Why I Don’t Do Holy Yoga

hindu statue

Growing up as a young Roman Catholic boy, I served morning mass daily during my summer vacations and every Saturday morning during the school year. I would wake early and ride my bike six blocks to St. Jerome’s church in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. Most mornings few people came. It would be just me, a priest, and a couple of elderly parishioners. I didn’t serve mass because I wanted to but because I came from a VERY Catholic family, and that’s what I was expected to do. I’m quite confident that my childhood can out-Catholic just about anyone’s. Try me. My mother was a former Roman Catholic nun, and I attended St. Lawerence Seminary in Mt. Calvary, Wisconsin, a private boarding school and training ground for aspiring priests. Even still, it didn’t take. I saw far too many actions committed by “holy” people that didn’t reflect the values and beliefs they claimed to hold. I got booted from boarding school my senior year, and I never looked back. I found yoga when I was 24. I was lucky. I found it in a book and not in a studio. Yoga classes were all but non-existent in the Midwest in the early 90’s, but the pseudo-religious studio scene was already alive and well in NYC and on the west coast. I began practicing simple postures and slowly the discipline revealed itself. Through yoga I learned an ethic for living a happier, healthier and more spiritually grounded life.  But it wasn’t the eastern religious… [Continue Reading]

Yoga and the Illusion of Freedom

yoga illusion of freedom

Regardless of what anyone tells you, yoga in the western world is still in its adolescence. Modern yoga with its posture-driven body-centrism only began to blossom west of India in the early seventies pioneered by free-spirited youth in search of enlightenment. The free-spirited and the open-minded are owed a tremendous debt of gratitude for they were the first to accept this mysterious gift from the East. To this day yoga still carries the stamp of their spirit and the stereotypical yoga practitioner is pictured as a young woman in tie-dyed clothing with flowers in her hair. But is this image still serving us? I think it’s time for western yoga to grow up. Freedom in yoga can be a dangerous illusion. True freedom is the natural expression of mastery, not the whimsical dalliances afforded by the casual practitioner. And the current method of practicing yoga in the modern yoga industry is churning out casual practitioners in droves. There are hundreds of yoga styles to choose from: hot and cold, fast and slow, clothed and believe it or not, nude yoga. Dip your toe into one, and just when it gets tough, drop it and find another. We are creating yoga tourists and risking the possible rewards of a dedicated personal practice by falling prey to the illusion of freedom. When facing the countless options available to a modern yogi, the current paradigm would encourage you to relish in the freedom to dabble. But that type of freedom isn’t worth having…. [Continue Reading]

How You Sleep Impacts Your Yoga Practice

Sleep_Corpse pose

Yoga for sleep…and sleep for yoga When I started practicing yoga, the first life-altering change I experienced was that I slept better. My body and mind were less cranky so instead of waking up three to four times a night, I was sound a sleep until I heard the ring of my alarm. Thanks to my yoga practice, I still continue to sleep like a baby most nights. Something I’ve discovered more recently though is that the way I sleep also impacts the way I move through my practice. I find that if I sleep on my side, I’m much stiffer in the morning through my neck, shoulders, upper back and hips (okay, all over really). I have a tendency to sleep on my left side with my left leg hiked up, which is a habit I’ve probably had for most of my life. My left side has always had more tension in relation to my practice and it’s possible that this is a contributing factor. Think about how many hours we spend of our lives in the positions that we sleep in, it’s no wonder it affects the way we feel and move while we’re awake. Sleep to increase mobility Over the past several months, I’ve made a more conscious effort to sleep on my back rather than on my side. For whatever reason my left knee still feels the need to hike up and to the side while I’m on my back. I know when I’ve slept the… [Continue Reading]

Yoga and Diet: Inflammatory Foods

turmeric

The number one thing that can affect your yoga practice—besides your state of mind—is inner inflammation. Our bodies give us many signals when it is swollen and out of sorts, including achy joints, nasal congestion and digestive issues. Fortunately, most low-level inflammation can be addressed fairly quickly, and most often by diet simple adjustments. Our guest blogger today is health expert/nutritionist and Adamantine® practitioner Sheree Clark. Foods that fan the flames of inflammation You don’t need training in nutrition to draw the link between food, mood and physical performance. All you need to do is look at your sofa on Thanksgiving afternoon to see the aftermath of too much fat, sugar and…well, probably too much of everything not so good for you! It’s not just the occasional overindulgence we need to be concerned about to live our best life. It’s our day-to-day decisions or “forks in the road,” as I like to call them, that add up to create your current condition. Let’s look at the options we have to make better choices, every moment of everyday. Inflammatory foods Most of us have foods that we simply know don’t agree with us. But there are some common foods—like dairy, baked goods, wine—that are linked to inflammation, which is also called oxidative stress. It may not seem like a big deal, but inflammation can be an early indicator of many chronic conditions like arthritis, cancer, diabetes and more. From a yogic standpoint: inflammation limits mobility. Those stiff joints you feel during… [Continue Reading]

Upgrade Your Asana

Holding Warrior Pose

I’ve been noticing lately that a few of my regular yoga students are missing from Guided Self-Practice on Monday mornings. One recently confessed that she is often too sore from attending other yoga classes around town on the weekends to do her regular daily practice of Adamantine® Yoga come Monday. This made me reflect on my own practice and how much I value the simple fact that I never feel sore. That’s right, never. I don’t believe you’re supposed to feel that way. I don’t think it’s necessary. I believe you should feel better because you have practiced, not worse. But when you import some of the ideas prevalent in more traditional exercise modalities, it’s easy to conclude that if you don’t get sore/feel the burn/breakdown the muscle that you’re not getting the benefits. I disagree. I think there’s a reason why many modern yoga teachers are teaching classes that “kick-your-asana” and leave you feeling sore, and it might surprise you. I also think there is really no precedent for this in traditional yoga itself. Lastly, I don’t think it’s very “yogic”at all. There, I said it. Now to back it up. 1) Why many yoga teachers are out to “kick-your-asana.” Many yoga teachers wrongly equate yoga with working out. They think that you come to class to get your butt kicked, and they don’t understand how yoga really works. This is an industry-wide problem perhaps fueled by the general lack of experience required before becoming a yoga teacher. But that’s no real surprise. I think there’s an… [Continue Reading]