SMARTer bodies

Category: Humor

Podcast #42 – Exposing Yoga Myths (part 4)

Podcast #42 – Exposing Yoga Myths (part 4)

Oh, so much more we discuss. Listen here for:

  • Some things that we love about yoga in our personal practice and how we use it as a tool with students and clients.
  • Yes, our book criticizes concepts often taught in yoga teacher trainings. Being critical doesn’t mean that we’re being negative. We’re criticizing something we love because we want to make it better.
  • Some thoughts on the importance of critical thinking.

Click here for Ariana’s article for Mind Body Green.

Hit us up and share your thoughts 🙂



8 Reasons Why Martial Arts Will Make Your Kid a Better Person

mmaAs a general statement, I think that movement (especially learning skilled movement) is important for young children. While there are arguments for and against specializations in sports at a young age, it seems that a variety of movement and skills can be more transferable to everyday life and can provide more options for movement choices later in life as we age. It’s also important that kids have fun and enjoy whatever activity they are doing, so that they are more likely to stick with a healthier lifestyle. Considering all of this, I decided to enroll my (at the time) 3 year old daughter in martial arts classes. I’ve seen her benefit in so many ways! Here’s a few I wanted to share:

1. Straight up self defense: Although it is always best to avoid confrontation and to tell a trusted adult, there will be times when your child may be in physical danger with no one to help him or her. Knowing how to defend oneself is a useful skill to have just in case.

2. Cultivating empathy: While it would seem that introducing your child to potentially violent techniques might entice them to physically bully other children, with a good instructor, the opposite is usually true. In classes that allow sparring, children will be faced with opponents that they may not be able to overcome at the moment. This humbling experience often teaches an aggressive student not to underestimate their opponent. They also learn what it feels like to be on the receiving end of physical oppression and this can help them create compassion and empathy. Some children may even speak out about violence they see in school or elsewhere.

3. Athletic ability: Many martial arts require varied movement and skill sets which will help your child create useful athletic adaptations such as increased speed, strength, power, coordination and cardiovascular output.

4. Transferable skills: A lot of the athletic adaptations above are learned through skills that can easily be adapted to other sports. Running, jumping, kicking, punching (throwing) and learning how to fall and tumble are skills that can help in other sports and in everyday activities.


5. Self confidence: In the same way that (with a good instructor) an aggressive child can be humbled through physically oppressive situations, a timid student can be encouraged to overcome adversity with appropriate challenges. If a smaller student develops good technique and is able to overcome a larger and more physically imposing student, this can be a huge confidence builder and may teach the student to take on bigger and bigger challenges in life.


6. Respect: In most martial arts, there is a system of hierarchy or a belt system. Students are required to show respect to their teachers and other students who are higher up on the ladder than they are. The higher belt students are not always the biggest and the strongest or oldest, so this system teaches children a more sophisticated form of respect. They are also often asked to help newer students to learn. I have personally seen children learning to become more helpful to their parents and of younger children and to become more respectful of their elders outside of their classes.

7. Focus: Not to take away from the value of play, but it is important for school age children to appropriately discern time to play and time to focus. A good martial arts instructor will implement both in their classes to teach their students to focus when necessary. Being more skillful always leads to more options.

8. Teamwork and relationships: Many martial arts require a partner to learn various techniques. Working with a partner in such an integrated way requires the student to be able to assess and adapt to the other person’s mood, energy level, physical ability and personality. This can teach the student patience, tolerance, acceptance and many other valuable  characteristics to help build strong friendships and relationships.

How to Stay Centered While Hurtling Toward the End of the Year

Inegativespace-14 may sound like a grumpy grouch, but truth be told, while many love this time of the year, I find it destabilizing. All the activity, along with Duane Reade’s unnecessarily early displays, emphasizes how the end of the year is looming upon us. Basically, once Halloween ends, the deluge of Christmas/Holidays decorations, songs and general vibration is overstimulating to my senses and triggers all kinds of stressful thoughts. Like? Allow me to share:

  • The true meaning of any holiday seems to be lost on us and is replaced by violent over-consumption.
  • Nobody really knows how these holidays came to be and that’s annoying.
  • Can we enjoy the introspective quiet that accompanies the Fall and Winter? No, because of increased crowds and obnoxious ecologically-unsound light displays.

This sense of speed and frenetic excitement can be fun. For those of us that don’t enjoy it, the importance of a centering practice or ritual cannot be overestimated. Here are a few I enjoy:

  1. Essential Oils on Demand – keep a few scents on hand, so that in the middle of your day or a crowd you can take one out that you find soothing. Get time to slow down by breathing in the scent and taking a moment of stillness.
  2. Embrace the darkness – light a candle and use it’s light to illuminate dinners, meditation, or television binging. They add warmth and low-key cheer to any environment. My favorite candles are beeswax, which give off a beautiful light and are non-toxic.
  3. Tea, bitches – Yes, you can make a ritual out of making yourself a lovely cup of tea. I find Lemon Balm calming in the evening. A great choice for anyone dealing with depression or S.A.D. I prefer loose leaf, so I can really take my time and focus on the preparation again creating a time out from the surrounding chaos.
  4. Abhangya – This one comes from Ayurveda. It’s a massage you give yourself using sesame oil. The purpose is to ground and protect yourself. You can totally think that’s a load of crap, but still just enjoy the moment of self-care. Pick an oil you like and pamper yourself a little. I do practice with the Ayurvedic intent and start the morning by rubbing on the sesame oil and then taking a quick shower, so that I feel warmed and moisturized.

      You need something to get your through 5am when you aren’t a morning person!

5.  Enjoy quiet activities – Time to de-stimulate, so no, playing with your phone doesn’t       count. Read a book, magazine, graphic novel or craft something. Basically, give yourself       a break from electronics. It won’t kill you. I swear.

                                             Good luck and let me know if any of this helps.

How to Not Kill Yourself Using a Neti Pot or How to Bang Open Your 3rd Eye

So one morning, Melissa, like the good little yogini she is, decided to use her neti pot.  Using the neti pot is one of the 6 cleansing rituals or kriyas described in the complete yoga system (and probably that’s about as far as she’ll go with that.  Go ahead and read what the rest are.  Then you decide if you want go all the way).  Mel loves to neti.  As someone who suffers from allergies and sinus infections it can be a life saver!

In goes the appropriate amount of non-iodized salt.  Believe it or not this can vary from the amount described in the instructions that usually come with the neti pot.  Ph balance can be different from person to person and you are trying to match the body’s salinity.  Having done this plenty of times Mel knows just how much salt to use.  Of course she has boiled water the night before and kept it in a clean mason jar, so she doesn’t have to use tap water and accidentally introduce killer bacteria to her brain…seriously.   Mel even has freshly boiled water on hand to make just the right temperature.  Not too hot, not too cold.  Nasal passages are sensitive, after all.

This one is easy to clean! Go to
This one is easy to clean! Go to

With all parts of this ritual carefully tended to Mel begins the blissful experience of douching her face.  The bliss factor definitely increases after you’ve done it a few time and learn just the right head position so you don’t compromise your ear canals or cause blinding headaches.    But a familiar sensation interrupts the cleanse.  Mel has to sneeze.  No problem.  The sink is right there.  What better place to let the snot fly?

ACHOO! OW, WHAT THE FUCK!?  Yes, this is what happened.  Mel didn’t realize how close she was to the faucet head and the recoil of her sneeze slammed her forehead right into it.  After standing there for a few moments stunned, recovering from the painful surprise she finishes up and  goes to boil the neti pot (it’s metal and should be sterilized after every use).  A few minutes later Mel checks the mirror one last time before leaving the house and is greeted by a giant, red lump on her forehead.

Well, that’s one way to open your third eye.

A warning to neti users:  practice conscious awareness of where you are in space while DOING EVERYTHING.  See, even yoga therapists have klutzy moments.  Don’t let this happen to you!  Pay attention.  Mel has taken that experience as a gentle reminder from the universe to be present in all circumstances.  Thanks universe!  So sweet of you.

Damn Yoga Wussies

So by now you’ve probably heard about a Fox News (News?  Oh right, “News”) report about how American children practicing yoga is turning an entire generation into “Wussies.”  Here’s the thing, as much as we don’t love to say we agree with anything on this program, some of the statements they make, at least seem to ring true. Yoga, for us, is not practiced with the intention of being a sport.  So when it is being talked about as the “fastest growing sport in America” that’s probably more a reflection of the attitudes our country has towards a physical movement practice.  Some people just don’t know how else to categorize it.  The category of “self-care” maybe just isn’t accepted enough for people to use it in this context, which we would.

The author interviewed on the tape says that yoga is not interactive like a sport is.  True.   “If nobody is keeping score it ain’t a sport.”  No argument there.  But he says that because yoga is practiced alone you don’t learn social skills or what it’s like to “get knocked down and get back up.”  Oh see, this is where we disagree.  He goes further into his erroneous understanding of the human experience (did he really write a book about parenting?!  *shudders*) to say that, “slipping on your mat won’t teach you anything!”

Settle down, people.  We know he’s wrong, how wrong he is and why.  Those of us who’ve practiced don’t even need to be up on in arms.  The fortunate thing is that nothing this man says matters.  The more unsettling part of the conversation is that there are still some of us in society that regard certain characteristics of human decency in a “weak vs. strong” dichotomy.  So the formula for some goes:

Soccer, Football, Hockey = Strong
Yoga, self-exploration, cultivating awareness = Weak (Oh just come on and say it.  You know you want to…Yoga-Pussies.)

When will people realize that self-exploration, like the kind provided by a yoga practice, is critical to doing and being better at EVERYTHING (including the “strong” sports).  I would love for the superstar Jiu-Jitsu warrior Rickson Gracie (who is, by the way, one of Kim’s greatest inspirations and THE main reason she began taking up yoga) who would make it a ritual to practice yoga intensely before a fight to be called a “wussie” (oh, did we mention that the man has a record of over 400 wins and ZERO losses?).  The guy in the Fox “News” video does say that yoga is a great supplement to any sport.  We do agree!  But when people start using the strong vs. weak classifications in this conversation with a real worry that our children are becoming sissies because they’re enjoying a peaceful activity as well as beating the shit out of one another on the playground…That’s when we jump off that crazy train heading straight to Myopic Ville.

Team sports are great for children (yea, the ones “with a ball”). They are a way of learning teamwork., coordination skills, winning/losing, etc etc. Are they THE only way to learn those things as this man suggests? No. With all of the physical activity out there (team sports, dance, yoga, gymnastics, skateboarding, biking, rock climbing, martial arts, etc.), perhaps a more appropriate way to encourage movement is to let your kid do what they enjoy doing and NOT instill values in them that would make them think that what they want to do, or what they see others doing, makes them a “wussie”. Hey! That might even help combat bullying in schools! What a novel idea…

Ugh.  Now on to the other end of the spectrum!  Interestingly enough the BBC News (I know a foreign news source?!  Try to relax.)  ran this interesting article:

Hell-bent: Transcending pain in competitive yoga

Ben Lorr, author of the new book Hell-Bent, talks about transforming his body and life by getting deeply involved in Bikram Yoga and Competitive Yoga.  AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!  Too many yoga controversies in one weekend to handle!!!!  But seriously, at least the author seems interested in sharing his experience for the benefit of others.  We’re down with that even if we, like many others, don’t agree that competitive yoga is the same as YOGA.  But at least here in lies the possibilities for an intelligent conversation.

Mr. Lorr is aware of the controversy.  But he says, “To define yoga is to limit yoga.”  Well, here’s a dialogue we’d be interested in having without the fear of someone throwing out the hackneyed “Nazis” name-calling.  How refreshing!  Definitely, yoga (even in its competitive forms) can provide a context for self-exploration.  But whether you practice with the intention of knowing more about yourself or the intention of performance makes the difference, to us.  Lorr does also share about a paralyzed shoulder he suffers from an back-bending experience.  He asks, “Was it an injury or just part of the process of my body opening up?”  We would have to ask what he means by “opening.”  But whatever the outcome of that experience the information he gained and his interpretation of that experience is his personal responsibility and journey.  We would probably interpret that shoulder thing as, “well, you probably weren’t being very aware while doing that asana.  Do a better job of listening to your body next time.”

Whether yoga is weakening the next generation or becoming part of an aggressive competitive sport it’s clear that the practice is here to stay.  How do you experience yoga?  We’re curious to know.

Best Names for Yoga Poses…Ever!!!

Ok, we had to share what Yoga Dork has posted today.  We love how this blog always brings the funny and pop of what is going on in the yoga world.  This has to be one of the best!

Check out the Real Names for Yoga Poses, in Handy Chart Form:

Click on the image to get a better view and see what Yoga Dork says about it.