Sunday, March 9, 2014

Mortal Kombat and Surviving the 30 Day Plank Challenge



Recently I stumbled across a Facebook post recommending a “30 Day Plank Challenge”, taking you from 20 seconds in plank to a full five minutes in one month’s time.  Seemed like a great idea to me, although I realized that there is probably no scientific validity behind this method or rate of improvement, and my fellow yoga teachers pointed out the terrible form of the woman on the post.  Regardless, I was up for a challenge and raring to go.



Timing your plank is tough, and at first this was the hardest part.  If you have a timer in front of you, you end up staring at the seconds go by, and then boy do they go by slowly.  As a yogi I wanted to spend the time exploring my breath, alignment, and searching for my bandhas, not staring at the clock.  I got into a habit at first of playing podcasts on tantra philosophy on my ipod, because it fit the mood and gave me an accurate time.  Eventually I hit on an ideal way to proceed- setting my Kindle up under my face and watching Mortal Kombat videos on YouTube, turning off the sound, and setting them up so the video ended at exactly my goal time.


Mortal Kombat and yoga?  I started to focus on my yoga practice at the same time that I started reading the Matt Fraction / Ed Brubaker / David Aja martial arts comic Immortal Iron Fist. I loved the idea of a superhero who solved problems with esoteric notions like meditation, chi, and alignment.  When the comic took a turn into a pan-dimensional martial arts tournament, it visually took on a look from the Mortal Kombat video game franchise.  Thus there are times when I picture a room full of yogis and it looks like a bunch of my friends in tadasana, and sometimes it looks a lot more like Kitana, Raiden, and Mileena.



There are some fascinating Mortal Kombat videos on YouTube, conveniently at or around the durations for the various stages in the 30 Day Plank Challenge.  When I was at 45 seconds it seemed unlikely that I was ever going to make a minute.  Today was my last day at 2:30.  Time to start picking longer videos.


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Meaning of Mudras



I’ve been holding my hands in the same mudra since I started meditating three years ago, and never knew why. Here's a great chart to help you understand the meaning of the mudras.


Turns out Magneto and I both meditate with the shuni mudra (but only he gets to levitate)

Saturday, November 30, 2013

7 Reasons I Still Go To Bikram



I’ve sampled a lot of yoga in my day.  I’ve practiced in gyms & cabins, done Flow & Yin, tried classical & tantra, and seen the best and worst of Ashtanga & Iyengar.  After a decade or more of searching I’ve found a yoga style that I enjoy practicing and teaching in Embodyoga.  But I have a secret- sometimes I sneak out to a Bikram class.


If there is a spectrum of yoga practices, the tantra “yoga from the inside out” nature of Embodyoga is about as far as you can get from the “classical yoga-meets-MTV” style of Bikram.  In my regular practice every movement starts with the breath and pranayama is just a regular part of life; in Bikram, you get breath in the first two minutes, the last two minutes, and for the 86 minutes in between you are on your own.  When I practice each posture is a learning opportunity and chance to explore; in Bikram you pretty much just follow the rote commands of the scantily clad person on the podium at the front of the room.  Embodyoga always asks you to soften your knees; Birkam commands you to lock your knees, lock your knees, lock your knees.

None the less, I still find myself in a Bikram class from time to time.  Here’s why:

Mental Disengagement: When I explained my yoga background to my first bikram teacher, she said “you can forget all that, this is basically ‘Simon Says’ for 90 minutes.”  Frankly it’s too hot to think about much.  Spending that much time not worrying about the past or the future, just being in the moment?  Score.

Calories: At my size I burn around 1000 calories in one class.  That can make up for a lot of dietary sins.

Meditation: I get to class early so I claim a favorite spot in the back.  That 15 minute wait in a hot room with subdued lighting and gentle murmuring of students is my most reliable meditation time.

Orgy Atmosphere: Spending 90 minutes in a room full of half-naked, writhing, sweaty people is nice break from the mundane.  It’s a close as I’m likely to get to a Roman orgy.

Hydration: I drink about a liter of water before class, a liter during class, a liter right after class, and a liter within an hour of leaving class.  So long, toxins!  It also helps with…

Keeping it Regular: Right in the middle of the practice when it’s getting hard to focus I always hear the instructor say “this posture massages your colon”.  They are right.  You are guaranteed to have a skip in your step the next day, after a few bathroom breaks, of course.

Warmth: I live in New England; in the winter it gets dark at 4:00 and it is cold all the time.  My Bikram class card goes untouched between April and October, but when the cold sets in I’m ready to head back to my 105 degree class.

Now if someone can just explain a Japanese Ham Sandwich I'll be set.
 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Physical Therapy, Chronic Pain, Yoga



I started doing physical therapy for chronic post-surgical pain right around the same time that I stopped practicing mediation and asana at home.  I was hesitant to enter into a year-long teach training because I was already spending too much time thinking about broken parts of my body.  Yoga, however, is not about the broken parts of your body, but about the awesome parts of having a body (especially if you breathe) and now that the swollen muscle / damaged nerve cluster in my chest is better and I have full feeling in my hands again I think PT is done. That way, I can get back to the parts of yoga I really like: breath, calm, soothing and toning nervous system, & yoga party tricks.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Next Pacifist Gaming Challenge- New Vegas



I’m really getting into this pacifist gaming idea, and am looking for the next challenge.  Fallout: New Vegas seems to the next one on the list.  Just ordered it from Amazon.


Fallout is a long running, post-apocalyptic series that has a bizarre publication history.  It started close to 20 years ago as a remake of a game called Wasteland, produced by a company called Interplay.  The studio in Interplay that built the game, Black Isle, was eventually dissolved, and the developers split up and eventually formed a new company called Obsidian.  Obsidian found a niche in making intellectually superior sequels to games other companies put out, and occasionally generating their own intellectual property (like Alpha Protocol).  Fallout: New Vegas is an odd merging of these two.  Technically it is a sequel to Fallout 3, by Bethesda Games Studio, which acquired the license to Fallout.  However, all of the original producers and writers of Fallout 1 & 2 now work Obsidian, and they simply picked up their notes from their own cancelled Fallout 3 and merged them to Bethesda’s game engine.


Okay, enough gamer politics.  The cool thing is that one the best game developers/writers, Chris Avellone, worked on the game.  Avellone’s list of projects is a roll call of all of the cool, quirky role playing games of the last few decades; games like Fallout 1 & 2, Alpha Protocol, Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, Plansescape: Torment.  Avellone also writes game that let you look for alternatives to violence.  Take for example this screenshot of a pacifist run through New Vegas.


(More of that story in Gandhi is Not Dead, Seen in New Vegas)
So my next game is chosen, and my stack of shooters languish on a dusty shelf.  Stay tuned.