Treating Exercise Injury With The Inner Child R.I.C.E Method

You may know that the common medical advice for treating soft tissue injury is the R.I.C.E. method:  Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate.  Your inner child however, prefers Reinjure, Ignore, Curse, Exhort (or entreat).  

Sitting here in week 4 of hamstring tendonitis, I’ve come to realize, from  9 years anecdotal, strictly non scientific, non statically valid samples, that there may be others, like me, who prefer to address their injuries from a strictly emotional, inner child point for view. (This also has applications for why people,especially men, avoid regular medical checkups or any of the assorted medical screenings which catch cancer earlier and reduce mortality).  I know many of you who know what you’re talking about by virtue of training or expertise in medicine, physical therapy, exercise physiology , etc., are all be shaking your heads right now, but there are completely valid logical reasons for this irrational emotional response.  

There will be times during your life when you feel completely fine (for which you should express constant gratitude to your God, source, science or your lucky draw of probability) but these periods decline exponentially as one ages.  Therefore, at any given time, something in your body is going to hurt.  There are two causes for these injuries.  Doing nothing or doing something.  Those who exercise have formed a firm belief the pains from doing something are better (less debilitating) than those from doing nothing.  That’s because 99% of us, (excepting Olympic and professional athletes) have gone though long periods of time of doing nothing.  What is more painful or humiliating then throwing out your back reaching across the Baskin Robbins counter for your ice cream cone.  Who hasn’t heard some one say, “Really, I wasn’t doing anything, I just reached over to load the dishwasher and a disc in my spine exploded like a firecracker in an empty soda bottle!”

When you begin an exercise program everything hurts. All the time. The first workout, walk, run, yoga class, weight training session leaves you so sore, getting to the bathroom seems like a lottery win.  You wonder if this is what death feels like. Your ego suggests that maybe, avoiding exercise will avoid this pain.  You may even be sore for days.  But your body tricks you. Quickly you’re not sore again so you work out again. More pain.  Quicker recovery. Somehow, your rational brain over rides this self-preservation instinct and  you establish some kind of routine.  Soon however, the exercise starts causing the same rush of endorphins that you were previously happy to get from smoking, drug use, gambling, shoe shopping, sex, or soduku. You notice you actually feel better!!!   Here’s where the body gets really sneaky.  Soon you notice you don’t get sore the next day, maybe just later that day. Then that gets better.  Your recovery time decreases. You’re lulled into a sense of perpetual physical self-improvement.  But the body is not finished setting this devilish trap for you. 

Inevitably however you reach that time when work, vacation, family obligations or something else silly causes you to mix one or more of your exercise sessions.  You go back only to realize that even though you only missed three days, it’s like starting the program over from scratch.  You re visibly pissed only to be calmed down by the short period it takes to get back to where you were. 

One day you work out as normal and something doesn’t feel quite right. Later your arm, leg, lower upper back, knew, ankle, foot, neck hurts.  You immediately pay attention.  Maybe you do something rational like rest it, baby it, take an anti inflammatory. The pain is gone the next day.  You feel like a cubicle worker who just found out the office is closed tomorrow for a snow day.  You got outta prison early.  Unlike the cubicle worker however, as you increase your exercise addiction to a 7 day a week thing, these pain days are more frequent.  And, like Pavlov’s dog, you learn to ignore these little aches and pains because they will all be gone in a day or two.  Until one isn’t. And, you don’t want to take time off and go backwards.  The loss of benefit from exercise starts as soon as the workout is over. .Hence, step one- Reinjure.  Why rest when you know this pain is only temporary.  You can’t be a wuss or and skip every exercise session cause one body part is being pissy.  So you go back out. And reinjure it again. And again.

This bring em to the second step- ignore the pain injury. I finally worked my way up to a “no exercise if limping rule”. (Or a fever above 102). (Or severe gastrointestinal illness because well, who,didn’t have that happen to them in elementary school?). From anecdotal evidence, most folk’s inner child developed different time periods for the ignore time period, for me currently it’s 2 weeks.   I’m hoping to build up to a month soon.   Anyway, you know realize you have… what’s the medical term, oh, right “f#%^ed yo shit UP”.   Now, you know, from past experience that if you go to the doctor with a “soft tissue” injury (soft tissue is anything that is not a bone sticking out of your bleeding “soft tissue”, they are going to palpitate, massage, poke, prod and otherwise feel around your injured soft tissue, look at you very compassionately and say “you have f#^*ed yo shit UP” and you should rest, ice the soft tissue (or heat- “ice or heat” is apparently a bigger mystery than what caused the Big Bang), buy a girdle appliance for your afflicted part, and elevate it. So, at this point you skip the doctor and curse.   Here’s a big tip- just curse in general, like a venting do not curse AT the soft tissue.  Some people prefer a cursing which completely runs through every profanity they know- I prefer picking one and repeating it quickly, like combination of a tongue twister and mantra.  Try it, pick your favorite curse word and repeat it as quickly as possible in your own mind silently and see how much better you feel.  If you curse AT the body part- well, Katie bar the door, because the mind-body connection is well documented scientifically and psychologically.  This means, simply that if you cuss AT the body part, it is going to compound your injury.  It will escalate.  In other words, your knees say, “Yeah?!?!?  Ok, then, I’m gonna f#%€ Yo shit up even worse!!”  

And this bring us to the final step in our inner child acronym or “exhort”. Or “entreat”.  I prefer the terms beg, plead and whine, but I needed an “e” word for the acronym and only those pedantic e words were an option.  Anyone who’s ever experienced a difficult relationship with a significant other, parent  or child understands the exhort, entreat, beg, plead or whine stage.  So you also know how well that works. 

 So, there you go, the R.I.C.E method,  re injure, ignore, curse and exhort.  I’ve been doing that for the last week after my massage therapist, chiropractor and yoga instructor all suggested I not exercise for a bit and let this tendon heal.  The yoga instructor even suggested a take 10 (TEN days off). (Pfffft- what does that PhD, 500 hr yoga certified, anatomy expert, 20 years fitness experienced guru know?!)

I guess if all else fails, I’ll tell my inner child what I tell it anytime when adulting is required. I won’t be happy about it, though. And, It’s gonna require Ben and Jerry’s.

Katie “Barre” The Door

“I’m not here to torture you”, said the instructor at the minute class started. Knowing people usually say the opposite of what they’re thinking, I thought “oh shit, here we go”.  

I’ve wanted to try Barre for a long time, but I needed to find a female friend to take me, because I can tell you from experience, when a guy shows up to take a class with a room full of women, they look at you like… Well:

1.   A group of pediatric nurses watching a newborn boy get circumcised 

2.  Like they want to search you for roofies

3.  Like “creepy” just walked out of the dictionary and came to class.  

Trust me, you would never go to another country without a passport, do not go to a women’s exercise class without a female to escort you.   

For the uninitiated, barre, according to the barre evolution website may be defined as “Barre (bar) n.: Exercise modality that uses a ballet barre for balance, your own bodyweight for resistance, and a series of small, low impact movements to rapidly yield a tight, toned and transformed physique.”   These “small, low impact, isometric movements create what is called “barre burn”. While “burn” is a good term, it’s a little misleading and here’s why.  Anyone who’s ever built a fire, or seen a fire built will identify.  In building a good fire, you need tinder (something to start the fire that burns easily, like paper) and then kindling (small sticks of wood or little branches that will,catch first easily from the tinder, and then pieces of wood which gradually increase in size.   Think of this muscle “burn” as the smoke that rises after the match is first put to paper, followed by the glint of flame as the paper flares I fire and starts to heat the kindling, followed by the hotter flame as the kindling is consumed, followed by the raging fire as the larger pieces of wood are consumed in flames.  Or if you e ever seen a building burn, you know that first there is a little smoke and then in a moment, the entire building is consumed in flames.  This is your muscles in Barre 

This might be just one of the thoughts that enter your mind as you stand, feet wide apart squat, your toes turned out to opposite walls, standing on your toes, doing infinitesimally small bends.  Or, you might think of that one time when you thought, “why can’t I climb a barbed wire fence, I’ll be careful” , or as a guy, “how hard can a split really be?”  Ever woke up in the middle of the night, with a charlie horse so bad, you literally levitate straight up out of the bed, to land on the floor, on your feet, massaging your cramped muscle?  This is barre. 

Ever gotten a foot cramp so bad when driving, you literally had to pull over to get out of the car to stand on the cramped foot to get the cramp out?   This is barre

But in fairness it’s a cross between the excruciating burn of isolating a muscle to exhaustion with the shaking and quivering which comes from actually having exhausted the muscle.  

They have accoutrements of torture including straps (yay bondage), hand weights, little green balls (I never did find out what the balls were for) , mats and some wooden thing on the wall about four feet wide and going up about 8 feet with little round rungs. My escort said it was for you to hang by, but she forgot its name.  The rack I said, it’s “the rack”. 

If there was a warm up I missed it. The class progresses from push ups and planks, to arm and shoulder exercises (if you want an idea what this feels like hold your arms straight up with your palms outstretched.  Now watch Gone with the the Wind.  Drop your arms). Then gluteus and thighs. Then abdominal.   Thankfully the difficulty of coping with the searing pain in so many parts of your body is slightly distracting.  

There was a clearly announced “cool down” period which involved a series of more exercises in which the instructor was not clamoring for more pain.   The lack of clamoring did not reduce the pain.  

If, like me, you’re happily wandering through the sadomasochism of various modalities of exercise, barre is clearly a torture session you don’t want to miss. I can’t wait to go back. 

Relationship Lessons Gleaned from Lead/Follow Dances

Dancing Argentine Tango for seven years, many of my classes and workshops are on perfecting the skills of being a good leader and follower. I’ve noticed many of those lessons are good for relationships in general. While men are often leaders and women followers, anyone can lead or follow, so to be as all encompassing as possible, my references will be to leader and followers only, as opposed to gender. After all, I’m not North Carolina.

1. Both parties should stay on their own axis (balance). If you are leaning on your partner to the point they are having to hold you up, the dance will never work. Have we not all dated someone like that?

2. Leaders should not pull, push, shove, or otherwise forcibly try to get the follower to “get it”. I mention this since SC is quite high on the national list for Domestic Violence, and because reading followers posts, it seems to be epidemic. Maybe you really want to be in mixed martial arts or wrestling instead.

3. Stated differently in different languages, “the leader proposes, the follower disposes”. A lead is not a command, but an invitation, to which the follower accepts or rejects. (or maybe interprets differently then you intended in an even more lovely way) Followers, like people in bars, appreciate your picking up on this after your third invitation is rejected (or first). Know the difference between persistence and harassment.

4. If your lead doesn’t obtain the intended response, my advice is to consider this to be something you miscommunicated rather than an error on the followers part. Here’s why, there’s nothing you can do about an error on the followers part (during a social dance) , but there’s a lot you can do to make your non verbal communication skills better. In fact, one of the greatest benefit of lead follow dances is that you ACQUIRE non verbal communication skills. What married person wouldn’t like THOSE to be better? For themselves and their significant other (SO). For workshops, consider that most issues between couples are a combination of both parties. Take a “how can we make this better approach”, as opposed to a “you need to do or not do X,Y,and Z.” Even if it is one person’s issue, it’s easier to accept if determined in a cooperative format.

5. Likewise, as a follower, if you are confused by your partners lead, you can’t do anything about that in the moment. What you can do, is focus on what YOU’RE doing and go through your mental checklist: posture, balance, arm position, looking at partners chest, etc. Wouldn’t most relationships be better if we worked hardest at “fixing” ourselves, rather than taking our SO’s inventory.

6. Follow etiquette. “Etiquette is a code of polite conduct. If you practice proper etiquette, you are less likely to offend or annoy people — and you may even charm them.” https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/etiquette Rules regarding the dance moves in a counter clockwise circle, that one does not instruct during a social dance, that one doesn’t talk DURING the dance (before or after is fine) are all designed to avoid injury, and create an opportunity for everyone to have a pleasant social experience while dancing. While some neglect etiquette in relationships, one might argue that relationships need just as much etiquette as public situations. Like not talking during a dance. Who hasn’t been in relationship and far too often thought, “will they just not shut up”.

7. You will not have chemistry with everyone. This is not a surprise. You may even find that someone you had chemistry with at one time, you no longer do. Or you may find that they no longer have chemistry with you. Usually some distance is all that’s required. Stabbing, poisoning, shooting them is not recommended, nor is defaming them, trying to cause them financial ruin or slashing there tires. While intentionally hyperbole, anyone who’s been to divorce court knows exactly where I’m coming from.

8. Personal Hygiene. Who hasn’t wished this was a more popular endeavor in ALL facets of life. Whether dancing or in a relationship, applying the Golden Rule to yourself for any situation in which you will spend significant time cheek to cheek is not rocket science.

9. Your current lack of ability at “whatever” is not an excuse for not learning, participating or getting better. This is one of my favorites. When I tell people I take yoga classes, a typical response is “I can’t do that, I’m not flexible.” “Neither was I when I started, but I can now stick my head up my ass, and you’re apparently flexible enough for that”. Or, “I can’t dance, I have no rhythm”. Uhhh, that’s why you take lessons. Just say I’m not interested in that rather then suggesting a lack of knowledge is a good excuse. We could have all gotten out of public school if saying, “Wow, I can’t go, I don’t know math”. Over seven years, I’ve been told I have no rhythm, can’t move to a beat, act like I’m always at a funeral, lack musicality, have no creativity or imagination. And those comments were just from my former marriage.

Left Brain-Right Brain: The “Filter” vs “Smart Assery”

You may be familiar with various theories of the effects that the two hemispheres of our brain have on a variety of things from behavior, to psychology to biology, including the most popular that our left brain is where rational, logical processes reside and the right, creativity.  This is all, of course probably not true. If you’re remotely interested in any of this, here is a Wikipedia article with 80 citations to current professional journal articles in neurology, physchology, and other medical, scientific and Behavorial science publications.
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lateralization_of_brain_function
 Let me save you some time, however, and suggest that our knowledge of the brain is not much more advanced than our medieval theories that the Black Plague was caused by an imbalance in the four humours (not comedy humours but blood, phlegm, black and yellow bile)

This allows me to pretty freely postulate that the left brain is where our “filter” resides, as a constant balance to the “smart Assery” right side of our brain.  By “filter”, I mean that part of our brains that stops us from offering the police office, who just stopped us, the box of donuts from the passenger seat, or when our significant other asks, “do these jeans make my ass look fat”; scrolling through the responses of “everything makes your ass look fat” or “your ass IS FAT”, or “do you mean ‘semi trailer fat’, or ‘Beyoncé booty fat’, or ‘Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue fat” and instead opt for “of course not- your ass is perfection defined”. 

I find it difficult to predict when my filter will or won’t work, or when the switch is on or off.  I first noticed this as a 17 year old in AP calculus class.  The teacher said, “and what should I do with this Parabola”, and before I knew it I said “you don’t REALLY want us to tell you what to do with that Parabola, do you”, whereupon with equal speed an eraser was whizzing by my left ear.  I immediately began to put as much value on my filter as her bad aim. As the things which then began to get thrown at my head increased in both frequency and weight, I began to think maybe my filter could be exercised to be made more effective. I’m not sure at my age if it’s better or worse.  Here’s just a few examples.

At a function this week hosted by a female friend, I met her husband for the first time. Part of the conversation went like this.  “…-and he does Argentine tango, she said”.   “Wow,” he said, what a beautiful dance.  We so enjoyed watching tango on our trip to Buenos Aires.  But you don’t seem to have the body type of a tango dancer?”.   Possible replies submitted to my filter:  “Yes, well I got a 6 week scholarship to the Sumo Wrestlers School of Argentine Tango in Kyoto in 2009”. “Yes, but I applied for and was granted a weight waiver from the International Tango Police in Buenos Aires”.  “Yes, but I’m also short and I get to dance with REALLY tall women”.

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 Yes, but I’m not allowed to dance with women over (or under) a certain weight”. “Yes, I have to weigh in monthly and if I go over 240, I’m suspended”. “Yes, but we have weight classes in Tango, like boxing” to what actually passed my filter which was “hahahahahaha, Yes!”  (Yay filter!!!)

My filter seems particularly challenged by stupidity.  At a tango class years ago, a conversation with a medical school professor somehow turned to my struggles to lose weight despite a ridiculous amount of exercise, clean eating and food deprivation.    “It’s easy he said, don’t eat anything white”.   Uh oh, here we go with a furious assault on my filter.   “This is going to be shocking news to my black and Asian friends”.  “OMG- in 48 years of dieting, I’ve never seen or read this theory or been told this by any of the 36 physicians I’ve seen in all these years”.  While my filter is processing some other options which are not printable, he adds “you know like white rice, white bread, or white flour”.  Immediately after my filter rejects “so the outside of Oreo’s is ok, but not the middle” and “You’re a fucking idiot”, and it allows, “yes, I should work harder on this, thank you”.  

I was encouraging a fellow zumberanian this morning by remarking she looks like she lost a significant amount of weight lately and is more tone.  Anytime I see someone I know, who looks like they’ve lost weight lately, I tell them. Who doesn’t want to hear they’ve lost weight lately, even if they haven’t (Nigerian marathon runners and eating disorder patients excluded). We had the usual banter of “yes, I really want to get rid of this belly” (whereupon I put my arm around her and showed her it’s still smaller than mine), how long it takes to make progress, etc. etc. whereupon the other person in this conversation said, “your genes have a lot to do with it”.   Apparently my filter was recovering from my Friday night because I blurted out, “so, I should stop wearing wranglers and get designer jeans instead?”, all the while thinking I should warn my former beauty pageant friend to immediately burn those baby phat jeans I bought her years ago.  After all, she might ask me, “Baby, do these baby phat’s make my ass look fat?”.

“Squeeze Your Anus” Ashtanga Workshop Weekend

You’re about to learn more about your “pelvic floor” than you thought was possible or maybe even what a “pelvic floor” is and how squeezing your anus can change your life. Or at least, your pelvic floor. Irresistible title, I know.  

Not long ago, In October of 2015, I wrote “Ashtanga Yoga – A primer” passing on my introductory knowledge of Ashtanga derived from two classes which consisted of the advice of “skip class and have a friend hit you in the stomach with a shovel.”  Ashtanga a primer  Imbued with this new found knowledge my logical thought was, “I should go to a class every week after the holly days.”  (Not very smart, I know)

A slightly more elucidating description of Ashtanga is “This form of yoga is intensely physical and athletic. Ashtanga yogis practice a prescribed set of asanas, channel energy through the body using bandhas (locks), and concentrate on singular points using drishti (gaze) in asanas.”  (An asana is a pose or movement running from the easiest of, “bend over and touch your toes” (or the floor or put your palms on the floor and bend your elbows out) to a more complicated form of twister where you fashion yourself into a pretzel and look at parts of your body you’ve never seen before.    Like this. 

 You don’t even want to know how to get into this. In one class, a girl said someone should clone a life alert bracelet into a yoga alert bracelet – “help, I fell  into this pose and I can’t get out    Just for the record, I can not do this now, nor ever imagine it happening. 

After happily surviving NOT passing out the first two classes in January I follow my plan of regular weekly attendance when I see that internationally know Ashtanga Yoga teacher, is coming to the studio to do 10 1/ hours of instruction on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday in April, and I look at the individual classes with a la Carte pricing, and one fixed fee for the whole shebang, including waterboarding and I think, “YEAH, that’s me”!!! (Again, not smart.  If you’re a regular reader you know good judgement is not my hallmark.  Although, Senator Bob Packwood did say, “Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment ) 

Today is Sunday and I have survived,  however, I am using my last functional appendage, one hand, to type this message.  By Friday morning, two days ago, I am anticipating the start of the first class Friday night with a mixture of fear and excitement.  Or terror.  Or dread.  However, Friday was pretty much a 2 1/2 hour lecture practice on paranyama (breathing) and bandhas, (locks)  (Hold on, we’re almost to the squeeze your anus part) 

First breathing. Ashtanga uses a from of breathing called Ujayi (pronounced “ooo jay) in which “…Ujjayi (translated as “victorious”) breathing should be both energizing and relaxing. In the Yoga Sutra, Patanjali suggests that the breath should be both dirga (long) and suksma (smooth). The sound of Ujjayi is created by gently constricting the opening of the throat to create some resistance to the passage of air. Gently pulling the breath in on inhalation and gently pushing the breath out on exhalation against this resistance creates a well-modulated and soothing sound—something like the sound of ocean waves rolling in and out.”  Ujjayi Breath.  More simply, open your mouth an exhale as if you were fogging a mirror.  Now,  close your mouth and exhale, keeping the same restriction in your throat. MOST simply, I call this Darth Vader breath.  Breathing through your nose with Mouth closed, do your best impression of Darth Vader breathing,  this is Ujjayi breath.  (Now, try to breath this way for an hour- Bahahahahahaha)

Ah, finally bandhas.  Mula Bandha.   “Squeeze your anus”, he says.  “Huh?”  This is probably not an exact transcription of what  what he said but here goes at the very bottom of the bowl of your pelvis, you have a network of muscles attaching front to back and side to side like a warm apple pie’s top lattice Crust, nicely browned and perfectly weaved.  (Ok, he didn’t say the pie part, but I was hungry ). The muscle part was true though (kinda)  

 and by contacting these muscles, you help to lift your internal organs from crushing each other and eventually, bring peace to the Middle East. Or maybe kill your craving for Cocoa Puffs.  To do this, squeeze your anus.  Then while doing that, contract the muscles you need to stop. Urinating mid stream.  Now, you may be laughing, and you may be trying to squeeze your anus right now but if you’re trying to do both, when I tell you to hold this for the next hour, you’ll stop laughing.  However, when he said this eventually reverses something of the natural incontinent type symptoms which advancing age brings, I though, “hell yeah, I’m in!!!). However, he did point out that your supposed to keep these muscles permanently locked (meaning squeeze your anus 24 hours a day) unless, you’re using the bathroom, giving birth, menstruating, or drinking tequila with a stripped named Mercedes in Guadalajara.  I’m pretty sure  I squeezed my anus once for 24 hours in college and it made me want to vote republican.  

Clearly, I’ve summarized the 2 hours and thirty minutes but suffice it to say that by the end, I was thinking the last time I put so much focus on Darth Vader breathing and squeezing my anus was when my freshman dorm mate Pat and I double dated the two sorority girls to USC homecoming in 1975.  Lesson learned, “remember where you park your car anytime your”re parking with 40,000 other cars- it’s a loong wait till the parking lot is empty  and you can see it.  Which equally applies to squeezing your anus for an hour)

My greatest fear the last seven years of yoga was being in a completely packed yoga room, mats only inches apart, 7-8 yogis in a row and I lose my balance falling over into the hot chick next to me creating a human yogis dominoes effect.  I escaped that fear for 7 years. Until today.  While the entire row didn’t fall over, I took her out like a linebacker sacking the quarterback in the playoffs.  

 
On the positive side, she we very gracious about it, the class got some much needed comic relief (who doesn’t like being laughed at by 50 people?) and I lived.  Reminder lesson, even when our greatest fear comes true, it’s not as bad as we have catastrophized.  

My best moment?  Yesterday morning, we’re over an hour in where we’re trying to do several of the harder poses in the middle of the sequence and I’m not even close to doing it right and looking around the room, literally dripping sweat all over my mat, and thinking, just as a matter of observation, that I have clearly the absolute WORST form of anyone in the class, and he comes over, taps my foot and says “good job).  I only made it 6 1/2 hours of the 10.5 for the weekend, but hooray for me.  

As I was leaving today,  the studio owner goddess guru sweetheart asked if I was coming back for the last two hours, called “Do WHAT with my leg”, in which hip openers are offered to allow you to put your feet behind your head while sitting up.  “No,” I said, “I have Chik Fil A hips, they’re closed on Sunday’s.”  

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Yoga Dragon Sequence or as I’ve Renamed It- My Ex Sequence

One of my yoga instructors is enamored with “dragon sequence” which I have, just this evening renamed “my ex sequence”.  Allow me to explain .  Since describing the dragon wil take more words than I’m wiling to write and certainly you to read, here is an instructional video. 

Just a few points not to mislead, before I proceed. I cannot do everything in is video.  Like, that twisting upside down thing ain’t happening.  I could go on about all the other things I can’t do, but let me offer this analogy as to what I think I look like when we do this. Ever seen an enormous male dog, like a lab or a golden retriever try to copulate with a small female like a daschund or a toy poodle in heat?  If you’ve ever watched those enthusiastic but misguided attempts to contort their bodies so the act will still not work, that’s me doing dragon.  If you’re wondering if I’m the large dog or the small do, take your pick. Also, there’s timing.  While this video is 7 min long, keep in mind we’re doing this for 35 minutes. 

Yoga goddess says this is to “open our heart and lung meridians of energy”. This is yoga speak for we’re going. To do a series of difficult and strenuous movements so fast you’re going to seriously contemplate your heart exploding while you’re asphyxiating from gasping for air, while you trying to control your breathing and not sound like a freshmen in high school in PE class having to run 5 miles in an hour st 9:30 am. You’ll also notice that the video instructor explains ways to “modify” the pose in a variety of ways.   Encouragement to modify your pose is yoga speak for, “please God  do not push yourself to the point of actually passing out, because our liability carrier requires us to call and ambulance for any loss of consciousness and that will screw up the rest of class.”  

So, the first time I was exposed to this “dragon” was a couple of months ago.  I really don’t remember much about that first time, other than spending the entire 35 minutes contemplating my mortality.  My thoughts went from an “OMG, I’m gonna die” to a welcoming acceptance and looking forward to it in a Jesus on the cross, “into your hands I commend my spirit”, kind of way.

Then we did it in a couple of more classes where I was just miserable, but not calling for death like it was a long lost friend who needed to visit soon.  

She announced last week we were going to do dragon this week, particularly because I had grumbled about it. Now I love this yoga instructor  because she gets so filled with joy she giggles. During class. A lot. Although I’ve become a little suspicious that she’s really watching me move through asanas and vinyasas and wondering whether I’m the big or small dog.  I had a choice tonight between the county bar’s annual holiday party in a spectacular setting, with yummy catered food and an open bar…. Or yoga class.  I marveled at my choice of masochism instead of a party all the way there. Hold this thought a moment

She also recommended that during class we might want to employ Thicht Nach Hahn, the extraordinary Vietnamese Buddhist Monks famous mantra, “as I breathe in I relax, as I breathe out I smile”.  Hold this thought too.  

  (BTW, my favorite quote of his is: ” “When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you don’t blame the lettuce. You look for reasons it is not doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or less sun. You never blame the lettuce. Yet if we have problems with our friends or family, we blame the other person. But if we know how to take care of them, they will grow well, like the lettuce. Blaming has no positive effect at all, nor does trying to persuade using reason and argument. That is my experience. No blame, no reasoning, no argument, just understanding. If you  understand, and you show that you understand, you can love, and the situation will change”.

So I’m rotating and gasping and doing my miserable thing, and I’m marveling at my masochistic choice.  Then I realize I’m kinda getting used to it, and I have the epiphany, “hey, this is like my ex marriage”. Then I notice the “I breath in I relax, I breathe out I smile is not having the desired meditative effect and I think, “when I breathe in, I get divorced, when I breathe out, I’m giddy with joy” and all of a sudden, I’m in my happy place. Hence, my renaming the dragon, “my ex”. Hopefully I’ll learn from the dragon, oops my ex some of the same things like non judgment, non attachment, personal responsibility, self awareness, boundaries and compassion.  Or maybe my heart will just explode. 

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ZUMBA Class and This Blog’s Two Year Anniversary – an Expression of Gratitude 

Warning:  This may NOT be funny. This blog is about “Gratitude”. ” and I don’t know that I can make this funny.  April 22, 2015 is my two year anniversary of going to ZUMBA class. (And a little over 6 years of tango and almost 7 of yoga, all while gradually changing my diet and habits). I started writing because I was encouraged by friends who thought some posts in which I was humorously dealt with all my shortcomings, foibles and challenges were funny. But, I owe whatever progress I’ve made, and MY inspiration  to so many people, so many of YOU, that I write today to express my gratitude.

“Gratitude” may not be the most powerful energy on the planet, but I think it’s in the top three. I’ve tried to work as hard the last 7 years on the inner me as the outer me and I’ve found gratitude to be one of the best therapists on the planet.  It is hard NOT to be happy, joyful, peaceful, kind, or compassionate if you’re grateful.  It’s a terrific, almost immediate tonic for the unavoidable sadness, depression, grief or malaise we all must experience as humans.  While I’m not saying there is not value to “rest” in these emotions, when you decide it’s time to let go, there is no better single tool then gratitude.

I claim no credit for these concepts, there are hundreds, if not thousands of blogs, articles, stories and books on the subject of gratitude and starting a gratitude practice.  There are many variations but all you have to do to start a gratitude practice is once a day, think of one thing you’re grateful for.   Then think of one more. There are myriad suggestions for how many a day, but start with one. As you practice, you’ll set a number for yourself as you get better at it until you find yourself being grateful a good part of the day.  If you’re struggling to think of one thing, do not despair.  Whether or not you have good health, a roof over you’re head, family that loves you, a job, a beautiful flower outside, you’re alive. And if you can’t be grateful for that, you have choices. And there is so much to be grateful for- a blue sky, a warm breeze, random acts of kindness, a smile from a stranger, the ability to help someone else- it’s almost infinite.

So, here in no particular order is my list of things I’m grateful for, as thanks to all who have helped: my friends, my instructors, my classmates, my dancing partners, strangers with a kind word or smile, my readers (both of them)( you knew I couldn’t resist at least one quip), and all those who’ve inspired me.

I’m grateful for:

  1. Quitting smoking,
  2. Losing 30 pounds.
  3. Having stomach muscles, again.
  4. Yoga, ZUMBA and tango, in general.
  5. Yoga for teaching me self acceptance, patience, peace, the joy of the journey and the struggle, balance, mindfulness, upper body strength. Breathing, and the joy of slow but steady progress.
  6. Tango sor teaching me balance, grace, creativity musicality, and the joy of doing something that I’m not really good at. But passionate about.  You don’t have to be the best to enjoy yourself.
  7. Zumba for joy, stamina, balance, a better heart rate, musicality, rhythm, inspiration and motivation. And ZUMBA women. 😉
  8. Supportive friends.  
  9. Kind words which have motivated and inspired me
  10. My classmates- Zumbaranions rock!
  11. My chiropractor. 😉
  12. My doctor for 30 years. (That guy deserves a medal. From somebody.  For something).
  13. The amazing ability of the body to change and heal even considering what I’ve done to it. 
  14. Meditation.
  15. People who say stupid, judgmental or ridiculous things for teaching me patience, tolerance, forgiveness and non attachment.
  16. My daughter whose own 150 pound weight loss has inspired me in so many ways.
  17. For learning but not always practicing, that every moment is a gift, and it’s called “the present”  The actual quote, “Yesterday is History, Tomorrow a Mystery, Today is a Gift, Thats why it’s called the Present” is attributable to many people as the first author.
  18. Failure for teaching me persistence. Compassion for others, gratitude for successes, motivation, and self reflection.
  19. Giving up dairy, wheat, carbs and sugar.  
  20. Learning to eat vicariously.  (If you saw someone smiling at you while you were eating the triple fudge sundae with chips and chocolate sauce, thanks for the memory)
  21. Choices. 
  22. The belief that everything that happens to me is my own doing and I have the ability to change 
  23. The desire and inspiration to work even harder for my goals and dreams.  80 pounds to go. 
  24. That I’m not out of things to be grateful for- I’m just stopping here.   Ok, and redheads and convertibles. And whiskey and the Kama Sutra. Alright, I’m really stopping now. 


Try a gratitude practice,  the changes you will see in your life are almost immediate. You often hear, tell the people you love, that you love them every day.  Now go tell the people you appreciate, every day, that you appreciate them.