Thursday, July 16, 2009

Understanding the Blues

Understanding the Blues is part of life. Age and experience are key to singing the Blues. It's a mode of being. It's not Yoga, but needs to be understood in a Yogic life, like the background in a picture. The Blues is the smoke from the fire of samskara burning...
The following was borrowed from anonymous internet postings:
1. Most Blues begin with: "Woke up this morning..."

2. "I got a good woman" is a bad way to begin the Blues unless you stick something nasty in the next line like "I got a good woman with the meanest face in town."

3. The Blues is simple. After you get the first line right, repeat it. Then find something that rhymes, sort of: "Got a good woman with the meanest face in town. Yes, I got a good woman with the meanest face in town. Got teeth like Margaret Thatcher, and she weigh 500 pound."

4. The Blues is not about choice. You stuck in a ditch, you stuck in a ditch. There ain't no way out.

5. Blues cars: Chevys, Fords, Cadillacs and broken-down trucks. Blues don't travel in Volvos, BMWs, or SUVs. Most Blues transportation is a Greyhound bus or a southbound train. Jet aircraft and state-sponsored motor pools ain't even in the running. Walkin' plays a major part in the blues lifestyle. So does fixin' to die.

6. Teenagers can't sing the Blues. They ain't fixin' to die yet. Adults sing the Blues. In Blues, "adulthood" means being old enough to get the electric chair if you shoot a man in Memphis.

7. Blues can take place in New York City but not in Hawaii or anyplace in Canada. Hard times in Minneapolis or Seattle is probably just clinical depression. Chicago, St. Louis, and Kansas City are still great places to have the Blues. You cannot have the blues anyplace that don't get rain.

8. A man with male pattern baldness ain't the Blues. A woman with male pattern baldness is. Breaking your leg 'cause you were skiing is not the blues. Breaking your leg 'cause a alligator be chomping on it is.

9. You can't have no Blues in a office or a shopping mall. The lighting is wrong. Go out to the parking lot or sit by the dumpster.

10. Good places for the Blues:
a. Highway
b. Jailhouse
c. Empty bed
d. Bottom of a whiskey glass

Bad places for the Blues:
a. Nordstrom's
b. Gallery openings
c. Ivy League colleges
d. Golf courses

11. No one will believe it's the Blues if you wear a suit, 'less you happen to be an old ethnic person, and you slept in it.

12. Do you have the right to sing the Blues?
Yes, if:
a. You older than dirt
b. You blind
c. You shot a man in Memphis
d. You can't be satisfied

No, if:
a. You have all your teeth
b. You were once blind but now can see
c. The man in Memphis lived
d. You have a 401K or trust fund

13. Blues is not a matter of color. It's a matter of bad luck. Tiger Woods cannot sing the blues. Sonny Liston could. Ugly white people also got a leg up on the blues.

14. If you ask for water and your darlin' give you gasoline, it's the Blues.
Other acceptable Blues beverages are:
a. Cheap wine
b. Whiskey or bourbon
c. Muddy water
d. Nasty black coffee

The following are NOT Blues beverages:
a. Perrier
b. Chardonnay
c. Snapple
d. Slim Fast

15. If death occurs in a cheap motel or a shotgun shack, it's a Blues death. Stabbed in the back by a jealous lover is another Blues way to die. So is the electric chair, substance abuse and dying lonely on a broken-down cot. You can't have a Blues death if you die during a tennis match or while getting liposuction.

16. Some Blues names for women:
a. Sadie
b. Big Mama
c. Bessie
d. Fat River Dumpling

17. Some Blues names for men:
a. Joe
b. Willie
c. Little Willie
d. Big Willie

18. Persons with names like Amber, Jennifer, Tiffany, Debbie, and Heather can't sing the Blues no matter how many men they shoot in Memphis.

19. Make your own Blues Name Starter Kit:
a. Name of physical infirmity (Blind, Cripple, Lame, etc.)
b. Choose a fruit (Lemon, Lime, etc.)
c. Last name of President (Jefferson, Johnson, Fillmore, etc.) Examples: Blind Lime Jefferson, Jackleg Lemon Johnson.

20. No matter how tragic your life, if you own a computer you cannot sing the blues.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Yoga-nomics: Structuring the Business

With the wave of social awareness cresting in the Blue states, how can individuals and groups bring "Change" that is necessary. With current structures of ownership, it can be difficult at best.

So, as the pitfalls of unbridled capitalism are uncovered around us, we require new ways of organizing socially responsible activities.

Social enterprises that have a clearly defined mission often don't fit neatly into existing ownership structures. Those that register as nonprofits have trouble tapping private capital to expand, while for-profit companies risk compromising their missions because they must put shareholders' returns first. But growing interest in hybrid business models has brought about efforts at the state level to create new corporate structures that allow entrepreneurs to combine nonfinancial goals into for-profit businesses.

One new form, known as the Low-profit Limited Liability Company (or L3C), is intended for companies that put their missions before profits. The structure lets them qualify for loans or investments that further a foundation's goals and also may yield financial returns. First adopted in Vermont in April 2008, the L3C is now also on the books in Michigan, Utah, and Wyoming. There are 53 L3Cs in Vermont and a handful in other states so far.

For now, however, social ventures must find creative ways to straddle the line between nonprofit and for-profit. All of these entail complex combinations of for- and not-for-profit corporate structures, attorneys for each organization, property right and intellectual property agreements and clear-cut equity and debt arrangements. Putting together these solutions can be time consuming and cumbersome.

Excerpted from Business Structure Article

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Consider being considerate

For many years I used the word 'mindful' in a special way, for the most part. Once in a while I used the word in a sentence that wasn't meant to evoke some meditative or spiritual meaning or feeling tone. The dictionary defines mindful this way: conscious or aware of something.

Today I used the word 'considerate' in a way that made me look it up. The definition I read was: careful not to cause inconvenience or hurt to others. It's Latin root is considerare, to examine, which fits nicely with meditation practice as well.

The way I used the word brought to mind a shift in my thinking, living and relation to others.

As part of my meditation practice I have evolved a ritual without a lot of conscious thought, an invocation really. At the end of my meditation I lift my hands and offer up any merit gained in my practice for the betterment of all; as I lower my hands to namaste I ask that I be given the strength to do good works; and lowering my hands to my thighs, I wish that my actions, good & bad, increase the awareness of myself and others to do good works.

I'm seeing this orientation to others more in keeping with being considerate rather than being mindful. Examining our actions so as not to cause inconvenience or harm to others is a simple, portable way of living with ease with one another. Mindfulness has the air of non-involvement, also a noble practice of seeing attraction and avoidance, but one that doesn't fit right now with the orientation I'm talking about.

In Yoga much is made of Ahimsa, non-violence. It seems that our ango-saxon word, considerate, carries much of the same intention.

Be considerate. Be well. Be at ease.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Yoga-nomics: Yoga Certification

Students are often puzzled when choosing a Yoga teacher. I'm often asked in my classes at Canyon Ranch(r) in Lenox, a resort in the Berkshire mountains, where to go for classes when they return home. My short answer is to ask friends for recommendations, attend a few classes and follow their instincts as to what they are looking for.

As with most topics, there is more to the story.

In the USA we have a blossoming Yoga industry that is seeing more 'new' forms of Yoga all the time. Usually they are defined by an adjective, such as "such-ness" Yoga or "this-ness" Yoga.

When viewed from the broader perspective of the history of Yoga one sees that it's all Yoga. No franchises, no factions, no Yoga celebrities. This, however, isn't a helpful perspective when beginning a practice of Yoga. But, an overview of the styles of Yoga available with a brief description how they mold the basic principles may be of use. You can find a modest attempt at this by clicking and go to the Archives at the bottom of the page. There is a .pdf file to download that describes many, but not all, styles currently popular in the USA with click-through's to the websites.

There is no College of Yogi's in Yoga as there is a regulating body called the College of Physicians in Medicine. This leads to a more robust, dynamic and fluid delivery of the teachings of Yoga. It also means it may be harder to grasp, get started or just navigate in. puts the situation this way on their website:
"There are no federal standards for yoga teacher certification. As a way to provide the highest teaching knowledge and skill to teacher trainees, YogaWorks has devised its own certification system. Experienced YogaWorks instructors recognize new teachers who are mature, creative, thorough and compassionate and who offer appropriate help to students, creating well-organized classes."

So, in order to bring some order to the chaos, groups of individual teachers have gotten together and devised their own systems. They then "certify", according to their own criteria, that teachers are now qualified to teach others. The strength of the certification, then, depends on the reputation, skill and qualifications of those who set up the system and keep it going.

I'd like to point out that this is "moment in time" system, as are all certification programs. That's why one sees continuing education programs giving out credits in an attempt to keep teachers learning and not stagnating. While I'm talking about time, it should be noted that there are different levels of training now used by some schools that categorized by hours: 200, 300, 500 hour programs.

Relatively recently, another layer has been added by the Yoga Alliance. They have initiated a "registry" of teachers. In their own words:
"Yoga Alliance® registers both individual yoga teachers and yoga teacher training programs (schools) who have complied with minimum educational standards established by the organization. "

Here the Alliance is registering, not certifying, teachers. The organizations founded by teachers devising their own systems decide and establish their own educational standards. The Alliance then creates a Registry of these programs so that they can be listed in one place.

Today this is being interpreted as "Yoga Alliance Certified." So we start to get more confusing by now interchanging "certified" and "registered"; no wonder students are confused! The strength of the training is derived from the individuals doing the teacher training, not the Yoga Alliance, which they are careful to point out on their website.

Let's wrap this up with a look at a Newsweek article from October, 2007, titled "When Yoga Hurts." The author lists 5 guidelines that I think are helpful when used with the background information of this blog.

  1. Ask an instructor for credentials. And don't be afraid to leave if you're not satisfied.
  2. Alert your instructor to your condition. Talk about past injuries and current weakness, and ask for any necessary modifications.
  3. Beware of stationary instructors. They should be monitoring participants and making adjustments for those who need them.
  4. Avoid positions prone to cause injury. These include, lotus, chaturanga or plank, headstands and downward-facing-dog.
  5. Stop if it hurts. Yoga should not cause pain.
As one progresses, the list in number four changes. This is a good list to consider if you are inexperienced, an older student, have had injuries or aren't in good shape. Consult a health care professional before beginning a new exercise regime, to be sure.

Yoga is a lot of fun. In Sanskrit it is often translated as "discipline", "control", or "communion". Some of us have to learn these skills early on in finding a teacher we look forward to going to weekly. Some find it easy and go to the local Yoga studio.

I grew a lot over the years learning about what I've written here and encourage my students to question me. Another view on this topic and additional information can be found at

Since I'm a certified Iyengar Teacher, I thought I would include our process description. It is a bit different from other styles, requiring a dedicaiton to teaching only in the Iyengar method.

"Becoming an Iyengar Yoga teacher begins with long term, thorough and dedicated practice. One is a student of Iyengar Yoga for many years before becoming a teacher. Only after three years' study, and after developing a relationship with a Certified Iyengar Yoga Teacher who agrees to become a mentoring teacher, may the candidate begin the application process. Then comes two years' teaching, exclusively in the Iyengar Method -- all before the actual testing begins. In the assessment process itself, candidates are carefully observed and evaluated as they demonstrate asanas and Pranayamas and as they teach a class of students."