Hacking Yoga: Can Yoga help me lose weight?

This is a great question and the answer is: yes it can! (surprised?)

Yoga can affect your weight in a number of ways:

  1. Yoga increases your metabolism
  2. Use yoga to prevent injury from other exercises
  3. Learning to calm the mind with yoga allows you to recognize unhealthy eating patterns

Also keep in mind that weight loss is not the best measure for health. As you start working out you will build muscle which weighs more than fat and you may see some weight gain. Do not be discouraged. Think about how you feel. Are you stronger and more comfortable during the day? How about your energy levels? Consider that Western Science may not have all the answers.

If weight loss is your biggest concern exercise will only get you so far. The biggest factor here will be your diet. Focus on eating more vegetables and fruits while reducing overall consumption especially of Corn Syrup.

What do you think? Has Yoga helped you lose weight? What have I missed?

My First Capoeira Class

In preparation for Project Runaway I am focusing on expanding my cultural influences. One possible destination is Brazil because of its party culture and surfing spots. I figure that exposing myself to some Brazilian culture will only help with things like speaking Portugese and even finding work. Then on two seperate occasions the term Capoeira resurfaces and its a sign that I have to follow.

I put it out to the Twitterverse that I was looking for a Capoeira spot in the AZ area and got a response from Philippos Savvides (@savvides) to come and check out their Grupo Capoeira Brasil in Tempe, AZ. Its always cool to see more and more people using Twitter to connect and make things happen! Naturally I had to take him up on his offer and check out their next available class.

Capoeira is an “Afro-Brazilian art form that combines elements of martial arts, games, music, and dance.” (Wikipedia) It was developed by slaves as a way of practicing their martial arts while disquising them as a dance, fooling their owners into thinking they were just partying. It was outlawed in Brazil for much of the 19th century, but was later recognized as having cultural value and has now become a popular sport with expansion all over the globe.

Practitioners of Capoeira form a circle with some playing instruments, some singing, and pairs sparring in the middle with fluid/acrobatic movements. In the class that I attended the focus was on the musical instruments and singing. Apparently this is very different from ‘normal’ Capoeira class where the sparring aspect is the focus. However in order to progress in the sport one must learn to play all instruments and sing solo during others sparring time so this may have been the best way to introduce myself to the sport.

As we started I was welcomed warmly by everyone in the class on an individual level. I was not called out at any point to explain who I was or anything like that, which I appreciated cause I was nervous as a diabetic on too much caffine. One very large guy named Reggie was super cool and helped me get accustomed to the tambourine(pandeiros) and the method of playing it in the circle. I am certain that this was the first time I handled a tambourine since elementary school and pretty sure I butchered it, but I had a blast and thats all the matters right?

After a bit of the tambourine I was handed the most intimidating musical device I have ever seen: the berimbaus. This thing looks like a bow with a bowl attached to the bottom. You play it by holding the bow(Verga) with one hand; which with your pinky finger you are keeping the bowl(Cabaça) from falling off, then using the two middle fingers you hold the bow, and the thumb and index hold a rock or coin(Pedra or Dobrão) which is applied to the wire string(Arame) for certain notes. The other hand holds a basket with beads(Caxixí) in the palm while the thumb and forefinger hold a small stick(Baqueta) used to hit the Arame and make notes.

With all of that in hand you then have a few ways to create music, or in my case noise. The Cabaça is open at one end, so holding it against your chest makes a difference to holding it away. Applying the Pedra or Dobrão to the Arame also makes a difference. Take these combinations and then throw in a modulating rythmn and I was pretty well lost with this one. Just holding the Verga and keeping the Cabaça up with my pinky was causing smoke to come out of my ears. Thankfully everyone was cool about my noobness and we jammed on.

Then the singing started and it was really awesome. I tried to join in a bit but found it difficult to keep pace with the instrument at the same time so I kept my mouth shut for a rare occasion. I have no idea what was being sung but it was beautiful and I forgot about everything else: where, when, who, how, why, and what for… At one point it struck me that I was still in AZ but it didn’t feel that way at all.

After a bit of playing the instruments we broke off into smaller groups to learn some of the songs. Keep in mind everything is in Portugese and I have enough trouble with English. Nonetheless I managed to learn a few lines and was able to contribute in my own little way. We formed a circle up with the entire group again and each smaller group went around teaching each other their song. Good stuff.

The next phase of class was sparring and for my first live experience of a Capoeira spar I definitely stayed in the circle and watched. There were some serious moves getting thrown around and on a few occasions some contact was about to make it a bloody afternoon. My cautious self won out and kept me sidelined as this went on. I really wanted to jump in but knew it would probably end with at least one black eye.

My concept of time completely disappeared during this class so I cannot say how much time was spent on each section, what I can tell you is that 2 hours were over and gone before I knew what happened. Professor Trovão runs a great studio and I recommend that everyone go and give it a try. I will be back for the Thursday beginner class for sure.

Overcast, cool and fast – Early Morning South Mountain Hike

The fourth early morning south mountain hike is completed and the dog is panting like a choo-choo train. Hit the trail at 4:54am and got back to the car in an hour after completing the Ridge Line Trail.

A nice layer of clouds blocked out the sunrise and kept things cool this morning.

Chance was his ever eager self and literally pulled us up the hill, and then back down it. We figured out how to give him water from our camelback’s which speeds things up nicely.

When are you going to join us?

Why Yoga? Thoughts on my practice.

I first started practicing yoga in 2003 shortly after starting a job at Godaddy. It was my first experience in a call center and in a cubicle, two things I had avowed I would never allow myself to work in. Oddly I really enjoyed most of the work. It was dealing with websites which I had been fascinated with since first getting to University in 1995 and the action was non stop so there was no idle time. The days went by quickly and my income was increasing.

However despite my career progress I was still hitting a wall in feeling fulfilled. I was finding it difficult to stay in shape by just drinking beer and eating pizza. I took up running, and gyms, and jumped from diet to diet in an attempt to feel better and find happiness. Two problems arose from this: 1) my right knee was developing sharp and lasting pain, and 2) I found that dieting is not a permanent solution.

Yoga had been something that I had considered since school in Boulder but I had never taken the plunge and gone to a studio. It was mostly due to fear of the unknown; along with a multitude of irrational fears I was worried I would be laughed out of the studio because I couldn’t touch my toes.

I started by getting some books and videos from the library and doing some research online. These were very helpful and I began to lose some of my fear and insecurity. I also found that just doing some of the basic exercises was a really good workout. I didn’t have to do crazy bendy poses to get the heart rate up and a sweat going. I also learned about breath techniques and meditation. I began to experience more than just a physical euphoria and noticed that my mind was calming down a lot.

After a few weeks I finally worked up the courage and went to a studio class. The teacher was happy to have me there and assured me I would survive. I had to back out a few times and take child’s pose as things got really intense but in the end I had received quite the work out and my knee wasn’t in pain. I signed up for the unlimited package and started practicing 4 to 5 days a week. I was hooked.

A lot has happened to me in those 6 years. I have been to a lot of studios, some good, some bad. What I have discovered is that Yoga is an amazing way to get and stay in shape, but it is also a way to quiet the mind. When I practice I focus on three things: 1) the pose I am in, 2) my inhale, and 3) my exhale. For 60 to 90 minutes that is all I am focused on and when I am done and the rest of my world slowly creeps back in I am ready for it.

This is why I practice Yoga and why I want to teach it. Let me know what you think.

Wake Up Calls, Sky on Fire, and rediculous Xmas Lights

Had a nice wake up call this week with my cholesterol test results. They are a bit high which I partially attribute to the orgy of fat I are over the Thanksgiving weekend. Nonetheless it is a serious issue and one I am not taking lightly. So I am going to get back into the serious cycling I was doing last spring.

First thing is that I needed a new training program. I want something simple but tough and most critically FREE. Its crazy how many people are trying to sell training programs online. Guess what? I aint buying your program. If I am going to pay you it will be to coach me, and I aint hiring you as a coach till I see your training program. So I found Jesper Therkildsen who writes Training4Cyclists.com and he has this 12 hour a week Training program which is just what the doctor ordered (man I crack myself up).

Yes a 3 hour ride is a long ride, but the better way to look at it is that you will get to see lots of country side. Now leaving the house at 5pm Dec 4th might seem suicidal but I have the fortune of living in Phoenix AZ and its in the 60’s here now. So besides rush hour traffic and a little darkness it is perfect riding conditions.

Then the sunset happened:

nov and dec 2008 207

nov and dec 2008 209

nov and dec 2008 212

Then I got to Ahwatukee and entered Never Never Land:

After Ahwatukee I was heading home on Ray but realized I wasn’t going to hit my 3 hour mark so I doubled back to Kyrene and up to Guadalupe to get home in 3 hours and 47 miles covered:

Here is the route.

Two new blogs that I am now reading

I need to do a post on all the various blogs and websites that I read so that you know where I am coming from. Anyway I wanted to mention two new ones that I am subscribed to now:

Tim Saffles and I have been buds for a few years now. It all started at that strange event known as Retention where we worked for Bob Parsons at Godaddy.com. Our dark and sarcastic humor pretty much clashed right away and it was all over but the arguing after that. He is a really good writer and gets his thoughts out like I wish I could:

So I have a dilemma: I want to purchase a place of my own, I feel that there will be no better time that in the next year or so, but I don’t think it will be a worthwhile investment of capital or time. I’m torn between sentimentality and responsibility. : TimothySaffles.com

Renting vs. Buying: Housing Dilemma

The second one is from Biray Alsac who I just learned of today via her teaching a blog workshop at the Chandler Library on March 26th at 6:30pm called Stop, Blog, and Roll. She is a fitness guru and really into the Internets. She is also a very good writer and I look forward to reading more from her:

Despite being a bit of a techno-geek, I’m still a health educator and fitness professional first. I admit, I spend countless hours on the web exploring online tools and reading up on new technology. But I see my efforts as directly helping me better understand this gadget-driven, internet-savvy culture. I’m striving to become more effective […] : Be Fit With Biray

Everyone Could Use Some Spare Change

North Chandler Bike Ride

This whole having a week off stuff is really nice. My body still awakens 5 minutes before my alarm goes off at 4am each day but I am unhurried now. This allows me to sit and write for a few hours after breakfast. Have a nice shave and go for a morning ride through my hood.

Today marks the second day of riding through Chandler on my bike. Yes I have lived here for over a year now but have not taken anytime to explore the area. The biggest reason for this delay is my fear of riding on the roads in Chandler because of the high proportion of drivers who are not paying attention. This is of course a silly notion because there is a high proportion of drivers not paying attention just about everywhere there are cars. So the rule is to pay attention, and then pay more attention!

Choosing a route is critical to creating an enjoyable ride. Having to constantly think about what route is best is tiring and prevents you from being able to pay attention to those inattentive drivers. There are a number of bike lanes in Chandler but I cannot find and resource that tells me exactly where they are. I winged it and came out pretty lucky. Have a look here to see my North Chandler Bike Route, just over 10 miles in about 50 minutes.