5 Non-Yoga Video Channels that Are Great Resources for Yoga Teachers

As I’ve been expanding my pranayama (yogic breathing exercises) practice, I’ve found myself searching beyond traditional yogic sources of information at times. It turns out that there are several disciplines from which valuable tidbits of information about breath can be gleaned, including: martial arts, freediving, and physiology.

As I was on a freediving site (shown below, #5) learning some lung capacity expanding exercises, it occurred to me that it might be beneficial to do a post of some of the sources of information that I’ve found useful that wouldn’t necessarily be stumbled upon by those looking for information on yoga.

5.) Adam Freediver: This enthusiastic and whimsical Aussie freediving champion offers fascinating tips on respiration — many of which are of use out of the water as well as in.

4.) Physical Therapy Video: Bob and Brad, Physical Therapists, offer advice and exercises that may be helpful for students with hyperkyphosis (excessive back rounding), duck foot (excessive external rotation of legs), or a number of other common postural / bodily challenges.

3.) SOLPM (The Science of Learning Power Move): This site offers progressions and capacity building exercises that will help one with challenging exercises, e.g. handstands, that most people can’t do without a gradual building up. As with the Adam Freediver channel, not all of the videos are relevant, but a number of them are.

2.) Crash Course:: This witty educational channel presents excellent graphics and a light-hearted and watchable commentary by Hank Green (one of the Vlog Brothers.) The Anatomy and Physiology Series is particularly relevant, but there are select videos in other series — such as Mythology — that one may find illuminating.

1.) TED Talks: Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re probably familiar with TED, but you may not be aware of the breadth of topics they’ve covered, including meditation, biomechanics, yogic philosophy, breathing, and more.

Honorable Mentions:
Calisthenic Movement: Like SOLPM, this channel can help build up some of the challenging maneuvers, such as handstands, but you may also find out something useful about more rudimentary exercises, such as planks.

ASAP Science: This science channel that uses line-drawn graphics has some interesting and informative videos on topics such as meditation, hypnosis, and nutrition.

5 Considerations for Sun Salutations





Sun Salutations (i.e. Surya Namaskara) are a sequence of poses (asana) popular in Hatha Yoga for warming up both the joints and the core — among other reasons. There are a number of variations on this practice. The version I demonstrate in the video is common, and is often associated with Swami Sivananda. Below are a few points for consideration.



5.) Don’t forget the quad when in the Lunge (Ashwa Sanchalanasana): While stepping back and forward into the lunge position (ashwa sanchalanasana), sink the thigh of the backward extended leg down to get a stretch in the hip flexors and quad. This is commonly glossed over, missing a good opportunity. Secondary note: look forward in the lunge or at least not back and down between the legs (the latter suggesting excessive rounding of back.)



4.) Lift up into Plank (Utthita Chataranga Dandasana): If you have a valley between your shoulder blades, engage the serratus anterior, lift the torso up away from the floor, and turn that valley into a small, gentle-sloping hill. In other words, try to get the shoulder blades to come further apart.



3.) Place the ankle under the knee in the return Lunge (Ashwa Sanchalanasana): This is a challenge for many students depending upon a range of factors from flexibility to thigh girth to waist girth. It’s better to put the back knee down and use your hand to pull the lower leg into place than to try to stand up with the knee considerably forward of the toes. The latter puts a lot of load on connective tissues rather than transferring it down the length of the shin into the foot and floor.



2.) Keep hips up in “Knees-Chest-Chin-Down” (Ashtanga Namaskara), if you can safely do so: This is another challenging one for many students, particularly given the common nature of thoracic hyperkyphosis (i.e. excessively rounded upper back.) If one does have hyperkyphosis, one doesn’t want to force the matter. However, this does counteract that forward rounding tendency by stretching tight muscles out.



1.) Keep shoulders down and away from ears in Cobra pose (Bhujangasana): Unlike the previous common errors, this one seems to come down to lack of awareness or effort as much as it does to physical limitations. Of course, thoracic hyperkyphosis can also make Cobra challenging because the spine wants to bend the other way. I see students who have trouble keeping their navel on the ground and their arms bent because they have an almost “S” curve in their backs.

Thailand Can NOT Catch a Break: Monk Pimp-Slaps an Expat

No, you didn’t read that sub-title wrong. A Buddhist monk delivered a series of slaps to a farang. It’s not clear whether the slaps were issued because the victim was a grown man wearing capri pants. But seriously though, it’s pretty well established that the slappings were delivered as the result of a communication mishap in which the monk heard one offensive word, but the victim says he said another (non-offensive) word–apparently corroborated by nearby witnesses. The story is here.

 

This is a minor incident, except that… well, it was  Buddhist monk. When men of peace get all slappy people start to wonder if there isn’t some greater underlying anti-farang sentiment. I mean, a monk is the last person you expect to slap the snot out of a person who’s just sitting there, and–if they are the last–that means that all the other Thais have been slapping around foreigners already. For the record I only got pummeled about the head and neck in the Muaythai gym, so it was in context.

 

There’s good reason why Thailand is one of the most beloved tourist destinations in the world. The people are awesome. The food is delectable. It’s easy to get around to see the country’s many impressive sights and serene beaches. It’s laid-back, and, unlike some tourist destinations, it’s a country that’s eager to have you whether you’re a poor backpacker or a wealthy industrialist.

 

However, lately Thailand cannot catch a break on the tourism front. First, the country is under martial law. I can say from experience that there isn’t much evidence of change if you’re a traveler. However, it probably still keeps some people out. Some governments even issued warnings to citizens out of fear that violence might erupt if citizens tire of the situation. “Martial law” doesn’t exactly scream safe travel destination.

 

Then in September (around the time I was last in Thailand) a couple was brutally murdered with a hoe on Koh Tao. This might have been even worse for the tourist trade than the martial law. For one thing, it got a lot of press because the couple was really, really nice looking, making it easy to plaster their faces across every media outlet in the world. For another thing, they were killed with a hoe. Who kills someone with a hoe, really? The only way it could have been worse was if it was murder by Garden Weasel (as seen on TV.) (I’m not saying that if it had been an ugly couple that got shot or stabbed with a knife, that the effect on tourism would have been minimal, but…)

 

As it was, it resulted in the need to put out a new tourism video entitle “I hate Thailand”, that oddly makes Western tourists seems like even bigger pricks than they (we) really are in an effort to attract tourism.

All that said, you should go to Thailand.

Robot Karateka Threat Underwhelming

Worried that Terminator-like robots may kick humanity out its pole position among sentient beings? You can sleep well tonight. A news report today suggests that the Karate Kid’s kicking dominance is not yet under threat by Robo-karateka.  In other words, Ralph Macchio can still out kick the state of the art karate robot. The Cobra Kai’s plans to achieve world dominance via a fleet of Karate androids have been thwarted for the time being.

 

The Force of Nature

This video begins on the peaceful banks of a river in a nondescript Japanese town. The first minutes of footage is unremarkable except that the water level is quite low, but as it might be in dry season or low tide. Then there is a shrill siren and an urgent warning by loudspeaker–events that will replay periodically throughout the video. Twenty-five minutes later, the camera is fixed on throngs of people trapped on a rooftop across the river. Dawn slinked in and it would be too dark to see these rooftop refugees, but they are silhouetted by the glow of the fires that rage in the background. In the footage in between, one sees houses and ships being carried by the water as if they were a child’s toys washed away by an overturned bucket of water–but brown, debris-laden water that is roiling and churning. Eventually, we see the river reverse its flow.

Someone posted this on Facebook yesterday. I watched all 25 minutes of it. Who watches 25 minutes of shaky, hand-shot home movie? Not me, normally, but I was compelled by the force of nature. They say that one of the things that differentiates humans from even our closest primate brethren is that humans routinely achieve the identical physiological state emotionally from remembering tragedy as from experiencing it first hand–or sometimes even through being exposed to them remotely.

I thought about this force of nature, at first in the literal sense–a pedestrian bridge swept away and freighters swept up a normally unnavigable river. Then I wrote the first 1,000 words or so on a short story entitled The Ghost Ship Onryō that was inspired by watching the tsunami and remembering the news stories it triggered. The story is quite dark, as matched my mood for much of yesterday. Such is the force of nature, to compel me to change my plans and to morph my emotional state through ripples that continue to expand years after the event.

Will “Man of Steel” Turn the Tide on Superman Movies?

I hold contrary views to the character Bill, played by the late David Carradine, in the Kill Bill movies. Bill said that Superman was his absolute favorite superhero. The Man of Steel is among my least favorite superheroes. From a writer’s point of view, it’s hard to write an edge-of-the-seat Superman tale because readers have to feel the protagonist is in peril at every turn. That’s a tough sell if your hero is all-powerful and invulnerable. Superman writers learned this quickly, and they responded by creating a rock that could weaken or kill their character by its mere presence. In books and movies, the bad guy should be stronger and smarter than the hero. Lex Luthor is a devious fiend, but he’s no match for Superman in any domain but wickedness.

There’s a lot of talk about this year’s Superman movie, entitled Man of Steel, being darker and grittier with the implication that it’ll be more interesting than past Superman movies. The involvement of Christopher Nolan, who is most famous for the outstanding Dark Knight movie trilogy, makes many optimistic. It may be that they can tap into some of the Dark Knight narrative power. However, it’s easier to have gripping Batman tale. Batman is only human, with no superpowers, and he is inherently a loner (or in some cases a dynamic duo.) Batman may be smart, but he’s not the smartest. He may be strong, but he’s not the strongest. This makes it relatively easy to write him into perilous situations in which he is outmatched.

I have high hopes for Man of Steel, but I’m skeptical.

2013: The Year of Post-Post-Apocalyptic Sci-fi

If the sci-fi movies of 2013 reflect a zeitgeist, then we’re shifting from a people who think bad things await the Earth to a people who think we’ll have to abandon the planet altogether. That’s a prevailing theme in the upcoming big box-office movies of the genre. In <em>Oblivion</em>, Tom Cruise plays a drone repairman who at least believes himself to be one of the last people on the planet. In <em>After Earth</em>, Will Smith and his son (in character and real life) return to an Earth devoid of humanity. In <em>Elysium</em>, not everyone has left Earth, but everyone who is anyone has.

There are still a few of the traditional dystopian visions in which some dire fate confronts humanity on Earth. World War Z is a movie adaptation of Max Brooks’ novel that brought the Zombie back to life (admittedly bad pun intended.) It features Brad Pitt battling an ever expanding horde of “fast zombies.” Pacific Rim envisions giant alien monsters coming through a dimensional portal at the bottom of the ocean, and the giant robots humanity creates to battle them. The movie adaptation of Orson Scott Card’s novel Ender’s Game, while largely about the training of the genius Ender Wiggin, also imagines an Earth in peril from an alien threat. Even the new Star Trek movie at least partially abandons frolicking in deep space in favor of confronting an evil genius who threatens Earth.

Oblivion


Star Trek Into Darkness

After Earth


World War Z


Pacific Rim


Elysium


Ender’s Game