A Short Essay on Mindfulness….

Hi Bloggers,

Mindfulness. It’s a word that gets tossed about and if you go to any magazine shelf in your local pharmacy you will probably see at least one publication with a title that speaks to mindfulness.

This by no means will be a scientific discussion, or an expert psycological opinion. I’m just a guy who lives like you do, with all the stresses and hopes and dreams and embarrassments, and all that other bullshit. I promise to ‘keep it real.’

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How did I first come across this topic? I was doing a business coaching session, and was lucky enough to be put into contact with a lady who practiced meditation twice daily since she was injured and used it for pain management twenty years ago. The coaching was supposed to be about business, and teams, and all that other shit but honestly I just wanted to talk about the things going on in my life, because that’s what I needed at the time, and she was very gracious in being open to talk about all sorts of stuff.

So I thank her, because she gave me a gift. Why? Because for my whole life I have suffered from anxiety. Sometimes crippling anxiety. Sometimes it affected my work, my relationships, my ability to enjoy ‘just being’. The triggers, cause and effect, or particular experiences are not for public discussion, and so I won’t go into them here…

So getting to the bottom line, meditation, and mindfulness freed me from my own internal anxiety ‘engine’. You cannot begin to understand how important that was for my life. I would describe it like this: before practicing meditation, my anxiety levels would fluctuate, and could be any where between zero, and say, absolutely panic ridden, in a particular timeframe, depending on the situation and the activity that I was engaged in.

After meditating regularly, I found that it had generally two effects: one being that my anxiety ‘levels’ were generally much better regulated, and two, that if I had a moment, the severity would be generally less. Think of it as one of those seismic meters, and if you drew a line over which was a peak threshold for comfort to panic, I found that I don’t reach that line much anymore, ever.

But there was other tangible benefits also. Specifically, those migraines that plagued my existence every 3-4 weeks forever dissipated. Typically I would have a decent one every month, and be bed ridden for 24 hours every 3 months. They have all but disappeared. I still get headaches. Any migraine sufferer will tell you, there’s a big difference! Also, moods in general are better moderated – particularly getting angry or wanting to lash out.

But it’s not a magic pill. I still spend plenty of time dealing with internal dialogue/life challenges and I dwell on unhealthy things, and yes, sometimes I might have a patch of anxiety here or there. But I will say, that I would never go back to where I was, ever.

Ok, if you’re thinking ‘sounds great, but I don’t get into buddhas and yoga and shit’ or ‘I don’t have the time for that’, I think you may be really missing out. It is a discipline. It does take some time. I suggest a session of about 10 minutes 3-4 times per week. Don’t let a bunch of new wave ideas, or complicated concepts put you off.

It’s this simple:

Stop. Sit or lie down. Quiet space is best. Just be. Don’t fight your thoughts. Allow them to come up. Allow them to pass. Be here, now. Don’t be preoccupied by your dinner plans, or late rent payment. Just be, here, now. Focus on the breath is a good way to remain present, here, now.

Sometimes things come up. Sometimes, you have to work through some stuff that you’ve been hanging on to. Be open to that experience.

I have found that even in my most turbulent or troubled times, I have NEVER come away from a meditation session feeling worse about an issue or person. I am almost always likely to come away with a greater sense of empathy, and be a little less judgemental.

There is a book called ‘Full Catastrophe Living’ by Dr Jon Cabot-Zin. I was referred to this book when I started and its a good reference. He pretty much wrapped up the medical benefits etc in his studies over the past 30 or 40 years.

Give it a go. Really! Good luck!

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Tonight’s hot yoga, and my dream of the buhddist temple.

Hi Bloggers,

Tonight I got down to the yoga studio for some hot power flow. Man, was it hot in there. The class was packed. It was one of those sessions where I sweated so much, and it was so hot, there were moments when I thought I would pass out rising to mountain pose after a flow or a fold.

I drank plenty. I remembered the conversation I had with a lady out front before class, just breath, lower your heart rate, and you won’t sweat so much. I’ve never heard such bullshit, but it kept me going.

When I was totally overheated. When I was sweating like a stuck pig. When I was wavering, I gave in to the yoga. Cause that’s what you gotta do.

And when you give in to the yoga, you let all your shit go. With the purge of sweat, there is a release of all the negative bullshit that you’ve been hanging on to for days, or weeks, or years.

And so, to my dream. I’ll keep it short… anyway, in a scene, I was holding, hugging my daughter. She was younger, maybe 4 years old. I was hugging her and holding her and there were other people there – like family friends. They saw me as a single dad, and I got the feeling they felt that I was ‘doing the best I could do’. It was beautiful, tangible. I could feel my daughters hug. In real life she lives about 12,000 miles away. 

In another scene I was inside a Buddhist temple. There were these pipes of metal but like brass up on the walls. There was something causing a vibration from a distance, and these pipes made a sound, almost like a chant from a monk. Then I was seated. I could see someone blew smoke rings. I sat and the smoke rings went over my face. I was left with the most surreal relaxed and content feeling I could imagine. I woke up feeling so calm, so at ease.

After I woke, I called my daughter and told her about my dream. It was really nice!

Hot Yoga Conventional Wisdom

Hi Bloggers, I have a mild shoulder injury from some other sport that I was playing recently, so I’ve made an effort not to work out to hard. Its a minor irritation but I am concerned about it becoming a major issue so I have to stop myself from pushing to hard with the weights etc.

I got down to hot yoga yesterday. There is a session that is a lighter type of work out. The room is hot, like 40 C. There are a lot of stretches, a few flows, some balance poses, and some meditation/breathing exercises as well.

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I wore my grey powermesh hot shorts over my man thong. Totally comfortable in the hot conditions. I got myself a new cork lined yoga mat too. I have an issue with slippery surfaces. I can’t get the traction with my feet or hands. I can’t say that cork is a way better option. Once I get a bit of sweat up I have to use a towel for the traction.

I find static poses can be quite challenging. The effort required to hold a pose when your muscles are tiring can be as challenging as any big weights work out. I give kudos to a lot of the people who do yoga because its tough to hold some positions. But I also know that you get used to it and that strength improves with yoga conditioning.

Well into the session, the sweat is running from my body. I see myself in the mirror. Tattooed. Muscled. Sweaty. My tree pose is a bit wobbly. I can’t get the arms to interlink in eagle pose. I need to let my arms down after an extended warrior sequence.

At the end of the session, I am feeling hot and sweaty, yet energised. I complete the final Savasana, and as others ready to clear away their mats, I stay. After some time I find myself kneeling, legs folded down on my ankles. I take my hands to heart centre. I say a prayer. It’s more of a reflection/thank you statement than a prayer.

Sometimes we get so caught up in our own ‘shit’. I find its a constant state of internal tug of war over what we think we are deserving of, what we should expect of or accept from others. I’d like to think that I have a truly balanced view in which I was not affected by my own thoughts, opinions and expectations, but that’s just total bullshit. The reality is that we should be saying where we are dissatisfied or uncomfortable, and we should also be ready to listen to others for what they have to say too. 

I am grateful for those who have helped me, grateful for my health and wellness, grateful to be alive. Mostly, just thankful. Very thankful.

Hot Yoga, and other Manic Thoughts From the Yoga Mat

Hi Bloggers,

Been a while, eh?

Guess what? I’m not fucking dead yet! Whooo. Ok what a year. It has been a total turn around for me. 12 months ago, things were looking bleak, tentative, I was just holding on. My ex wife and kids moved back to Australia and I was embarking on a new life. Well, here I am, I am doing it, and generally speaking I pretty pretty darn good!

It’s had its challenges, no doubt about that. New job, new living situation, new friendships, its all part of the big experience. Life.

Ok, so today, I got myself down to the yoga studio for some –hot yoga– oh yeah! If you have read any of my blogs, you will know that I love hot yoga. It feeds the soul, quietens the mind, and works the body. It is spiritual. For me, it is about giving in to the pose, the position, the situation, the heat. Omg. The heat….

It wraps you like a warm blanket. It puts you in your place. It tells you to shut the fuck up, because for the next hour and ten, I own your arse. I sweat a lot. I drink a lot of water. If I haven’t been yoga-ing too much lately, I can’t hold the positions the way I want because my arms get sore, etc. I know things improve with conditioning, because that strength and conditioning returns. I do a lot of weights and swimming, but those are different uses of the muscles.

Ok, it wouldn’t be a blog from me if there wasn’t just a bit of um, ‘me’ in it. I did my hot yoga some time about 2 weeks ago, and I wore some heather grey cotton lycra bike shorts. Very comfortable, not for the shy, but gladly, that’s not me! Today, I wore some grey powermesh hot shorts, and a man thong under. They are mesh so they are a bit see through (ohhhhhhh), just a bit. That was awesome fun. Guess what? No one cares!

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Disclaimer – this is NOT me (I am way more built and handsome), but it could have been me in one of my many yoga pretzel poses. Oh, and my shorts are smaller and tighter, and grey and just a little opaque 😉

Yesterday I was working out in the gym, and a guy asked me where I got my black lycra hot shorts. He wanted to get some for himself! Right on. Wow. First time for everything, eh?

I just gotta be me.

So I’ve discovered something along the way. I talk to a lot of people. I talk to people everywhere. I’ve noticed that I find it easier to talk with men. Although at times I have thought that there can be a tension – a kind of macho chest thumping thing between guys, there is also a surprising amount of acceptance.

This has surprised me somewhat, because the reality is that I think I have spent too much time in the past not talking to men, because of my perception that they are potentially threatening, or unfriendly, or something else. What I have found is that most times, when you take the time to say hi to a stranger, they are willing to be friendly and chat. Very rewarding in itself.

I have lots more to discuss, but I don’t want to spoil you all by spilling my guts here at the moment.

Be kind, share the love. Happy holiday season.

Namaste.

Power clean overhead press – to lunge, to deadlifts, and my yoga headstands!

Hi Bloggers, I work out a fair bit. Gym, yoga, swimming etc. So I have wanted to get my headstand done for a long time. I have a friend who can just nail it. I have tried for a while but only recently I have got the coordination and ‘core strength’ required to pull it off. It wasn’t so much an issue of strength before, but certainly coordination and balance are required.

I encourage anyone to have a go at it!

Ok, meanwhile, a bar exercise to challenge you and inspire you! I put some photos below. Try this:

Power clean – from there lift the bar up overhead – lower bar to back of shoulders – do a lunge on each leg – lift bar overhead, and lower to floor – then do 5 x dead lifts. Super fun and a real variety movement! Enjoy!

 

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Yesterday’s Workout, and some other stuff.

Hi Bloggers,

I got down to the gym yesterday. It was a good workout. Something about Fridays that just gets me in the mood to workout. All the bullshit of the week has gone by and you get two days to work out and recover. Bliss! IMG_6559 (2)

Yesterday was biceps blasting day. The day before that was chest day.

So I’m at a bit of a cross roads. I might be more mobile than I’ve been for a long time – with the ex and kids moving away in about 30 days. Lots of things to consider. Options, I guess. I finished Neil Young’s book. I’ll probably do a book review on that this weekend.

I’m going to do hot yoga this morning. Kind of looking forward to it. I’ve been away from yoga for a little while, except for last Saturday. Not sure why exactly, I get busy at times and sometimes re-prioritise but essentially it has to do with any gym time I get I tend to want to do weights.

 

Anyway, I hope you are all having a good weekend.

 

 

Yoga in the Park.

Hi Bloggers,

Today, I went to  free Yoga in the park. It was hosted by The Better Good Yoga in Saskatoon. There was a really large turn out. The sun was shining, and its warming up to be a hot one in this beautiful prairie city.

First time for outdoor yoga for me. The sun filtered through the trees above. I put my hands up in some poses, partly to block the suns rays in my line of sight, and partly to absorb some of the wonderful energy beaming down on us.

When we were instructed to set an intention for the practice, as usual, I decided to focus on practicing compassion, and giving and receiving love, as much as possible.

Hot Yoga 4 – got sweat?

Hi Bloggers,

I went to hot yoga last night. Man, was it sweaty…. I had my work day done. I was tired, like nodding off tired when I was at work. I was ho-hum about going to yoga last night. When I opened up WP and saw some comments and felt a little more connected with the ‘blog-fam’ I got a little boost and decided to pull on some lycra and get my arse over to the gym.

I went to the same class as last Tuesday, at the other main gym. It was moderately busy. As soon as I settled in I felt how warm it was, and I knew this was going to be a hot session (of yoga – this is not one of ‘those’ stories..). 

So we got through the regular movements etc. Normally, about 2/3 into the session I am starting to ask myself about whether I’m going to make it through the session, as sweat absolutely pours from me, and my muscles tire from the 10th chattaranga/cobra/downward dog flow in a row.

But I got through it. Even felt pretty good after the session.

In other quirky news, my car – the little silver bullet, busted a windscreen wiper blade yesterday morning. After yoga I popped down to Walmart to grab a replacement and fitted it right there in the parking lot. It had been raining a lot yesterday, and driving when you can’t clear your windscreen is no fun.

Also, the door locking mechanism with the key (as the remote button doesn’t work…) is super temperamental. It decides whether to lock, or not when the key is turned. Lots of times I try to turn the key to lock it and it doesn’t lock, until like the 8th attempt. The other night I gave up because it wouldn’t lock at all. Then, mysteriously, it started locking on the first go. And now, for the moment, it works. Too weird eh?

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These are not my feet, I use a different shade of nail polish. 

 

The importance of hot yoga 2 – feeding the spiritual side.

So tonight I went to hot yoga. If you have been following me at all, you’ll know that I do this often enough. I got home from work, pulled my fav pair of lycra shorts (sans underwear, cause that’s how I roll), and a sleeveless lycra shirt. Pulled on some socks and runners, and grabbed the yoga mat and was out the door.

Today I went to a different gym – a 7 pm class. When I arrived there was a small line up. The 5.30 class had not yet finished. Soon enough it was time to go in and get set up on the mat. It was quite busy. Seems like everyone is doing yoga these days.

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OK, the hot yoga was not naked, this is just a gratuitous pic of me! 

 

My shirt comes off even before the class starts. I have my block, water bottle, and strap. There are two candles lit either side of the teachers mat, and there is a fragrance that I can’t put my finger on but I know its pleasant. Is that cinnamon mixed with something floral? I take a few moments before the class to sit cross legged and meditate.

Soon enough, class starts. Its normally always a meditation exercise to start. Its where we might set an intention, but to be honest I did not set an intention I was just really happy to be there, in that space, I made it. I got my day at work done, drove the 15 minutes, and got in to class in time.

As class started it felt like the heat was set on ‘tropical’ but nice. We made our way through the regular assortment of flows – plank, chattaranga, cobra pose, downward dog, hop forward, full fold, inhale half fold….

As the bodies in the small space began to warm up, so did the room. It went from ‘tropical’ to sweaty. We continued to move through various flows mixed with minor contortions of limbs that my body can only partly achieve. As the session wears on, my muscles shake in some poses (side plank, anyone?), and sweat runs off my body. I realise: its fucking hot in here! I sweated soooooo much. Really.

Its normally at this point my rational mind says something like “hey, you don’t do well in heat, this is probably going to make you feel ill, did you notice that, you were a bit wobbly coming out of tree pose, I think I might collapse if we keep going.” 

But this is where you need to give in to the yoga, to truly be in the moment, to defer any thoughts about not being able to get enough breaths, while your torso is twisted or you have your head somewhere between your knees.

And that, readers, is where the yoga gets spiritual. Your mind is slightly altered, you have to go with the flow, literally. You cannot hold on to your bullshit worries when you are in lizard pose, with sweat running down your back and off your forehead. 

Its like any profound human experience, it transcends words. I can’t tell you how it feels, other than intense, and challenging, and liberating. Ok maybe I can come up with a bunch of words but the overall experience is beyond words.

 

Todays workout …

So this morning I had a late start, so I made the most of it and went to gym. Due to poor time management and distractions, i.e. WordPress, I found myself having to cram a quick workout in before getting off to work.

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Here’s what was in todays workout:

Incline bench press – warm up with 70 lb dumbbells x 10 reps, then went to 80 lb dumbbells for 5 sets of 5.

Chest flyes, 3 x 10.

Dips, 3 x 10

Crunch machine 3 x 15.

Normally I like to do 5 exercises per work out but today was a bit compressed with my available time.

Tonight, I did a session of Yin-Yang hot yoga. It was a great stretch, very calming and a great way to finish the week!

What did you work out today?