter; complete with many tips and a great recipe that will surely keep you warm and healthy through the cold season! Dr. Raman-Caplan (my sister :)) is a Naturopathic Doctor in Portland, Oregon, and has experience and training in many aspects of holistic care; especially in Ayurveda, the ancient Indian system of health and wellness.

Read on and enjoy!

Continue reading Stay Well Through The Winter

Milk, does it really do any-body good?

Hearing Howard Lyman speak at the Vegan Holiday Festival got me thinking about dairy. Howard emphatically stated that the number one thing every person must do to save their health, is to stop consuming dairy products. Dairy, in his view, was much much worse than chicken, seafood or beef. As Howard was a 40-year cattle rancher, I was surprised that this would be his #1 recommendation to those on the standard American diet.
Continue reading Milk, does it really do any-body good?

Photoreading My First Book

Photoreading package from Learning Strategies CorporationMy Photoreading kit has arrived ! I was quite skeptical at the start, but have committed to give it a sincere effort for 30 days. The package includes several books, an audio CD set and a DVD set. I watched two of the DVDs and then Photoread the book last night.

The quality of the materials is quite good, and the DVD was much more than just an infomercial for other products from the vendor. It showed plenty of excerpts from a live course held a few years ago. I felt that after watching the first DVD I pretty much knew everything I had to know to try out the Photoreading technique.

I decided to test it out on the course overview book they provided. I think it worked. I say I think because Photoreading does not bring the subject matter into conscious awareness. It utilizes the non-conscious mind to directly absorb the material. The logic is that through Photoreading and then follow-on activation of the material (anytime between 30 minutes and 24 hours after Photoreading), your mind will be able to recall material when it is needed.

Continue reading Photoreading My First Book

Why Tony Robbins Should Run For President

Tony Robbins

All this talk of elections this year has me thinking about the next Presidential race, in 2008. There are lots of names floating around. Clinton, Obama, McCain. Thank goodness Cheney isn’t gonna be in contention. I wonder if Nader will make another go at it? In the coming months we should expect to leading candidates to emerge. It takes a lot of money to run for President, and they’ll need to start stumping now to build up the war chest.

If we can trust “The Governator” gallivanting around in his Hummer as fearless leader of the eighth largest economy on the planet, I think we can trust Tony.

I really hope we have an interesting election this time around. Interesting in a way that people are actually pushed to think about issues in creative ways. I would love to see someone that has the charisma, intellect and ambition to heal the sores our current administration has ripped open. I think Tony Robbins should run for President of the United States. While I admit that I am completely ignorant on most political matters, I completely serious about this. Continue reading Why Tony Robbins Should Run For President

Lose Weight by Sleeping More

Yesterday I wrote about my motivation to find all the lost hours that have disappeared from my life. Sleep seems to be a prime suspect for the theft. I have always been a sound sleeper. I tend to drift off within minutes of hitting the sack. Waking up is another story. The older I get, the harder it has been to wake up easily and feel refreshed. My raw dood diet experiment being a rare exception.

I do sleep long enough (typically 7-8 hours during weekdays and 9 on weekends), so I am sure duration isn’t the issue. I just don’t feel as rested as I should in the morning. I didn’t know there was a technique to sleeping, but there must be! For added motivation to figure out this issue, I came across this article linking sleep and obesity .

“Writing in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood, Taheri said there was increasing evidence that shortened sleeping times result in metabolic changes that may contribute to obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes and heart disease.”

This article focuses on the duration of sleep, but I would imagine the underlying cause is really the quality of the sleep. Could better sleep actually help you lose weight? It makes intuitive sense to me. When I am more rested I tend to:

  • Not give in to impulses, relating to food and otherwise
  • Have less of a desire for caffeine (which in turn makes me want to eat heavier food)
  • Have more energy to exercise

I need to go to “sleep school”!

Out of curiosity, how often do you sleep every night? Weekedays vs weekend? Pls leave a comment on this post to let me know. Thanks!

Photoreading

I read quite a bit. At any given time I’ll have about three books going at the same time. Reading one book at a time is too boring. I’ll plow through about 2-4 books a month using this method. Mostly non-fiction. I particularly like autobiographies and books about mountaineering or stories about human endurance. I also read newspapers during lunch and lots of online periodicals. I’d say I spend about 90 minutes every days reading in this way. This doesn’t include all the e-mail and work related reading I have to do.

I consider myself a pretty fast reader, but have lately been wondering if I could speed things up even more. When I was a kid I tried a speed reading program. I used Howard Berg’s system. I saw Kevin Trudeau schlepping it on an infomercial and nagged my dad to buy it for me. Yes, this is the same guy who was banned from TV a few years ago for making false claims about other products of his. I’m sure you’d recognize the guy if you saw him. Regardless, the speed reading program didn’t work very well, but I also must admit that I did not give it a 100% sincere effort. I was also 12 years old at the time! It doubled my reading speed but it took so much energy to use the techniques, I couldn’t keep it up.
I’ve decided to give it another try. I read Steve Pavlina’s personal development blog, and he recomm different Photoreading system. He claims to have experienced many benefits, including:

Read books at least 3 times faster. I’d say that’s the low end. Some books you’ll be able to read 10 times faster — or more.
Read more books. The faster you read, the more you can read.
Read faster online. PhotoReading adapts nicely to online articles and blog posts. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you can blast through this site’s 500+ free articles.
Extract ideas more efficiently. PhotoReading’s nonlinear, multipass reading strategies allow you to extract the key ideas from a book without getting sidetracked by the fluff.
Avoid reading lousy books. In just a few minutes, you’ll determine whether a book is worth reading… or discarding. You’ll love using this technique the next time you visit a bookstore.
Improve your memory. Because you’re focused on idea extraction instead of scanning every word, you’ll retain more of what you read.
Enjoy reading more. PhotoReading keeps your mind fully engaged, so reading becomes much more stimulating.

I ordered it today and it should arrive in a week or so. I’ll let you all know how it works out.

Other posts you may enjoy:

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The Dangers of Multi-Tasking

While on retreat in Colorado , I had only one purpose; to do no-thing. I didn’t shower. I didn’t shave. I didn’t eat. I just meditated. I did hike do yoga…but these merely served the purpose of helping to calm my body so I could sit down and do nothing again (i.e. meditate).

The single-pointedness of it all brought about more focus than I have had in my life in years. There was no opportunity, energy or desire to do more than one thing at a time.However, going back to work I again found myself constantly interrupted and distracted. When other people weren’t interrupting me, I found my brain creating interruptions for itself! Did I just get an email? What is the stock price? Did someone leave a comment on myblog ? Did I remember to pay all my bills this month? Should I work on one of the other 5 projects I have going on right now? Did I just get another email? Should I go get some coffee? Should I eat something again?
Continue reading The Dangers of Multi-Tasking