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Stop juicing

January 31, 2015

I don’t mean like this guy.

I mean your possibly usual morning ritual of running an apple, kale, spinach and who knows what else through a juicer.

Why?

You’re better off blending.

That’s the findings from a slightly old study that gets new life via NPR this week:

What they found is the blended juice had significantly higher levels of beneficial phytonutrients compared to the juice made with a juicer (the electric juicer and hand juicer had about the same levels).

In particular, the blended juice had about a seven-fold higher content of a compound called naringin.

[snip]

The authors of the paper tell The Salt they did not expect such a significant difference.

“Yes, I was indeed surprised and so was everyone in the lab,” Rammohan Uckoo, a researcher at the Vegetable and Fruit Improvement Center at Texas A&M, tells us by email.

So, what explains the difference? “The blended juice had the highest pulp content, which corresponds to the maximum levels of naringin,” Uckoo says.

In addition, the blended juice contained more of the fruit’s segment membranes — those white layers of papery fiber that line the outside of each segments — which have higher concentrations of flavonoids.

Or put another way: All that stuff left over in your juicer? It’s good for you.

Posted by Steve

‘The wealthiest yoga booster that we’ve come across yet’

January 30, 2015

Inside Philanthropy — an extremely mainstream and respected publication focused on I’ll let you guess what — has a piece up on the Sonima Foundation and the prana (instead of power) couple behind it: Paul Tudor and Sonia Jones:

Sonia also has a deep history with this yoga method and teamed up with the heirs of an Ashtanga yoga master to open studios, called “shalas,” in order to continue teaching Ashtanga. Sonia helped finance some of these studios, one of which operated for a while in Greenwich, Connecticut, where the Jones family lives. In the Jones’ residence—which, by the way, resembles Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello (only with a 25-car underground garage)—Sonia, Jones, and all their children have practiced Ashtanga as well.

OK, so Sonia is all about yoga.

But the interesting thing about the Sonima Foundation is its focus on children and youth, particularly those who are at risk. No, this isn’t about introducing yet more privileged thirty-something yuppies to the power of yoga. Sonima wants to empower the most vulnerable using yoga and other wellness strategies.

[snip]

Another component of this new partnership is research and a research team at Stanford University will be tracking the progress of these students for the next several years. Dr. Victor Carrion, Head of Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University and a Sonima Foundation Advisory Board Member, will helm this research project.

In Carrion’s words: “We’re really looking forward to a year from now, when I tell you this is effective, for you not to only take it on my word, but for you to also have data.”

All told, it’s a pretty positive piece. And the type that might get others in the philanthropy community to go, “Huh, if they are investing in yoga and meditation, is there a reason we should look at that, too?” Because that’s how those things work.

Posted by Steve

Are these America’s best yoga studios? (Answer: probably not)

January 29, 2015

The cutely named Spryliving.com last week put out its list of the best yoga studios from across America. We’d likely argue:

Bloom Studio- Chicago, IL

Wondering what to expect from your studio while you’re expecting? Though many yoga studios offer the occasional class for pregnant women, Bloom Studio specifically caters to expectant mothers. This Chicago favorite holds prenatal classes almost every day along with classes designed for mothers and their young children.

[snip]

Bikram Yoga College of India- Los Angeles, CA

Known for its masses of Lulu Lemon-wearing yoga devotees, Los Angeles offers endless studio options for potential yogis. Our favorite is the Bikram Yoga College of India in West LA, which offers the very best in hot yoga—an hour and a half long, extremely intense workout in 105 degree heat.

One thing that’s really hard to ignore: Lots of white people. And fit people. This is why there’s a backlash against the usual images we get from the “yoga industrial complex.”

Posted by Steve

Yoga news: A whole mess of awful

January 28, 2015

Typically I’ll ignore the wacky and stupid yoga stories that come across my patented yoga teletype machine, but on Tuesday there were too many to ignore:

The only legit one is that Colorado may wade into the whole “licensing yoga teachers” issue. Here’s coverage from the Denver Post:

As the demand for yoga continues to grow in this fitness-happy state, the question of whether certain yoga classes need to be government certified has costly implications that critics say will drive small operations out of business.

The potential stressor in the studio comes after a yoga teacher complained that only six yoga teacher-training studios were following an oft-ignored 2002 law that required they be certified with the state. In response, the Division of Private Occupational Schools mailed out 82 letters, asking program operators to provide a brief summary of their operation, a copy of a school catalog and brochure and their recruiting materials.

[snip]

Colorado began regulating yoga teacher-training studios in 2002, said Lorna Candler, director of the Division of Private Occupational Schools, which is part of the Department of Higher Education.

“We are not targeting yoga schools or the yoga community,” she said. “This is about teacher-training programs.”

Yogis wonder what’s next. Do state standards apply to those who teach a spinning class? What about Zumba? Or step classes?

If tuition is collected with the intent of training someone to get a job and teach that particular skill, then the program would probably need to be certified, Candler said.

The Yoga Alliance, a nonprofit trade organization that represents yoga interests, is fighting the state over certification and has hired Squire Patton Boggs to represent its interests.

Maybe one to watch. Also one to watch: When 300 dogs do do yoga together.

Posted by Steve

Ashtanga, Expectation, and Possibility

January 27, 2015

One of the greatest challenges I face as a teacher (either of writing or of yoga—both apply here) is to avoid categorizing my students. It’s a constant temptation.

It’s a temptation because it makes teaching seem easier. It’s a time-saver. And to some extent, it’s also necessary to apply the right solution to the right problem—being able to diagnose a problem is an opportunity for me to apply my experience and find a solution.

But sometimes “diagnosis” becomes “assumption” and the “solution” misfires. You can just as easily fall into a kind of teacher torpor and just abstract the individual student into a type so your can easily apply an equally abstracted solution. You get a range of results from this: Nothing happens, and you both continue on this road in a horizontal way, going no where. Or something happens, but not what either one of you expected, and that’s not always good. Or the student gets worse; or worse yet, discouraged. The student may give up. Sometimes the teacher gives up. Sometimes (rarely) the student transcends the teacher, and improves in spite of it.

I’ve known teachers both on the mat and behind the desk that operate their entire careers this way. The sheer numbers of students they take on can hide the results, because just enough of them either stagnate or transcend that it looks like…Well, not success exactly. More like “okayness.” Mediocrity. Meh.

There actually is scientific data that not only supports this phenomenon, but points a way out of that behavioral maze. The teacher behavior I’m describing is called the “expectancy effect,” demonstrated first by psychologist Robert Rosenthal (nice summary here). NPR’s radio magazine, “Invisibilia,” recently did a show on the role our expectations have in the performance of those around us. It’s worth a listen, but to summarize Rosenthal’s core experiment:

If you give a person a lab rat, and you tell that person that the rat is not very bright—dumb, in fact—and then tell them to put that rat into a maze, the rat will have some serious problems getting through the maze.

But if you give the same rat to a different person and you tell them that rat is exceptionally bright, and to put that rat into the same maze, the rat will perform exceptionally well.

What makes the difference?

The people who thought the rat was dumb handled their rats, well, like a dumb rat, and the rat performed poorly. If they thought their rat was bright, they were more careful and responsive to the rat, so the rat blew through the maze.

Replace “rat” with “student” and you see where I’m going with this.

Stanford psychologist, Carol Dweck (also interviewed on “Invisibilia,” but her TED talk on the topic is here), took this further than rats, to people, and found that in humans, our expectations translate immediately to our behavior toward others, and that in turn changes the behavior of the people we interact with.

Of course, this made me think about my own teaching, and the little tricks I have to play on myself so I don’t formulate negative expectations about my students based on assumption. I change the material frequently. I use universally difficult poems so all writers, no matter their abilities, must rise to the occasion. I only teach a few students at a time so I don’t “conveyor belt” my feedback.

But then that got me thinking about Ashtanga, where the material never changes, the difficulty depends on the students’ abilities when they start (an ex-gymnast will find the practice easier than say, someone who’s sat in an office chair the last ten years), and nobody can survive as a career yoga teacher with just a few students.

I realized I’m a beneficiary of teachers who managed to keep their perspective on their students fresh, even after years of teaching and many, many bodies. (Steve’s recent post quoting Tim Miller’s impressions of Guruji reflect his admiration as a teacher to handle a full Mysore room, one that only got bigger as the years passed.) There is absolutely no reason why I should still be doing Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, much less working on Third Series: when I started, I had advancing joint degeneration, arthritis, asthma, a range of illnesses, and so much pain. But my best teachers, like Tim Miller, never assumed I couldn’t do a pose, and always found a way to get me there.

But perhaps I also benefited from positive assumptions. I’m sort of evenly distributed when it comes to size and weight. I’m a woman, and “women are more flexible than men” (I hear this all the time). I disguise pain very well. I’d never done anything athletic at all before I started Ashtanga, so I really didn’t know any better myself. Since I’d never tried a headstand before, I didn’t really know if I could do it until I tried, and because my teachers never thought I couldn’t do it, I could.

So I worry about Steve, and students like him—the stiff guy, the guy who has been told he’s impaired for so long, it seems like fate. The people for whom “stability” and “ease” in the asana are ever-elusive qualities—they’re in an eternal state of tapas. And I suppose there’s nothing wrong with that—Walter Pater believed “To burn always with this hard, gemlike flame, to maintain this ecstasy, is success in life.” But that’s not all there is to Ashtanga, and those students are not only limited by their teachers, but also by themselves in a kind of invisible conspiracy.

So you might consider this post an open letter to both teachers and students, to occupy yourselves with not what is, but with what might be. As Emily Dickinson put it:

I dwell in Possibility –

A fairer House than Prose –

More numerous of Windows –

Superior – for Doors –

Of Chambers as the Cedars –

Impregnable of eye –

And for an everlasting Roof

The Gambrels of the Sky –

Of Visitors – the fairest –

For Occupation – This –

The spreading wide my narrow Hands

To gather Paradise –

Posted by Bobbie

The true stories of yoga teachers

January 27, 2015
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This site isn’t new, but in the way of the Internet, it’s new to me: Yoga Teachers’ True Stories. We’ll link you to Tim Miller’s:

When I first studied with Guruji in ‘78 his command of English was fairly limited and these first couple of trips to the States he was teaching all Mysore style. So this was a fairly good size room and there were probably thirty to thirty-five people who were all practicing at the same time Mysore style. So him just being one man and trying to cover such a large room and so many students, basically his geographic presence, his proximity to you would inspire you to 200% in the asana for fear of being adjusted.

He was quite a powerful man at that time. He was in his early sixties at that time and his adjustments were quite strong. Although he had a good sense of humor and seemed quite light he still inspired a certain amount of terror when he came close by, so it was quite interesting.

I was just learning the second series at the time and after classes, after savasana he would arrange those people who were doing second series or beyond in a big circle and teaching us pranayama. So that was quite an interesting experience.

Richard Freeman, David Williams and Nancy Gilgoff are included — as are other styles’ teachers.

Posted by Steve

Obama in India, namaste and tea

January 26, 2015
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This New York Times collection of moments from President Obama’s current trip to India is about the best sum-up I’ve seen, and it starts with namaste:

President Barack Obama was so honored to be invited to India’s Republic Day celebration that he showed it.

After arriving at Rashtrapati Bhawan, the presidential palace, for an elaborate welcome ceremony, Obama clasped his hands in the traditional “namaste” greeting. During namaste, a person’s head is slightly bowed and the hands are pressed together, palms touching, fingers pointed skyward and thumbs touching the chest.

Namaste often is performed at the end of yoga practice.

Asked about being the chief guest at Monday’s celebration, Obama said: “It is a great honor. We are so grateful for the extraordinary hospitality.”

Obama’s wife, Michelle, accompanied him to India.

The big news thus far is the start of an agreement to allow India to develop nuclear power plants — to help slow its contribution to greenhouse gas.

Posted by Steve