Men’s Yoga – Coronavirus Update

Gentlemen, as we remain in the midst of the Coronavirus lock-down, I thought it was time to resurrect the Men’s Yoga Email Update. So here goes. I’ve been getting emails from different folks and appreciate the kind words; from how the body is missing the work out, to even missing the jokes!  Who knew?

Alas and alack Corvallis Men’s Yoga remains on indefinite hiatus.

Trevor Noah interviews Dr. FauciI have been remiss to get back to you all on one point; though I may have been exposed to the virus, I did not display any symptoms associated with this virus. Remember, it manifests itself differently in each person, so we can be contagious without knowing it. For more information from two guys I really like check out Trevor Noah‘s interview with Dr. Fauci.

Opening Meditation:

Everyone out there is doing videos, and I’ll admit some hesitancy to putting myself out there like that. But, flattery will get you everywhere. The demand was overwhelming; two people suggested I get with the times. So, I recorded the opening seated meditation that we do in our Wednesday morning class. It’s simple, familiar, and attainable. You can do just that, or segue into some stretches on your own. (Recording any more of these will be highly dependent on your feedback.)

Guy Stuff:

And finally, a new feature on the blog and email update will be called “Guy Stuff.” Lately, Norm and I have been trading pictures of our woodworking projects, and I didn’t want anyone to feel left out of the loop. Steph and I have been working on a bed frame, reusing wood from another project. You can see the progress here.

This is a great time to work on projects or return to hobbies. This kind of work can be a meditation of its own. In Yoga we use the body to occupy the mind. We can do the same with our hands. Use your hands to busy the mind.

 

Please take care of yourself by eating right, going for walks (at appropriate social distancing, of course) and getting enough sleep. Reach out to people too; give ’em a call, or shoot ’em an email. Stay in touch. I miss you guys.

André

Hemlock and Pine Bed

When they moved up to Oregon Steph’s son, Tyler, made a platform that extended a foot around his mattress.  The rooms were huge and it filled the space nicely.  However, when Steph graciously chose to move into my little house with tiny rooms, that was out.  Plus, we wanted the mattress up higher.

So, we repurposed the clear grain hemlock boards from the platform bed, and used pine for the posts.  The plugs are walnut.  Some photos before finish:

Click here for more photos and details.

Yoga and Emotions

We often come to yoga for the body; low back pain anyone? Or we want to maintain our range of motion, “I can’t tie my shoes!” However, there are other benefits to yoga such as emotional regulation and stress reduction. So while participants in the Rotterdam Study report that meditation and yoga helped them cope with stress, science attempts to answer why this is so. And here is what they discovered:

“Participants who reported practicing meditation and yoga also tended to have smaller right amygdala and left hippocampal volume compared to those not practicing — and right amygdala volume tended to decrease over time among practitioners.”

So what does this prove in regards to yoga?

Well, “research suggests the right amygdala controls fear and aversion to unpleasant stimuli.” In yoga, we first learn the power of calming the body through breathing (pranayama). And then we contort or hold an uncomfortable posture (asana). In both we observe sensation and we build the capacity to choose how to respond and whether to react, or not, to emotions and stress.

So if your motivation is the body, we’ve got you covered. Dealing with an emotional issue? That works too. Yoga isn’t talk therapy, but through the process, we’re able to participate in our lives better.

Men’s Yoga, Mondays 5:30pm to 6:30pm
Chair Yoga for Men, Wednesdays 7am to 8am

The Ultimate Camping Vehicle

Years ago while camping with my daughter in Canada’s Waterton National Park, the wind came howling down the lake driving rain into the tent.  It whipped us all night long.  I was on the windward side and by morning my sleeping bag was soaked.  At the time I thought how nice it would have been to be able to sleep in the back of the truck.  So upon return, I started making a deck for the back of the truck (1996 Mazda B2300).  Here’s the first attempt.

 

Josephine, 7 at the time, loved the idea and loved climbing up on top.  It wasn’t long, however, before I realized that even in my mid thirties, it was hard for me to get in and out.  Additionally, as an only child, it was more fun for Josephine to bring a friend and a two seat pickup truck didn’t cut it.  I swapped vehicles with the ex when we’d do our summer camping trip and set this idea aside.

Fast forward; the kids are grown and when Steph and I started camping together, we revisited the deck concept with the original set up in the B2300: the deck coming all the way to the tailgate, splitting the bed/canopy in half.  And while it worked, there were several things I didn’t like.

One, the back of the bottom level was hard to access leading to unused space.  Two, larger items block visibility above.  Three, with the cooler under the deck you have to open the tailgate and pull it out, just for a snack.  I use the tailgate as a work space and a place to sit on while at a trail head.  And lastly, many folks design their camping rigs with the mattress/sleeping arrangement permanently set up.  That takes up too much space for my liking.  Plus, I really enjoy the ritual of setting up the campsite and breaking it down, and leaving no trace.  Tents and canopies these days go up quickly.  Steph and I can set up or take down in under 30 minutes, rain or shine.

So, in our new-to-us 2003 Nissan Frontier (check out Club Frontier) here’s what we did.

  

We built the deck just above the wheel wells and it stops short of the tailgate so that two coolers fit just inside.  We can access them without having to drop the tailgate.  We fit six 10 gallon Rubbermaid containers and the canopy under the deck.  The two farthest back have emergency supplies, so we don’t need to get at them frequently.

The top of the deck has a lot more space, items are more accessible, and they don’t block the rear view mirror to the same degree.  And, we still have room for more, if we need it.  The following is a list of gear and where we store it:

On top of the deck we have:

  • two 2″ foam mattresses, pillows, and our double sleeping bag, loosely packed
  • one 10×10 roomy tent and a back up 7×7 tent for smaller sites
  • two camp chairs, hammock
  • two bins, one for boots, water shoes, and hats and another for day packs
  • dry goods bin, 5 gallon water jug
  • stove, lantern, distribution post and 2.5 gallon propane tank
  • a larger bin with clothing options such as warm jackets, rain gear, etc.

Under the deck we have:

  • back bins; emergency supplies, duck tape, tools, extra batteries, etc.
  • middle bins; wood, kindling, hatchet and dish drainer, picnic table items
  • front bins; pots, pans, kettle, mugs and utensils, dishes, Tang, tea
  • 10×10 canopy, usually set up over the picnic table
  • two coolers in front of the deck

Extra-cab behind our seats:

  • we each have a clothing bag and bathroom bag
  • we each have a sweatshirt or light coat loosely packed
  • a lodge backpack with guidebooks, maps, chargers, etc.
  • jumper cables and med kit

One of the things we did recently was to improve the storage in the extra-cab, behind the seats.  The drive train creates a bump, and Steph’s side has the jump seat.  Between the two her bags would bunch up slide down.  So we built a deck that flattened it out and made the space wider.  We also utilized the gap underneath for easy access to the med kit and jumper cables.

Chair Yoga for Men

You know that old recruiting slogan; “We need a few good men?” Well, we need a few more men for our Wednesday morning Yoga class. And the great thing is… you don’t have to be good, you don’t even have to be flexible. You only have to show up and try and you receive the benefits.

We call the class Chair Yoga for Men. We used to call it Senior Men’s Yoga, but my goal for this class is much more than one demographic. This is a great class for men who are:

  • new to yoga
  • more interested in relaxation or meditative aspects
  • have a little extra in the middle
  • are working through/recovering from an injury
  • would prefer less bravado and spandex than the gym environment

Regulars have reported better sleep, more ease in their bodies, better balance and being able to get down on the floor to play with their grandkids. And then get back up!  First class is free.  So what have you got to loose?

7am on Wednesdays at the Willamette Wellness Center / FOF.

This is a Yoga Pants free zone!

What about screening for osteoporosis in Men?

Osteoporosis is a condition characterized by a decrease in the density of bone, decreasing its strength and resulting in fragile bones. This can lead to fractures and breaks as we age.

The good news is that weight bearing exercise like Yoga, with focus on alignment and balance, helps maintain bone density and prevents falls. So keep at it!

However, the past emphasis on osteoporosis has been towards women and that “has fostered a sexist view of the bone-weakening disease. That’s harmful to men, whose bones also weaken with age, though later than for women. What’s more, men are twice as likely as women to die within a year of breaking a hip, research shows.”

A change in diet and supplements can help but checking with your primary care doc is probably wise.

Chair Yoga for Men

Senior Men’s Yoga has moved to a new time; 7am on Wednesdays.  Yes it’s early, and there was some grumbling from the regulars used to the afternoon time.  But, it’s a great way to start the day.  We’re also shifting the focus slightly and rebranding the class as Chair Yoga for Men.

Chair Yoga is a general term that simply means we are modifying poses and exercises to make them more attainable.  Postures are done seated on the chair or the chair is used for support (as needed) during standing and balancing poses. Chair YogaThe chair allows for greater stability to help you feel supported and safe.  Just as important, basic body mechanics of postures are retained no matter the individual’s circumstance.

You don’t have to sit cross legged on the floor to do Yoga!

In addition to a good stretch, chair yoga participants have reported better breathing habits and improved sleep patterns, reduction of stress and more ease in their body.  Chair Yoga for Men is suitable for seniors, people working with an injury and guys with a little extra in the middle.  Beginners are welcome.

Yoga at Fitness Over Fifty does require a Fit Class Pass at an extra cost to members.  But, you do not have to be a member to take the class.  And, first class is free.  Come check out Chair Yoga for Men at the new time.  If you have additional questions, contact André at 541-760-9122 or andre.alyeska@gmail.com.

Blaming the patriarchy for… everything.

There are a handful of Yoga blogs I read when I get the time.   J. Brown’s is one of them.  He’s pretty open about the path he’s on and  I’ve appreciated his matter of fact inquiry of Yoga through the masculine lens.  His recent post on patriarchy, hierarchy and culture seems to steer into a realm that is less centered and, frankly, takes too much on.

There were two things that jumped out at me, the vignette regarding his daughter listening to a Taylor Swift song and a comment about Men’s Yoga. This post is a response to Brogis Need to Recognize.

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taylor-swiftJ. Brown, I don’t know what Taylor Swift song your daughter was listening to.  I’m not a fan of Swift’s more recent albums and image, but her early country-pop songs are pro-girl, without demonizing boys or femininity.  I had no problem with my daughter listening to songs like Fifteen, Love Story or Picture to Burn.  The point I’d like to make is that some of this stuff is innate.

Have you ever heard old hippies talk about how they kept the TV out of the house, would not buy their boys cap guns, etc., only to watch them pick up a stick, aim it at their playmate and go “bang!”?  I haven’t had cable since my daughter was born, the Barbie doll she was given quietly disappeared and she didn’t get any of the teen or preteen glam magazines; but suddenly when she turned 14 she got a hair straightener, started wearing makeup and cutting her jeans into Daisy Duke shorts.

My ex commented recently how our kid has a friend who is pretty competitive and judgmental looks-wise.  After she brought this to my attention, sure enough, the next time that friend was over I observed her scan my daughter head-to-toe with a flat judgmental expression before her face brightened with a paste on smile and she made a superficial compliment.

My ex doesn’t wear makeup, much to our daughter’s chagrin, and neither of us pay much attention to fashion.  Now, you can blame some of her newfound superficiality on culture.  But as a man, I’m going to refute that this has anything to do with “the patriarchy” and everything to do with how women are wired.

You read Amanda Green’s awesome blog, don’t you?  She had a great post recently where she owned this feminine behavior more completely than I’ve seen before.  In gearing up to meet a girlfriend that she had a disagreement with:

Instead of my comfy worn-in jeans and fluorescent sparkly green belt, I chose the tight dark denim jeans and a belt of tooled leather. And instead of my super soft sweatshirt from the music festival that is my Sunday uniform, I wore my sergeant pepper jacket. I wore cowboy boots to make me taller and I put on bracelets and mascara. It felt shitty and necessary all at the same time.

Neither the patriarchy or men are to blame for this.  So I suggest you stop taking it on.

Finally, J Brown:  There is a lot of conversation in the yoga world these days about the “yoga body” and the empowerment of women through yoga. And then there is a backlash of “Broga” classes being marketed where men can be men and do their yoga without having all those empowered women around.

I think you’re totally wrong on this.  I’ll frame my argument like this: we have Title IX, written largely to ensure that girls have the opportunity to play sports, which is great.  But notice how there isn’t a public outcry trying to get boys into say ballet or drama.  Mind you, I’m not suggesting that our culture is failing our boys because of this.

Rather here we have yoga, where in its modern presentation is quite female centric, and when men start to carve out a niche where they can explore it, it’s criticized?  It’s laughable to suggest that Broga or Men’s Yoga classes are a backlash to empowered women.

men-in-treeI teach men’s classes for a variety of reasons.  Mostly because the presentation is overtly feminine in so many classes that I want to step outside that arena to provide a safe space for guys to experience this practice.  Did I just use the term “safe space”?  Yes I did and I use it tongue-in-cheek.  I’m not blaming anyone, and I really don’t want female instructors to change their presentation but a lot of how Yoga is taught just doesn’t work for me.

The choice of poses often aren’t that attainable or interesting for many men, the flowery metaphors women frequently use just miss, and the form-fitting clothes are a distraction (I’ll admit it, if no one else will).   More importantly, I feel that men need to build their emotional and spiritual capacities from within the masculine, and not depend on the women in their lives for all their emotional needs; from expression to simple acknowledgement to identifying what’s going on.

These reasons have nothing to do with being uncomfortable with empowered women, and everything to do with empowering men to be comfortable in their own skin.

Yoga Benefits for Children with Autism

Regular readers know I work with austistic kids.  This was a nice article on the benefits of Yoga and approaches to presenting Yoga to children, especially children on the spectrum, and the challenges of teaching Yoga in schools.  Good stuff.  I’ll say this, however, I face most of those challenges with regular classes; some people do well with a visual cue, others don’t like the chant or religion.  What the article didn’t address is getting a reluctant child to simply exercise.

Men’s Yoga – Summer Update

llamaVacations

There was some waffling on my part about the schedule for the last week of July as it’s Benton County Fair week and my kiddo is quite active in 4H.  (If you go, check out the Llamas!) As it turns out, classes will be held as usual through July.

However, there will be no classes the week of August 10th as we’ll be on our vacation to Yellowstone! And, FOF is closed Labor Day. So please make a note of the following dates for no class:

▪ Mon. Aug. 11th – Men’s Yoga – canceled
▪ Wed. Aug. 13th – Senior Men’s Yoga – canceled
▪ Mon. Sept 1st – Men’s Yoga – canceled

The Cosmic SerpentThe Cosmic Serpent

A book that has influenced my practice and understanding of Yoga is The Cosmic Serpent. I’ve elaborated on it in the past in class. Several of you have expressed interest in it, or it led to discussion after class. I finally reviewed it for the website.

Jeremy Narby is an anthropologist who enters the rainforest with the explicit goal to understand how the natives know what they know about the various plants from the Amazon. It is a story of how he can’t quiet accept what he learns. Even as he is confronted with proof, his rational, western trained approach can’t accept it.

triangle poseOver-dependence on the mat?

I really enjoyed the following article on how a Yoga mat can undermine your practice. Don’t get me wrong, we’re not giving up the mat. But the simple graphics in this article are very helpful in showing how the grip can make us lazy, allowing us to press outward, rather than engaging the flexors and the adductors inward in many of our standing postures.

Reducing our dependency on the stickiness of mat will increase proprioception and enable muscles to work in a more balanced way. It teaches us to become more mindful or our body movement and limitations. We’ll keep working with drawing our energy and action inward in while in poses.

See you in class!