Category: Hamstring Focused Practices

Episode 28 – “Sit on That”

Impact vs. Intent. Its an interesting conversation. Does the intention of an individual really make a difference in how wrong their actions are, when those actions have a negative impact on another person? Does it really matter if they didn’t intend anything negative to result from their words, their deed?

Eh, not really.

I mean, yea, there’s a difference for the person at the intention end of the deal.

A person who accidentally pops a champagne cork into a fellow party go-er’s eye is a significantly less shitty person than if they had done so on purpose.

But does the fact that they “didn’t mean to do it” save the victim’s eye? Nope.

I mean seriously, it doesn’t.

We often feel like it does, though. While I was trying to build up the courage (I’ll get to that in a moment) and discipline to actually sit down and write this, I thought doing a little field research might help. It did! I read this really awesome article by Melanie Tannenbaum for Scientific American and you should totally read it because she says some really great broad-perspective stuff on why and how we consider intent when deciding how bad the impact was.

Since Melanie did such a rad job explaining the whole phenomenon, and you can read all about that in her article (and tons of others) I wanna take this in another direction.

I have to admit that I had some difficulty sitting down to write this. I keep finding myself so busy and scatterbrained with all the goings-on of a new “main job” working in a café, juggling subbing classes and trying to keep my own dance and yoga practice alive and well. So yes, there’s finding time to do it, and there’s the general begrudging procrastination of not staying in constant practice upon the page (er, computer keyboard). But this has been hard for another reason.

I started seeing “Impact > Intent” in response to the recent US Presidential election and saw some statements made that really made a lot of sense.

See, I totally support anyone standing behind a candidate that they feel has the best policies. Even standing behind the candidate they feel has better policies than the others even though all the policies aren’t ideal. Hell, I still think you should stand behind the candidate that has even just slightly less-shitty policies than the other shitty candidate policies if that’s your view on what you think should be going on in whatever you’re voting on.

And I totally respect your right to do so. I may not like it – but I can respect it.

Here’s the real problem that I (and many others) have with the President Elect…

Regardless of anything that he is doing or intends in his speeches, rallies, twittering escapades, “locker room talk,” or whatever it may be:

What his is doing is impacting other people.

He’s setting a terrible example for our nation and our children. That example is leading many people to feel like racism, misogyny, xenophobia, and mistreatment of the LBTQ community is on some level acceptable. And all of this is creating feelings of concern, anxiety, and even actualized instances of a loss of safety for minorities, women, LBTQ – in other words, you know, PEOPLE.

Anyways, why has that lead to me having a really hard time sitting to write and share my thoughts on this? Because I know and love a lot of people that voted for Donald Trump.

Like really love these people. They are wonderful human beings. The thought of offending them, saddening them, alienating them, or misrepresenting them with this blog is just gut-wrenching for me.

There’s a part of me that has all of the best intentions of just keeping everything in my world even-keel and serene (in a rather sterile sort of way) by simply remaining silent and avoiding the subject.

But what’s the impact of that?


Nothing happens. Nothing changes. No information gets shared, no communication comes about, no new perspectives are shared. Essentially my cowardice on approaching the subject might as well be my agreement of current circumstances.

Let’s consider this with regards to Satya or “truthfulness.”

It’s hard to balance the necessity of honesty with the desire (and yes also a very worthy goal) to be kind and happy with everyone. Sometimes it’s a delicate thing to have to tell someone that sweater really does look awful, or that they have lipstick on their teeth. But if we do it compassionately, we can step out of our uncomfortable cowardly shield of “I’m just trying to be nice!” and let the truth set us all free.

I once walked by all 45 members of my college’s dance company from the dressing room to the wings of the stage (smiling and talking to almost everyone) before one dancer finally said “Girl I know you’re not about to walk out on stage with that lipstick all about your teeth!” It would have been nice if he had said it with some kindness rather than sneer at me, but I’m still pretty grateful he had saved me further embarrassment.

No one wants to walk on stage with lipstick on their teeth. No one wants to be called a racist, a misogynist, a person who promotes hate (OK some people might but we’re just going to go with the assumption that most people would like to see those things eradicated from our culture – especially people we know and respect). Therefore it is our duty to find a balance of both Ahimsa (non-harm, compassion) and Satya (the truth) and find the courage to engage with each other about these issues.

If my intention is to maintain balance in my relationships, but the impact is that I’m not standing up for what I believe in, not helping to make any changes or share what might eventually be valuable insight… my good intentions mean squat.

We should always try to have the best intentions. Carefully aim every arrow before we pull back and fire. But we need to keep an eye on whether we’re actually hitting our mark. If our arrows are missing the target – perhaps hitting our fellow archers instead – then we need to grab the first aid kit, apologize, and adjust our aim.

I didn’t say it’s easy to have these conversations. It’s not easy on either end (when was the last time you graciously accepted that you had unintentionally done harm? It’s hard, isn’t it?). I suggest taking the time to prepare yourself for these conversations with some meditation. Do something to clear your head.

If you’re into movement to clear the head, maybe check out the video below.

Cheers, friends,



Episode 17 – “Split Impulses”

Have we talked before about how much I love books?  Because I love books.  I love to read.  To wrap up in words, like a sweet blanket of another person’s thoughts and stories.

I got a good one over the past week that’s given some great perspective on training the brain.  It’s called “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell.  I’ve read his stuff before, and even talked about another of his works back in Episode 5 – “Sangha of an Open Heart” (remember all that science behind the power of community?).

Knowing how things work is really interesting to me – especially bodies and brains.  I spend a decent chunk of my life dedicated to learning the human body (and helping others to learn their own – yay, my job is awesome).  But of course, since the body is only the exterior — I’m also really interested in what lies within.  Since I’m not enlightened yet, the conscious mind is what I’m focused on.

Except, after having read “Blink”, I’m interested in the subconscious mind, too.  We have a capacity to respond to things before we can even think about it.  Even before we remember that we should be having a positive attitude, an open mind, and a calm, even approach to the world, our subconscious will kick in.  And that damn subconscious will have us freaking out, making judgements, and saying “I can’t” before we even realize the thought is there.

First impressions make a huge impact, right?  So, even if we’re “smart enough” to pause and coach ourselves through how to deal with the situation the “right way”… does the first impression still matter?  I think it does (and most social scientists will back me up on that one).  If the first thought you have is “I can’t” or “that person looks like trouble”, how much time and energy is wasted convincing yourself that you should have an open mind?  Usually quite a lot.  The impulsive first thought comes up before you can even respond to it, within the first second.  Then, there’s the cognitive response and negotiating with your subconscious (and the subconscious is a stubborn bugger, let me tell you), the repetition of the thoughts that you know you should be having, perhaps deliberately visualizing a better approach to the situation.  But all of that secondary stuff took several seconds afterward.

Imagine if you’re driving 70 mph down a freeway and when you see the upcoming exit you automatically turn off after the car in front of you.  I don’t drive anymore but I used to do this all the time, it drove me crazy (no pun intended).  Because what happens once you realize you made a wrong turn?  You have to slow down to surface road speeds, usually stop at a handful of stop signs or traffic lights, make a couple of turns to find the entrance, read a bunch of signs to make sure you’re still going to be going in the right direction, and by the time you make it back on the freeway you just lost 5 minutes or so of real drive time.

We’re losing real drive time in our lives by working around improperly conditioned responses.   So, let’s try to redirect the autopilot response that keeps bringing us to wrong turns.

In “Blink”, Gladwell notes that participants in a word association test, measuring the timed response of categorizing words with races (primarily white and black), determines our conditioned prejudices with regards to race with surprising intimacy with regards to our subconscious.  Participants will score poorly the longer they take to respond, showing that they’re not relying on their impulsive associations.  People retake this test over and over again, trying to show that they aren’t racially biased and in fact very fair minded, but they will do no better at all because it’s their conscious mind that is fair, and their conditioned subconscious that has developed prejudice that comes before their preferred response.

Well, let me re-state that.  People retaking the test do no better except when they spend a few moments before the test looking at pictures of individuals like Martin Luther King, Jr.  By surrounding ourselves with reminders of how our conditioning is wrong, we can change our conditioned responses, even in the span of a few minutes.

The way to break away from conditioned responses of judgement and doubt is to create an environment of stimuli that prove the opposite.

So let’s continue to focus on positivity, on compassion, on belief in the ideas that we can change our minds and our bodies.  Remind yourself daily that you (and others!) are capable of more than you can even imagine.  Especially if your imagination is stuck in the aforementioned doubt and judgement trap.

By the way, if environment creates conditioning, and you’re changing yourself and your responses, you’re essentially changing part of the environment of the people around you.  This has the potential for a ripple effect — passing on the powers of compassion for ourselves and for others, it could become just as contagious as a smile.

Check out the video – do the meditation with me – move through those ideas and see how it affects your practice.  Then, go out and read “Blink”.  And tell me what you think about all of this.  Do you agree? Disagree?  Have you seen an example of this reconditioning and have a cool story to share?  Let’s connect!

Cheers, yo!

-*- Namaste -*-



Episode 10 – “Practice Tolerating Yourself”

Being authentically “you” is a wonderful thing… pretty much.  But everything we do has an effect and the effect is not always wonderful.  It can be — if you’re a hard working energetic person, you’re probably really productive.  But if you’re always working really hard, you probably have a tendency to burn yourself out.  And by “you” I definitely mean “me, too!”

I was discussing strained hip-flexors with a student recently, and how ours have got us modifying and adjusting our practices because we’re having to admit that we need to dial it back to save our bodies and heal.  Naturally, this discussion included how hard it was for us to come to terms with this.  Then, I came across this quote.

“Yoga is the practice of tolerating the consequences of being yourself”

It’s credited as being from the Bhagavad Gita, but it’s a pretty loose interpretation of the text, albeit perhaps more contemporary and relevant to our culture.  “Duty” is a value that has become a bit archaic, but being true to oneself is a concept we’re going gung-ho for these days.  I enjoyed reading It’s All Yoga Baby contributor Roseanne’s description of this quote’s possible origins here.

Anyways, this statement really struck a chord for me after talking about dealing with the effects of my habits on my body.

Yoga isn’t just about finding yourself — it’s about making peace with yourself.  Be your own lover.  Tolerate all of your stupid little habits.  And don’t “tolerate” yourself like you have a group of kids in the back seat singing “The Song That Doesn’t End” (if you don’t know what that is I’m going to have to direct you here).  You’re not doing yourself any favors by allowing the kids to sing on and on gritting your teeth and white-knuckling the steering wheel.

Sing along.  That’s the real work.  And that’s where we really begin to connect.  When we sing along with the consequences of ourselves, whether the consequences are that we accomplish awesome stuff with all of our hard work, or that we might burn ourselves out a bit by being overzealous about our abilities.

As we turn the body in on itself in a forward-folding centered practice (a great place to take the body physically as we take the mind in to the “self”) remember the function of folding in.  We’re trying to connect the front side of the body (bringing the belly and thighs together, generally) and most of all we’re opening the back side.  I’ve been talking a lot this week about the idea of touching our toes.  Yea, there’s some shapes in yoga where you “have” to grab your foot (note the quotes — there’s always the option for straps and modifications for poses that don’t necessitate the grab of hand to foot).  But really, in life, why do you need to put your hand to your toes?  Giving yourself a pedicure?  Most of us farm that job out (if we even seek one out – I don’t get them myself) and you’re not supposed to be touching up your toes in yoga anyways, right?

So let it go.  Bring the body together.  Get a long spine and feel the extension of your hamstrings.  And if it doesn’t go “perfectly”, and doesn’t look like what you think it should, awesome.  Sing along.  Enjoy the ride.  Enjoy the practice.

Oh, and talk back to me about the practice this week.  I’d love to know your thoughts and hear about your experiences.  Feel free to suggest postures and focuses for future practices — I love getting inspiration from other yogis!

Cheers, yo!

-*- Namaste -*-


-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-    Just the dharma talk…

-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-    Just the warm up…

-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-    A clip of this week’s “peak pose”, Heron (or Krounchasana)

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