Hey, YOU: Put Your Baby Tights Back In The Drawer Already

I was listening to a little snippet from Chris Brogan today that spins the old adage, “we are our own worst enemies”. Chris is a huge proponent of YOU – the concept of YOU, the power of YOU, the superheroness of YOU.

It goes both ways: YOU can be believed in by friends, family, coworkers, and more. YOUr potential can be recognized far and wide. But, ultimately, the work still has to be done, by YOU. His SoundCloud track reminds YOU that self-babying practices should end – get out of YOUr own way, already.

One of Chris’s books is called “It’s Not About The Tights“; it was that image that made me think of “baby tights” versus superhero tights. Put on the latter and banish the former.

The “Tights” book shows that outward bravery comes from inner tools that can be built even by introverts like myself. That we all have bravery when we need it, and the ability to ignore the outside forces when they don’t matter. He’s a pretty awesome dude, in general, with a podcast that is both savvy for business folks as well as a touch of woo thrown in when he’s really connecting with his message for the day. Plus his biz is called “human business works”, so it shares the same gist as “andreaworks” – forward motion and progress.

How To Nudge Yourself, Part One

complimentMany people encounter speed bumps that slow us down, or could even stop us if we are already moving slowly, and nudging ourselves over that bump into forward motion is essential.

Here is one little tiny thing, the first of a series, that I’ve learned from many mentors in my personal life and out on the interwebs that will help the vault over that bump. Each tiny thing takes a few minutes or less, and could involve getting over some fear to execute. But each are worth it and if you have any of that niggling fear, just tell it to STFU and get the thing done.

ONE. Contact someone in your medium-celebrity list to tell them how much they mean to you.

Your ‘medium celebrity’ list is someone that you admire in a field you are learning, but not necessarily the top of the pile. Let’s say you’re an aspiring chef. Don’t contact Gordon Ramsey or Nobu or Thomas Keller, especially if you are very nervous. (Note – in some circumstances, you could contact the top tier, but that’s another topic…)

Contact a “four star” chef near you – if you live in Austin, it could be one of the Top Chef contestants that was eliminated in the middle of the show. Make sure it’s a chef that you have some personal experience with, like eating at their restaurant, or cooking one of their published recipes. Let them know you appreciate their effort thus far and you’ve really been enjoying their recipe for XX and you hope that they are having a wonderful season full of ideas and customers. Don’t ask for anything. Just drop a genuine compliment that contains a nugget of your own experience.

Do this every day for a week and just bask in the glow that seems to come from dishing out respect.

Yoga: Gateway [Drug] To Eastern Religion

“Are we teaching yoga in public schools now?” he asked. “Are parents notified?” – New Mexico state representative Alonzo Baldonado (R, but like you couldn’t guess THAT). He said these comments and more in a meeting of the Legislative Education Study Committee where he is a non-voting member, during a session meant to demonstrate things that educators are doing to combat obesity and assist in the general health of schoolkids. The committee studies current educational metrics in New Mexico and makes recommendations for funding or changes to educational law.

During the meeting, a local PE teacher was describing her stretching routine to help warm the kids up before engaging in other sports, and this is when Mr. Baldonado chose to speak saying that he, “didn’t go looking for a discussion on religion. It just came up.”

Never mind the fact that the state representative’s own children are home-schooled, far from the overly influencing realm of regular classrooms and gym class and stretching. Good for them (?). However, Mr. Baldonado is extremely concerned that other people’s kids will be exposed to non-Christian religious practices without their knowledge or consent of their parents.

Yoga for Westerners = Stretching in Tight Pants

Never mind the fact that yoga, as Westerners know it, has approximately zero to do with its own traditional roots. According to Mr. Baldonado, who has “nothing against Buddhism or Hinduism”, “yoga could be seen as a gateway to Eastern religion.”

I won’t spend this post talking about what might happen if, indeed, some kids became interested in Eastern religion, whether that interest was sparked by a book they read or a conversation at school or a television show or gym class stretching. Conversion from one religious thought system to another is rare and not my topic for today.

Instead, my topic is on yoga: Mr. Baldonado could use just a wee bit of schooling himself. On eastern religions, on Christianity’s hold on upbringing, on yogic traditions, and on physical activity as a contributor to mental/academic performance. But mostly on what in the heck it means when a person says, “yoga”.

Do YOU know what yoga’s traditional roots are? Do you know what yoga really means? Let’s do a brief overview, keeping in mind that I am not a trained scholar on the history of yogic practice. So this will be quick, and it will be assisted by other folks online who are better experts than I.

Yoga – the Driving Analogy

Calling the stretching and exercises that we as Westerners call yoga, “yoga”, is like calling your ignition key your car. The key is a tool, used in the whole process we call “driving from one place to another”. Other parts of the process are things like the car itself, the roads, your knowledge and experience with driving, how much you know about your destination, the traffic along the way, and even the mental decision that made you choose this destination and this day and this car to take you there. Whew.

Similarly, the whole system and concept and world of yoga is a journey and an education, with goals along the way, rules, guideposts, and teachers. A yoga teacher of mine likes to say that we “will never have a perfect pose or session or day – that is why you call it yoga practice!”

Yoga: the four letter word with eight parts

Eight limbs of yoga

What that tiny four letter word YOGA encompasses is EIGHT areas of focus that ultimately touch upon all of a person’s life:

  1. Yama: self-restraint. Otherwise known as not going overboard in a Western consumer kind of way.
  2. Niyama: introspection, self-study.
  3. Asana: activity, stretching, body alignment.
  4. Pranayama: breathing, study of breath.
  5. Pratyahara: quiet sitting, detachment from distractions.
  6. Dharana: calming the mind, preparing for #7.
  7. Dhyana: contemplation, meditation.
  8. Samadhi: bliss or enlightenment, or just plain feeling at one with everything.

THAT – all of it – is “the yoga”. What looks familiar? The word “posture” should have been a sign – it’s number 3 on the list. That is what most of us – we humans who go to yoga class and bend and twist and say hello to our friends and their new shiny yoga mats – do and call it yoga. From now on I will call what Mr. Baldonado and everyone else refer to as yoga by its name on the list: asana. (Asana is also referred to as “hatha yoga” – so if you go to a yoga studio that says they practice Hatha Yoga you can be sure that you’re getting…. yoga. Just like you expected. As opposed to a meditation studio or such.)

There is nothing wrong with asana all on its own. Physical movement, especially habitual daily patterns as is common with asana practice, is extremely good for us.

Most of the other steps and practices are also helpful in our cluttered lives: steadying your thoughts, breathing in different ways to enhance your desired goals (slow to calm down, forceful to awaken, et cetera), meditation. These are practices that would benefit nearly every human on the planet. Ok, I’ll go on a limb (har) and say it could benefit EVERY human.

And that’s nothing that a schoolkid’s parent should have to sign a consent form for.

A Fair Amount of Kale Involved

Just a quickie today – I read a decent article in The Atlantic about food, our guts, and skin health and a quote popped out that made me smirk:

Maybe if you’re 20 you just have good genes and you can have pizza and beer every day and still glow. But if you’re over 40, often there is a fair amount of kale involved. – Robynne Chutkan, author of Gutbliss

Expectation does not Equal RealityYeah, that’s true – taking care of ourselves is a moving target that can shift from year to year, decade to decade. And yet, it is all to easy to find “inspiration” (or the more insidious varieties called thinspiration or fitspiration) for how we should look or feel or perform in people who do not resemble us AT ALL. They are almost always possessing of several attributes that are conveniently forgotten:

  • young
  • they are fit for a living
  • at the end of a long diet process
  • starving and dehydrated on photo shoot day

… those “amazing” looking women on the cover of Shape are – more often than not – dehydrated and almost about to pass out from hunger. They are likely at their lowest weight point of the previous (or upcoming) six months.

In short, THEY DON’T REALLY LOOK LIKE THAT. Just like you don’t look like the 10 years-old photo on your driver’s license, or the tiny and cute avatar that’s been attached to an email account for eons, or the glamor shot used for your corporate bio at your firm. And that’s OK, as long as you see the parallels in the disassociation from reality in both camps.

Hey, Me: Shit or Get Off The Pot! Love, Me

This blog post is part of the Week of Self-Love hosted by Anne-Sophie Reinhardt of annesophie.us. (Even though the week is technically over, I still want to give her link-love for the great idea!)

Decisions-images

Today marks just 5 days before I am scheduled to venture up into the scrubby hills between Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon for an inaugural 100 mile race. Problem is, my body isn’t excited about this prospect, AND there is a much closer, locally-organized shorter event the same weekend. So, as is usual for me, I am torn.

Normally my course of action is to wait until a decision foments on its own, but that is not how I’d like to BE as a participant in this life. Deciding is not a bad thing, not a scary thing, not to be avoided at all costs. So, to make this be an effective behavioral change, I think I should set a hard deadline for the choice (24 or 48 hours from now), and make the choice and deal with it. Lovingly, without regret or self-recrimination, or even too many “but, if….”s in the mix.

Self-assuredness is a quality I could use a bazillion percentage points more of. Here’s my pledge to make that happen, little by little, with care and compassion for my own flip-floppy mental state.

Why One Square of Chocolate is Not Enough

. . . for me, that is.

Tons of health oriented websites and nutritionists and dieticians love to talk about moderation. “Everything in moderation!”, they chirp, “even, sometimes, moderation! (giggle)”.

What if they are dead wrong?

Is moderation what saves people? Some articles in the last few years have started to unravel this concept, stating dramatic reversals like, “Everything in moderation is making you fat!” or “The Moderation Myth“.

Here’s something to chew on: what if they are BOTH RIGHT (or) BOTH WRONG? What if the whole thing is as silly as t elling a redhead they really ought to be blonde; what if moderation success is based on INDIVIDUALS rather than a rule for all?

That’s when I found Gretchen Rubin‘s awesome Abstainer/Moderator theory. It’s simple: some of us are Moderators and we CAN have just a few bites and be done with it, and some of us are Abstainers and “just one” often ends up being “the whole damn package“.

eat-all-the-things

The outcome of this theory is really, really easy. You KNOW which one of the two you currently are (even if you flip-flop during times of stress or hormonal cycles – you’ll still know what situation you are currently IN), and therefore you can change your behavior**.

If you have always, always, been able to have one perfect chocolate square or one bite of ice cream and then stop with no pangs, no worry – you are a moderator. If your eating and sleeping and activity is good, don’t worry one bit and have your bites.

However, if you have always been the EAT ALL THE THINGS kind of snacker, then you are an abstainer. Avoid the things that start as delicious indulgence and often end up as guilty regret – it is far, far easier to just not start. This makes it simple – you don’t have that shit in the house, you don’t order dessert, you keep your mitts off the french fries. If you have a rare indulgence, go into it with joy and pleasurable acceptance. You might eat the “whole thing”, whatever it is, but piling on guilt and regret is honestly the last thing good to load on top of your aching belly. Drink some water, go for a walk, forgive yourself, meditate, and go to bed early. Done.

**P.S. I do actually think that your “type” is not set in stone, and that you can, through some other behaviorial changes like better sleep, high-nutrient diet, and such, you can influence to some degree which of the two camps you fall into.

Procrastinating Is Easy When You Are Not Suffering

I recently found myself in a quasi-challenge with a friend to remove a few things from our daily eating habits that were making us generally cranky, or were bothering our guts. No problem, right? Sometimes you are totally ok to walk by the ice cream at the store?

WRONG.

Here’s the thing. We are both very, very healthy. We feel good a lot of the time, AND we eat well, move around, and sleep a decent amount. Therefore, what we are doing is just the window trim, or the fluffy frosting rose on the otherwise done wedding cake. We are fine-tuning.

Dinner Option 1

Dinner Option 1?

And, fine-tuning sucks.

That’s a lot of the source of resistance to “whole food eating” (whether you call it Paleo or primal or ancestral or vegan+bacon, whatever) to average/normal people: normal people feel FINE most of the time. Sure, we have allergies, or we get sick, or our necks hurt a lot, or we poop weird a lot of the time, but hey, that’s just getting older, isn’t it?

Why the hell should we adopt this very specific diet because whatever we are eating now will/might/could make us disease-riddled in 30 years??? Fat chance. And thus, perhaps, we ensure some negative consequences down the road. But they are down the road.

Folks who have MS, rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s, Crohn’s, or any auto-immune condition – THOSE are the highly motivated who turn their life outlook around when they use diet and lifestyle to fix themselves. They have everything to gain and only some minor inconvenience to deal with as they transition away from ramen and fried cheese balls and Pop Tarts. When they feel better, they feel GREAT.

And then they tell everyone about it. But, those they tell – the rest of us – are not highly motivated, usually. Normal folks are not-so-thirsty horses that don’t really care to be led over to the water, thanks.

Dinner Option 2

Dinner Option 2

I still think the “whole fooders” are right (whatever that means), and they are doing great things like:

But. Hmph. Sometimes the only marginally motivated just want some damn ice cream. Challenge? Hmph.

REI Ditches Return Everything Incorporated Nickname

REI's Original Flagship Store in Seattle

REI’s Original Flagship Store (courtesy of Seattle PI)

Social media has assisted in “implementing” the tragedy of the commons – after increasing awareness and braggadocio (spurred by comments in an Outside Magazine article last fall) of a particularly liberal return policy, this summer it hit REI (Recreational Equipment Inc.).

Just when it seemed that under every social media rock I found comments about REI and their standing as the place to go buy stuff at full retail because you can always ALWAYS return it no matter what, that well-distributed knowledge has spelled the end of the policy. Now, you’ll get a year for returns – unless the item is actually defective, in which case you still have a lifetime warranty.

The internets abound with stories about customers simply no longer liking their item after many years of happy use, or waterproofing not working after a decade, or the color of a bike not matching the owner’s new car. Yes, for reals.

While the policy went into effect in June, there’s been a recent bump in media coverage from the likes of Entrepreneur and the Wall Street Journal, culminating in a Morning Edition story today on NPR. Perhaps news takes longer to sink in, especially a policy change that won’t affect customers immediately. But when folks try to return their stuff and are met with the new rules, they definitely pay attention.

Other companies still have extremely liberal return policies and do not currently have plans to change such as Patagonia, L.L. Bean, and Orvis; a spokesperson for Orvis says, “We trust our customers to know where the line is,” seeming to imply that REI customers contain a bunch of freeloaders.

In recent months I’d heard from many different sources about REI’s legendary returns free-for-all, something that escaped my notice because, for one, I have a freakin’ conscience. If I took a 10 year old tent back and said it didn’t work for me anymore and got money back and a new tent, I’d feel like crap! Seriously, if the product has a defect or if it does not last as long as it should for the price, that is one thing. But REI had been suffering to some degree (profits down 4% in 2012 to $29 million – and REI is a co-op so that money goes back to the members) at the hands of those who decided it was OK to return anything because they usually paid full retail – as if their brains decided that they had built up a “buffer” of profit for REI that they are allowed to draw down upon when it suited them.

Geez, the more I write about this the more annoyed I get with those freeloaders. Therefore, let’s turn this rant OFF, and over to you. What do you think of the changes? Have you been a happy or guilty beneficiary of the old policy?

Five Years Since Starting Hot Yoga And I Got . . .

If you’ve done yoga for any number of years, you already know that the above and the below are the WRONG questions to ask or even speculate. Pose the questions and get an immediate game show like buzzer sound:

What has yoga DONE FOR ME? <Errrrrr!>

What do my triceps look like? <Berrrrrrr!>

Can I do Crow yet? <BERRRRR!>

What a person “gets” from yoga is a spectrum from nothing in particular to the tools you need to cope with Western society. No more, no less. You get a little more flexible, a little more gentle, one hopes. It is not about achievement or levels or belts or PRs. But still, a milestone is a cool thing, so I found this in my email box today:

Email from Hot Yoga ABQ

Email from Hot Yoga ABQ today for my anniversary

I have been in and around yoga for exactly 5 years today, with an 18 month hiatus in there along the way. Initially it did wonders for both my psyche and my physique. Of course, like all things the effect wanes with time.

Everyone understands that a drug addict needs more and more as time goes on to get the same effect, but that is hardly limited to drugs. Pretty much anything habitual with a physical component will have a slow compensatory effect, from running to pushups to hiking to coffee brewing techniques to typing speed to . . . you name it.

Our nature is to constantly change with our environment, seek out new challenges (or be bombarded with new problems to solve without any choice in the matter, as was the case for most of our evolution), and leap to a different level or pastime when one has exhausted it’s ability to fascinate. Just before my hiatus I wasn’t sure what was “next” for me with my practice so I decided to just stop and see how long it took to come back. Months, days? It was more than a year; it seems I do well while doing yoga but it does  not take up my life, nor is it a black hole when not a part of my daily routine. I work with it, or without it.

I do still love it – love watching the trembling of balance, the stillness of mind after exertion, the ease of friendships in the studio. For now, I will continue.

Thank you to Molly and Bruce, who made this their entrepreneurial calling nearly 10 years ago, and to Jamesina, who took me to my first class with James and unleashed my monster: it was a downward (dog) spiral from there.