Elemental ChromiumMetal as a music genre is identifiable by its attributes of strength and power. These sounds are performed by humans expressing power and strength as technique in their playing styles. There is nothing overly delicate or fragile, nor soft or forgiving in metal music. This characterization of being carries over to Metal Yoga, where the skeletal framework is aligned to positions, over a short interval of time, inducing structural integrity inherent in the biomechanics of the human body. The repeated alignment creates a memory and awareness that translates into the unlocking of potential power and ultimately empowerment through knowledge that contributes to wisdom.

Beginning a session, which I will call an interval, one may feel inflexible and hardened by the situations of modern life that irritate and wear one down. This beginning state of hardness can be called the Chromium state, a state of physical and mental hardness, a general rigidity. One can move through soft metal states like a Lead state, ending an interval in a state of Mercury, a liquid metal, or ultimately in the Gallium state. Elemental gallium does not occur in free form in nature, but as a brittle, solid, silvery metal it will melt in your hand above about 85 °F. Gallium in this sense is a good metaphor for the scarcely real experience among yoga exercisers and poor meditators with actual spirituality, awareness, and enlightenment. The molecular structures of the hardest metals form lattices that combine to exert stability and strength over the span of their surfaces and interiors, while others can be malleable; the combining of different metals with special attributes to achieve specific results has resulted in the most spectacular and most beautiful metal objects the world has seen.

Chrome Engine

To pick up where we left off in the last entry, we work on advancing out of Chromium. Because the majority of individuals move repetitively and cause muscle injuries that require healing through stretching techniques, it is most important to begin by carefully and slowly stretching from the center outward. At the center for these purposes is the spinal structure, and this muscular center spans the entire length of your trunk to the base of your skull; the spine is your power center. When radiating out from a point with an ever increasing radius, the most minuscule radial motion results in greater distances in circumference. These beginning motions should be small and gentle at first at the spine, but can result in appearances to be greater motions at the extremities which when outstretched will trace greater circumference distances. Because it is also paramount to choose at discretion beginning movements that take the spine into movements within all planes, a variety of movements are available at this stage of stretching and lengthening from the core that will lead to greater strength potential to be unleashed in movements of later states during the interval.

Since the first ten minutes of sitting and breathing covered in the last post is also a time to activate and focus on root chakra energy, the beginning spinal movements serve to move that energy up the spine to energize the rest of the body during the interval. Good spinal choices are Cobra, Lord of the Fishes, Bridge and its variations, Cat/Cow, Sphinx, Alligator, Canoe, even Child’s Pose and Sleeping Baby for initial relaxation, as well as poses that can begin by stretching the hamstrings so tightness of the spine is not exacerbated by the back of the legs. Staff Pose is a good opener to these, sitting as tall as possible and seemingly doing nothing while the tiny muscles around each vertebra are brought to action.

Next I will talk about standing strength poses that use an awakened spine throughout the extremities and our Metal state moves from Chromium to softer metals like Iron, Copper, and Bronze.

Advertisements

Bulletproof Yoga

April 21, 2014

20140421-150355.jpg

Have you experienced nirvana? If not, I’m sorry to hear that, but the following short entry may help. If you have not, you may find it consoling to hear that it is only entirely your own fault.
Welcome to Bulletproof Yoga. I’m not referring to making you bulletproof in any way. I am describing a method of delivering yoga to others in a way so that nobody leaves feeling that they missed the point. It begins by my unmistakable delivery of yoga to you, through my words, and continues on indefinitely as you deliver these concepts upon yourself through movement, concentration, effortlessness, stillness, and the absence of thought.
Let me begin by stating (once again) that there is nothing in my solitary practice that ever left me looking for more. This means I have no desire to attend a yoga class anywhere, and although I am constantly being asked to teach yoga, I have no desire to teach in a class or group setting. This may change in the future, but only if a situation would arise where ego cannot be found in my intentions.

I’ve just completed a 65 minute sound file that can be used during your full yoga practice if desired, based on the previous 30 minute Theta wave binaural entrainment file that I created for relaxation at any time. You can stream the file here, or download the file for your personal use. The binaural and audible tones move through the frequencies attributed to the chakra points from root to crown over the length of the program material.

Let’s jump right in with the most difficult, the absence of thought. If with your first figurative step and your first actual inhalation you can stop all thought that comes from you, halt the mind, all else will be easy. Even in difficult physical movements under the banner of yoga, the mind will be your biggest obstacle. This leaving behind of all mind activity is the impossible for some, a great challenge for most, but everyone can do it nonetheless. Your mind is your greatest enemy, it is what will be the root of your undoing, and it is also where your idea of who you are is seated. Who you are is nothing. What you think is so high and mighty and amazing about anything you pin on your chest is just another dark spot on your being; any self-describing character trait that shines like the bright lights of vanity in the mirror of morals and virtues is actually the most disgusting thing about you that you could do well to lose quickly. When you are nothing, you are pure beauty. Only then do you become loving, and with that you can radiate unconditionally for all and everything like you did before your mind learned how to be deceptive, conniving, selfish, guarded and emotionless, conceited, and unable to see without the filters of “my world only” through dead eyes.
With these concepts you can breathe slowly in and out, aiming for 4-7 seconds for each. Eyes closed, or open if you are able to ignore visual distraction, with silent privacy or on a busy street, it won’t matter when your mind is appropriately calibrated to stop all inner thought. Here you will stay for a matter of minutes, up to about ten, breathing and not thinking, hopefully learning to be newly amazed and appalled at who you find you were up until just now, losing all identification with the ridiculousness of descriptions like “retailer”, “manager”, “CEO”, “athlete”, “businessman”, “entrepreneur”, “salesman”, “vegan”, “writer”, “creative”, “doctor”, “teacher”, “pilot”, “mother”, “husband”, or any other foolish word that is attached to who or what you may think you are. From here on out, you are nothing.
If you are familiar with yoga sitting poses and use a mat, do this while attempting to be as comfortable and relaxed as possible in what is called Lotus. The reason this is important is because your goal is to become the “lotus floating in the pond”. If you’ve never heard this before, it is a very powerful concept that cannot be overlooked. By beginning here, you still the mind like a lotus flower gently floating atop the stillest pond you can imagine, with a still air, but not a freeze frame like pausing a movie; you are in the living universe that is extremely calm and still, so much so that it may give the illusion that nothing is moving but you are moving with the movement of living and with your slow breathing only. By sitting with your legs apart like longish and slightly full petals in Lotus Position, you resemble that lotus flower, and seated on a flat surface you are floating on that unmoving water that delicately holds you up with its surface tension. Your spine moves gently into a straighter and more erect and comfortable posture with each breath, until eventually little by little you do finally become that lotus, perfectly still, effortless, in one short moment of extreme joy in being that an eternity has just come across you, not from within but by tapping into the “thoughts” of the cosmos beyond the confines of time and space once you got your horrible, petty, worthless mind-thoughts to stop, vacate, and make room for nirvana, where you can know without question that “the jewel is in the lotus”.
Quick enlightenment checklist:
1. Do you feel an overwhelming love and compassion not only for all living beings that you have encountered in your life with a personality you can perceive, but also for all those you have not met as well as every atom and particle that vibrates to the living frequencies of reality in you, around you, and furthest away from you? If the answer is no, I’m sorry to say you are not ready and have missed something very big in your ten minutes of alone time. Work on that.
2. Do you smile so openly and wide with joy deep from within your being that not only is your face clearly smiling, but so is every cell in your body as it functions in its daily living tasks? If the answer is no, then I’m sorry to say you are not ready and seem to have missed something very critical about what it means to be a human on this planet striving to understand the meaning of life. Once again, work on that.
3. Are you still having thoughts that come from your mind, things relating to you, your memories, your experiences from the past, material ambitions, socio-political goals, etc.? Sorry, try again!
4. Have you quieted your mind to the point that you’ve noticed something different and are amazed at what is happening because your mind is being flooded with experiences that are clearly not your own (that your mind can tell) and the grand truths of unknown intelligence have graced you for either a millisecond or a lifetime or more, and you’ve been disassociated from your physical body in any way? If the answer is no, try harder to work on yourself. Only you are standing in your own way, and anyone can do it without any outside assistance. The key is in your pocket, you just have to get it yourself.
5. Are you able to differentiate from your mind that distracts you by having useless conscious thoughts about yourself, your body that is a biomechanical vessel housing your blood, organs, and flesh, and your emotions that have nothing to do with your mind and body unless you mistakenly entangle all three into a knotted mess that sets you up for unlimited suffering and personal turmoil? If the answer is no, try harder next time, but always be effortless!
6. If you state the six words, “The joyful participation in life’s sorrows”, and feel you can answer all of the above 5 questions correctly, then I no longer need to speak or write on the subject.

Next I will continue by going into asanas that will deliver you to your final pose, savasana. But for now you can go and get into Lotus and reread this post while actually doing it. For help with Lotus, feel free to search it on YouTube, there are plenty of extremely fit women eager to explain it in thorough detail, along with just about any other yoga mat acrobatics. Please remember that I am nothing.

Entrain Your Brain

April 19, 2013

Non-local ConsciousnessSomehow years ago I became aware of binaural beats and a vague connection to brain waves. Eventually the concept that meditation, its effects on the brain, the results of those effects in how reality is perceived, and the effects of listening to binaural beats, were similar—or linked in a way to have the same results—came into my general sphere of understanding. Yet, I really didn’t understand it, until now. It’s quite simple actually, so I’d like to explain it.

Since I’ve experienced both ways of getting to the same place, I’ll try to give you both perspectives, and I can say that both work well. I have specific blog entries that deal with how to begin meditating naturally, so I suggest to look there for details on how to do that. Since meditation requires zero outside technology and can be done in a natural environment with only your breath, and your mental focus, it is the clear winner here, and the most rewarding. Binaural beats require a playback device like an iPod and stereo headphones, as well as two working ears, so you’re going to need more than just your physical body as-is, but it is a great way for lazy people that just don’t want to do the work and prefer that others do things for them to suddenly have what looks like a brain that has been meditating. However, non-meditators may not actually be ready for the higher focus of a more synchronous brain and the effects at first could have you feeling like a spoiled child that didn’t get what he or she wanted for Christmas this year. If you fully accept what it means to have a newer, better brain, no matter what you think is happening, and you won’t meditate for whatever reason, strap on those ear buds.

I’ll begin by breaking down brain waves and ranges of operation within broad, understandable definitions. The good news is that brain waves are in a narrow band of low frequencies generally below 40Hz. Beta waves are the black sheep of the list, the ones you want to avoid; Beta waves may be the reason you should start meditating in the first place. From 13Hz to 39Hz, these are called Beta waves, usually associated with active, busy, or anxious thinking and active concentration, arousal, cognition, and or paranoia. However, beginning at 40 Hz and above to the upper limit of brain wave frequency are Gamma waves, associated with higher mental activity, including perception, problem solving, fear, and waking consciousness. Because Gamma waves are above 40Hz, these are not considered meditative ranges. Below 13Hz and down to 7Hz are Alpha waves, the realm of waking relaxation, pre-sleep and pre-wake drowsiness, REM sleep, and dreaming. From 7Hz to 4Hz are Theta waves, deep meditation and relaxation and NREM sleep brain activity. Below 4Hz is deep dreamless sleep and loss of body awareness, or Delta waves. For more detailed descriptions of these ranges, read this.

Way before I’ve tried binaural beats to stimulate my brain into certain frequency ranges, I’ve meditated with great success and the results were high creativity, constant sense of well-being with rational optimism, more detailed sensory feedback from all of the senses, and a strong desire to continue engaging in daily routines that promote meditation as a start to every day. After the first few weeks of aligning the mind into a flowing whole instead of a polarized two halves, you invariably have no choice but to experience your strong connection to everything around you and how the biggest, most obvious defining characteristic of your being is that you are here now and every millisecond is a celebration of that truth by the excitation of every atom or force field around you, including you. You can, for the first time, realize the existence of what some may term spirituality, and it also explains clearly that those who cannot acknowledge spirituality have not yet meditated successfully. Binaural beats don’t have that effect, and probably won’t get you there alone, but if a deep understanding of the universe without words to describe it is not your goal, you can still be highly creative, focus your mind into greater relaxation, rid yourself of anxiety, and prepare yourself for the richer organic experience. Since I am doing both, the experience is triple rewarding because I have the three experiences of organic meditation, binaural beat meditation, and both, or some may even argue that a fourth option is now open to me, none at all.

The experiential descriptives used in the list above are a good guide on how to meditate: want to put your brain into Theta wave ranges? All you have to do is breathe and still your mind while staying awake, not going into REM, and not dreaming. Some people only need that much information, and I may be one of them. For the rest of you, there is still hope. Binaural beats coax the brain into operating in these ranges through entrainment. The phenomenon called frequency following response allows binaural beats to be played into your two working ears, and the brain has no choice but to listen and to move towards the frequency of the stimulus, which in this case would be the range of the meditative brain wave frequencies. I will be creating and posting meditative sound files in the specified ranges of desired brain activity on the cloud for all readers of this blog to access and enjoy, all tested and approved by me with any detailed notes for the listener that I find noteworthy through my experiences with them. Since these binaural beats will also be dressed up in musical tones and recordings of natural sounds that I myself have captured, they may even be played during your daily practice without distraction.
Update: Here you will find a stream of a 30 minute Theta wave sound file. Be sure to listen with a relaxed focus, either with your eyes closed or in an environment that will not visually distract you. I find that lying on your back before sleep while listening to this Theta wave audio is very effective and allows the mind to easily move into restful REM sleep. An alternative would be to either sit in a comfortable meditative position while listening during the day and breathing with focus, eyes either closed or open focused on a point about 6 inches in front of you so that your surroundings are out of focus, or simply lying down as you would for a short nap but staying awake and aware. It is important to listen for the full thirty minutes without interruption.

You can download this file here to keep on your device without the need for streaming.

As I write this, it is still somewhat cold outside this spring in New York City. If you follow my advice to the letter in this post, and I’m going to try to include as few letters as possible for your benefit, you can have killer abdominals in time for summer. What’s more, this advice will guarantee that you will keep your sexy midline throughout the winter months so that you don’t have to battle your belly fat over and over again. A trim waist is a sign of good health and tells others that you are strong and healthy. Whether you could stand to lose 6 inches off your gut to get into better health or you want to resemble an ancient Greek statue, what I tell you will get you there.

First, I must state that you won’t be able to do it by yoga alone. As a matter of fact, most people who succeed tend to get it done without yoga at all. But, by incorporating specific aspects of yoga that focus on this goal, you will naturally coax your body into a state of constant metabolic health that will be one of the many key angles of attack on your excess body fat to get it done to keep it off permanently.

Diet is the most important element in lowering your body fat percentage which will make or break your efforts here. If you get this wrong, you will have a trim waist, and you will never have six-pack abs no matter how hard you try to do everything else right.  Do yourself a favor and re-learn what you think you know about food if you have a gut right now; what you know is probably completely wrong, or you know what you’re doing wrong and just don’t do anything right. I’m not going to dwell on the subject of diet, because this should be made the simplest part of this multi-faceted confrontation with your fat cells. You know what you’re doing wrong, so stop it. And if you’re a vegan or a vegetarian and you’re fat, I’m sorry but you lose — it will be imperative that you figure out how to get enough protein in your diet so you may want to read my blog entry The Argument for Vegetarianism, Part 2, while focusing on getting all your carbohydrates from vegetables which is what a vegan or vegetarian should be doing; step up to the plate and delete all pastas, breads, grains, cereals, sugars, anything that is a processed simple carbohydrate, or if you gorge on these, start by cutting them down to 1/3 or less of your overall intake. If you’re anything like me, these are the reasons you don’t have abs, so come to terms with that fact and make the change.

The last thing I will say generally about diet is that when the human body has grown fat, many things come together in a sneaky, underhanded way to make it so, and in this entry I will attempt to explain how to unravel those multiple tight bonds that choke the life out of us. A fat, even slightly fat, person is one who can be seen as an otherwise healthy person who is being tied down independently at each limb and is unable to move as freely as possible. As we loosen these reigns and eventually free our tied down wrists and ankles and bound torsos, only then can we create the natural snowballing effect, or exponentially accelerating runaway train of vibrant energy that is a high metabolism that keeps us hungry in true hunger for true foods, those that your subconscious animal mind knows you need, not the foods that your thinking, habitually dependent, corrupted behavioral mind seems to want. This will be accomplished by understanding what your daily caloric intake is, and what percentage of that intake is comprised of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, and most importantly what kinds of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. So, as you may be starting to understand, the more complicated you make this, the higher the chances of failure; the simpler you make it, the simpler it will be to eat the right proportions of the right foods and make no mistakes whatsoever. I recommend this, unless you have over a year’s time to make this your goal.

Burn calories. Choose your weapon. Typical failing dieters think that just by eating less, they will start to lose weight. If you stick with it, and basically eat a lot less, a lot healthier, and consume solid, nutritious meals, you will. End of story. This is the Law of Thermodynamics, which in this case states that the only way one will lose weight or body fat is if one consumes less calories (food and drink) than one expends (activity, movement combined with breath). Keep in mind that if you have a slow metabolism and while eating a lot less you consume over 40% of your calories in the form of carbohydrates and don’t burn those calories every day as you eat them, you’ll stay fat. If you didn’t know this, now you know. This is why you see so many skinny-fat vegetarians around. They eat very little, and they eat healthy in general, but they consume too many carbohydrates and don’t burn them off day to day, and that gets stored as fat under the skin. Fat under the skin is exactly what you need to get rid of to have a trim waist, so you must do the opposite of this carb-heavy intake, and you must choose a method of activity that will be ruthless. In choosing your weapon, you have either cardiorespiratory exercise (heart and lungs is what this means), or anaerobic activity that pushes you to a level of constant fat burn, or both. Constant fat burn sounds like the right choice if you ask me, and this means strength training, which is where I come in.

I don’t do cardio. Ever. Here’s why: I don’t need to. I perform strength training movements with a level of intensity (constant elevated heart rate) within a specific amount of time (40-60 min.) to complete a specific range of sets (15-25) in a gym environment three times a week. If I were to perform cardio exercises during that same time frame, my body would begin a cycle of overtraining which leads to exhaustion and injury. This is also how I do yoga, which can be cardio if vinyasa, and as I just stated, I don’t do cardio.

There is a very little known fact called Excess Postexercise Oxygen Consumption, or EPOC, which can be explained as the elevation of the body’s metabolism after exercise. Your goal will be to maximize this. Built into the variability and your possible maximization of EPOC is the genetic construct that your body has its own objective to expend as little energy as possible. In order to do this, the human body is a highly adaptable organism that readily adapts to the demands placed on it. By maximizing the oxygen consumption needed for the duration of a training session as well as for the recovery from the training session, the body can continue to adapt to greater demands and continue a high metabolic rate during and after exercise to burn more calories at all times, even though the body will adapt to specific demands over time and begin to use minimal energy to perform them. What this translates to is the higher the intensity of the training session, the greater the magnitude of EPOC. Furthermore, splitting the training session into multiple sessions (usually two) of equal time has the greatest effect on EPOC, and therefore the greatest effect on burning calories and body fat reduction.

If you’ve followed me so far, this next paragraph will blow your mind. Fat and glucose are your major sources of fuel for exercise. A fire cannot burn without oxygen, and so for these fuels to be used more efficiently, the body must be able to receive enough oxygen, allowing fat and glucose to be “burned” as fuel. The waste products of this fuel burning are carbon dioxide and water. This is where the importance of your lungs as accessory fat burners comes into play. The amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide exchanged in the lungs normally equals that used and released by body tissues, allowing us to use these respiratory gasses to estimate caloric expenditure, a method called indirect calorimetry, measured with a metabolic analyzer to detect an individual’s respiratory exchange ratio, or RER. This ratio is the ratio of carbon dioxide produced to the volume of oxygen consumed. It is a known fact that the human body uses the highest percent of its fuel from fat when the body has an RER of 0.71, indicating at first blush that whatever exercises you do, just make sure you’re at an RER of 0.71; this is exactly what I do and therefore suggest for you to do as well. The only problem with all this scientific data analysis is that in the real world the only time the body can be at 0.71 RER is when it is completely at rest.

Mind blown? This means you can’t burn the most fat by doing cardiorespiratory exercise. This means the people that only go to the gym to use cardio equipment to lose fat are doing it wrong. They should say they are just going to the gym to burn a few calories in the hope of burning and losing fat. Getting back to EPOC, you may have already figured it out, but if you haven’t I’ll spell it out for you. If you train three times a week doing weight training at a high intensity for your fitness level, you will maximize the caloric expenditure (oxygen consumption) during your training session by keeping your heart rate elevated for the entire duration of 40-60 minutes, and you will maximize the oxygen consumption (caloric expenditure) needed for the recovery from the training session. This means as you rest throughout the day and during your sleep until you are ready for another 40-60 minutes of exercise, you will attain an RER of 0.71 and therefore burn fat most efficiently. This also means that without lots of rest, you won’t burn as much fat, and with less rest, you will get fatter. Of course, you just have to give yourself a good reason to deserve the rest, and the two aspects of intensity followed by rest neatly sum up yoga in action. Cardiorespiratory training typically stops being effective as soon as you stop performing the cardio exercise, meaning it only works as you are doing it. This is great news for constantly counting your calories burned on the treadmill, but takes greater time management and greater discipline leading to higher possibility of failure, not to mention loss of major muscle tissue (if it’s not in the fat burning RER, it has to burn something) when done for over 20 minutes at a time.

The next entry will focus primarily on yoga poses and related movements that will target your abdominals to strengthen them, shape them, and thereby making your spine happier about not overcompensating for weak abs. Other poses will be suggested solely for metabolic quickening through thyroid activation. Until then, start burning fat, rev up your metabolism, and start feeling healthier and stronger on a cellular level through proper nutrition.

Taking Control of Eternity

December 29, 2011

Time meant nothing to me, except that I was stuck in it. The concept of what one second was had to be altered and then forgotten, dissipated into nothingness. I knew civilization was always going to operate on grids of delineated beginnings and endings and these were drawn with hard, merciless lines that spilled onto pages of personal histories like unstoppable disembowelings, until the entrails of every dream ever dreamt by every innocent child that ever lived composed the unimaginable description of time’s arrow flung with immeasurable emotion from time’s dawn for us to keep watching, witnessing in horror, unable to look away while writhing in agony to somehow wrench our flush faces and blood-filled eyes to some scene of immaculate beauty and serenity where we can feel showered with the golden warmth of being smothered with love until our hearts can agree to beat no longer.

I decided to breathe. Breathing helped. A lot. I realized that by not breathing, the heart kept beating and it started to leave like a train that I had just missed at the station. The only way to get on that train was to breathe, but it had to be the right kind of breathing, otherwise it would just be a pathetic uncoordinated and jagged tumbling forward, like tripping with each step and just watching hopelessly as the gap between me and my heartbeat widened. I took a steady and deep breath. This was the answer, the only answer, and it liberated me from the constraints of my memory, my conditioning, my thinking of what time is and was, and it narrowed the gap, synchronizing with my heartbeat, and the extreme pain that I felt in the arc of the breath lessened as soon as it became greater than I ever imagined it would be. Once the relief came I pushed on by straightening my legs more and lengthening them from the hips to the heels and I took another deeper breath and there. It was gone. All of the pain and difficulty and torturous inescapability seemed to have vanished and I had the strength to stay right where I was forever. Forever until the heart would agree to beat no longer. I did it, I found the serenity and immaculate beauty, not to look upon, but to be a component of, experiencing it directly.

This was my private practice today. I didn’t look at any clocks until it was complete, and about an hour had elapsed. There were no sounds, no speaking, no interruptions, no distractions. There were instead the very unavoidable sounds, words, interventions, and adjustments of being fully alive.

I’ve been waiting for this opportunity since last winter when I first met James Fox and a group of us got acquainted with his experience and why it’s so important. Here is someone that speaks my language: an authentic yogi who knows the value of practical language that can get the message across to anyone. When using absolutes like “anyone”, that most certainly includes incarcerated men in the American prison system who have never experienced yoga. The added benefit here is that there is no dilly-dallying with the yoga that Fox teaches, which happens to be the only yoga there is. If you ever felt like you have been doing yoga for a certain amount of time, or have attended x number of classes but you still don’t quite get it, the lack of gray area in Fox’s approach guarantees you won’t be left in the dark.

To go along with the weekend-long workshop, we received four hand-outs, the first one setting the tone for what was to come. The heading reads, “Do not lose heart…”. By the end of the training, this first sheet of paper held the most significance. I was one of only 6 men attending. It was a packed house, packed with 25 women, some of whom also had experience teaching the incarcerated. There were many questions and many discussions about specifics, and after we used our brains to think it all through exhaustively, we were left with our intuition. When you are alone in a room full of men who operate mainly with a strong connection to the survival instinct, the animal nature of man, the part in direct opposition to the thinking, rational mind, it is your intuition and non-thinking gut feeling that ultimately will prevail in this work.

James Fox was very clear that he does what works for him. Another teacher may have a totally different way of approaching a class, and completely different things may work for different teachers. His way is not the only way, it is his way. Another person may be more successful getting to students through different intuitive action. The lesson is to be yourself, and intuitively do what you think is the best thing within the guidelines of what needs to be done.

One of the brick walls that people questioning what he does in prison constantly beat their heads up against is, “Why do these incarcerated people deserve to be taught yoga?”, and the answer is simple if you become aware of the world in which we live. If you realized that you or one of your friends and family could be incarcerated tomorrow, and that a majority of incarcerated prisoners will be released and in traffic with you, buying groceries with you, at the gym with you, even possibly doing yoga in a class with you, then you’d realize that prison is not some place we send bad people and forget about them forever. Prison is made up of people in our communities, and prisoners are released back into our communities. If you would prefer to have people in your community bringing the prison way of life to your everyday life, then by all means, oppose this work.

From an economic standpoint, more tax dollars go to running prisons than education. Prisons are number one on the list when dividing up state budgets, and paying into this broken system means your children don’t get the education they could get, and increases the likelihood that they will themselves become prisoners under the current system.

Men and women in prison are met with constant resistance. These are human beings that are being told every minute of every day that they are not worthy of being treated fairly. These people go into prison with addictions that continue within prison walls without difficulty. Whatever psychological and emotional issues were present before incarceration are still there and possibly amplified through constant stress and anxiety. If a prisoner has a health issue in prison, it is not going to be cured or treated properly, but most likely will get worse. The person who was in need of rehabilitation before prison becomes a person in greater need of rehabilitation in prison.

Enter Taoist Yoga. Taoist practices seek to exercise the path of least resistance. Tao means “the flow of the universe”, and the goal of Taoist Yoga is to bring the mind and body into harmony for self-healing and spiritual development. After explaining these principles, James Fox took us through two Taoist Yoga sessions over the weekend. The structure of the flow had us access our grounding energy by using the legs and feet primarily in the beginning, and ending with postures focused specifically on the torso and upper extremities. Further balance was infused by mixing yang and yin poses. The yang poses are considered assertive, and strength oriented, exercising muscles and bones, whereas the yin poses are receptive, targeting joints, ligaments, tendons, and connective tissue. The yin poses promote the flow of chi energy to the organs of the body.

Wording is very important in getting to individuals who, although coming in voluntarily, can be turned off very easily if the wrong sentiment is expressed. Phrases like “open your heart” are a no-no, and forget about anything in the realm of “feel the love” or similar phrases a yoga instructor may be caught saying in the free world. Instead, postures that are heart openers are a priority and explained simply and clearly with descriptions like “gently bring your shoulder blades together”.

If you ever thought practicing yoga was difficult, imagine participating in a practice while coping with substance abuse, ADHD, PTSD, and the levels of stress, anxiety, and depression that come with prison life. Students enter the class coming from the impact of trauma, they are physically over-stimulated and mentally under-stimulated, they are hyper vigilant, and mental imbalances are very common. Knowing these things about your students dictates that the program must be straight and to the point, a fast track to enlightenment. It’s as if there is no time to waste because there is no telling what can happen when they leave you back into the unpredictable world of prison.

The strongest sell James Fox incorporates is the fact that volunteers can walk in to the room and leave prison behind. Once it is realized this is true, no prodding is necessary for students to give it their all. One has to resort to behavioral facades to survive in prison, but these behaviors have no place in James’ yoga class inside the walls of San Quentin. Firm boundaries are drawn and as long as respect in both directions is demonstrated, progress can be made. Outside of the constant noise there is a quiet place that can serve as the highest reference for peace and relaxation, something you can’t find inside a prison. Meditation before and after the asana practice is a must in James’ classes, and the concepts of OM and Namaste are explained clearly and practically, with great success.

The saving philosophical and instructional teachings expressed in Fox’s classes include the ultimate goal of self-realization, the 8 limbs of yoga, and mindfulness as the foundation for practice. Sound heavy? This is emergency room yoga, and I can’t help thinking that Fox’s classes are the perfect model for all classes in America, especially during this time when the yoga boom in the West is all about having a great ass and wearing the trendy outfits that “help” you “do yoga”.

Can a prisoner be self-realized? Let’s rephrase the question, and ask, can someone in prison discover who they truly are? Maybe not among the din of distraction that has to be dealt with, but definitely in a yoga class where spirituality is discovered by connecting the mind, the heart, and the body. I walked away from this workshop understanding that I can be an incarcerated individual at any time in this country, and so can everyone else that attended, Fox included. If a yoga practice is right for you outside of prison, then it is also right for those inside prison, and even more so. Do not lose heart…