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Archive for October, 2010

Ah. Let me dream of it for a moment. The day that I might waltz into my boss’s office and declare that in exchange for gracing him with my continued brilliance, he shall employ, during my working hours, a highly qualified yoga instructor to be at my ready.

This is a reality for some people, my friends. And one of those people is Lady Gaga.

Apparently, while The Lady was in Dublin, Ireland, performing three sold out shows this week, a spy at the Four Seasons Hotel in Ballsbridge spilled the beans to a reporter at the Evening Herald newspaper some of her contractual demands: a “highly qualified” Bikram yoga instructor to be available round the clock.

Sigh. One can only dream.

Have a great weekend everyone! Have a safe and Happy Halloween!  If you haven’t already, check out my Halloween post over at Elephant Journal. It’s good stuff.

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In an article for Men’s Fitness magazine, Blake Griffin, a player for the L.A. Clippers, shows guys how to improve their basketball game with a little yoga.

First up, what Blake describes as half moon pose…using basketballs instead of blocks.  While the guy in the photo is actually demonstrating what looks like revolved half moon, and not half moon pose, kudos to him for doing a difficult pose while balancing on a round surface.

Next up, downward facing dog…

And finally, my personal favorite…extended side angle post…again, with a basketball.

No doubt Griffin learned these techniques from Kent Katich, who is on the payroll of the L.A. Clippers and has been described as “The Yoga Guru of the NBA”.  In an interview with ihoops.com, Katich explains his use of yoga in training basketball players:

With the exception of Abdul-Jabbar, yoga largely has been ignored in basketball due to its stereotype of being for women or the spiritual. Katich is changing that, and when asked how yoga can help basketball players, he doesn’t hesitate.

“Because of the running and the jumping, (basketball players) have a tendency to have tight glutes, and their IT bands–the muscle that runs on the sides from your knee up to your hip–that quad area can be tight,” Katich said. “Basketball players also have a tendency to roll their ankles a lot. Repetitive spraining of the ankle starts to harden the muscle that’s around the ankle.

“Getting these guys barefoot is an accomplishment, because they start having to work with these smaller muscles they never deal with because their ankles are always taped and they’re wearing shoes. You’re able to start to identify some of the deficiencies and imbalances that come with overload of certain workouts.

Katich explains that he has made modifications in his yoga program for basketball players:

Katich has made his yoga classes basketball-friendly, eliminating all the stereotypes that might drive players away. Instead of world music in the background, for example, Katich’s studio often has hip-hop artists like 2Pac or Kanye West playing. In addition, traditional yoga blocks used with certain poses are replaced by basketballs. Really, whatever it takes to make the modern athlete more comfortable in unfamiliar territory.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about yoga and competitive sports. Any athletes out there who can tell us how yoga has improved their sports performance? Does yoga improve your tennis game? Your marathon training? Football?  If so, tell us how! We’d love to hear from you!

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Spain holds a special place in my heart. Having spent nearly a year there on a study abroad program during college (which might surprise you if you heard me mangle the beautiful language), I am always moved to hear stories about people who grew up in Franco’s Spain, and experienced the incredible changes over the past 3-4 decades. Today, in an article entitled “Salgado Brings Down Deficits with Yoga as She Overcomes Spanish Chauvinism”, Bloomberg reporter Emma Ross-Thomas profiles Spain’s finance Minister, Elena Salgado, and her efforts to cure Spain’s recent economic woes. To give you an idea of the incredibly complex project Salgado has on her hands, here are some facts about Spain’s economy:

Spain’s budget deficit is forecast to be 9.3 percent of GDP this year, the second-largest in the euro region. Unemployment has surged to 20.5 percent as the construction industry’s collapse meant that more than half the job losses in the euro region since January 2008 happened in Spain.

So what does any of this have to do with yoga? Ross-Thomas’s profile mentions several times that Salgado practices yoga. While much time is spent discussing her experience coming of age under Franco’s regime:

As the only woman in her university class in Franco’s Spain,Elena Salgado remembers being singled out by a professor who doubted she could keep up with the male students. After making a point to the class, her professor would turn to her and ask: “And you, do you also understand?”

The fact that she practices yoga creeps up several times, seemingly as proof that she is, as described by a fellow female and Spanish senator “pure steel”:

Divorced with a 34-year-old daughter, Salgado introduced a smoking ban and took on the Catholic Church with a new artificial fertilization law when she was health minister from 2004 to 2007. She was shortlisted to head the World Health Organization in 2006, and Zapatero made her minister of public administration in 2007.

Salgado, who cites Camus’s “The Outsider” as her favorite book, climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in 2000 and now practices Bikram Yoga, which involves holding contorted postures in 40 degree Celsius heat (104 degrees Fahrenheit.) A fan of Wagner’s opera Tristan and Isolde, Salgado still manages to squeeze in trips to most of the Teatro Real’s productions, Muniz said.

While Ross-Thomas discusses Salgado’s yoga practice as one of her wide-ranging interests and evidence of her badass-ness, the title of the article is somewhat misleading as the story does little to develop the fact that Salgado’s yoga practice has anything to do with her bringing down the Spanish deficit.

In any event, as I continue to read articles about “unlikely” yogis, I am always both fascinated and surprised that such stories continue to be newsworthy.  Thoughts?

 

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Remember Pink’s Grammy performance this year?  Even if you didn’t watch the Grammy’s you might have seen it – the one where about half way through the song she sits in some sling-like contraption and manages to spin and flip and writhe around all the while (apparently) singing a song. It was kind of Cirque Du Soliel-esque.  If you don’t remember, I’ve posted a youtube clip of the performance below.

I digress.

The point is, someone decided that mixing that sling-like contraption with yoga would be a good idea. The result?  “Anti-Gravity Yoga”.  Here’s a description from the Anti-Gravity Yoga website:

AntiGravity Yoga is a fitness regime designed to increase one’s overall health and physical agility while having fun and creating beauty. AntiGravity is an acrobatic performance company whose daily workout utilizes the AntiGravity Hammock. The technique was created by gymnasts for the sake of exploring the air and has been modified and enhanced to fit into the yoga mold and to cater to the everyday athlete. By adding additional techniques from dance, pilates and calisthenics, AntiGravity has created a complete workout that is certain to get you in shape while realigning you from the compression of gravity. AntiGravity Yoga takes into consideration both meanings of the word — working to manipulate physics while staying lighthearted.

Sounds kind of fun…but also kind of sounds like it has very little to do with yoga. Here’s a ridiculous clip from Orlando’s Fox News station, where this activity – described in the piece as a fusion of dance, calisthenics, pilates and “the yoga” – is demonstrated.

Oh, the inhumanity of being a morning television news anchor. By the way, here’s the video of Pink’s Grammy performance from this year. If you want to skip the boring part, the good stuff starts at about 2:20.

Perplexed? I sure am.  Besides the ridiculousness of the segment from Fox News (I can’t imagine there was so little to discuss that morning that an entire 3 minutes was devoted to Anti-Gravity “yoga”. Must have been a slow news day….or, just Fox News), I’m not sure where the need comes from to tack the word “yoga” on to everything. I guess the fact that yoga is a $6 billion industry makes it a seemingly good business move. But c’mon, right? Don’t get me wrong, it looks fun…but I feel less likely to try it if it is being marketed as “yoga”…

Thoughts?

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Due to the overwhelming success of our inaugural Yoga Tattuesday post, featuring the lovely Angela McWilliams and her beautiful tattoo, we are on to episode 2!

This week, we are featuring just one of the tattoos found on Ashley Davis-Hedy, a yogi from Oklahoma who has been practicing yoga since 2003. Ashley’s tattoo story is very touching. She and her husband went together to get tattoos when he was home for R and R while serving a 15-month tour in Iraq.  Ashley chose the lotus flower because she had started to really grow and develop as a yogi. She had recently started a yoga teacher training program and her personal practice was blossoming.  She chose the root chakra above the flower to help keep her grounded and calm while her husband was away fighting in the Iraq war.

Ashley came to yoga to heal from a traumatic experience.  She found a local yoga class at the YMCA and fell in love with it.  Ashley is a registered yoga teacher who sells radio by day, but teaches yoga on the Fort Sill Army Base and will start teaching a community class at a local tattoo studio in November. In August of 2010 she started a 300-hour training program with Cora Wen through the MyCAA program. No doubt she is providing the same relief and healing to others in her teaching that she has experienced in her own practice.

On another note, Ashley’s husband has since returned from Iraq safe and sound. Thanks to Ashley for her service in sharing yoga with the military community.  And thanks to her husband for his service to our country.

In addition to her day job, and teaching yoga, Ashley has a yoga-inspired blog that you can read at: keepcalmyoga.com.  You can also find her on twitter @ashdyogi. Thanks for sharing your story, Ashley!

If you, or someone you love, has a yoga-inspired tattoo that they would like to share on this here little yoga blog, let me know.  

How to participate:

1) Please email me photo of your tattoo: My email address is: yogabird03@gmail.com.

2) Along with the photo, please also include your name, where you’re from, what you do, etc. Be sure to include your blog, your website, etc., so that I can link to it in the post.

3) Please also include any information about how you started practicing yoga.

4) And most importantly, tell me why you chose your yoga-inspired tattoo!


I look forward to hearing from you and to seeing your ink!

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Emily Zoladz | The Grand Rapids Press

I’m always intrigued when newspapers run stories about big, burly, male athletes doing yoga. To me, this seems sort of obvious. Here’s an article from Michigan’s Grand Rapids Press about Aaron Downey, the strength and conditioning coach for the Grand Rapids Griffins (a professional hockey team), and his use of yoga to train his hockey players.

Mr. Downey said that, ten years ago, he wouldn’t have been able to convince the players to give yoga a try, despite the fact that he has personally done yoga for more than 11 years to prevent and heal hockey injuries.

He said that he uses yoga as a tool to get players to stretch:

You’re playing at a high level, high competition, it only makes sense to stretch . . . You can only stretch so much when you get into the locker room.

But he also suggests that yoga helps the hockey players to focus:

I’ve always looked for a bit of a mental edge to help myself because I was never really blessed with the most talent, especially when it comes to stick-handling and handling the puck . . . For me, to play at a high level, I had to be in great shape and I had to have repeat stamina over and over again . . . I was always a student, learning how to get better, physically and mentally, and one of those things is what we’re doing with yoga.

Game on!

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Let me back up a bit. Remember the whole sh*t storm started by Albert Mohler a few weeks ago? He’s the head of Louisville’s Southern Baptist, Albert Mohler, who blogged about his thoughts that the practice of yoga is at odds with the beliefs of Christianity.

Well, ladies and gentleman, stop the presses because Bikram Choudhury has weighed. During an interview with Clifford Pugh of the Houston-based daily digital magazine CultureMap, Mr. Choudhury was asked to respond to the recent hoopla. In typical Bikram awesomeness, his response will likely send you laughing into your weekend

Choudhury scoffs at Southern Baptist Seminary president Albert Mohler’s recent pronouncements that Christians should not practice yoga because it has a spiritual aspect meant to connect with the divine.

“What he said is normal but the way he said it is totally ignorant,” Choudhury said “If you do yoga, you have good health. It’s a preventative medicine.”

And, he maintains, no one in the western world understands spirituality, anyway.

“So far in my life, no western man, including the Pope, can answer this question: ‘In one sentence, what is spiritualism?’ So when people talk about spirit in the western world, we Indians laugh because if people can’t learn A,B,C,D, how can you explain Shakespeare, Byron, Shelley and Keates?”

And he shrugs off criticisms that he copyrighted his 26-posture sequence, even though yoga is a 5,000-year-old tradition that cannot be owned, to create the “McDonald’s of yoga.”

“Nothing bothers me,” he replied. “I’m bullet proof, waterproof, wind proof, money proof, sex proof, emotion proof, stress proof, strength proof.”

Yup. You can read the full interview with CultureMap here.  And, if you enjoyed these…um…hard-hitting philosophies, you can check out some of my favorite quotes from him courtesy of YogaDawg via YogaDork.  Enjoy the full moon tonight and have a wonderful weekend!

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