Most Beneficial Yoga Postures

Many times as yoga teachers we are asked which are the most beneficial yoga postures – which postures will give you the most benefits? While no yoga postures should be treated as prescriptions (they should all be incorporated into a more complete yoga practice), these 6 postures, plus sun salutations, are considered to give the most benefits. Please remember that you benefit from all yoga postures, at the level at which you are. Enjoy!

This video is guided by Sita, and was recorded at Yoga Vidya ashram in Bad Meinberg, Germany, where she worked as staff for 1.5 years.

 

Give Love

One of the most pervasive and difficult to grasp concepts in yoga is Prem, or universal, divine love.

Pervasive because every single great Saint and yogi says that in the true reality all there is, is love. Love is Truth. Love is the essence of everything.

Difficult to grasp because the Love they are talking about is not the kind of “love” that most people experience on a daily basis. Most normal relationships that would be described as loving involve attachments and are influenced by our own emotional and mental issues and attitudes. They come with a fear of loss and lots of desires to fulfill your own needs through someone else. The closest we usually come to Prem in our daily lives is the unbounded all-consuming and all-giving love of a good mother for her newborn child, and even this might be said to include attachment for the one baby that is hers. Because we can’t get away from our minds, it’s difficult to grasp the kind of love that doesn’t involve the judgments of our minds.

hearts

Prem, divine love, has no attachments or requirements. It is unbounded joy and giving. It is Bliss that bubbles up from your core. It includes everyone and everything – even people that don’t look or think like you, that come from somewhere or sometime else so you can’t understand why they think that way. It includes all animals, plants, rocks, rivers, everything. Because it taps into the essence of all these things.

Only by experiencing divine Prem can one be said to truly be working in the spirit of karma yoga or selfless service.

Recently I have been taking an Ayurveda course to learn more about the medical branch that supports yoga. Ayurveda is a natural healing method, which believes that food is medicine, and it affects your mind and your body. So the important thing is to eat foods that are good for you according to your body type and the seasons, so that you can live a long and healthy life, and have more time to practice yoga.

Eating proper food and living a spiritual life will help your mind have the clarity to understand (digest) relationships and concepts that are difficult, and to see them in their True light.

The course is written by Dr. David Frawley, an Ayurveda expert, among other things. I found this quote in his course that is particularly poignant talking about Prem and what you have to do if you really want to feel love:

Love is the only emotion that can really be digested. The others we must learn to deflect with the detachment of our awareness. Love, it should be noted, has many forms as compassion, devotion, joy, etc. It is our failure to love, to be loving, which is the source of all emotional disturbances. The desire to be loved, on the other hand, is a failure to give love. Our real emotional nourishment comes from within as the power of love. We cannot simply pick it up form the outside like we can good food, though as children, when our inner connections are not entirely formed, we require love from outside to sustain us. ~Dr. Frawley

So give love. All the time. It will come back to you.

Rx Insanity

I haven’t posted in awhile, it’s been busy around here all through this long hot summer. Today I wanted to share this experience with you because it seems insane to me and I don’t understand why things have to be this way.

I take a prescription medication for an underactive thyroid. I have to take it every day for the rest of my life.

Over the past year I have been filling this prescription through a pharmacy in Canada because they let me have 100 pills for $34 dollars and they send the prescription to me through the mail. I can order 200 hundred pills at once.

That’s .34 cents per pill.

Today I decided to fill the prescription at the local pharmacy because it is so hot outside I think it may affect the the integrity of the dosage to have it mailed and sitting around in postal trucks and mailboxes. Thyroid medication has to be precise or you get really sick so this is an important consideration when the temperature in the sun is over 120 degrees.

At the pharmacy they informed me that if I use my insurance they can only let me have 30 pills at a time, and that these 30 pills will cost $22.17. So I can go down there every month to refill the prescription, and altogether using this system 100 pills will cost me $73.87.

This is approximately .74 cents per pill.

It’s also a major pain for me to have to do this over and over for no good reason.

When I informed them that I wished to have 100 pills like the doctor wrote on the prescription and not use my insurance, they charged me $127.67.

This is the same rate somebody who didn’t have insurance at all would pay. It’s $53.80 more than somebody who has insurance will pay, and $93.67 more than I can get them for by ordering them from Canada.

It’s $1.28 per pill.

Keep in mind that the US first sells these same pills to Canada at a profit before Canada sells them back to me at the .34 cents per pill price. It’s the exact same stock bottle with the American label on the bottle.

This is insurance in America and it sucks. There is no possible way that health is a more important consideration than profit.

What NOT To Eat if you’re a yogi

Recently my daughter discovered a truly unique website. Called This is why you’re fat, the website is nothing but picture after picture of unbelievably gluttonous, and mostly meat and cheese concoctions, some of which are (I have to admit) hilarious. Too horrible to look away, I found myself laughing out loud more than once.

Here are a few pictures of some of the ones I feel compelled to share:

The Bacon Mug –
A giant mug made out of bacon filled with cheddar cheese.

Bacon Wrapped French Toast Sticks Stonehenge

Inside-Out Spaghetti & Meatballs –
A giant meatball stuffed with spaghetti, marinara sauce and ricotta cheese.

Meat (in) loaf

The Meat-Up –
Ground Beef, topped with 2 pepperoni logs, stuffed with Cheez Whiz,
topped with a layer of bacon, topped with a layer of mozzarella cheese slices,
topped with more bacon, topped with meatballs,
and served with brown gravy.

The 30,000 Calorie Sandwich –
Sandwich filled with ground beef, bacon, corn dogs,
ham, pastrami, roast beef, bratwurst, braunschweiger and turkey,
topped with fried mushrooms, onion rings, swiss/provolone/cheddar/feta/parmesan cheeses,
lettuce and butter on a loaf of white bread.

The Widowmaker –
1.5 lbs of ground beef, 1 package of bacon, 1 package of italian sausage,
1 box of hot pockets, 1/2 package of fried onion strips between 2 Tombstone Pepperoni Pizzas
topped with Velveta Cheese and Marinara Sauce.

Pork Brains in Milk Gravy (didn’t know this was possible)

Sugar Addiction

On October 12 I stopped eating all refined sugar and flour. I went cold turkey, which for me is usually pretty easy. I just set my mind and say ‘from this day forward’… and then I do it. But I was not prepared for how difficult this would be.

What precipitated my decision was the evening of October 11 I ate 4 cookes while reading a book. Within 5 minutes and while sitting up I took a mini-nap and woke up 10 or 15 minutes later feeling totally wired. Like almost a buzzing sensation. Besides that I noticed for awhile I could easily take 10 naps a day. If I sat down, or laid down to watch TV, I could take a power nap no problem. At least I thought they were power naps. Also for many years I thought I was hypo-glycemic. If I got hungry I would soon feel sweaty and shaky and feel my blood sugar plummet until I ate something.

Anyway, it seemed to me falling asleep immediately after eating sugar was not normal. My internet searches confirmed this, in fact many people with diabetes have this problem. Like mini-diabetic comas.

inside a sugar processing plant in Lousiana

So I made the goal to quit sugar and refined flour for a week and see what happened. But then I began having some pretty major sugar withdrawal symptoms – nausea, night sweats, tiredness, tingling hands, flu-ish symptoms, and worst of all really bad sugar cravings. This all lasted about 2 weeks, with the sugar cravings lasting another 2 or so weeks after that. Also I noticed these last couple weeks some mood swings as my body rid itself of the sugar and got back to normal. I know for sure I have lost some weight, which was definitely not one of my goals.

The withdrawal symptoms were so apparent I decided to keep going with the new diet plan for much longer than a week.

Since I began this I read someplace on the internet that sugar should be considered a drug. It is manufactured, you get addicted to it, when you try to quit you have withdrawal symptoms, and it takes more and more of it to feel the sugar buzz. Eventually it can kill you if you develop diabetes and leave it untreated. They say the withdrawal symptoms are exactly the same as someone withdrawing from a drug addiction, although to a much less degree.

One of the more difficult aspects was figuring out what to eat. I used to eat a lot of granola bars (candy bars in disguise), and even things like sweetened yogurt are loaded with sugar. Then there’s chocolate milk, sweetened soy milk, and ice cream – all of these have a ton of sugar. So besides all the withdrawal symptoms you have to retrain your food choices. This also is pretty tough.

Now that I’m through the whole process there are many benefits. When I’m hungry I’m just hungry. I can be hungry for quite awhile and I have no hypoglycemic effects. My energy level stays constant throughout the day. I don’t need naps anymore. I awake feeling more refreshed. Normal food has a lot more flavor and sweetness all to itself – did you know lettuce is sweet? I think way back somebody knew this which is why the French (and probably other countries) eat their salads at the end of the meal.

Anyway, this was a really tough journey. So much harder than I thought it would be. But I feel so much better now I am going to continue to limit my sugar and refined flour intake.

Health Care

Recently I discovered Roger Ebert’s blog. I think most people know who he is, but in case you don’t, he used to have a TV show where he and his partner Siskel rated movies. Roger Ebert got cancer and got to where he couldn’t talk. Now he types. His blog is really good.

On August 20 he wrote a piece about the health care debate that pretty much sums up what I think. He called it “I’m Safe on Board. Pull up the Life Rope” . I like how he fights back against the christians who like to hide behind their religion while proclaiming their morality. You know, the ones who don’t walk their talk.

Anyway, I’m copying the text here in it’s entirety. You can click the links above to find his original entry.

——————————————————

I’m Safe on Board. Pull up the Life Rope – by Roger Ebert

Having read through some 600 comments about universal health care, I now realize I took the wrong approach in my previous blog entry. I discussed the Obama health plan in political, literal, logical terms. Most of my readers replied in the same vein. The comments, as always, have been helpful, informative and for the most part civil. My mistake was writing from the pragmatic side. I should have followed my heart and gone with a more emotional approach. I believe universal health care is, quite simply, right.

It is a moral imperative. I cannot enjoy health coverage and turn to my neighbor and tell him he doesn’t deserve it. A nation is a mutual undertaking. In a democracy, we set out together to do what we believe is good for the commonwealth. That means voluntarily subjecting ourselves to the rule of law, taxation, military service, the guaranteeing of rights to minorities, and so on. That is a cheap price to pay.

As I’ve read through of those comments (and I’ve posted all but two I received), one thing jumped from the page at me: The unusually high number of comments from other countries. Canadians were particularly well-represented. Although we’re assured by opponents of the Obama legislation that Canada’s system of universal care is a failure, all of these Canadians, without exception, reported their enthusiasm for their nation’s system. One reader said her mother choose to fly to California to get a knee replacement more quickly, but even she praised the Canadian system.

They said reports of waiting times may be true with semi-elective surgeries, like hip or knee replacement, especially in more populous areas. But they’re able to see a physician with a minimal wait in cases of need. They are treated quickly and competently, at very little cost other than personal expenses and the graduated scale of quarterly premium payments. Similar messages came from the UK, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Holland, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, South Korea, Japan, Greece and Germany. Everyone is pleased.

But that, too, is an argument to reason. What so many of these messages also made was an argument to morality. They were astonished that the United State is alone among all developed nations in refusing such coverage to its citizens. A Canadian wrote that it benefits his entire society that its citizens have access to universal care. By making preventative medicine freely available, it lowers the cost of chronic illness. By making early diagnosis possible, it prevents many diseases from reaching a fatal stage. By making mental health care and medication available to those who need it (and who are often unemployable), it avoids the American system where many such people are abandoned to the streets or to the care of their overtaxed families.

Many of my readers opposed the Obama plan, some of them in great detail. I will not try to simplify their arguments; you can read them for yourself. But here, in broad outline, are some of their most common statements, and my responses:

It is “socialized medicine.” Yes, it is. The entire society shares the cost. It does not replace private medicine. Just as in the UK and Canada, for example, we would remain free to choose our own insurance policies and private physicians. But it is the safety net for everyone.

It is “socialism.” Again, yes. The word socialism, however, has lost its usefulness in this debate. It has been tainted, perhaps forever, by the malevolent Sen. Joseph McCarthy, who succeeded somehow in linking it with the godless Commies. America is the only nation in the free world in which “socialism” is generally thought of in negative terms. The only nation in which that word, in and of itself, is thought to bring the discussion to a close.

It is wrong for ideological or philosophical reasons. Readers have written about their belief in Federalism, Free Market Capitalism, strict Constitutionalism, personal liberty, Libertarianism, and so on. To one of these readers I wrote something like: “Do you think your views on federalism will be of much interest to unemployed wage-earners unable to obtain coverage for their families?” To another, I wrote: “I hope your philosophy will be of comfort if you develop a serious illness.”

One reader said that the only things the Constitution guarantees us are “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” and Congress should enact no laws about anything else. Actually, it’s the Declaration of independence that mentions “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” but never mind. Some might believe universal health care would be of great assistance in enjoying life and the pursuit of happiness. It is a peculiarity that some of those happiest to cite the Constitution are the least interested in its Bill of Rights.

Good health is a responsibility of the individual, not the state. One reader wrote that he doesn’t smoke, drinks in moderation, watches his diet, and exercises regularly. I applaud him. Statistically, this promises him an extended life span. I have never smoked, haven’t had a drink in 30 years, and walked an average of 10,000 steps a day for the five years before I underwent my first cancer surgery. A doctor once told me: “If you never get any other disease, sooner or later you will die of cancer.”

My reader says he neither has nor desires insurance coverage. He will bank his premiums in a savings account dedicated to his own health care, instead of spending them on the care of anyone else. He must have no idea what it costs to have a serious illness in this country. It will take a lot of savings. I’ve been assured by some readers, however, that I’m a rich man and have no financial worries.

A guy gets run over by a bus.

Another guy runs over and says, “Oh my God! Are you comfortable?”

First guy: “I make a living.”

True enough, I’ve earned some nice money in my life–all by paycheck, which is no way to get really rich. Also, I had group health insurance plans through my unions at both jobs. They were good plans. But during the course four major surgeries–no, make that five–I maxed out one, and so much for that policy. I’m approaching the cap on the second. Most policies aren’t unlimited, you know. Luckily, I now qualify for Medicare.

Federal Death panels would decide who lives or dies. This, very frankly, is a lie. The nearest thing we have to a death panel in the United States is an insurance company claims adjuster. Some readers wrote that they or their loved ones were denied tests or treatment by their insurance companies, especially in the case of “pre-existing conditions.” One, who had a brain tumor, says he was denied coverage of the treatment by an adjuster, as if he’d known about the tumor at the time he took out his policy some time earlier. Think about this. Unless we die violently or in an accident, we all die of a pre-existing condition. The condition is called “life.”

The Obama plan, in simplified terms, would make Medicare available to everyone. Yes, even the senior citizen at that Arizona town hall meeting who screamed at his congressman: “Keep the government’s hands off my Medicare!” He didn’t know Medicare is a federal program, and he didn’t want to know.

When I wrote my original entry, I thought there were 40 million uninsured Americans. I’m informed the number is around 47 million. Some readers have informed me: “That number is inflated!” What would be an acceptable number? Thirty million? Twenty million? How many uninsured Americans are you comfortable with?

It seems to me that universal health care is a win-win proposition. It provides an umbrella of protection for those who cannot afford or qualify for health insurance. This helps us all. Every time you learn from the news about our latest jobless statistics, consider this: A newly jobless person who was insured through an employee health plan is about to become a newly uninsured person. It’s for our mutual good that we live in a healthier society. To provide universal coverage is the moral thing to do.

I was informed that my entry was “typical liberalism.” This is correct. I am a liberal. If you are a conservative, this appears to be a difference between us: I think you should have guaranteed health insurance.

Matthew 25: 31-46

31 When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.

32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats,

33 and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left.

34 Then the King will say to those at his right hand, “Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world;

35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,

36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.”

37 Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink?

38 And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee?

39 And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?”

40 And the King will answer them, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.”

41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels;

42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,

43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.”

44 Then they also will answer, “Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?”

45 Then he will answer them, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.”

46 And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.

The Cove

One of my favorite TV shows when I was little was Flipper. It was about a wild dolphin who befriended this family and did amazing dolphin stunts for them while enforcing the law, rescuing people at sea and taking care of Sandy and Bud, the two main characters in the show.

flipper

Here’s Flipper, actually Flipper was played by 5 different dolphins,
most of the time by a dolphin named Cathy

sandy and bud

Sandy and Bud

ric

Ric O’Barry, the trainer who personally caught all the dolphins in the show

the house

The TV-show house which in real life was Ric O’Barry’s house located at Miami Seaquarium

I liked the show so much I wanted to be a marine biologist for awhile. So many people liked the show so much that it started the whole industry of Seaworld and all the other sea aquariums where dolphins and whales put on shows for the public.

dolphins-bottlenose

The show ran for 3 years and during this time Ric O’Barry got really rich. He was considered the top dolphin trainer in the world.

He said about the show:

I captured the five dolphins that collectively played the part of Flipper. I trained all of them, from the very beginning of the first show to the last show. I lived with all five of them in the Seaquarium. And on Friday nights, at 7:30, I would take the TV set, with a long extension cord, out to the end of the dock, so Flipper could watch Flipper on television. And that’s when I knew they were self-aware. I could tell when the dolphins recognized themselves and each other. Cathy, for example, would recognize the shots she was in, Suzy would recognize her shots, and so on. Dolphins are hard to read, because you have to look at body language. Almost all other animals you can read by looking at their faces. But dolphins have this built-in “smile” that makes it look like they’re always happy.

The truth was, and still is, that dolphins in captivity are miserable. They spike their fish with Tagamet and Maalox to help relieve the pain of their ulcers from the stressful conditions they live under.

Anyway, the turning point for Ric O’Barry came when his favorite “Flipper” dolphin Cathy died. He explains this in the movie The Cove, and here is an excerpt from an interview in New York Entertainment where he explains how.

How did your ideas about captivity turn around?
Cathy died in my arms, of suicide. It was just before Earth Day, 1970. The next day, I found myself in a Bimini jail, trying to free a dolphin for the first time. I completely lost it.

How do you know it was suicide?
You have to understand, dolphins are not automatic air breathers like we are. Every breath for them is a conscious effort. She looked me right in the eye, took a breath, held it — and she didn’t take another one. She just sank to the bottom of the water. That had a profound effect on me.

And now, for the last 30 years, O’Barry has been trying to undo what he basically started. He goes around the world trying to free as many dolphins as he can in as many places as he can and tries to bring as much awareness as possible to the horrors that lie behind these businesses.

thecove3

Photo from The Cove, produced by the Oceanic Preservation Society

The movie The Cove talks about all of this in general, but focuses mostly on the Japanese city of Taiji, where dolphins are rounded up between September and March in huge numbers.

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In these fishing boats they round up the dolphins by putting long metal pipes into the water and banging on the pipes with hammers – because dolphins are hyper-sensitive to sound, and because it is their primary sense, it is easy to herd them in the direction they want

the_cove8f58fa24-7b62-46cb-b588-7c0996be7f32

No doubt they want to keep everyone away from the area

The first day the dolphins are caught they are sold to sea aquariums. Trainers and buyers come from all over the world to select the animals they want, usually young females, and pay $150,000 apiece for them.

The Cove in Taiji, Japan tucked away in a National Park and is a

On the second day, the dolphins who are not sold are rounded up into this cove

covepic

Under the cover of darkness they begin to kill EVERY SINGLE DOLPHIN

dolphin_slaughter_250270a

It’s sick and disgusting. Seriously, what is wrong with humans? To get these photos the team of people working on the movie had to cross over rows of razor wire using night vision goggles and hide cameras in fake rocks so as not to be discovered. Literally they made this movie at risk to their lives.

They kill 23,000 dolphins every year in Taiji, Japan.

After this, the nightmare continues as the dolphin meat is unknowingly sold to the Japanese as whale meat. The allowable level for mercury in fish is .4 parts per million. Dolphin meat from Taiji has a 2000 ppm contamination level of mercury. One of their government plans to get rid of the meat was to give the food to their school children as part of their compulsory school lunch program. In interviews the Japanese public were unaware all this was going on.

csi06305

Toward the end of the movie O’Barry walked into an International Whaling Commission meeting with a TV strapped to his chest playing a loop of the carnage that goes on in Taiji. A really brave way to stage a peaceful protest.

Anyway, this movie deserves support and the word needs to get out about this. To find out more about what you can do go to takepart.com/thecove .

ric-flipperofbrazil

Ric O’Barry today, who said if he had really been aware of what was going on at the time during the TV show Flipper and where it was all headed, he would have not looked away but would have, and should have, set all the dolphins free