Category Archives: Uncategorized

Lose the Bouncy Ball Chair

Well, turns out that those icons of alternative office space — exercise ball chairs — didn’t hold up well with the scientists. You’ll burn at least four more calories per hour (hey, that’s a cookie a day), but it won’t fix your posture.

…a 2009 British study found that prolonged sitting on a therapy ball led to just as much slumping and “poor sitting position” as a desk chair.

Another study last year, by Dutch researchers [found that] the balls produced more muscle activity and 33 percent more “trunk motion.” But they also produced more spinal shrinkage.

“It is concluded that the advantages with respect to physical loading of sitting on an exercise ball may not outweigh the disadvantages,” the researchers wrote.

You’ll have to keep going to yoga.

The Claim: Replacing Your Desk Chair With an Exercise Ball can Improve Your Posture, NY Times

More Reasons to Get a Massage

Need an excuse to get a massage? Research shows that it’s good for your stress levels (duh), and immune system — and that the effects vary by type!

Volunteers who received [deep-tissue] Swedish massage experienced significant decreases in levels of the stress hormone cortisol in blood and saliva, and in arginine vasopressin, a hormone that can lead to increases in cortisol. They also had increases in the number of lymphocytes, white blood cells that are part of the immune system.

Volunteers who had the light massage experienced greater increases in oxytocin, a hormone associated with contentment, than the Swedish massage group, and bigger decreases in adrenal corticotropin hormone, which stimulates the adrenal glands to release cortisol.

Now, how do I get on this volunteer list?

Massage Benefits are More Than Skin Deep, NY Times

Sanskrit and Chant in New Hampshire

Devangari
Your curriculum

Need a retreat? Want to actually pronounce Sanskrit correctly? Jo Brill is offering a workshop this Columbus Day. By the end of the weekend, you’ll be able to read and chant a simple Sanskrit phrase.

Sanskrit and Chant in New Hampshire
A Weekend Adventure with Jo Brill and Robert Moses
October 8-10

By day, explore the language of yoga — hearing, seeing, chanting and feeling each Sanskrit sound in your palate. Each evening, chant to the feminine divine (with Robert Moses and his family) to celebrate the Navaratri festival. A feast for the senses and an opportunity to be with our sacred selves. No experience necessary for these joyful practices!

Learn more, or register now at the American Sanskrit Institute.

San Francisco Treats

Last week I went to San Francisco to visit some good friends. It was a working vacation, I was helping one friend redesign his website, but the primary purpose was definitely to vacate New York for a bit. My friend had a comfy couch, my frequent flier miles were overflowing, I’m still full-time freelance = SOLD.

I got quite a few recommendations for yoga studios to check out. I didn’t go to any of them. I took my friend to a random Iyengar studio around the corner from his apartment; the other days I woke up with the late morning sun and practiced in his front rooms. A light-filled apartment was inspiring; a fight with SF’s minimal public transportation was not. A few poses we consistently practice at Abhaya sprung to mind, and I practiced on the hardwood floor, without even grabbing my travel mat. Brief meditations sealed in the morning’s quiet, and that was enough. It was a travel-sized practice, just like the little shampoo bottles; bring only what you need.

BUT there are many secrets to be learned in San Francisco, I am sure; an easier time sorting through class schedules, Google maps, and transit routes would have helped. (Yogoer SF to come!) If you stay in the Mission, you’ll have a bunch of highly recommended studios within walking distance. (I was at the top of Nob Hill, where not even the cyclists will roam.) So, here’s a short list of San Francisco studios, for traveling souls:

Yoga Tree — mentioned by EVERYONE. Multiple locations, each one with a different style. The Hayes location is more Anusara; the Valencia one has more Hatha and Yin.

Yogakula — Anusara classes, some Pilates.

Laughing Lotus — the West Coast version of New York’s most colorful studio; Dana Flynn and Jasmine Tarkeshi returned to their SF roots.

Bernal Yoga — tons of pre- and post-natal, but their Vinyasa yoga was highly recommended, too.

It’s good to be back.

Hope in Progress

Aw, cute! The energetic and inspiring Christa Avampato, who has blogged here on Yogoer on occasion, was kind enough to include me in her new book, Hope in Progress: 27 Entrepreneurs Who Inspired Me During the Great Recession.

If you’re looking for a little inspiration, it’s a great book. I loved the stories of other entrepreneurs (it’s definitely a new label for me), and Christa has pulled together some great advice from admirable New Yorkers like Michael Dorf of City Winery, Jerri Chou of All Day Buffet, and Scott Belsky of Behance. It’s amazing to think about all the paths you can take with your life.

Hope in Progress is available as a Kindle download or a free pdf download on Christa’s blog. Enjoy!

A Questioning Mind

“When we are not sure, we are alive.” — Graham Greene

Fascinating article in Scientific American Mind this month: The Willpower Paradox. Turns out that resolving to do something is not nearly as effective as wondering if you will do it.

…Those primed with the interrogative phrase “Will I?” expressed a much greater commitment to exercise regularly than did those primed with the declarative phrase “I will.”

What’s more, when the volunteers were questioned about why they felt they would be newly motivated to get to the gym more often, those primed with the question said things like: “Because I want to take more responsibility for my own health.” Those primed with “I will” offered strikingly different explanations, such as: “Because I would feel guilty or ashamed of myself if I did not.”

This last finding is crucial. It indicates that those with questioning minds were more intrinsically motivated to change. They were looking for a positive inspiration from within, rather than attempting to hold themselves to a rigid standard. Those asserting will lacked this internal inspiration, which explains in part their weak commitment to future change. Put in terms of addiction recovery and self-improvement in general, those who were asserting their willpower were in effect closing their minds and narrowing their view of their future. Those who were questioning and wondering were open-minded—and therefore willing to see new possibilities for the days ahead.

I’ve always wondered why my softer declarations were more effective than my stricter ones. I wonder if I’ll remember this article in the future?

Why We Do Yoga

The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan

I’m reading The Feminine Mystique right now, one of those books you always hear about but never get around to reading. A pithy quote from Betty Friedan finally got me to the library. It was written in 1963, but it’s kind of blowing my mind. I’m not much of a history buff, so to read her analysis of WHY these liberated career women of the 20’s and 30’s CHOSE to become the polished, yet depressed, housewives of the 50’s, is staggering. (Short answer: WWII veterans filling the media w/domestic nostalgia, Freud’s “penis envy” equating female achievement with sublimated jealousy, and the 50’s daughters rejecting their mothers as role models in the typical pendulum of generations.)

The book is especially interesting to read now, with all the Martha Stewart, Mad Men, and back-to-the-farm nostalgia going around. One passage in particular made me think:

The uncritical acceptance of Freudian doctrine in America was caused, at least in part, by the very relief it provided from uncomfortable questions about objective realities. After the depression, after the war, Freudian psychology became much more than a science of human behavior, a therapy for the suffering. It became an all-embracing American ideology, a new religion. It filled the vacuum of thought and purpose that existed for many for whom God, or flag, or bank account were no longer sufficient—and yet who were tired of feeling responsible for lynchings and concentration camps and the starving children of India and Africa. It provided a convenient escape from the atom bomb, McCarthy, all the disconcerting problems that might spoil the taste of steaks, and cars and color television and backyard swimming pools. It gave us permission to suppress the troubling questions of the larger world and pursue our own personal pleasures. And if the new psychological religion — which made a virtue of sex, removed all sin from private vice, and cast suspicion on high aspirations of the mind and spirit — had a more devastating personal effect on women than men, nobody planned it that way.

Wow. We’re in similar predicaments today, right? But we’re choosing other philosophies at the moment. So let’s play Madlibs and insert some more modern topics.

The uncritical acceptance of yoga in America was caused, at least in part, by the very relief it provided from uncomfortable questions about objective realities. After the recession, throughout the Iraq war, yoga became much more than a workout for hippies, a therapy for the suffering. It became an all-embracing American ideology, a new religion. It filled the vacuum of thought and purpose that existed for many for whom God, or job title, or bank account were no longer sufficient—and yet who were tired of feeling responsible for global warming and Guantánamo Bay and the military-industrial complex. It provided a convenient escape from the oil spill, Fox News, all the disconcerting problems that might spoil the taste of organic food and iPhones and HDTV and luxury travel. It gave us permission to suppress the troubling questions of the larger world and pursue our own personal pleasures. And if the new psychological religion — which made a virtue of physical fitness, removed all sin from self-absorption, and cast suspicion on material well-being — had a somewhat devastating personal effect on our joints, nobody planned it that way.

[Last bit referencing http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/07/24/24stretch/ and other updates on the increasing injuries due to yoga.]

What do you think? Am I off my rocker? There’s a bit of escapism needed right now, and I think that’s part of yoga’s popularity.

The Zombie Workout

How did St. Charles, Illinois, beat New York City to this punch? ZombieFit, a new exercise class outside of Chicago, provides students with “Fitness to Survive the Apocalypse.”

“It’s all about being quick and efficient with your movements,” explains instructor Jesse Randall. “If the zombies come, you’re going to need to conserve your energy.”

I won’t ask what their Corpse Pose looks like. Rawr.

Via Wired