Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Monday, December 29, 2014

Stepping forward out of Downward Facing Dog, gracefully!

Stepping a foot forward from Downward Facing Dog is one vinyasa I cannot do. The link below is from YogaGlo.com, an online yoga teaching ministry that I am considering becoming a member. The class looks helpful and reminds me--I need a couple of blocks for my home practice. This is assuming I ever start practicing at home!

Step Forward Gracefully

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Sciatica can be a pain in the ass!

I suffer from Sciatica. The pain varies in intensity: there are times I can barely walk and other times I am just annoyed at the nagging pain. Here are seven poses to calm that raging nerve down from Yoga International.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Meditation sans the religion

I just finished Dan Harris' book 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works. It's an excellent read for anyone who is interested in how powerful meditation can be and how you can do it without becoming a monk or a swami.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Friday, December 05, 2014

Observations From the Mat 2: "Gentle" Yoga and its Rock Star Teacher

Sunday Afternoon "Gentle" Yoga 
I place the quotation marks around the word gentle in the heading because the latest teacher, Aviv, after successfully auditioning for the class teaching a restorative set of asanas moved into more advanced postures when my fitness club’s group exercise (GX) manager stopped attending. It didn’t matter to the group since all the members who enjoyed the easy-does-it format had left when a rotating set of not-so-gentle yoga teachers filled in while the GX manager searched for a replacement. By the time Aviv showed up the only members that remained where open to a more advance routine. 

If Aviv needed to audition for the members it would have been a smashing success. The attendants for what was a modest class size exploded--and the newer students where all female. This shouldn't be a surprise--this is yoga, remember. But it seemed strange that a new teacher would suddenly draw such a large crowd of students. It became clear just how popular he was when a substitute arrived one Sunday afternoon and some of the students started asking the sub if Aviv was coming back. Geez, it sounded pathetic.

Is Aviv attractive, you might ask. Meh, I would say he has charisma, but looks aren't his strong suit. Since, generally speaking, a woman seems to to have the ability to see beyond a man's physical shortcomings and focus more on his sense of humor and and personality, I would imagine it is his charm that pulls them in and keeps them, besides his skill as a teacher. Aviv is very different in method than Amanda and Lee--the first two teachers in this class, since I started. I believed they stayed true to the class' name. Aviv teaches what I believe to be a straight hatha yoga class.

Keeping the fact that there is not much gentleness in this Gentle Yoga class, I can't help, but find certain things funny about Aviv's practice. The only gentle part is his voice. He offers modifications to each asana he leads us in, but so do my other teachers--that is standard operating procedure for a yoga teacher.

I suppress a laugh when he does these advanced postures because I have been taking this class for over two years with teachers who always considered the stiffest, most out-of-shape people first. But not Aviv! He leads us in Hero's Pose (hard for a few people), to a Hero Pose with a back bend (half the class try and quit), Hero Pose with a complete back bend--head on the mat (only a few can do). Then he pops back up into Hero Pose again and leans
Crane Posture
back a little and lifts knees (only a few can do that). Now, he flips his feet over so he is stretching the soles of his feet. (You hear gowns throughout the studio; most people follow him but, like me, they can't handle the pressure and are leaning forward). Then he moves his arms forward, lifting his feet up and goes into Crane (See Number 8 here!). I am relieved that I am not the only Gentle Yoga student who is laughing at this point. He finishes with touching his head to the floor and shows all of his admiring fans the preparation of a hand-stand inversion. Jolly good for you, Aviv! You can do something the 60 year-old overweight lady next to me cannot!

Before I finish the post, I need to make something crystal clean--just in case the impossible happens and someone besides yours truly reads this and just so happens to go to my health club and is considering going to the Sunday Gentle Yoga class: This is an excellent class! I have progressed enough that I no longer need a beginners class. It's just that I can't help laughing at the improper labeling. In fact, I dread the day Aviv leaves and someone takes over who will be more like Amanda and Lee. On that day I just might drop this class and try taking Robert's ninety-minute Power Yoga class on Monday nights. In the meantime, I'll continue taking this excellent class and giggle at Aviv's "Hey, look at me" show.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

A Beginner's Guide to Pranayama

Breathing is at the heart of yoga and pranayama from YogaJournal.com:

A Beginner's Guide to Pranayama

Monday, December 01, 2014

How you can tell if someone does CrossFit

This is pretty mean of me--call it bad karma--but some of these images and videos are hilarious:

How you can tell if someone does CrossFit

From Elephant Journal.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Friday, November 28, 2014

Yoga Accomplishments and Challanges

Since I started practicing yoga over two years ago I have seen many improvement in my practice:
  • My Downward-Facing Dog has greatly improved; my heels are closer to the floor. Even better: Heather, my Vinyasa teacher tells me my Down Dog is one of the postures she has noticed that has significantly improved.
  • My Easy pose is much better. Specifically my back is not as rounded while sitting, though I still need a cushion or a blanket to sit on. This is something I notice all the time because, before I attended physical therapy and yoga, I was not aware that I had this problem.
  • Forward Fold. When I started yoga I could not even get my finger tips to touch the floor. Now my fingers touch in the beginning of a practice and most of my hands are touching by the end of each practice.
  • Tree pose. I still cannot balance on one foot, but I am getting better!
  • Other postures. I am sure I have improved on nearly all my postures, but the above are the ones I and my teachers have noticed the most as improving.
I am very lazy and almost never practice at home. This is a big problem in my practice. I read somewhere that for the most part, the postures you hate the most are the ones you should working on often. There's some truth to this for me; I don't like these postures because I either cannot do them/do them very well or they are uncomfortable. Here are the postures I want to practice at home, and some of them I do not like to strike:

  • Tree pose. Yes I have improved on this one, but I am still far from holding the posture for more than a few seconds.
  • Boat pose. I hate it and cannot hold it for very long, nor can I balance the posture very well.
  • Hero pose and advanced modifications: I'm too fat to feel comfortable doing this, but I can do it. I feel for my fellow students who have to stand on their knees when the rest of us are in the posture. Reclining Hero pose I cannot do and would like to; also Hero pose with my toes facing forward--stretching my soles of my feet under the pressure of my body (Sorry I don't know the name, but I call it Torture!).

Finally, not a Hatha Yoga posture, but Meditation. I have started on this and I hope to continue.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Xu Lizhi (1990-2014)

This story is heartbreaking, and I found out about it, ironically, on my iPhone!

The poetry and brief life of a Foxconn worker: Xu Lizhi (1990-2014)

There are other interesting posts on Nao's Blog. I'm adding it to my list below.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Friday, November 21, 2014

Thursday, November 20, 2014

MEATUP. Finally, a good reason to visit a CrossFit gym

When he is not busy kicking my ass in chess, Angus creates websites. Recently, he shared with me a website he created for someone who creates and sells food for Paleolithic (Paleo) diet customers. MEATUP is a Northern California business that creates Paleo dishes and delivers them to CrossFit gyms (Surprise!) in the area. 

Normally, I would scoff at any food service, cookbook, cooking show, or person involved with trendy diets, but there are people who suffer from allergies and who struggle with digesting processed food. Not me, and I have the gut to show for it. So the Paleo diet could be here to stay and that's where MEATUP becomes a tasty advocate for these people.

Glazed Chicken w/balsamic reduction
I have just started using the service and have found the food I have ordered so far to be very good if not very economical. My first sample were a healthier option to Slim Jim meat sticks: EPIC bars. I tried the spicy Beef bar and the mild Turkey. I don't normally eat these kind of protein snacks so the fact that I don't care for them much did not detract from the service

The first meal I tried was the Glazed Chicken with Balsamic Reduction which comes with a side of roasted rosemary butternut squash and brussels sprouts. Not a big brussels sprouts fan, but I liked the seasoning so I ate the veggies like a good boy. The chicken was very good! (Sorry, I'm not a food critic as you can see. This failure is abundantly clear on my now fallow hamburger/scooter culture sister blog The Burger Scoot.

The "MEATUP Meatballs" were next up and the most anticipated in this order. This alternative to the traditional meatball is made with ground pork, sweet potato, shitake mushrooms, cilantro, free-range eggs, fish sauce, and spices. (Some critics of the "free range" definition say that these chickens don't wander out of the barn--making the "range" a matter of feet. I want to know how far do free-range eggs roll.) 

I had my meatballs with pasta, and enjoyed it, damn it! (Thumbing my nose at all those CrossFit, Paleo meatheads!) I like the subtle sweet potato taste. I was supposed to bring a chunk of Artisan bread to work to have with my Chicken and Pumpkin Spice Stew (the last item on my maiden order). I missed the bread, but the stew was very good, with just the right amount of spice. 

I liked all of these, but really wanted to taste the meatloaf that was on the product list when Angus first showed me the site. He pointed at the product, beaing at me saying, "she uses sweet potato!" as if he thought it was a stroke of genius. Perhaps it is. I don't know how to cook so I took his uncharacteristic smile as something really special. Alas, the item disappeared by the time I ordered. I emailed MEATUP and was told the meatloaf would return. So will I. "She," by the way, is MEATUP owner, Genevieve Ross, featured in a Cathy Anderson's column in The Sacramento Bee.

MEATUP Meatballs. (I added the other stuff)
There is an emphasis on the protein values on each product both on the website as well as the product packaging--a piece of information that takes a backseat to calories for me. I'm not sure why the emphasis on protein. Is that another selling point to the CrossFit folk? Don't know. Don't care.

And speaking of the CrossFit folk: I am not what one would call a people person--my history as a sales rep proves this. One of the nice things about MEATUP is it is an online service. Alas, you ultimately have to deal with someone when you pick up your order, and this first time didn't go well. My son picked up the first order and the person handing the order over did not check the whole freezer. When my son took out the printout I gave him to compare my order against what was in the bags the guy told him, "It's all there," as if he couldn't be bothered. When I got home I found that it was not "all there."

It's easy to blame my son for this--ask him to get a carton of 2% milk and it's a 50% chance I'll find 1% in his grocery bag. Still, he was righteously miffed at how the guy shined him on. Thankfully, my friend Angus works out at that CrossFit gym and found the missing package under his order in the freezer. 
Chicken & Pumpkin Spice Stew

As you can tell, I wear my prejudice of CrossFit proudly despite liking four people who work out at these places. This could be an ongoing problem with picking up food orders at a CrossFit gym. MEATUP does offer home deliveries, but that's a different problem.

MEATUP's product line is very small, and dynamic with items being rotated as well as new items being introduced. I have been told some of this is based on the seasons. The produces are a bit pricey, but for me it is convenient food when there's nothing in the frig and I want something healthier than a greasy burger.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

“Sitting is the new smoking”

My modified workstation with movable monitor arms and a keyboard tray that elevates. (Sorry for the mess.)
Part of the reason I jump started this blog has to do with this "disease." No, it's not really a disease just as Degenerative Disk Disease isn't one, but one creates the other. If it weren't for Sitting Disease I wouldn't have Degenerative Disk Disease in my lower back. If it weren't for Degenerative Disk Disease I wouldn't have gone to a physical therapist. If it weren't for my physical therapist I wouldn't have discovered yoga, if it wasn't for yoga, Man!, there's a lot of great things that yoga is responsible for.Only one of them is getting my doctor to sign off on getting "reasonable accommodations" at work, where I can stand and do the same work I've been doing sitting down for decades.

Here's an article from The Sacramento Bee on "Sitting Disease." I took the quote “sitting is the new smoking” as the blog title. Yes, it's over-stated, but it gets the point across. Now, get off your ass and get into a yoga class!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Yoga Etiquette for New Students

I never knew there was such a thing as Yoga Etiquette for New Students--just good manners. Now I know. Thanks Yoga International.com!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Observations From the Mat 1: An Introduction to my Various Practices

I attend three, sometimes four, yoga classes a week. While I have been practicing yoga for over two years now, I am still pretty green. This is mainly due to spending my first year only attending one Gentle Yoga class a week and treating it mostly like it was just a component in my weekly workout plan, which also included treadmill walk/jog intervals, push-ups, and pull ups. 

About a year or so into attending the weekly Gentle Yoga class I increased my frequency to two weekly yoga classes. The second class is a Vinyasa or Flow class, which is my favorite. It was the instructor of that class that got me hooked on yoga. She was a sub for the regular Gentle Yoga teacher. I left the studio a different man and started reading books on yoga and looking for other yoga classes at my club. Six months into taking two classes a week I began to attend a third class. That class was more difficult and I occasionally made excuses for skipping it. Recently, I have knuckled down and have attended this class regularly.

About two months ago I began attending a fourth class--this one at work. It is very different from the others and is dependent on space availability and the teacher's time that make the class not as regular as the other three, but worth my time. This one is not very physically challenging, but has a spiritual element that I like. 

Since each class is lead by different teachers and--for the most part--attending by different students the feel of each class--even beyond the postures and sequencing is very different. This is the first in a series of posts of mostly non-technical observations of these classes--not so much critiques of the teachers, but other observations, some of them quite silly.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

How to do a headstand

Yoganonymous.com's surefire ways to nail your headstand a yoga sequence to get you there. I'm years(?) away from doing that kind of an inversion, but I'm posting it here for future reference. For now it's strictly "Legs up the wall."

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Climate Change Cheat Sheet

Mother Jones.com has this cool Climate Change Cheat Sheet for winning arguments with narrow-minded conservatives.

Friday, November 14, 2014

How Yoga Changes Your Body, Starting the Day You Begin

An interesting graphic from Yoganonymous.com   about great yoga is for your body.


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Guided Mindfulness Meditation for Vata Season

This morning was the first day I started a daily morning meditation regime. I have attempted to meditate without guidance and in an irregular manner since the time I rejuvenated this blog last summer. A yoga teacher who grew up in a family that meditated regularly told me not to be discouraged and to start with a modest goal and work your way up: "It's like lifting weights, if you want to lift 200 pounds start with 100 and work your way up."

I have many different sources to help me: I subscribe to Tara Brach's podcast as well as have copies of her guided meditations from her book Radical Acceptance,  some other podcasts that may have guided meditations, iPhone apps like Headspace, Be Fearless, and Simply Being.

However, this morning I chose to start with Omvanti, which features optional background music. I hope that this won't be another failed attempt at self improvement. I suppose I shouldn't be too hard on myself.

I hope to post exciting news of my progress (That's better! ). In the meantime here is an interesting article from Yoganonymous.com about mindfulness meditation--the type of meditation that appeals to me the most, and appears to be the most difficult type of meditation.

Guided Mindfulness Meditation for Vata Season

Monday, November 10, 2014

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Yoga by Equinox

An impressive display of expertly executed asanas

...and a parody that gives me a more reasonable goal to reach for:

Lower Back Blues? | Yoga International

Lower Back Blues? | Yoga International

Friday, October 31, 2014

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Calorie-counting Halloween Candy

Every mid-October my wife brings home one or two bags of fun-size assorted candy bars--it never fails. Even though she insists it is for the trick or treaters on the 31st we go through them well before Halloween. It really annoys me, but that doesn't stop me from digging in as much as she does.

I found this website to be very informative. There really isn't anything fun in fun size--especially when ripping through five or six of them while reading a book or watching TV. Read it and weep:

What 100 calories of your favorite Halloween candy actually looks like.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Being Mortal

My father is dying and I can't help but wonder how he feels about it. Part of the reason for wondering is the fear of not being. I'm supposed to be a Christian so I should feel warm and cozy about that prospect, but I do not.

This is an interesting article on dying written by a doctor who deals with this subject too often.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

"This Changes Everything" Book Trailer

It is standard operating procedure for me to run around and tell me friends that the current book I am reading is "great," "excellent," and--sometimes--"the best book I have ever read." Well, Naomi Klein's third book, "This Changes Everything" is all of that and more. It has changed my approach to my clicktivism.*

She will be releasing a film on the subject in 2015. I am both excited and thoroughly depressed. Only a book like "This Changes Everything" can do that.
* Being a combination of old, lazy, scared, and--as far as state politics goes--bound by my duties as a Confidential Employee of the State of California, I am not much of an activist. I sign petitions and give money to Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, W.E.A.V.E., Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services, as well as political groups and movements like Occupy, Lawrence Lessig's Mayday SuperPAC, along with supporting Bernie Sanders and being a dues-paying member of the Democratic Socialists of America. But I do not put myself between riot police and fellow protesters, nor do I chain myself to equipment to prevent/slowdown development of drilling, fracking, and other destructive actions. For that, I can't help but feel ashamed.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Twelve year old yoga teacher

I can just hear her pointing at me saying, "Fatty, fatty, two by four!"

My friend's pitch to NBC

NBC Comedy Playground - "Sixteen Bars"

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Chakrasana posture Not there yet!

Here's an article from Yoga International on the deeper dimensions of the Chakrasana wheel posture. I've tried this, but--like Crow, Crane, Peacock, and most inversion postures--I am not there yet.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Nineteen fun ways to create good karma

I'm not sure if I feel comfortable doing all of these suggestions from Elephant Journal editor 
Lee Markul, but I'll give it a try!

Monday, September 29, 2014

"Grinning like a cat eating shit" Or is it "a shit-eating cat"? My struggle with basic English composition--despite my college degree

My English sucks! What's worse is I graduated with a BA in Journalism and a minor in History--two subjects that require a student to write many essays and news pieces. I don't know why I didn't get kicked out of college. Perhaps it was because I (my parents, actually) kept paying for tuition.

Early indicators of just how bad my English is was when my friend Rick, who was the Entertainment Editor of the American River College Beaver (thankfully renamed The Current some years after I left) encouraged me to write a letter to the editor about a concert review which I vehemently disagreed. When I wrote the piece I used the "word" "worthwild." Thankfully, Rick changed it to the correct "worthwhile." That wasn't a typo--I actually thought that was the word.

This post and all posts on this blog from July 1, 2014 onward have not been proofread by an outside source (i.e. an online service like Papercheck.com which did the lion's share of editing for this blog before that date. Lame for two reason: One, this is just a stupid, self-centered blog that no one reads, and Two, well, go back to the second sentence of this post.

My English is so bad that I don't remember grammatical terminology and when I have committed such grammatical crimes, what the offense is called. Okay, that didn't make sense, right? (Part of this is because it is late, I'm waiting for a load of laundry to dry and then I'm going to bed.) 

Take, for example the title of this post; for years I used to say, "So-and-so was grinning like a cat eating shit" When Rick,again, heard me say this he laughed and said, "What? It's "grinning like a shit-eating cat." I didn't understand the difference at the time and only recently have figured out the difference. Still, my English suffers, mostly thanks to my old age: I just don't give a shit.

So, my dear mystery reader--I haven't told any of my old friends that I have resurrected this self-serving blog, so you are most likely a stranger--if you have peruse these posts and wondered what's with the horrible English, now you know. So stop grinning like a, well, you know!

Siri on the mat--sort of

Feel kind of silly pimping something that really hasn't been proven yet and is rather gimmicky, but here it is: a talking yoga mat. I wonder if it talks dirty.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Five of the Hardest Things Yoga Taught Me

This post from Yoganonymous by Kate Stone, a yoga teacher in Boston, speaks to me on many levels. No, I can't do a a Forearm Stand. In fact, the only inversion I can do at this stage in my practice is the basic Legs Up the Wall inversion. Still, the yogi writing the article lets me know that even the experts are feeling what I feel at times.

Just remember, Jocko, BREATHE!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

How Wolves Change Rivers

I'm not a nature geek, but this video from SustainableMan.org is fascinating!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Back on the mat and the bike

Trying, in vain, to meditate before my Vinysana Yoga class.
Check out the boxing BOB looking at me in the background.
Now that my exercise restriction has been lifted I have returned to hatha yoga three times a week. The first two sessions felt like I hadn't been practicing in three months though it had only been about three weeks. During inversions I could actually feel pressure on my scar!

It's great to get back into the swing of things though I still do not practice as often as I would like. I have attempted mindful meditation, but my tangential brain won't allow it at this time.

I'm back on my bike, too. That return has not been as dramatic on my body as yoga has, though it it is amazing what a difference three weeks can make when it is near the Autumnal Equinox. My rides home from the club are now in total darkness and the skunks are out. Drag! 

I have forgone the bike trail on my ride home after yoga, but not on my ride in, which are just as dark. A skunk crossed the bike trail in front of me just a few days ago. I don't know if the light on my bike attracts them or just does not scare them off. One time, about a year ago, a skunk ran along side of me! It would have been funny if I wasn't so afraid of getting sprayed.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The B.S. that sometimes comes with yoga

... as I was saying about the fedora

I've always loved the fedora as I stated way back in May of 2006, but was afraid wearing one would either make me look old (which I am) or like I was covering up my baldness (which I also am). Now, there's a more practical reason: ever since my skin cancer the wide-brimmed hat has become a necessity. So here I am. Call me an old fart with old fashion head gear or an old far trying to be fashion-forward. Actually, it's a cancer screen. Sexy, eh?

Sunday, September 14, 2014

A Beginners Guide to the Chakras | Yoga Asana Columns | Yoga Journal

A couple of different breathing exercises or Pranayamas: Kapalabhati (Skull Shining) and
Anuloma Viloma (Alternate Nostril)

A Beginners Guide to the Chakras | Yoga Asana Columns | Yoga Journal

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Astrological Bangle: My Quest for Magic Bling

I am currently reading Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda. I was encouraged to read it after seeing the movie trailer to "Awake: the Life of Yogananda." While I am not completely enthralled by the book as so many millions have been since it was originally publish in 1952, I am fascinated and jealous by Yogananda's faith. Also, the book reveals many miracles that are not common during the modern age and even more during this post-modern one, so my skepticism always kicks in whenever Yogananda's master, Sri Yukteswar, performs miracles either by healing someone, prophesying that something specific will happen, or summonsing clouds on a clear-blue sky.

My faith is weak.

One thing that jumped out at me was the astrological bangle that Sri Yukteswar told him to wear. Like anything I hear that makes me wonder, "Hey, can I get one of those?" I looked up what the do-dad is and immediately wanted one. I was taken by how beautiful and elegant the item is: three metals (gold, silver, and copper) twisted together and worn usually around the wrist. The gold represents the Sun and is thought to give a positive charge; the silver element represents the Moon as gives off a negative charge. The copper is a balancing charge:

The Universe receives different types of charges each and every moment - depending to the earth´s rotation and planetary positions. According to that, there are days when particularly good charges reach the earth--these days we may call "holy days." On such days the metals gold, silver and copper will get charged.
If we twist them in a certain manner during a particular time of the year, that whole unit will get some good charges. This process is also described in an ancient book called "Sidda Nagarjuna Tantra." - Source: Wellness-Shop

This explains why these are especially made for each individual. Too, because gold and silver are precious metals, their value fluctuates. The first time I looked up how much an astrological bangle would cost I could not get a price--I could not even get an estimate. Instead, what I got was an international number and specific times to make the call. But I read on a message board that someone said his bangle cost him $1250. Another said some years ago he bought one for $350. This is crazy.

Reputable sites don't mess around with trying to sell you one on a cheap bangle. This thing should not be treated like a piece of jewelry for the vain (though I must admit it is very attractive). The bangle must be manufactured at a particular time of the year and with certain preparations to have the desired effect. So, besides the cost you might have to wait nearly a year, if you ordered yours at what the manufacturers deemed the wrong time for you.

Long before I ever heard of an astrological bangle, there was a copper bracelet that my parents handed down from my paternal grandfather--the only grandparent that I was close to. I nearly wept when my mother clipped it on my wrist one Christmas evening just as my wife and I were about to leave. I wore it until my wrist literally turned green. After that I followed a local jeweler's instructions and applied clear nail polish. That worked! I wore it night and day until I noticed it missing from my wrist. I felt sick--it survived all these years and I lost it only a few weeks after receiving it. When I finally tracked it down at my work's Lost and Found box I vowed to not wear it until I get a new clasp for it. That was nearly a year ago though I still want to wear it. Sometimes I wonder if family heirlooms are the true magical trinkets. The irony to that is while I look at the bracelet as something special and nearly-magical, my grandfather wore it because he was taken in by the quackery that copper wards off arthritis. Still, I will wear it again when I can mitigate the clasp problem--quackery or not. 

As for the astrological bangle I am emotionally looking towards the bangle the same way my grandfather bought into the copper > arthritis racket. There are intelligent ways to approach faith just as there is the prevention of arthritis, but that doesn't make me want to buy the bangle any less. This goes back to my old problem of wanting to buy myself into something that will complete me. (See My All-Too Mortal Game posted August 2, 2007 for another example of my throwing money around, hoping nirvana will occur.

I need to believe first, then go in for the magic bling.

Awake: The Life of Yogananda

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Yoga Jellies

Update October 11, 2014: I broke down and bought a pair of Yoga Jellies and used them for the first time last night. They work, but considering how graceless I am at yoga the moving of these appliances during a session is a bit annoying. Still, my knees seem to like them.

Yoga is such a simple practice that you really only need a mat. Other tools you use like blankets, straps, and blocks you can improvise if you don't want to spend the coin. Still, the sporting goods industry is always looking for things that you "must have." 

Ironic considering the yoga lifestyle is all about living modestly whether it's getting by with less possessions, eating wisely, etc. On the other hand, if you suffer from Arthritis, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or if you are heavy and have bony knees (guilty on the last two counts) this product might be worth the investment.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Goodbye Cancer. Hello Beautiful!

The cancer is gone. On Thursday September 4 the surgeon cut it out leaving an oval hole in my cheek. They placed a temporary bandage over the hole and showed me to an interior waiting room. There I attempted to read my yoga book, but couldn't help listening to all the war stories. 

My cheek sans the cancer and with
some Sharpie marks for additional cutting.
Four other patients there--all with skin cancer made me feel I not only was not alone, but was quite lucky. The was the one woman who lost most of an ear and was hear for a procedure on her neck. There was the woman with cling wrap on her face similar to what was on my arms some years ago. My guess is she had the same solution on her face that I had on my arms, as if being marinated. If that was true it was the prep for Photodynamic Therapy, where she would later spend time under an array of lights. It didn't work for me unfortunately. Hopefully, it worked for her.

The star of the show was a man in his sixties with his wife. Throughout my hour waiting for the doctor to check the margins of the cancer they cut out of me I listened to this poor man with a champion's spirit. He had part of his eyelid removed, one eye brow missing, skin from his arms, one of his leg, and a nine-inch strip of skin taking from his back. I really did try to read so I don't know if some of these parts removed where to graphed in the affected places. When the nurse came for him he said in a joking manner, "the doc wants another pound of flesh, eh?" Wow! If I could only have that attitude.

Pressure dressing
When I got back on the operating table (actually a chair similar to ones used by dental hygienists) they cut more flesh above and below the oval divot so the wound would not "pucker." Then they sewed me up. Before the whole procedure I agreed to a "scar study." The doctor used two different methods of sewing me up--the top half differing from the bottom. The idea was to prove a theory that a single stitch will work just as well as a double would. I asked why should I do it. His answer, "For science." Good enough for me. Besides, I'm not the most attractive man on the planet. Who cares if the scar ended up looking weird.

They finished me off with a pressure dressing that I kept on for twenty four hours. I also had to sleep elevated. The first thing I did when I left the clinic was order a House sandwich from Roxie Deli across the street. It was a challenge stuffing that huge sandwich through my pie hole with that pressure dressing partly in the way, but I managed! 

This is what I will look
like for over a week!
That dressing was finally replaced with a conventional bandage, which was far easier to manage. I need to wear this type of bandage for nine additional days, but here is the double drag, if you don't mind me borrowing an old Prince adage: no bicycling or yoga for ten days! This is maddening. I first figured I would be able to manage my weight during that time by cutting way down on my food intake, but three days into this trial and I am failing miserably.

I may just toss the idea of maintaining my weight and do a tuck and roll off the wagon. I can start over after September 15. In the meantime, stay positive!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Hogan, where are you going with that double-chin?

I have lived with a beard for most of my life. Add the years I wore a mustache and I have had facial hair for nearly two-thirds of my existence. I was always shocked on the rare occasions I cut the beard off and (re)discovered how alarming fat my face really was. Not Renee Zellweger cute, chubby-cheeked, more like General Burkhalter from the 60s-70s television series "Hogan's Heroes."
But it was big cheeks, and big cheeks only. So big, though, that--to paraphrase my wife--my eyes would get lost in my face. Now in my fifties, with pitiless gravity taking over, my weak chin has become a real eye sore. I'm glad this hairless face (sorry for the stubble, folks) is only a temporary thing.

After the operation, scheduled for inside of two weeks, I will grow it all back. Why did I shave it off so soon? Damn good question! Why didn't I let it grow back the minute I noticed I look like a fictitious Nazi or a real quasi-Nazi (see Karl)? Another good question. I'm working on these, dear fans. I'll get back to you.

Stay tuned!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Friday, August 22, 2014

Losing My Hearing and Night Vision Goggles!

Today I went through a battery of inner-ear tests. First, a set of Audiogram tests performed by a sweet lady doctor. One of them where I sat in a sound-proof booth with noise-cancelling headphones on and responded to beeps at various frequencies and volumes. Next, I needed to repeat the words a recorded male voice said. 

Please repeat each word you hear clearly.
"Pizza," the voice said. "Beer!," I returned. 
"Ham," the voice intoned. "Cheese!," I gleefully replied.
"Nag," the masculine voice spoke.  "Wife!" I shot back.

The doctor stopped the test there, and feigning laughter she said, “Mr. Jockomo, please repeat the work you hear, not what first word comes to mind.” I couldn’t help, but use the test as a word-association game--I was bored with a little bit-o-fear behind that. Since the mega-vertigo episodes in May, I have seen the inside of many a clinic and it sometimes feel like I will be a permanent residence on these things sooner than later.

I finished the test correctly and two others. The doctor told me I have high-frequency hearing loss in both ears and she wants to see me in a year, but does not believe this diagnosis is related to my vertigo. This was another one of those special "Hey guess what? You're getting old" treats. Just like the one I wrote about on DATE where I went in about vertigo and came out with skin cancer. So, I'm going deeef. Great, but what about my vertigo?
Silence of the Lambs

In the afternoon I had Electronystagmography (or ENG) testing done. I did the ENG to determine if I had a vestibular dysfunction. The ENG measures nystagmus (a type of involuntary eye movements) and other eye movements. There are also tests where warm, and later, cool, air is blown through my ear canal. 

Most of the testing is done with IR goggles on your head. Since, I cannot see how absolutely stupid I look I had to do a Google image search. Think the night vision goggles the serial killer in "Silence of the Lambs" used at the climax of the film with Jodie Foster. "It puts the lotion in the basket."

Anyway, that's over. I'll find out what all this testing is all about on September 2. From there, who knows. Oh yeah, I have skin cancer surgery later that week.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Dru-Zod Does Yoga!

When he is not duking it out with Superman General Dru-Zod is a yoga instructor!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Tough Business of Our Mortality and the Legend of Super Stu

Evel Knievel
My father spent the night in the hospital the other night. His illness is not uncommon for a man his age. My brother had surgery a day or two before that. Then there's me with some weird strain of chronic vertigo and skin cancer. It always comes in threes--er wait, is that fours? That's rather macabre. Still, when this stuff happens to you and the people you love it reminds you how we are not invincible. It also reminds me of my youth. While I was so afraid of baseballs traveling in my direction in what I believed to be at a lethal velocity or riding my bicycle or trail bike faster than a crawl for fear that a limb would tear off * some kids were fearless.

Enter Stewart, the next-door neighbor who held the record for most trashcans successfully jumped with a bicycle (at least in our neighborhood). Stewart wore an old-fashioned "brain bucket"-style helmet he got from my father who no longer used it. After my dad tore up his ear while racing in an enduro or scramble he moved to a three-quarter Bell helmet.

Stewart re-painted it and, using a magic marker, created his new personae right on the side of the helmet, “Super Stu” with a four-leaf clover for luck. As far as I could tell he needed that charm. It scared the shit out of me seeing him start in the street, peddle like a madman jump the gutter with only a split-second to re-gain his form before his front wheel hit the ramp. 

The passing of this helmet and this trashcan jumping is germane to the hospital story. My father raced cars, boats, and motorcycles. He found enjoyment in pushing his body. He almost died in a boat racing accident years before he got into racing dirt bikes. He wasn’t a dare devil, but he had injured himself enough to know his body had limits, but that’s about as far as it went. Super Stu was just crazy, but I like to think there is poetry in the passing down of a helmet even if it is not to his son, who, let’s face it, was a pussy.

I don’t know why we set up the ramp in the area we did. While the landing zone was on grass that’s about where the OSHA-mindfulness stopped. There was precious little real estate at the end of the last trashcan before Super Stu’s family fence (and surely the Grim Reaper) stood. He had to hit the breaks the second his back wheel gained purchase.

He only had one contender (read: someone stupid enough) to try to match his record. But Dan didn't ride a Schwinn Stingray like Super Stu and everyone else, for that matter except for Dave, who had a Huffy. (Poor Dave, always the one with colored socks when everyone else had Adidas and Puma white sweat socks, green cords when everyone else had blue jeans, loner parents whereas everyone else’s parents where social.)

Dan had a route bike. Basically, a beach cruiser with a significantly longer wheelbase than a Stingray and heavy racks in the back and on the handlebars for his newspaper sacks. I suppose Dan could have used one of the stingrays that we were all sitting on in kind of a festival “banana” seating fashion, but then again I doubt anybody would have agreed: "No man, I’d be in Dutch if you died on my bike. I'd be grounded forever and ever."

Dan had plenty of room for his approach, but he timed his peddling wrong—hitting the gutter with one peddle down creating magnificent sparks behind him! The gutter/peddle business made him lose his balance and one foot and hand slipped off his bike. He shot by the ramp, missing it by only an inch, and hit my parent's Albizia tree carving a large chunk out of the trunk.

In my later years--when Dan had moved down to SoCal and he was now only a memory to me (to manipulate in my mind at will) I used to fantasize of him not missing the ramp, but hitting it—launching him with one hand and leg flailing—into what would be the closest thing I would ever see in-person to the remarkable footage of Evel Knievel's legendary 1967 Caesar's Palace jump and wipe-out landing.

Super Stu once told me that he thought he was immortal, that he couldn't die (unlike Dan or my mother’s poor silk tree, or me and my skin cancer and vertigo, or my father with his medical condition). I don't know if Super Stu was joking or if it was pure hubris, but when he decided to do some urban skiing behind my brother's Kawasaki 80 he found out that at least he could bruise. His crash and rash was spectacular! I only wish I could have seen it up close and not from down the street. This YouTube video is close to the his epic fail.

Which brings me back to how we all are mortal—even Super Stu, whether he believed it or not. Sitting in my father’s hospital room hearing about his ailment and how he has had problems over the last few years or so and has just adapted to them rather than ask a doctor about them, I am reminded of how growing old is a tough business.

My father has adapted, but there will be a point when his body finally fails. I don’t like to think about that. My family is taking it very well. I have broken down and cried a couple of times when I was alone. When that time comes we will be left with precious memories. Clear images that will stay with us the rest of our own moral lives, just like Super Stu’s record trashcan jump and Dan’s near-colossal fail!

* For more about me, my father and dirt bikes read my On Certain Sundays post. For a redemptive (of sorts) story on me and baseball read my The Triple (Or Why Running is Not My Exercise of Choice) post.

Monday, August 18, 2014

A Cold Brew with Buddha

Having a cold one with Buddha in a wicked lotus posture.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Yoga for Dawgs

I didn't get into yoga to look at the pretty, young women. Even when I find myself practicing with an attractive woman in front of me I am too preoccupied with my own breathing and form to "check out the nice ass." I don't know whether to laugh or cry over this video. At least the Bunny isn't naked.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

BOOM! A must-watch!

Jeff Daniels' character from the cable TV show "Newsroom" gives quite possibly the most honest assessment of the United States of America you will ever see on American television this side of Bill Moyers or Amy Goodman.


If only news anchors were this honest in real life. Funny, Daniels' character also suffers from vertigo. That's two things his character and I have in common!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Skeleton Yoga

This is pretty cool.

What are Chakras? I'd Like to Know, But I am Distracted!

So, with my skin cancer and my ENT specialist’s prognosis that I might have permanent inner ear damage (not finished testing yet), I'm trying to stay positive and reading things like what are chakras and how yoga can balance them. I’m trying to stay focused and upbeat, drinking coffee at my favorite coffee haunt during my morning break. 

Then she sits across from me. She is eating something sticky like a bear claw. When did Temple Coffee start selling bear claws? What will they sell next, donuts? Will they cut a deal with Cinnabon? She keeps sucking her fingers—LOUDLY!

My karma goes suddenly dark.

She sticks the tips of one or two of her sugary fingers in her mouth, sucks while pulling them out with a jerk to get every bit of that bear claw. Yes Facebook friends, I’m staring at her. This is not a child, by the way; this is a woman in her mid-50s or early 60s. She does not notice me. She just keeps on reading the ads in the paper and sucking her fingers. Amazing!

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Sean Johnson's Contemplative Practice

I listened to this during my lunch break. Very interesting! Check it out when you are on your mat.

Sean Johnson's Contemplative Practice

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

No Hollywood Ending to My Problems

Scottie is finally cured of vertigo (Spoiler Alert, if you haven't seen the classic Hitchcock thriller). Me? Well, the ENT Specialist thinks I was attacked by a virus that knocked out one of my inner ears either temporarily or (gulp) permanently. I go in for testing at the end of the month and will discuss the tests' findings early in September.

In the meantime I will be seeing a dermatology surgeon about my soon-to-be scheduled Mohs surgery. I trust neither the skin cancer nor the mysterious form of vertigo will end as spectacularly as Jimmy Steward's bout with a Hollywoodish variation of vertigo.