What to practice, when to practice, how to practice, where to practice.

Well if you’ve ever been to a yoga class or a martial arts class or a dance class, I’m sure there’s a warm up, a part where there’s what I call an “information dump” and some sort of ending, meditation, stretching, savasana, etc… If at the end you all drink a kool aid type liquid or ingest something while in a robe and asked to voice your intentions, or pledge your devotion… then… You might be in a cult, so hey that’s your thing, just know that and if it’s not your thing you might want to try another class cuz it’s about to get weird, you may have just gotten married…

Classes are expensive, and not as necessary as you’d think, I’m not saying learn on your own, always find a good teacher and yes,  you should go to them, however, this is a practice.  So practice.  Alone if you can, it’s the missing piece to integrating knowledge.  It’s also good to have a partner, but doing it alone also means you don’t have to link schedules or require something else to get your breathing done for the day.

A time where we can do our work without wondering if someone is watching, or by secretly trying to keep up can work wonders.  It also allows us to repeat the same thing over and over and spend a little time with it.  Build a relationship between you and your art.  Imagine wanting to go out on a date with someone but every moment you’re together it’s in a room full of people or the parents are there.  You’ll never really know what this person’s about.  Same thing with our practice.

I have students all the time ask… What Do I practice?

Now I teach a ton of stuff, but really if you think about it.  The yogis always should work on getting stronger. The martial artists should stretch more… Balance never hurts, honestly you can’t do enough squats, crunches, leg lifts, etc…   I usually ask them… What do you remember from class today?  The reply is usually prefaced with “all I remember is…”

This is the first mistake.

Change your tone “All I remember is…” guy. Perhaps you should say, “this is what I remember.”  Because that’s what you remember.  It’s ok, you shouldn’t remember everything. It’s a new language a new type of movement, the more you learn about it the easier it is to remember things.  Start small and don’t judge yourself.

If all you remember is a front kick and a punch.  Then guess what … That’s what you’re practicing.  Do it slowly and safely.  Then, just throw in something you remember from gym class or something you know from another class.  Touch your toes, push ups, crunches, leg lifts, squats… Then you’re one with the universe.

Remember these practices have multiple lifetimes of information and depth but for the first decade, you’re skimming the surface.  We sometimes disconnect other exercise from these deep esoteric practices, but really, especially in the beginning, it’s just a bunch of stretching and breathing. I don’t want to spoil the ending, but from what I’ve heard from very old Guru’s and Masters… The stretching and fancy forms, are just to keep us entertained while we breathe.  They’re allowed to say this though because they’ve done the physical they know the forms.

You’re going to have to buy your relaxation with effort.  So push ups, pull ups, knee bends (squats), sit ups, leg lifts, dead lifts, etc… Are all things to do on your own time to get the structure and conditioning to relax.

Go find a tai chi master and ask them how they got so relaxed.  Tai chi helps, but it’s the before and after is what tells the story.  Those low stances are painful unless you can do 500 knee bends.  Then those stances are relaxed.  Same with chaturanga… Can you do a push up?  If no, then it’s gonna be a nonrelaxing experience.  If you can do 50, it’s a moment to breathe and relax.

A long time ago, however, in our life time.  Many teachers wouldn’t teach us nearly as much so early in our practice.  I run a series all the time.  Asana after asana after combo after theory after.. Blah blah blah.  Really it’s because people are in my classes for a work out.  Not for a list of 3 things to take home and practice.  I’d lose students.  I have lost students… Hope you’re well guys..

So it’s now my job to highlight something to take home among all the ancient clutter that is this practice.  “Work on this…”  I admit, I’m guilty of not doing that and assuming people will stretch on their own.  Sometimes they do, however…  Let’s have a chat about practice.


So…What do we practice?

I had a teacher mention my front kick, and asked how I got it so “clean”.  He asked if I could show the class some “tricks”… An hour later, we were still throwing front kicks.  Then we stretched and meditated… Good night.  That’s how.  Do it… A lot.   Do it still, slow, fast, smooth, moving forwards, backwards, sides, do it like a dance, like a fight, like a damn rockette, then feel the muscles being used… Abs, ankles, quads… Work those… Hold it out for a minute… Etc… There’s your secret.

I was then asked how I learned all those different ways to break it down…

Well, first off… I’m not good at stuff so I have to really work at it.  I’ve also had a cold hearted/loving batch of masters and military guys in my life basically making me practice… If I didn’t, it hurt when I stood in front of the guy that did.  (I’ve also had some saintly teachers as well, this training is powerful yet sometimes Bittersweet, and that’s good… It filters us out)  This is what yoga is totally missing out on.

I also have a wonderful gift called ADHD. This is a true vein into creativity and focus… Medical science will have you believe it’s remedied by pills and weird overstimulating teaching practices, they’ll also lead you to believe it’s a “disorder”… it is if you’re going to be a data entry professional, I admit…

Really, for me, it was the lens to seek truth, and when you leave an ADHD kid in a room with nothing to do and very limited tools, they’re gonna get creative.  Period.  Give me a million things, I’m gonna pick through them all until I get to the one I can see matches my personality the best, it may take a week but once I’m there, nothing else exists.  So… If all I know are front kicks and I’m in a room with nothing to do or entertain me… Guess what I’m doing.  Front kicking… Then I get bored with that… So then I’m moving around and front kicking, then I get bored with that… So I’m now imagining other ways to front kick, perhaps it’s zombies, or some kid that made me mad, or kicking onstage with a guitar… Whatever, just do it, get bored with it, then use your imagination to entertain yourself with it.  Practice builds a relationship between your skill and your imagination.  Keep it safe, and be sure you know how to patch holes in walls… It happens.

Imagination is so important… This is an art… Don’t believe me?  Kung fu mimics the movements of animals.  Do you think it was a bunch of highly educated scientists using play by play slow motion movement capture technology to exact the pure tiger physiology, or honestly, a bunch of dudes that work out a lot, worked really hard, then started using their imaginations to interpret and create?    I may be wrong, but hey… There’s a dragon style… You tell me.  By the way, don’t take this as an invitation to make a unicorn style, I know what your thinking.  However, if you do, teach me.

So to simplify all this long winded story telling hoopla.  Practice what you remember, at first slowly to just get the framework.  It doesn’t have to be perfect, just show up for yourself and as you practice, you’ll have questions.  Sometimes the practice will answer them (it’s like the first internet, its there, just search)  or if not, ask your teacher the next time, they’ll love it.

Then do some conditioning.

Squats, Push ups, Pull ups (if you can’t do those, then Rows with a light weight… Something to pull) then your core, crunches, leg lifts, and back lifts or dead lifts.

As far as safety goes, these are the things I hear from students when I say to condition.

Squats?  My knees are bad, my back is bad,

ME:  well lets learn proper form, and if your back hurts, a good squat is great for the paraspinal muscles.  If your knees hurt don’t go so low at first and perhaps do a wall sit.

Push ups?  My wrists hurt, I can’t do a push up.

ME:  well if your wrists hurt perhaps light flies or bench press, or do em from your knees with your hands and wrists forward past your shoulders (you tube it)  because if you can’t do a push up and your wrists hurt… Yoga is going to destroy you.

Pull ups?  I can’t do a pull up…

ME:  That’s because they’re hard for a lot of people.  Try  rows from a chair, or a bench first, any pulling is good… Or swimming is super fun.  Just something to work the back.. You’ll notice that there’s not much pulling in yoga or martial arts… You’ll also notice that there’s not much pushing in nature.  Coincidence?  We’ll tackle that one later.  The answer may come with more practice and study.

Crunches?  Leg Lifts? Back ups/lifts?

I rarely hear anyone opt out of these for other reasons that they’re BORING!!!  I AGREE!!!  But well, most folks will do them for vanity’s sake, so be careful with your low back on the leg lifts, and again, (you tube some safe ab work outs, there’s plenty of fun ways yep… I have plenty now.)

Go to the When The Where for more tips… have a good practice.  Hi.