Yoga And The Fitbit

Got a Fitbit the other day and I’ve got to say, I love it already! Only had it a few days, but already I’m addicted to seeing how many steps I’ve taken, what my heart rate is, how many calories I’ve burned, how I slept, in fact anything my little Charge HR will tell me.

well fit

I got it off Amazon for £90, though the one I bought usually goes for about £100. I chose the Charge HR over the Surge because having GPS isn’t worth the extra £30-40 I reckon. And considering I mainly do yoga what do I need the GPS for anyway?

The three things I like most about it are the heart rate monitor, the sleep tracking, and the way you can set it to record your activities over a set amount of time – starting and stopping it like a stopwatch – so you can see how that activity affected you.

Naturally, I used it to see what was going on inside me during my yoga session, and the results were quite interesting.

yoga and the fitbit

The Fitbit is designed mainly for a more Western style of exercise – running, cycling, weight training, etc. – so the results you get don’t look that impressive. Heart rate slightly elevated, few steps taken, not so many calories burned; but that didn’t bother me so much. I don’t expect my heart rate to sky rocket when I do yoga. In fact I’d be worried if it did. Much better in fact for it to be elevated but steady for a long period of time.

I was surprised by how long I was in the ‘fat burning zone’. Again, twenty one minutes may not seem like much, but my flat-mate went on a run for the same amount of time and she burned less fat (technically speaking) than I did. She was much more in the ‘cardio zone’, which I never even got near. And naturally, she did way more steps than I did.

The Fitbit was pretty comfy to wear too. I had it where they recommend it, snugly round the wrist about one finger width above the wrist bone, and it never got in the way of any of my asanas. In fact I hardly noticed I had it on, except when I stopped to admire how great it looks. I also checked it now and then to see how long I’d been exercising, as the activity recorder really does act like a stopwatch too.

To be honest with you, for yoga I’m not sure you really need a Fitbit. I mean as ,long as you do your asanas and feel good afterwards who cares what your heart rate was half an hour in? But in terms of general activity day to day I think the Fitbit is priceless. I get up and walk about more just to make sure I get my ten thousand steps in. When I got to the train station just as the barriers came down I thought “Great! A change to climb some stairs.” The Fitbit has certainly made me more active in my daily life, and I’m even tempted to do some running, so I can get into the illustrious ‘cardio zone’!

Such a shame it’s not waterproof. Would love to take it swimming some time too.

Inspirational Quotes?

When friends, family, and loved ones are hurt and in pain – physical or emotional – we naturally want to help however we can. But when they are miles away – physically or emotionally – how can we help them then?

It can be tempting to share inspirational quotes, something to raise their mood or offer advice in a round about way. But that can be a mine field. I don’t know about you, but if I’m feeling down and someone sends me “If life gives you lemons make lemonade!” it just makes me want to punch them in the face.

And what about the perennial favourite, “This too shall pass.”? How patronising does that sound?

I used to hate that quote. I just found it so condescending. But that was because I only ever heard it in movies said to characters who were upset to make them think things would get better. They never told the whole story, and once I heard that it brought a whole new meaning to it.

The story goes like this:

A Persian king asked his wise men to create something that would give him hope in times of despair, but also keep him humble in times of triumph. The wise men thought for a while, and then came back to the king with a ring on which was etched the words “This too shall pass”.

You see, its not a quote about everything getting better all the time, it’s about the impermanence of things. How all there is is change, and how our attachment to things can only lead to emotional turmoil.

I find that a much deeper meaning than ‘everything’ll be alright eventually’, because even if things do get better they will also change once more. So much better to prepare ourselves for that, and thereby lessen the impact when it does inevitably happen.

But of course you can’t tell that to someone who is upset. That too can be patronising. In fact any ‘advice’ when someone is properly down can easily be taken the wrong way. Much better to be an ear for listening, a shoulder to cry on, and then one day (when things aren’t so bleak) plant the seed and hope it will grow. The rest is up to them.

And as for “If life gives you lemons…”, just remember:

If life gives you lemons, send that sh*t back and tell life,”Hey! What the hell is this? This isn’t what I ordered!”


Notes For New Yoga Teachers

Since I’ve started teaching yoga I’ve learnt a lot about how to teach yoga. Here below are some of the ‘highlights’.

NB: Even though I’ve just started teaching yoga I did study and teach Tai Chi Chuan for thirteen years previously, so these observations are quite well established.

You’ve got to prepare

It doesn’t have to be much, but you should at least know what you’re expected to teach when you first start out.

I thought my first assisting class would just be observing, with maybe a little help correcting. Instead I was thrown in at the deep end, teaching the shoulder stand, plough, bridge, wheel, fish AND bow! I was totally unprepared for all that, panicked a little, went too fast, spoke too softly (and too hesitantly), and in general did quite bad. This really shook my confidence.

Practice with a friend if you can, but if you can’t then at least go through it all mentally before the class begins. It’ll make all the difference.

Be critical of criticisms

After my first class I received some feedback from one of the students that nearly put me off teaching completely. They were trying to be helpful, but they just ended up making me feel stupid and incompetent.

This was in contrast to the feedback I got from the teacher I was assisting which was simple and positive.

I came to the conclusion that you should only take teaching advice from other teachers. That a student (one that has no experience of teaching) can only tell you how to teach them, not other people.

Only a teacher understands the unique challenges of teaching a large group of people. Taking advice on teaching from a student is like taking marriage advice from a single person (ie: great if you want to stay single).

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing

Students who have been coming to class for a while will assume they know what’s coming next. Now often they are right, but little do they realise how unskillful such assumptions are.

When I did my TTC we had a class where the swami, during the double leg raises, suddenly switched from “both legs up” to “right leg up”. Now this was kind of random, but I just figured he had something different planned, so I stuck my right leg in the air and waited. Then I heard other students complain, him question them, them ‘correct’ him, him laugh off his ‘mistake’, etc. All the while my leg was in the air. I had received no new instructions, so I just waited patiently to be told what to do next. At which point the swami said quietly to me “Good Keshava.”

Assuming you know what’s coming next is a dangerous thing. It means you’re not in the moment, adapting to changing circumstances, but in the future thinking about God knows what. It’s like pressing the button at a pedestrian crossing, then crossing as soon as the light changes. You can assume the cars will stop because they have to, but it’s wiser to wait and make sure they do before proceeding to cross.

If a student does their own thing in class it can feel a bit insulting, but really they’re the ones missing out. They’re missing out on the instruction being given, on the feeling of being part of the group, and on the corrections that will help improve their yoga. Try to bring them back into synch with the others, but if they persist just leave them to it and concentrate on the ones that are listening to you.

Of course, if the whole group is going off in different directions, then you have to put your foot down. But if you do, then do it with love.

Yoga is for ‘adults’

Most people’s experience of learning is limited to when they were at school. Or to put it another way, when they were forced to go somewhere they didn’t want to go, to do things they probably had no interest in. Who among us, age eleven, thought “Ooh, chemistry!” Or maths? Or art? Or geography? Or PE!

Unfortunately this experience influences how they approach any classroom for the rest of their lives (ie: with reluctance).

Now many students, myself included, go to class to be pushed. They want to be made to hold a pose for longer than they would do at home. To go deeper, lift higher, and twist a little further. But there’s a difference between that and the student that gives up without trying.

Injuries aside, it’s up to the student to be responsible for their own practice. A teacher is there to guide them and help them advance as much as they can, not force them to do something they don’t want to do. They have to be adult about their yoga, to push themselves with or without outside influence, otherwise they won’t get the full benefit of the class.

Correct the group to correct one person

Singling people out in front of the group for corrections can be damaging. A student with low confidence can be embarrassed by being told what they’re doing wrong with everyone watching.

Correct individuals quietly, one on one. They are more likely to take on board what you have to say.

Or if you don’t have time (or if more than one person is making the same mistake) correct the group as a whole without reference to an individual. It saves anyone any embarrassment, and it’s likely everyone will benefit from whatever correction is being given anyway.

NB: In the same vein, when you’re in class and you hear the person next to you being corrected, listen and see if what’s being said applies to you. Chances are it might.

Enjoy yourself

Laugh, smile, make the odd joke now and then. It elevates the class to a whole new level.

Recognise the difference between important and serious. Yoga is important, and should be treated as such, but it should never be taken too seriously.

How anyone can you take something where you stick your bum in the air seriously is beyond me anyway.

“Life Is Pain, Highness.”

“Anyone who says differently is selling something.”

It’s been a difficult couple of weeks. Y’know what it’s like when nothing you try and do works out? That’s what it’s been like for me.

(Y’know what, I’m not going to go into the whole thing now. It’s just a load of blah blah blah, and really, who can be bothered?)

The giveaway is over. The entire time it ran a whopping six people entered. That in itself is a little dis-heartening. Add to that the fact that some of them didn’t even qualify for entry as they liked a post but didn’t follow, or something like that, and it all starts to get you a bit down.

Anyway, the winner is Dr Lucy Pike. She’s the one who suggested the cleanse I did the other week, and she happens to be the only new follower I got out of this whole process, so I’m glad the prize is going to her. Well done Lucy.:-)

I had thought there was more interest in my blog, but I guess I was wrong. It’s certainly been a clarifying experience for me though. I had been trying to drive interest and build up a readership, but now it just seems like “Why bother?” At least now I can stop worrying about trying to do a post every week and instead get on with other things.

I’m either doing or crossing off for good everything on my perpetual To Do List. I’m not booking a climbing course so why have it on the list? If I do it I’ll do it. Same goes for learning german. If it hasn’t happened yet it probably won’t (and since my ex is seeing someone new now the only reason I was going to learn german in the first place is gone).

I’m just so tired of the muddle, so I’m throwing everything out! The only two things in my life now are teaching yoga and writing my book. Everything else is out the window. It means there’ll be less blogging from me, but it seems that won’t impact many lives, so that’s probably no great loss.

Hopefully greater simplicity will bring me greater happiness. Hopefully looking inward for joy will be more profitable than looking towards the outside world. It’s been a difficult few weeks for me but I’m trying to make the best of it.

Found Philosophy

It’s amazing the places you can find inspiration if you just keep an eye out for it.

I’m a big fan of The Big Bang Theory. It’s my favourite show on TV at the moment. But as well as the comedy gold going on during the show, I’m also a fan of the producer Chuck Lorre’s ‘Vanity Cards’ at the end of each episode.

He’s been doing these since his first TV show Dharma & Greg, when you had to record it on tape and press pause to read what it said (they’re only up for a moment). And he’s continued to do them all through his other series – Cybill, Grace Under Fire, Mike & Molly, Mom, and (most famously) Two And A Half Men.*

*It was one of his Vanity Cards, that ended with the line “If Charlie Sheen outlives me, I’m gonna be really pissed”, that caused Charlie Sheen to have his now infamous “tiger blood” meltdown.

I like the cards because they’re fun, silly, offer insights to what the studios will and won’t allow (a character dressed as a nazi with a swastika one their arm, no; a character dressed as a nazi with a smiley face on their arm, yes), and quite often they contain little philosophical gems that really make you stop and think.

Take this one for example from TBBT Season 9 Episode 19:

Vanity Card no.524
© Chuck Lorre 2016

It is a basic tenet of Indian philosophy that we are all God pretending not to be, in an effort to amuse ourselves – in the same way that we watch the greatest actor on stage and, even though we know it’s an act, we get drawn into believing anyway (a little something I picked up from the philosopher Alan Watts). This is why we put our hands together in prayer position when meet a fellow yogi, or indeed say goodbye, to recognise the God within them, and in doing so recognise the God within ourselves.

Things like that are easy to forget, so it’s nice to get a wee reminder out of the blue now and then (like at the end of a TV program).

You also get random reminders popping out of Christmas crackers too.

cracker yoga philosophy

How’s that for a bit of yogic philosophy? Not what I was expecting on Christmas morning I can tell you. But what more perfect time to be reminded of the alternative to the excesses of Christmas eh?

And here’s one I just came across whilst looking for links for this post:

“Advice? I don’t have advice. Stop aspiring and start writing. If you’re writing, you’re a writer. Write like you’re a goddamn death row inmate and the governor is out of the country and there’s no chance for a pardon. Write like you’re clinging to the edge of a cliff, white knuckles, on your last breath, and you’ve got just one last thing to say, like you’re a bird flying over us and you can see everything, and please, for God’s sake, tell us something that will save us from ourselves. Take a deep breath and tell us your deepest, darkest secret, so we can wipe our brow and know that we’re not alone. Write like you have a message from the king. Or don’t. Who knows, maybe you’re one of the lucky ones who doesn’t have to.” ~ Alan Watts

Particularly relevant for me as writing this post is what I’m doing when I should be writing my novel! Always the reminders are there to keep us on the straight and narrow, if only we have the eyes to see.:-)

**You only have until tomorrow to enter the Yoga Bum Giveaway. Chances are good of winning the prize as, after ten days, you can count the number of entries on one hand! I personally thought there’d be more interest in winning free stuff but apparently not. Anyway, when I get up tomorrow morning it’ll all be over, so get in there now if you want to be in with a chance of winning.**