Archive for May 2010

Paying attention to living

Life and Mindfulness

Yoga class today presented with great food for thought.

We consider life more fully when thoughts and images of not having life come to our attention.  It is interesting how many of us have friends and family who are close to their end of life or have recently passed.  Do we feel comfortable with our thoughts and feelings.  Why do we need to be “comfortable” at this time. Certainly there are no shoulds only coulds.

These moments do give time for taking time to reflect on how one manages their life in relation to their death.  Preparation for handling death is not often talked about and even thought.  Preparation for death can a morbid topic for some of us.

These times allow a perspective of life that celebrates the fullness of living in life.  Do we spend our time just getting through life.  Are our hopes and fears a main focus of the mind’s attention?  Is the celebration of life lived through our lives or just our dreams?

I believe these questions are begging to arise.  They come to the surface when the waves of our life get a bit rocky and rough.  Otherwise we might be just too busy plowing ahead to notice the life that is under the waves.  (These undercurrents are the bulk of the ocean of what shapes our journey of “riding the waves”.)

Therefore living life fully is great.  Living life with interest, creativity and good companions are great.  All this is often just the surface of life.  Therefore many living life with mindfulness creates a connection deep within.  The practice of meditation exercises this connection of the depth of what is on the inside.  Yoga is actually the bringing together of this life on the inside with this life on the outside.

Sitting quietly, closing the eyes and turning the mind’s attention away from the outside, into the inside introduces ourselves to ourselves.  Bringing together ourselves allows for a fullness of the “depth” of our lives to be lived not just on the surface of the up and down ride of life.

Progressive Resistance Exercise


Begin by standing on a comfortable surface, where you have plenty of room at each side.

With a 5-lb potato bag in each hand, extend your arms straight out from your sides and hold them there as long as you can. Try to reach a full minute, and then relax.

Each day you’ll find that you can hold this position for just a bit longer. After a couple of weeks, move up to 10-lb potato bags.

Then try 50-lb potato bags and then eventually try to get to where you can lift a 100-lb potato bag in each hand and hold your arms straight for more than a full minute. (I’m at this level.)

After you feel confident at that level, put a potato in each bag

Feeling balanced today?


Have you noticed that your balance may not be as good as it use to?  Is your assessment based on one leg, with or without eyes closed?

Testing one leg balance is quite popular in therapy, fitness and yoga–the repertoire in function and activities of exercise and asana often demand it.  What is surprising is to try it with the eyes closed.  Later in the post you can see a test the two physical therapist came up with.  I’m sure we have used these tests in the past, but take a look at the comparative performance scale–quite humbling for some of us.

I have been testing it more frequently in the clinic to see the range of different populations response–it is a definite eye opener (pun intended) for many.  Without that visual orientation our performance for balanced is generally and markedly affected.  Try it out!

Testing for Equilibrium

Marilyn Moffat and Carole B. Lewis, physical therapists in New York and Washington, respectively, agree with Mr. McCredie that “balance is an area of physical fitness that is often overlooked,” but they seek to correct that in their recent book “Age-Defying Fitness” (Peachtree Publishers). They define balance as “the ability of your body to maintain equilibrium when you stand, walk or perform any other daily activity” like putting on pants, walking on uneven ground or reaching for something on a shelf.

Dr. Moffat and Dr. Lewis suggest starting with a simple assessment of your current ability to maintain good balance. With a counter or sturdy furniture near enough to steady you if needed, perform this test:

1. Stand straight, wearing flat, closed shoes, with your arms folded across your chest. Raise one leg, bending the knee about 45 degrees, start a stopwatch and close your eyes.

2. Remain on one leg, stopping the watch immediately if you uncross your arms, tilt sideways more than 45 degrees, move the leg you are standing on or touch the raised leg to the floor.

3. Repeat this test with the other leg.

Now, compare your performance to the norms for various ages:

¶ 20 to 49 years old: 24 to 28 seconds.

¶ 50 to 59 years: 21 seconds.

¶ 60 to 69 years: 10 seconds.

¶ 70 to 79 years: 4 seconds.

¶ 80 and older: most cannot do it at all.

If You Meditate-Do You Get Better?


Meditation seems to just be another thing to add to our list of healthy things to do.  Meditation has become another hot topic in these recent times.  Although the current cult of defaming and misrepresenting Yoga must be topic de Jour.  Lets stay with this aspect of Traditional Yoga for now.

We are advised to eat better, exercise (more?), go to counseling (me?) and meditate.  I’m sure you have your list of “things” to do.  The premise of this advise is often based on this thought

If you meditate, then you will be happy, healthy and wealthy

OK–you could put what ever you want in place of meditation as the “should” and the formula remains written in our minds.  We often do stuff in order to “Get Better”.   It sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?  We are a society and culture of seeking happiness.  Nothing wrong with that.  It is when we become preoccupied with ourselves that a distortion of viewpoint comes into our lives and culture. This idea and self focus is not the same in meditation and Yoga when speaking of the Self.  My main point is to look at the way in which we are doing our practice.  If it is basically to improve, that is not wrong.  That viewpoint just is not the same as the traditional teachings that emphasize first getting better in order to get ready to come to the Self.  This latter perspective is not about helping the self.  It is about revealing the true Self.  That may be a bit much for some of us to swallow at this time.  Realize that this whole journey has many stages and levels to it.  We all don’t have to be at the same point in our practice.  An understanding of the traditional teachings and viewpoint can be very helpful.

Many ancient wisdom teachings utilize some method of introspection or inward traveling to delve into this unknown territory.   It was done in a different context.  This self discovery of the Self was/is an eminent occupation.  It is made by only the best of minds and bodies.  It isn’t a journey for the weak and confused.   Living life in business, school and family for most is a preparation for the journey of meditation.

Here is the key, I think.  The wisdom teaching is not about getting better per se.  One essentially got better so that you could meditate.  Being in shape both physically, mentally and socially would then allow the necessary time and availability to take on this fairly arduous task.   This task of knowing oneself truly is what we are really about in this world.

So the short of it all is–Get Better in Order to Meditate–otherwise you will fool yourself, we will fool ourselves into thinking and telling tall stories of our improvements and successes.  This all happens in the mind and ego.  It is a tricky business.

So once again, emphasize preparation.  Train hard.  Work at life, enjoy the world and become ready.  Then once having a healthy and focused mind, do come into the depths of the mind.


Many of us are on the road to improvement.  This is all fine and good.  The place that improvement has in life today is different the place of improvement of days gone by.  Now we improve ourselves to get a better job, to get a better relationship, to get better health, to get better at stuff.  Then we die.  Oh my God–death is coming.  Let’s talk about that later.  More like talk about that only when forced to confront sickness and close friends/family deaths.

In fact, this whole idea of getting better by doing these things has not always been held by all people.  I’m not talking now to those who are couch potatoes or distracted by illness/disease, etc.


Training into your later years

61 year old woman breaking world records in Olympic Lifts

You have to read some of these real amazing people’s web sites–like Dave and Laree Draper

Check out their page on this amazing woman (and amazing trainer–Glenn Pendlay) who just started learning Olympic lifts at 55 yo

Working towards being healthy, without injury and having a proper perspective of training goes a long way, it seems

(Maybe there is a place for yoga and it’s sister science Ayurveda.)

Gentle social support increases exercise compliance

There is an interesting study done by Standford University on exercise.  It shows how social support can positively affect the outcome of someone maintaining their weekly exercise program.

There were three experimental groups:

  1. Human advice–Study participants received a phone call from a trained health educator every two weeks and then monthly
  2. Automated advice–where the group received a similar phone call but it was an automated computerized interface
  3. No advice–where they had the same initial contact as above but received no follow up

All three groups were studied over a year.  Significant improvement was made in increasing the average time spent exercising each week for both the human and computer supported programs.   Even the ones not receiving any advice improved by 28%, because it was thought that they improved as there was going to be a check, though only at the end.

Is this social support being helpful or just being involved in a study.  Definitely social support in this context by humans showed the most increase in maintaining ones exercise.  Just being involved in some way also was helpful.

We are certainly a social animal, er human.

Good Saying

“Yesterday is History,

Tomorrow a Mystery,

Today is a Gift,

Thats why it’s called the Present”‘