Flip Flops Are Evil, Part 100


green-flip-flopsEvery spring I write a diatribe against flip flops and their inherent evil. Japanese in origin, I often wonder if they were the last offensive of WWII, meant to destroy the feet of their American enemies.
Saturday morning I woke up and opened every window in our apartment as it was clear that spring has truly come to Brooklyn.
As always I asked my kids if they wanted to join me and the dog on our morning walk. Taking me up on the offer my son said he would wear his rain boots without socks and I told him he should just go barefoot.
Instead he asked if he could wear flip flops and with a heavy sigh I ceded to his wishes (this going against one’s better instincts in the name of freedom and empowerment is one of the more interesting aspects of parenting).
We got outside, and it was that particular kind of morning that justifies living through winter.
My son took off running and then came running back.
“Daddy, you can run with flip flops, you just have to squeeze your toes to keep them on.”
“That’s why they’re bad Reg. You are doing the same thing when you walk as well.”
“No I’m not.”
“Yes you are; it’s just more subtle. You do all sorts of bad things with your feet just to keep the flip flops attached. Just go barefoot.”
The weird thing is that my kids do go barefoot a lot— but they actually like wearing flip flops as well. This of course makes me crazy. And while I am not particularly sensitive to sound, boy do I hate the sound of their flip and flop.

I basically think that anyone who insists on wearing flip flops should go barefoot which is so much better for you than flip flops, or even good shoes for that matter.

The fact that people think flip flops are necessary to protect their feet from the sidewalk strikes me as odd. If you are willing to be shod as minimally as flip flops, I am hard pressed to see why you shouldn’t make the leap to walking around with bare feet.

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Sunday Morning Music: Serge Gainsbourg

The title track of one of my all time favorite records, The Ballad of Melody Nelson.


What’s up with Hanging Down?

deadhang-300x240Writing about hating exercise the other day, I mentioned how I hang from the pull-up bar in my office a couple of times a day. Usually this hanging is in between trips in and out of the office and lasts a few seconds before I move on to wherever I was heading.

In the course of writing blog posts I usually surf the web looking for information or images and tend to stumble on many interesting things, most often to distract me, but sometimes to inspire.

Ido Portale is someone I appreciate and have written about before; his improper alignment video is a favorite of mine. He has a great approach to movement.

I found my way to a post of his on hanging from one arm. The post clearly states that you should be able to hang from both arms for two minutes before hanging from one arm for a minute.

As someone who has long been tormented by the inability to do a pullup I figured this might be a good place to start. I broke out the timer and began to hang. I stopped at forty-five seconds because my hands hurt too much. Since that first attempt I have been doing a series of 30 second hangs which my hands mind much less.

And my email now informs me that the weightlifting gloves I ordered have shipped and I believe that one minute hangs are coming soon.

Known as a dead hang, which often precedes a flexed hang, it works the hands, forearms and wrist flexors, as well as the trapezius if you spend some of the hanging time with flexed shoulders.

In classes that I teach I often talk about the journey the shoulder has taken from compression to suspension to freedom. A great deal of yoga is about compression: planks, handstnad, etc. And we could all probably do with a little suspension.

The night of the first day that I performed the series of thirty second hangs, my right side—my trouble side—ached every time I sat down or got up from a chair or couch. It was pretty alarming but I know that my muscles adapt fairly well and I felt great the following morning.

It has been about a week of this type of hanging and I am really into it. I have written about a neck issue that I have been dealing with since last winter and after that opening on my right side, my neck has felt spacious in a way that it hasn’t for quite some time.

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I Hate Exercise

1280px-Youth-soccer-indianaThere it is: I hate exercise. This is a terrible admission for an exercise teacher to make but I teach exercise so that I make sure to do at least some every day.

Why do I hate exercise? I don’t really know. Though a big reason would be that it bores me silly. To apply the famous Dorothy Parker quote about writing to exercise: I hate exercising, I love having exercised.

But even the positive feeling associated with the post exercise experience isn’t enough to make me love the dreaded workout.

I didn’t have good models when it came to moving as a child. One of my favorite lines in workshops is, “The only exercise I ever saw my father do was put a cigarette to his lips a few thousand times a day.”

This isn’t to say I wasn’t an active child. My idyllic youth on the streets of Brooklyn involved marathon days of punch ball, football, hint (the 65th Street version of hide and seek) and lots and lots of throwing a ball against the side of a house.

And, it isn’t that I don’t exercise; it is just that I hate it and want it to end almost immediately after it begins. This is why I love my exercise toys so much. I pass my Bosu on the way to the kitchen and do a few squats. If I am too long at my desk (which is often), I bring my Bongo Board into the office and balance for a while.

I have a pull-up bar in the doorway to our office and usually hang on it for a few seconds a few times a day (more to come on hanging).

Throw walking my dog into the mix and over the course of the day I am not particularly sedentary; I just hate exercise.

While no one would call me fat (I don’t think), I carry an extra ten or fifteen pounds in a spare tire around my waist and lack the ambition or vanity to remove it.

What is that lack of aspiration about I wonder? The times in my life that I have put my loathing for exercise aside have really carried me. I don’t lack for strength or flexibility or endurance, though endurance is probably the main thing that suffers from my distaste for exertion.

One reason to exercise might be that having passed fifty I have entered the realm of contemporaries dying. People my age succumbing to the grim reaper way before, what I would think, is their time.

My aforementioned father, who never exercised, fell apart physically as he aged, dependent on a slew of medications and a walker. And while I am not too instinctively worried I do not want to end up in a similar position.

So what’s a man who hates exercise, but knows all too well the value of exercise, to do?

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Sunday Morning Music: Dave and Phil Alvin

Phil Alvin has one of my favorite voices. I have enjoyed the music of the Alvin brothers going back to The Blasters and have been loving their excellent new album, Common Ground: Dave & Phil Alvin Play and Sing the Songs of Big Bill Broonzy.

I have been listening to a lot of blues lately because for some reason I put Slim Harpo on itunes radio and my kids never ask for it to be switched off. It’s not that I don’t want to listen to Uptown Funk fifty times a day, but…




Weekend Mashup: April 11th

Here a collection of interesting articles from the week that didn’t make it into blog posts.


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Having a daughter is some powerful business when you have to tell her that when she grows up if things stay the same, she’ll earn 75% of what her brother will earn if they have the same job. To that end, I know this is an ad campaign but I appreciated it anyway.



Interesting study of the effects exercise, and lack thereof on pairs of twins.


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On a lighter note, Street Art That Only Reveals Itself When It Rains.



Behind Each Breath, An Underappreciated Muscle: The Diaphragm


Place Your Rage

place your rageParenting is a trip. Of late, I have been telling my daughter that my job is to help her become an adult and that is no easy task.

Yesterday’s lesson, absorbed with a glazed look in her eye, was about learning to place your rage where it should be directed. It is human to get angry and I am all too human. But how I express that anger is important.

This lesson was precipitated by the fact that I was pissed off at my wife about something and got angry at my kids. Did I rage uncontrollably? Nah. That’s not my thing. I just let off some steam in their direction that was wholly undeserved.

This idea to place your rage has been with me for a long time. For a fairly happy go lucky guy I am also capable of being a rageaholic. I grew up with an angry father full up with insecurity and self loathing, and an unhealthy ignorance of both. He was pretty brilliant but tortured.

What kind of parent do I want to be? One that helps my children find their way towards a healthy adulthood. Getting angry at them when I’m angry at someone else is not necessarily the best approach.

I often see myself in my children which can alternately make me happy and powerfully sad. As an adult I forgave my parents when I realized that misguided as the were, they truly meant well as they embraced some horrible parenting choices.

I know I will need my children’s forgiveness as well at some point and I hope in the future they can express that anger or place that rage at me rather than take it out on a future mate that hasn’t done much to deserve a deep well of misplaced rage. 


What is Social Anxiety?

anxiety-disorder-treatmentI hate parties. I loathe small talk. I’m not particularly comfortable with people I don’t know.

I have long felt that I have social anxiety of some sort or another. And I have been meaning to write about it for a while. When I was a little kid, I was the one my family sent to get directions or information. I would talk to anyone, anytime. They say I was excessively cute.

Then something changed. My teens sent me on a life track that left the beaten path behind. In many ways I have been very lucky. I am fifty-two and the only 9 to 5 job I have ever had was working in an office during the summer when I was sixteen years old.

My memories of those two months revolve around martini lunches at the Lone Star Café (there was no such thing as getting carded in the seventies) purchased by my boss who then complained when I fell asleep while sorting invoices in the afternoon.

I didn’t make it through high school where so much socializing and skills of that nature are developed and I didn’t go to college where most people learn how to co-exist with others. The friends my brother and sister made in college remain their best friends today.

The friends I have all tend to be uncomfortable weirdos like myself.

After that summer of what might be called fun, all of my labor has been part time, journeyman type of work such as being a carpenter or a waiter or a yoga teacher. All jobs that have a transient nature that allow for social control of the environment.

My creative pursuits provided me with the same controls: photography, directing theater, teaching yoga. I’m on one side of the room comfortably in control while everyone else is on the other side chatting away.

My wife read me something someone wrote yesterday, and I paraphrase, about being comfortable in front of 500 people or one on one, while anything in between was hell on earth.

Welcome to my world.

When I went in search of the actual parameters of social anxiety I don’t fully fit the mold (Unless of course I’m deluding myself). Their seems to be a big fear of being judged connected to the diagnoses as well as a raft of accompanying physical sensations that don’t connect to my experience.

But whatever it is that I’ve got my poor wife bears the brunt of it: I either beg out of almost all social situations or approach them with a singular dread that is no fun to be around. I feel for her as I suck the air out of the room when she suggests us going to a party or some such event.

On the other side how lucky can I be that I have work, neurotic as it might be, providing me with social interaction that I am comfortable with? As long as it is in the yoga room and I am in control.

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Let Your Arms Hang Out

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Your arms are designed to hang from the shoulder socket. In a well aligned body with good posture the shoulder girdle hangs from the head, and your arms hang from the shoulder.

As a teacher of walking, posture and yoga, I use many different cues to help people feel where they are in space and how that feeling translates into good posture.

I use lots of words but I don’t think they are nearly as effective at helping people to feel what it is I am on about. Exercises serve very well in this respect because having someone walk or stand, perform an exercise, and then feel if there is any difference, is one of the most useful tools that I have.

The concept that your arms hang from the shoulder is one of the easiest cues I have to work with. It doesn’t require an exercise. All it requires is the willingness to look odd for a moment or two.

Try and feel how the arms sit into their sockets. It might require the contrast of the next movement to feel the difference.

  • Round forward a bit. Try to round more than lean but either will do.
  • Can you feel the moment when your arm releases and hangs from the socket towards the earth?
  • Go back up to where you began and not the difference.
  • Return to the hanging position and then try to stand back up as straight as you can without returning the arm “locked” position.

Posture is a dynamic process though there are a number of physical cues that can help to determine that you are in a good place in space.

Try to play around with this “arm hangs from the shoulder” concept (I didn’t make it up) and see how it feels.

One of the more interesting pieces to the puzzle is just how far your body needs to move forward before your arm hangs freely and releases.


How Do You Know If You Have A Tight Psoas?

tight psoasEveryone has a tight psoas, or at least one that is tighter than the other. There is no such thing as a true ambidexterity. No one is perfectly balanced on both sides: handedness is part of our design. In general, we are dominant on one side though that dominance can switch top to bottom.

The question that becomes how do I know if I have a too tight psoas, or one that is causing my problems? Even though I work with back and other types of physical pain, I am not a physical therapist and don’t do a lot of muscle testing.

It isn’t that I find tests to be unnecessary, but they don’t tend to help me help people change. If someone shows up to see me with back or any other type of pain, I take it for granted that they don’t move well and start working on changing their intrinsic patterns.

For me changing patterns is how I approach pain problems because whether you have a tight psoas or not is actually rather meaningless compared to how you use your psoas in daily life. I am probably being too simple (though it has served me so far) but I take it for granted that almost all back, hip and groin pain involves a tight psoas so what is the real need to test and affirm that.tight psoas

That said, in all of my psoas workshops I am asking people to feel for their tighter psoas to develop an understanding of their hip joint and its available rotation.

One of the standard releases that I work with called Foot on a Block, is one way I ask people to feel which their tight psoas is. If you stand on a block with one foot and hang the other foot off the block towards the floor, you should ideally feel which leg is more willing to release out of its socket. The leg that isn’t interested in letting go is your tight psoas.

But I know from offering this thousands of times, not everybody is tuned in to this type of feeling.

From a yoga perspective I used to offer this very unscientific test for psoas length.

  • Go up into a handstand at the wall with your hands as close to the wall as possible.
  • Start with both heels against the wall and start to lower one leg straight down keeping the opposite heel on the wall.
  • At a certain point the heel on the wall will not be able to stay connected as the lowering leg descends.
  • The leg that pulls the heel off of the wall first is the tight psoas.

In the next post I’ll go over the physical therapist’s standard test for psoas length called the Thomas test.

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