I caught the tail end of an interview with Ernie Banks on NPR yesterday. He played shortstop, and then first base for the Cubs in the 50 ‘s and 60′s. Several things about him struck me as interesting. For one, he seems unusually humble for a ball player (Barry Bonds, A-Rod I’m looking at you), and he really did seem to enjoy just getting out and playing the game.
How refreshing in an era of multimillion dollar contract battles, temper tantrums, doping scandals etc… He stuck with the Cubs despite the fact that he never made it to the World Series, in fact he holds the Major League Record of most games played without a post season appearance.
What the heck does this have to do with yoga you ask? I’ll tell ya.
I have been re-reading B.K.S. Iyengar’s “Light On Yoga” , aka the yoga bible. In it Iyengar outlines the eight limbs of yoga: 1. Yama (moral commandments) 2. Niyama (self-purification by discipline) 3. Asana (postures) 4. Pranayama (breath control) 5. Pratyahara (emancipation of the mind from the senses) 6. Dharana (concentration) 7. Dhyana (meditation) 8. Samadhi (a state of super-consciousness brought on by profound meditation where the individual becomes one with the object of his aspiration). When we hear the word “yoga” most of us think of the asanas, or physical practice of yoga. This is just one of the eight limbs.
Ok now here is the Ernie Banks/ Yoga connection. Let’s take a look at one on the Niyamas, Santosa or contentment. To quote Iyengar:
“Contentment has to be cultivated. A mind that is not content can not concentrate. The yogi feels the lack of nothing and so he is naturally content. Contentment gives bliss unsurpassed to the yogi. A contented man is complete for he knows the love of the Lord and has done his duty. He is blessed for he has known truth and joy.”
Ernie says in his interview that there was talk of him being traded but that he didn’t think about it, he was just so focused on playing. In other words he was practicing Santosa.
Here is Ernie talking about walking out onto Wrigley Field:
“When I walked into that ballpark, my mind just, boom, on the game. ‘Cause it’s a park where you can easily lose your concentration because you’re close to the fans and all of that; and you know, you can see people in the stands walking around, pretty girls, and all of that. You could lose your concentration real fast. And I played the game as if nobody was there but me. That was it. When I walk in a ballpark today, I mean it’s the same thing, just me and the ball.”
This sounds like meditation, or mindfulness, one of the principles of yoga. Meditation helps us control our mind and relax our bodies. It allows us to be more conscious about what’s happening around us and more aware of what’s happening within ourselves. While not easily achieved we can get closer to this ideal with daily practice.
The goal of yoga is to eventually reach a state of Samadhi where the body and senses are at rest as if asleep, but the mind is alert and fully conscious. As Iyengar says “the peace that passeth all understanding”. I would call Ernie’s technique a form of moving meditation.
Have you experienced a zen-like moment where you felt as if you were exactly where you needed to be, doing exactly what you were meant to do, completely focused and not thinking of the past or future, only the here and now? If so tell me about it and what led you to that moment.
As a former dancer and current cute shoe enthusiast (let me just pop into Nordstroms and see what’s on sale…) I am admittedly not the poster child for healthy footwear. As a child I begged my mom for the latest cool boots instead of my dorky sadle oxfords even though getting them on my feet meant me lying on the bed and her using a pair of pliers and some serious muscle.
I am lucky to be genetically gifted with healthy, albeit wide, feet. I cannot say the same for several of my clients. If you suffer from hammer toes, bunions, plantar faciatis (or more often fasciosis according to Dr McClanahan, more on that later) or a host of other foot ailments, one solution may be changing your footwear.
Dr Ray McClanahan of Northwest Foot and Ankle here in Portland recommends shoes that are flat, wide across the toes, and flexible. He has a healthy shoe list on his website with millions of shoe options.
I admit I could go the rest of my life without seeing another adult in crocs, however the Noat mary janes are super cute.
Ok now back to the faciosis. Dr Ray claims that most people are misdiagnosed and that the tissue in your foot in not inflamed, it is suffering from lack of blood flow, or necrosis. In other words dead tissue (I know, gross). This may be the result of our toes being abducted and extended for long periods of time. Take a look at the toe spring in the front of a typical running shoe – not a recipe for happy feet.
I usually spend the majority of my day barefoot. I realize not all of us have this luxury. If you are suffering from unhappy feet experiment with one of these shoe styles and see if this brings you some pain relief.
I have several clients on a foot heath program that involves exercises, stretches, heat and ice. Contact me if you would like more information.
The tide may be changing in how we view weight loss and willpower. Is it just about putting down the donuts and hitting the gym? In a recent N.Y. Times article Tara Parker Pope looks at a new Lifetime series about an overweight, overworked attorney.
“In “Drop Dead Diva,” on Lifetime, a heavenly mix-up leaves Deb, a vapid but good-hearted size zero model, trapped in the overweight body of Jane, an intelligent, hard-working lawyer played by Brooke Elliott. (Think “Heaven Can Wait” meets “Ally McBeal” and “Legally Blonde.”)……
While Deb spent her days working out and obsessing about the size of her knees, Jane discovers that long hours at the office drain her of the desire and energy to exercise.”
Sound familiar? While “reality” weight loss programs focus on screaming trainers and crying contestants, for most of us life is not nearly that dramatic. The average Joe or Jane may just be hoping to squeeze in 30 minutes at the gym and fix a healthy dinner for the family, not drop 100 lbs on national television.
New research shows that metabolic differences may play a large role in why it is more difficult for some of us to lose weight and keep it off. A chemical and hormonal imbalance in the brain may increase cravings making foods high in fat and sugar more difficult to resist.
“I have grave concerns about how many of these television shows stigmatize overweight people by making them a spectacle,” said Kelly D. Brownell, director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale. “They suggest that if you only try hard enough you can be thin. A far better message is that it’s hard to lose weight and that it’s not just willpower and personal responsibility, but that both biology and the environment are players.”
The show’s creator, Josh Berman, said he wanted the series to make a statement about diet, weight and beauty. He based Jane’s character on his grandmother Deb, a short plump woman “who carried herself like a supermodel”.
What I love about this show is the more realistic view of the struggles that many of us face (and it features the always funny Margaret Cho). If losing weight were as easy as eating a salad there would be no Carl’s Jr Double Burger (weighing in at a whopping 1520 calories, basically your entire daily allotment). I am all for personal responsibility and the road to a healthier lifestyle must begin with our individual decision to make a permanent lifestyle change. However I appreciate the honest look at dieting that Drop Dead Diva Depicts. As Mr Berman says “I feel there are enough shows that make people feel bad about themselves. If you want to lose weight, fine. Just don’t hate yourself if you’re larger than average.”
Have you struggled with weight loss? If so let me know what obstacles you have faced and what has worked for you in the past.