Why Yoga is The Best & Most Complete System of Movement

When we think about the human body and movement we must simply look at anatomy and biomechanics. The body is able to only do so much in terms of these 2 biological mechanisms. All movement systems have these things in common, some focus more on special aspects of the bodies mechanical system and therefore anatomy which is completely logical. This does not mean to denigrate any specific system over another. However, in terms of physical therapy, body awareness, body balance structurally and mechanically, and simple body harmony nothing compares to Yoga. Now, one caveat, not all yoga systems under the umbrella of Hatha Yoga are created equally. Again, this is not meant to denigrate any particular style.

First lets take a deeper look into why Yoga is the best for the aforementioned reasons.

One, Yoga can be and in best learned in a slow manner that focuses on awareness of how the body moves into and within a particular posture known as an Asana.

Two, Yoga is a combination of multiple movement factors including, flexibliity, strength, neuromuscular coordination, balance, mobility and breath.

Three, Yoga is moves the body through and within multiple planes and in various manners of movement. This high level of coordination requires one to have the strength to obtain the position, the ability to coordinate multiple muscles to make the movement happen and this create the mobility and flexibility required to obtain the end result.

Four, Yoga requires coordination of multiple high level elements of human movement done with 100% attention to detail and held in place for time all while controlling heart rate and respiration to a well below other traditional movements.

Five, building off of 4, Yoga was designed as a breathing practice with movement following breath. This means the breath drives the movement. It is to be done in a controlled manner through the nostrils. It should follow the edicts of steadiness and ease as then should the movement. Therefore, all students move at a different pace which makes the Mysore practice so brilliant in its ability to have all students do the same practice taking into consideration their personal breath and their personal ability within the posture.

Six, it is a moving meditation practice and that is a prime focus of Yoga. Meditation in action and in stillness.

I can go on but I believe this is a great start to the conversation. I know personally Yoga has helped improve my other movement system practices not only physically but mentally as I am better able to control my breath and mind. While we often associate Yoga with stretching and flexibility that is a very short sided view to a much more complex and highly evolved system.

The best place to start is with the Iyengar method. The student is taught about the postures in a slow, controlled and supportive manner. Practicing in this light will help students evolve into other forms if so they choose and thereby enhance their awareness and ability to perform the postures as asked by the system or more playful methods which give freedom to the teacher to sequence.

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Training, Life and lessons on the Way

Since 2004 when I first stepped onto this platform to learn kettlebells this has been my Saturday home for training. On and off for the last 10 years I have come to the Rifstonian Institute aka Stones Gym to train.

This place symbolizes more than just a place to train it is a place where I learned what it means to actually train versus working out. Most of us workout, taking a randomized approach to being fit and health (which works, look at Crossfit).

The difference at stones is I could tell you what I will be doing every Saturday for the next year. Literally down to the numbers of sets, reps, weight, total volume in lbs and kgs. No guess work just as we say digging a ditch week in, week out.

Attention to detail, consistency, patience, light vs heavy, fast vs slow, hard style, and simply getting better slowly and steadily week in and week out.

Results, never an issue at Stones since we PR the same move weekly. It’s a product of the system, a result of knowing exactly what lies ahead.

This approach builds confidence, rarely does anything intimidate because you are always prepared. It keeps the body health & allows for adaptation in a safe and effective way for long term health.

2 of my training partners are 57 plus and they can do exactly what I do. This is incredible because it speaks to the longevity of the approach.

I do not care to get on a competitive platform, just to be fit, lean, health, strong, flexible, mobile and able to complete any task in front of me. This approach over the last 10 years has always proved to be the best and most effective.

I have strayed and achieved in doing so, all part of the learning process. But life comes full circle and simply put this shit works.

It is for everyone and not for everyone at the same time. It takes a certain mental approach which I would say can be the toughest aspect especially in today’s current fitness climate.

Sustainability, consistency, health these are important factors too me in any aspect of life and training. For me training and sport are and have been for some time a microcosm of life.

I am grateful that Mark Reifkind opened his door and showed me the way. He is a Zen Master in my eyes, brain and heart. I am grateful and I have learned and listened even if I have and sometimes still do stray from the path to another.

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Warmup and cool down, the essential rules

Warmup and cool down, the essential rules

For warm up start with foam roll. First do a general roll paying attention to specific hot spots or trigger points. Next hit those points with a targeted roll. Be sure to stop and allow the roller to apply a gentle enough pressure that you can breathe comfortably say a 6 out of 10 on the old pain scale. After a few deep breaths re roll the area. Repeat for all major muscle groups or areas of discomfort.

After you roll move to a dynamic warmup. Traditionally speaking most people will do a movement or sport specific warm up and this is a great approach as you want to work the patterns and their associated movements.

An often overlooked component is the joint mobility aspect. Typically in my practice this comes before the actual dynamic warm up. It in itself is a form or dynamic warm up. Here I take each joint through a circular based motion and other variations. Doing this prior to the actual sport specific dynamic warm up will enhance its effects.

Note: this process provides insight to the days current state of the body. Be sure to pay attention, for me this is the most important aspect of my practice.

Cool down.
The focus of the cool down is more yin in its approach. This is a gentle and more static approach and often we call this stretching. For tighter areas you can use PNF patterning followed by a relaxed approach allowing the body to rest in the pose. This is a restoration or restorative process meant to help the body recover for it’s next bout or workout.

As always these are my general rules and provide a basis from which to move from. All my practices take into account the individual needs first and foremost and I use this as a template.

Kettlebells: Movements, Rules, & Structure

Kettlebells, The Movements, The Rules, The Structure

The movements and rules relate specifically to the kettle bell classes I teach at Apple Computers. Each morning, Monday-Friday I teach one Kettlebell class for Apple employees, their families and contractors alike. This class is 45 minutes in length and is open to anyone. There is no levels, there is no intro, beginners classes, etc. This makes things a bit tricky as I can have a highly skilled kettlebell athlete and a newbie. Therefore I devised a system that could easily allow and adapt for whatever comes my way. Classes vary between an average of 15 students up to 24 students.

The 5 core movements
Squat
Press
Clean
Swing
Snatch

The Other Kettlebell Movements
Renegade Row
Windmill
Turkish Get Up
Floor Press
Side press
Lunge
Swing Squat
Deck squat
Halo
1 leg Deadlift
Arm Bar
Bottoms Up Clean
Bottoms Up Press
Bottoms Up Squat
Overhead Squat
Farmers Carry
Rack Holds
Overhead Holds

Other movements:
We have no pull-up bars, no barbells, etc. So we have basic gymnastic movements and of course Kettlebells at are disposal. We use a good variety of core based gymnastic movements combining static holds with dynamic movements including:

hollow body hold
hollow body rock
superman
hollow to superman
boat pose
L-sit
Front Lever or ‘leg lifts’
Planks and variations
Pikes (sliders)
Jack Knifes (sliders)
Crawls
Crow

Why no Turkish Get Up as a core movement, because my classes despise them and I do not think them essential but do believe they are an excellent movement. I ask the class to do 5 reps on each side in the warm up.

General Rules of Thumb for the Grinds aka Squat & Press
Complete 5 reps of 5 sets/side

once you can do this move up one bell size and aim for

3 reps of 8 sets/side

General Rule of Thumb for Swings
2 Hand Swing
Start with 2 hand swing.
Complete 20 reps for 5 sets. General is 100 swings minimum/workout. Class average is 100

Next

1 Arm Swing
Complete 10 reps x 5 sets/arm of the 1 arm swing

If you can successfully do this, then we introduce the snatch.

Snatch
Base goal is 5 reps x 5 sets/arm.

Next Steps:
From here we simple work bell size, reps/set, sets, time components for all the movements.

Other Rules, Etc.
Bell Size:
We have limited number of bell sizes for the class. The class can hold up to 21 people so we sometimes have to share or adapt to a different weight, lighter or heavier.

Double Bells:
We love double bell work. Ideally reserved for more advanced athletes, those comfortable with the 5 basics and add in the Renegade Row. The doubles serve as a great variation on the 5 Core moves and open many more options in terms of complexes and loading schemes relative to the body.

Complexes:
These are brilliant and the bells lend to making these an important part of the programming. We do a lot of couplet based complexes such as Clean Press, Thrusters, Squat Cleans and even triplet based such as clean squat press. But the possibilities extend far beyond this and here are some more convoluted examples. Note these can be done with one or 2 bells.

Man Makers (row, row, hop forward, clean thruster, hop back and repeat).
Swing, Clean Thrusters
Swing, Clean, Snatch
Snatch Thrusters
Crawl, Man Makers
Crawl, Row, Swings

There are many more to add to this. the key from my perspective is to find a flow and rhythm while being creative.

Shoes, Gloves, Wristbands:
No Shoes unless Chuck Taylors, Nanos, or other hard sole flat shoes. My classes all go barefoot.
Why Gloves are frowned upon, if it keeps people coming to class then so be it. These are working professionals not professional athletes. I will say no gloves help give a better grip.
Wristbands, same with gloves. If you know the technique you should not need wristbands.

Intervals:
All classes use time to help manage work to rest ratios and relative intensity. Students are encouraged to work within their capabilities, being sure to observe the first rule of being safe and effective.

Examples
On the minute
Tabata: 20 sec work, 10 sec rest x 8 rounds
30sec/30sec work to rest
15sec/15sec work to rest

Class Structure:
Students do their own warm up as most arrive early.

Recommended Kettlebell based warmups include:
Turkish Get Up/5 reps a side
Windmill/5 reps a side
Halo/8 reps per direction

First Part: The Grinds/Strength, Cleans, Presses, Squats and Rows

Examples
Clean & Press/OTM/1 Bell/3-5 reps a side/5-10 sets
Squats/OTM/1 Bell/3-5 reps a side/5-10 sets
-less reps equals more weight and vice versa

Second Part: Ballistics/Strength & Conditioning
Advanced Athletes:
Snatch/OTM/1 bell/5-8 reps a side/10-15 sets

Beginners: 2 Options
2 Hand Swing/OTM/1 bell/20 reps/10-15 sets
1 Arm Swing/OTM/1 bell/5-10 reps a side/10-15 sets

Third Part: Core or Burner aka WOD

Example: Tabata of 2 movements (alternate)
Pushups
Hollow Body Rocks

This is my general layout and approach and all within 45 minutes. I have been sharing our workouts on various social media forms so I hope you enjoy. Any questions please reach out.

kettlebell workout

kettlebell workout

Kettlebell ComplexesAdvanced Class Sample

Systems, Limitations and Human Potential

A student, I have and continue to explore numerous systems of movement. My purpose is simple, learn through experience and expand my potential as a coach. Through this examination and practice I have learned many invaluable tools. When studying, observing and practicing I place myself in the shoes of those whom I coach. It is key for me to take the essentials of what I am learning and apply as necessary.

I have found a number of excellent if not amazing systems. I have also found that none of these is the end all be all, therefore my continually exploration. This is not a knock on any system, just an honest observation. It also maybe more of a reflection on the simple sheer number of people and varying interests of these people that i serve.

In reading some works by Bruce Lee, recently a penny dropped along with a moment of clarity that feels as if i peeled another layer. It used to be the concept of jack of all trades, master of none. But this i do not feel is the case for me, what i see is myself becoming a master of my own system. It is not about reinventing the wheel, or branding a business to sell and make money. Instead it is truly about life, art, science and the wisdom that comes from being curious, willing to explore and learn, the openness to all things possible. Yes, it is like water, taking the form of what it touches, continually flowing and evolving.

These 3 quotes from Bruce Lee resonated with me on a certain level. I have spent much time reading the Tao Te Ching and from many authors. Much like Bruce Lee, it has a profound impact on my being.

“I am learning to understand rather than immediately judge or to be judged. I cannot blindly follow the crowd and accept their approach. I will not allow myself to indulge in the usual manipulating game of role creation. Fortunately for me, my self-knowledge has transcended that and I have come to understand that life is best to be lived and not to be conceptualized. I am happy because I am growing daily and I am honestly not knowing where the limit lies. To be certain, every day there can be a revelation or a new discovery. I treasure the memory of the past misfortunes. It has added more to my bank of fortitude.”

“When there is freedom from mechanical conditioning, there is simplicity. The classical man is just a bundle of routine, ideas and tradition. If you follow the classical pattern, you are understanding the routine, the tradition, the shadow – you are not understanding yourself.”

“A teacher must never impose this student to fit his favourite pattern; a good teacher functions as a pointer, exposing his student’s vulnerability (and) causing him to explore both internally and finally integrating himself with his being. Martial art should not be passed out indiscriminately.”

As a coach I feel it is integral not to limit my clients to a single system. Instead it is my role to give them the best and most appropriate system for the situation. For this reason I keep exploring and studying systems. I have a long list and it goes far beyond simply movement based systems. I must say it is exciting to be a student and share this wisdom I come across with clients and patients.

Yoga, Acupuncture and achieving a balance state of mind, body and spirit

Recently, I started to think about my yoga practice in terms of acupuncture meridians and how poses addresses meridians and vice versa. This approach has completely reframed my thoughts on the body.

As an acupuncturist I see lines running throughout the body and within these lines lie specific clues to a persons constitution and state of wellness. The body serves as a road map as does the face, the skin, the tongue, the pulse and so on. Putting this into a
Physical practice, in particular my own gives me a level of insight I have never fully understood and could conceptualize.

Of course, this is the purpose of Yin Yoga as evident in the name and therefore you can think of “vinyasa” or “power” yoga style practices being Yang. Note, all classes have a form of both Yin and Yang to them.

So, there is far more to this than even I know/realize today and my practice will continue to enhance my understanding and ability to articulate it. I will say that one of the crucial aspects is that the practice of yoga addresses all meridians and will increase Qi and Blood flow helping the body come in touch with its natural equilibrium. This is crucial and a great stepping stone to health and well being, in particular being in a balance state of mind, body and spirit.

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