Yoga: Poked Slapped and Kicked

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It took me years to get used to the idea that someone would come around and “adjust” my while I was trying to perfect my down dog or my half moon.

It didn’t hurt that some instructors were absolutely refined young women with a touch as gentle as a breeze.  I’m just the kind of guy that doesn’t like it that much.

I’ve gotten over it.

In fact, I’ve gotten to the point where I still don’t like it, but I appreciate it.  That guiding hand helps me refine my pose and understand the fine muscles that normally get ignored in daily life.

Along the way I’d heard stories about teachers from the old country (India) where such adjustments weren’t so gentle.  When a teacher wanted you to pay attention to between your lower shoulder blades, you could get a very sharp poke from a finger.

Or if your leg was turning out in tree pose, a healthy slap from the teacher reminds you to level the hips and push through the heel with your outer thigh while bringing the inner upper thigh up and in.

In a recent interview, I heard about one of the great Masters (BKS Iyengar himself) who kicked his disciple in the back while she was in headstand.  She remained poised and steady, and he congratulated her on finally “getting it.”

Why?  Why this brutality?  Why do some of these experts cause pain, while the nice teachers are gentle?

In the light of #MeToo, and with a little bit of psychology, there are other reasons it makes sense to guide students with an iron hand.

First off, it makes an impression – sometimes literally.  There is no ambiguity as to where the teacher is drawing your attention.  If it gets you off balance, that tells you that you’re not grounded enough either.  Even in a handstand you should be able to hold your position, even if guruji kicks you.  And you remember better.

Secondly, in the light of the so many complaints emerging from women who have been “man-handled” through the years, it removes another kind of ambiguity.

A light touch is often associated with attraction, arousal, and ultimately seduction.  If the situation involves a male teacher and a female student, the opportunity for drawing the wrong conclusion is high.

On the other hand, even if the most handsome teacher in the world slaps you on the back, or pokes you with a sharp finger right in your thigh, there’s less chance you’ll think it’s some kind of foreplay.

Do it right and feel your eyeballs vibrate!

So, if you’re caressing your students, think about the impression you’re leaving on them.

And if you’re on the receiving end of a sharp comment, appreciate it for what it means.  The teacher wants you to remember and get better.  No extra strings attached.

AUM….

Yoga: Abusive Teachers

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Yesterday my daughter tried out one of those “yoga” classes at XX Fitness.

She came back upset, even crying.

She’d gotten there a minute late, as she’s brand new to the place.  The “teacher” called her out for it.  When she didn’t understand his snide comment, he made another challenging her intelligence.

My daughter found a spot in the middle of the crowd class, hoping to be left alone to try and get a good workout.  Yet the teacher found her to be someone who needed special attention.

He chided her about her difficulty in getting into the contortions he was telling the regulars to assume.  He didn’t demonstrate, he didn’t guide   She’s not new to yoga, in fact she’s had some world-class yogi’s training her.  She knows what deep yoga is all about.  This class was nothing like that.

Summing it all up, he told everyone to put their legs up the wall, even though quite a few people were in the center of the room.  Then he played terrible tunes during savasana, talking to them the whole while.

We managed to settle her down a bit once she was home, but the experience unsettled her.  The next morning I pointed out that abusive males can appear any time, any where, and that if she had a weaker character he could have used her insecurity to prey on her.  As it was, we expect our yoga class to be a place of safety, a refuge from the normal crap of civilization.

Unity in Diversity. Unity against Evil.

I urged her to say something, anything, to anyone.  I don’t know if she did, or will.  So i’m telling you, my internet friends.  There are bad men everywhere, even in yoga class.  Don’t stand for it.  The other women in that class did nothing to help my daughter, nor did the other men.  Travesties like this will continue as long as the rest of us put up with bullies.

That’s not yoga.  That’s life.  And it won’t change unless we fight.

Better Society Through Science

In today's world, the

Do you agree with me on the following?
.Science can solve anything.
..Social problems are not getting easier to understand.
…Our understanding of people is not improving.
….Transcending Boundaries means challenging assumptions.
If you agree, let’s talk.


 

Anything can be examined, logically.

Science can solve anything.  As a young doctoral student, I believed that through Science, we could better understand ANY problem and take steps towards a completely efficient and effective solution. And why not?  We tamed the atom and we peered into the furthest reaches of the universe.  How hard could understanding world hunger or oppressive dictatorships be?  All we needed was good scientific principles, quality data, rigorous methods, and an intellectual environment that nurtured quality research.  How hard could this be?  [1]

 

Technology has not been a panacea for problems.

Social problems are not getting easier to understand.  In many ways the world has not improved since 1980.  Sure, we have flying cars and can read our genetic code.  But there’s many ways in which things are worse.  We thought the end of the Cold War would “free” up the oppressed soviet states and reinvent a forward thinking Russia.  Instead we have Putin.  We also have an oppressive and aggressive China.  There’s Syria, Turkey, Venezuela, The Philippines, Myanmar, and Egypt.  There’s religious extremism, non-localized religious-based violence, and escalating intolerance of culture as well as xenophobia throughout.  There’s a good chance NATO and the European Union were effectively destabilized by “bad actors” as well, using the latest technology in combination with old-fashioned subversion tactics in order to implement strategies that spans decades.  Finally, what about the doomsday clock, statements from the doctors without borders, reporters under attack, and notices from human rights watch?

 

Even with all the violence, we don't truly understand ourselves.

Our understanding of people is not improving.  There are no fundamental scientific advances as far as understanding people or social behaviors that we’ve discovered.  If I’m in error, I’m eager to accept any scientific findings to the contrary.  [2]

 

Transcending Boundaries means challenging assumptions. 

Assumptions like:

1) Encouraging scientific rigor and accountability within disciplines.  We can institutionalize (and reward) replication within our educational system and require it of academia.

2) We currently allow for the validation of scientific integrity within disciplines through peer review and specialized societies.  Perhaps it’s time for us to do the same BETWEEN disciplines.

... so why let any constraint remain unchallenged?

3)  Associating an individual’s ethical integrity in any aspect of their life to their scientific life.  #MeToo has been a watershed for recognizing long standing biases against half the population.  But are we confident that someone who is willing to compromise their ethics in one area of life can exclude it from their professional lives?  Ethics in all areas should also be an aspiration and never assumed.  [3]

4) Last, but far from least, true progress can’t be made unless we adhere to tried and true scientific principles in every aspect, bar none.  Definitions, logical rigor, standardized, calibrated, and validated methods of measurement, and rigorous methodologies that use p-values properly would be a start.  [4]

 

I'll treat in exchange for a good conversation.

If you agree, let’s talk.  I’m Steven, a retired businessman and inventor.  In the 1980s I was an idealistic doctoral student.  I earned a master’s and continued my studies in order to keep track of the progress made in understanding our humanity.  Forty years later, I’m hoping to meet like-minded individuals at the AAAS 2019 convention to see if my experience can make a contribution, no matter how small.  I look forward to meeting you and lending you a sympathetic ear, at the very least.  You can mail me at Zebra Skimmers (no spaces) at Gmail.

Thank you.

 

Notes:

[1] For the record, I still believe Science can help us understand our problems, but the solving part is problematic.  Understanding problems also means understanding the forces working against solutions, and that, unfortunately, is a whole other problem.

[2] The works of E O Wilson and early work of R Dawkins could be considered fundamental, but so far applying them to humans has been unsatisfactory.

[3] “Plagiarism at Integrity Meeting” brief in Science, page 209, 18 January 2019.

[4] “Misinformation Machine” in Science, page 348, 25 January 2019. Particularly the 3rd and 4th paragraphs regarding disparate definitions of “fake news.”

 

END

Asking Questions Correctly

This news item happened in April of 2018, but since MLK is so connected to this issue and its sad repercussions, I figured it would be better to wait for his “week” rather than do it right away.

Martin Luther King is worth remembering.

Basically, an 8th grade teacher asked the kids to list the “good” aspects of slavery.

And the internets erupted.  Probably justifiably so.

 

Point the First, let’s not judge the teacher, the school, or the textbook they were using.  All of them may be implicated in this, but let it go for the moment.

Point the Second, consider some facts concerning slavery.

  • The southern US used slaves for almost 200 years before Lincoln asked them to stop.
  • These states didn’t invent slavery.  They probably learned all about slaves from two sources:
    • European colonial powers who used them almost everywhere,
    • and from many native sources as well.
  • Slavery has been with humans as long as we know.
    • It was prevalent in Africa during the European invasion,
    • Medieval Europe used it in many forms, even if they didn’t call it by the same name, and
    • Ancient Romans, Greeks, and Egyptians all had it as part of their society.
  • Finally, and most sadly of all, forms of slavery exist to this day.  This can be a whole post in itself, but consider exhibit one: trafficking in young women as prostitutes.

Point the Third, let’s agree that slavery is something that should be studied.  We should study it so that it never becomes part of our civilization again.

We need to understand why it started.  We need to know why it lasted for so, so very long.  We need to figure out who benefited from slavery.  And most importantly of all, we need to be able to prove, once and for all, to everyone living today, why exactly slavery is bad for everyone.

Where do we start?  We have to start somewhere.  And this is where that poor teacher fumbled.  Because in any competitive relationship, some people “win” and some people “lose.”

So this is what our poor teacher should have done.

  • What was it about slavery that caused it to last for so long?
  • What is it that forces people to put up with being slaves?
  • Does any form of slavery exist today?
  • And my favorite, the most basic of them all: What is a good definition of slavery?

Keep in mind, as students of behavior, we shouldn’t call anything “good” or “bad.”  Everything people do is natural, it just is.  At the same time, we should be able to agree that there is something fundamentally wrong with the concept of slavery.  Understanding it properly so that it never happens again (or even today) is what we should be doing.

Good luck, and Happy MLK week!

 

Bad Sex

Alright guys, another article that’s not what you think.

This is inspired by a woman named Germaine Greer.  What she says is thought provoking.  And since I like provoking thoughts, I’m going to repeat her words.

Rape is bad sex.

She’s written a book about it, but the summary is simple.  Lets stop treating rape as a hugely incredibly terrible event that puts ALL the responsibility upon the victim instead of the perpetrator.  Instead of having this ridiculous standard of proof, lets lower that standard, and lower the penalty.  You raped someone?  Pay the fine.  Make it a big fine.

Was there injury involved?  Then the fine is increased.

Did she say no?  Or was she incapacitated on her own?  Then even more fine.

Did YOU incapacitate her?  Increase the fine yet again.

Get the picture?  It’s like a speeding ticket.  Break it down into its respective components and penalize each of them.  Faster justice.  More impact upon the perps.  Easier to prove.

Are these thoughts controversial?   Oh yes.

Is there a right and a wrong here?  Absolutely not.

I’m not a proponent of following them.  However, I’m a big fan of discussing them.  Unless we start tackling all of our social problems head on in rational manners, we’re not going to be going anywhere.  If anything, we are slipping backwards.

So, consider the words, ponder the thoughts, and think through what we’re trying to achieve as a society.  There has to be a solution in there, somewhere.

Or else…