Wednesday 7am Zoom Class

Two weeks ago we had an Zoom chat Thursday evening. Then we did a trial Zoom class the following Wednesday morning. The short story is that we are going to do the Wednesday morning chair Yoga class, at the usual time, via Zoom while we’re still in lock down.

A longer version, the consensus from the guys who attended the trial class was that it is worth a punch on the card.  And while it was a different experience, it was also nice to see some familiar faces and chat a bit.  And let’s not forget the usual excellent humor.

Class will be in the 40-50 minute range.  We’ll also be opening the room 10-15 minutes before the official start time, and people are welcome to stay afterwards to chat. Please feel free to try it out the first time, on me.

If you are just finding out about the class, please email for details.  You can find my Email address on the side bar to the right.

I was touched by the variety of people who showed up for both the chat and the trial class. John joined us from Portland. I hadn’t seen Ken for over a year. Two guys from Monday’s class tried it out. And, a kid I had worked with years ago, who’s now a young man, found one of the videos I had recorded and reached out to me. He came to the online class. It was really nice to see everyone. I appreciate each and every one of you.

Additionally, some of us have some immune issues that might require maintaining social distancing longer than the general population.  If we do transition to in-person classes in the near future, I am planning to offer a Zoom class at a different time if people would like that.

Please take care of yourself!

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

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

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.

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.

The Cosmic Serpent

The Cosmic Serpent

The Cosmic Serpent
DNA and the Origins of Knowledge
by Jeremy Narby, Peguin Putman, 1998

Jeremy Narby is a western educated anthropologist who entered the Amazon with the desire to protect indigenous rights.  His goal was to facilitate a sort of materializing of a non-material culture, so that their knowledge of the plants was being monetized in their favor rather than for the sole benefit of giant chemical companies.  And, in doing so, protect the rain forest and the human cultures it supports.

In his first interactions with the Ashaninca peoples from the Pichis Valley in the Peruvian Amazon he would ask, “How did you learn all this?” in reference to plants they use for their concoctions.  They would say ‘the plants told us.’  He could not accept this simple answer at face value.  It had to be a metaphor.  Plants don’t speak.

What he found out, however, was that it was not a metaphor.  The Ashaninca were being literal.  As Narby tried to understand what they were telling him, he kept running into aspects of their knowledge base that simply did not make sense through his lens, that of an academic.  It was, he says, “almost despite myself” that he began to study with shamans to understand how they acquire knowledge.

At first he listens and observes how they learn.  “I was continually struck by their profound practicality.  They did not talk of doing things; they did them.”  “People were suspicious of abstract concepts.  When an idea seemed really bad, they would say dismissively, “Es pura teoría” [“That’s pure theory”].  The two words that cropped up over and over in conversations were práctica and táctica, “practices” and “tactics” – no doubt because they are requirements for living in the rain forest.”

These observations and discussions weren’t enough.  To more completely open to what he was attempting to absorb, he tried the ayahuasca, the powerful psychedelic brew made from of a combination of various plants known to the natives.  This was met with mixed results.  While he did have visions associated with this type of activity, what his journey really requires is to disengage from the intellect to understand.  The book is, in large part, a story of his being unable to do this.

But it’s a fascinating read as he explains the process of having to adjust his focus from a purely rational point of view to what he calls a de-focalized gaze, which allows one to truly see what has been there all along.  In Yoga we use the dṛṣṭi, a focus on one point, as a means for developing concentration.  But I find when I am truly focused I see much more, my awareness becomes exponential.  In those states, I would suggest, it is indeed a de-focalized gaze we experience.

Narby calls this subtle play between a highly focused and de-focalized gaze a paradox.  And his examination of this paradox leads him to question the ways we learn and turns his sense of understanding upside down.  He states, “It’s almost as if we have to suspend belief, to really see.”

Though he did not intend to set out on a Yogic journey, his story unfolds as one.

The more he hears their explanations the more he doubts what they are saying.  And yet, using modern science, he can identify over 30 chemical compounds in one particular mix.  As he explains how the various plants offset the properties of others to facilitate the hallucinations, he effectively debunks the notion that it would be possible to arrive at the concoction through simple trial and error.  So, the notion that the plants told them of their properties becomes more viable.

Zeus defeating Typhon as DNA

Zeus defeating Typhon
Typhon representing DNA

Outside of the hallucinogenic properties of the ayahuasca, particularly mind blowing is when Narby compares cultures across continents and across the ages, finding countless references to the double helix of DNA. The commonalities between the representations he finds over and over again suggests that “primitive” cultures have long known of these basic build blocks.  But we have dismissed their stories as mythology.

Though he finds this supporting evidence, Narby still can’t believe it.  Even though he has learned to de-focalize his gaze (in Yoga we might call this pure awareness,) he appears to return to the highly focalized gaze of the academic, searching for answers through facts he can verify, rather than experience.

In short, this is a story of a western man seeking to understand the nuance of an experiential culture.  He succeeds!   But it’s a familiar theme, the explorer gains understanding of the indigenous culture he came to study, yet succumbs to the curse of the western man; the inability to surrender the ego, and the need for the intellect to be engaged over what pure awareness can offer.

Simply Walking, Good for the Mind

mobilaserA recent article in the Orlando Sentinel focused on Dr. Jay Van Gerpen, a neurologist who specializes in gait.  He’s working with Parkinson’s patients on a study to help them stay on their feet and retain brain health.  Van Gerpen uses a simple tool, a laser device attached to walkers or canes that shoots a red laser beam in front of the person walking.

The theory is that visual cues can help Parkinson’s patients walk without freezing.  A telling sign of Parkinson’s is when gait and movement become imbalanced or halting. When patients focus on stepping over the line, they access the visual part of the brain, which bypasses the motor output area that isn’t working.

The old saying “there are many ways to skin a cat, ” proves true.  The laser provides a work-around.  The end result, a higher level of functionality.  One user stated; “When I wasn’t able to move as much, I noticed my brain was much worse,” Puckett said. “With the laser I can move, get around, and am definitely able to concentrate better.”

Now, regular readers will know I invariably tie these kind of news articles into the practice of Yoga.  Yep, here it is: when we practice moving from one posture into another, we are challenging the neural pathways, as well as stretching our tendons and joints, and maintaining muscle strength and tone.  We work with balance and we move with both symmetry and asymmetry.  As Jason Wallis, owner of Fitness Over Fifty says, “It’s good to keep the body guessing.”

So, as our society has become increasingly sedentary it’s important to remember; simple activity, like walking, is a great offense to maintain health and functional fitness.  Exercise improves or maintains circulation, ie: blood flow, which helps keep our tissues healthy, and keeps our systems active, challenged and in use.  In this example, we use an external tool (the laser) to maintain health when one part of system stops working properly.  Ingenious, really.

The Orlando Sentinel’s Marni Jameson has written several articles on Parkinson’s you can find a sub-category here.  The link to this article has many photos and a short video.  It’s informative and worth the time.

Everybody’s a Critic (of Yoga)

In the last month or so, I’ve run across three separate articles dressed up as criticism of western presentations of yoga.  The trouble is, they come across being more narcissistic and envious of the “culture” they are supposedly now boycotting, and end up sounding resentful of fame and success rather than offering true criticism.

So here, with a grain of salt, I’m criticizing the critics.

better bunsOne article focused on the sensationalistic, commenting on the launching of a Yoga porn site, and Yoga for Better Buns to make his point of capitalism infringing upon this spiritual practice.  But then this very same poster is blogging at the HuffingtonPost.com and he is also an author of two books on Mindfulness and Meditation, both with a handy link to the Amazon Store right after his article.  And, by the way, he’s written many other articles in such a style.  If you didn’t already know, bloggers at the Huffington Post don’t get paid for their articles.  They do it for exposure.  Can he be any more of a shill?

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