10 Yoga Hacks For a Great 2015

There are 30 garbage bags in my kitchen filled with “stuff” to either recycle or donate. 

The living-room is empty, just like when we moved in.  

Letting go of all that I no loner need is opening new space in my mind… 

That is one of the hacks… Seemingly not yoga but totally yoga.

1.- Hacking The Practice
“I don’t feel like practicing today! “ — You know the drill.  We’ve all been there. It happens. 
Last month I offered a video suggestion on what to do on this, and it was just one thing

To keep the ritual, to roll the mat out, stand at the edge, and then do nothing.
The reason behind this is that when you create a ritual, at least you have the sacred space ready.

Then, whenever your mind lets go of the hold it temporarily has on you which is getting you stuck in its 4-year-old tantrum, you have the space waiting for you.
Not that there is anything wrong with not wanting to practice, it is normal, we are human and some days we just don’t want to – and that is valid. 
Life is pretty hard; I am aware, thank you very much.  

So there, this is a hack that works: just keep the ritual, forget the practice. 
That way, we compromise with the 4-year-old inner child and still keep a space for the first sun salutation to return, whenever ready.
2.- My Palms Sweat Too Much:
Josh told me at the Kripalu retreat last December something that is very common among men in practice, because men tend to sweat more than women, not always, but in general.
For me this only happens at the peak of the summer, in the middle of August, or in tropical weather, so I am not used to even thinking about it, but there is a solution.
There is a rug that can be placed on top of the sticky mat.  This is the one I use

The benefit of it is that it dries the hands while at the same time sticking to the mat underneath it.  It solves both problems.
Quality matters for these mats, because if they are not good they end up all over the sticky mat, moving and distracting the practice.

And, I know, it’s expensive… 

So if this is an issue for you consider making an investment  But only if you sweat THAT much.
Or, there are gloves that stick to the floor or mat… 

I’ve never used them, but people from the newsletter told me they do and they like them…  This are them.  
What do you think about the gloves?

3.- Hacking the Endless Chatty Mind
During the Portable Yoga retreat, on Saturday morning and after the asanas and breathing (pranayama) we listed ten ideas. 
I offered a few suggestions for “themes” and all 17 participants listed away their ideas.

Some even shared them out loud  which made us laugh and enjoy each other’s minds. It was fun. 
I’ve found that listing ideas is a great way to put the chatty mind to “work for us” 

Rather than having it control us, and send us into never-ending loops of old thinking that likely ranges from anxiety to regret and never gives us any peace, we can choose to put it to work.
This is my reasoning:  The mind will take a while to train. I’ve yet to find the off switch…
In the meantime it will do its “thing“, so when it does and it begins to make us crazy, why not use it for something positive?
There are so many ideas that have come out of this, that I wrote a book. 

Click on these words to see it on Amazon

The book has 180 prompts so you get to practice with it.  In paper back it is 400+ pages (hence the cost of 11 or so….although on Kindle is 2.99 or .99 cents for prime members)

Here is the first list of ideas so you get a feeling for the format:

The point of the book is to provide prompts so that if you are stuck and don’t know how to get out of the grip of your terrorizing mind, at least you can list ideas based on a theme that is suggested.
180 days of idea generation is a sure way to transform your life, especially when all other areas of the daily practice (healthy in body, emotion and spirit) are in check.
The first 90 days are focused on ideas that help “me”, meaning “you”, ourselves…

The last 90 days focus on helping others. There is where ideas become currency.
I figured the best way to become idea machines is to work at what interests us the most, likely our own lives, and then move onto adding value, once the ideas gain quality momentum.
4.- Hacking Inner Silence (Withdrawing the Senses)
Pratyahara, said BKS Iyengar, means: to go against the grain.  The mind is always looking for what is “out there” and going against the grain means looking at what is in here.
Or, he continues, it’s “shutting down the mind so we can concentrate“. 

Nobody like BKS to put it in plain words.
Our eyes are very “fiery” by nature and they want to go out in the world and name things to keep us safe in the knowing…
Prathyahara is the 5th limb of yoga is the one that deals with GOING WITHIN.
Up until now I thought that we go within by breathing and then sitting and calming the mind, but in a recent interview I did with Gregor Maehle for The Yoga Podcast, threw a new light.
Gregor told me that yoga has ancient ways in which we can DO the fifth limb…

This means not just “wait for it to happen while creating the conditions” but that there are actually things we can get up and DO, how wonderful!  The mind is all happy thinking it is in control again!
Gregor has written four amazing books on yoga and I have reviewed all of them.

Heck I even created a book club around one of them [this one]  because he spills all the secrets of pranayama yoga, so I was enormously grateful when he agreed to come to the yoga podcast.  

His show will release soon, I will let you know, don’t worry.
But in the meantime let me tell you about one of the ways in which we can DO pratyahara as per Gregor and his research into thousands of old yoga texts:
It is through INVERSIONS.  

By learning them slowly, and then learning to breathe in them, slowly…  and staying in them longer and longer.
I hope you join me in listening to the podcast in which he goes over all the options.  It is a great thing to listen to.
5.- Hacking Noise
One of the biggest impediments to my sitting in silence is noise.
Once the eyes (which are the biggest obstacle) are closed, noise is the next level of distraction.
I’ve made it a point of trying to practice with several different helpers and I find that cheap ear plugs HELP.
Just a slight reduction of noise has a significant impact in how much I can go within, feel the body, let go of what I “think” I am, and just be…as it is… with no expectations.
Of course there is always a higher level of noise cancelation.
I found them in an American Airlines flight where they came for freewith an upgrade (although I had to return them after we landed), and life has never been the same. 
The brand is Bose.

They have these headsets 

In them…you switch “on” a button and suddenly al noise is sucked out of your ears 

Well, notall of it but a significant amount, if I had to guess I’d say is about 60%.

I use them, and also these, because they are smaller….
I am aware that they are not cheap.

But I see them as an investment because I ride on trains and planes and live in noisy cities often.
I use these for airplane or train rides, and also for sitting in silence, and to just BE, in silence.  I am aware there are others.  If you find anything good let me know.

When I use them I feel like I am in that white room in the Matrix.

I’ve also incorporated them into pranayama practice.  

I have come to understand how precious and scarce silence is in our lives.
6.- Hacking INNER Noise Cancelation
There was a book I read last month that made a difference with the inner noise cancelation. So much so that she (the author) is coming on my podcast.
Because once we manage to quiet the noise out there, the noise in here (I am pointing to my head) will get loud. 

Or as the Katleen points out, once you can get out of the external rat race, you find there is an internal rat race going on.
Once we FINALLY seat in a warm and quiet, relaxed posture, and we know what to do (let go of any “ideas” we have about ourselves), then we meet our MIND…  Who is not always happy to let go of everything it thinks it knows.
Reading this book, called THE GRACE IN AGING has a soothing effect on me.

It is one of those that I savor because it brings me back to relaxing all the things I try to hold on to,  like: how do I look? Who loves me? How much money do I have? Is my family upset at me? Can I change others?

Letting go of this continuing “trying” gave me a glimpse of peace.
The book is intended for people who are in their sixties, seventies, and or eighties, and I am 46.  

But I don’t care, I found it to be a gem because in facing death we can get more serious and yet more gentle about sitting, seeing the contents of the mind, observing what is going on there.
I especially appreciated the plain English in it.  

Even though some words slip in here and there from the Pali language and her Buddhist background is revealed, every word is inserted for a reason, not to show of or try to convince anyone to go Buddhist…
I appreciate that effort because the message, just as it is, applies to everyone, no matter what spiritual practice they choose. 
7.- Hacking Back Pain (3 Tips)
I offered a workshop in Manhattan on December 2nd and as it turned out it was snowing and very cold, so I had only two students, but this proved to be very enlightening because having a small class offered the opportunity for more feedback. 
Jim told me he enjoyed the class and the exercise of standing and stretching backwards, with the right inhalation/exhalation etc, he said it was helpful.
James said that the slow-paced class was just what he needed, and that all this new awareness about how to prevent back-pain is helping him.
I used several sources in this workshop and was very surprised to see the similarities between Egoscue and Mckinzie (the current trends on alternatives to back pain healing) when it comes to yoga the exercises they propose and yoga. 
Even the Mayo Clinic proposes an exercise to help ease back pain that, for hundreds of years has been called “shalabasana” in yoga… 
I made a YouTube video of the ONE POSE that can help relieve back pain… Watch it all the way through, including the “warning” in the middle.

Because a friend of a friend DID wake up in a pool of blood for not getting that warning.

Let me summarize some tips to PREVENT BACK PAIN
a) Stretch The Front Of The Body Often
If you sit for work, every HOUR (and I mean every hour) stand up, feet parallel, hip distance apart, breathe in and send your chest forward and upwards, then exhale and drop backwards to where you can (don’t force), stay there for one breath, then INHALE TO COME UP
That feels counter intuitive and is very important, to inhale as you come up, I am even getting emails about this, and YES, that is how it is…. “inhale to come up”
Why is this?  Because we sit so long that we slouch and the front of the body is always contracted and NEVER gets a chance to stretch. 
This exercise does exactly that, stretch the front, but we sit all day, so doing it once an hour is a very small amount of time, but it works.
Try it.  Don’t believe me.  Just do it, and write to me, let me know how you do.
b) Respect the curves of your spine
Meaning the lumbar (lower back) curve and the cervical (neck) curve.  These are not supposed to be slouched or face pushed forward.
Especially when lifting things, squat to leverage the strength of your legs and put some weight on them rather than rounding the back… 

I cringe when I see cab drivers pulling heavy bags out of the trunks with curved backs and straight legs…  squat, please squat.
c)  If you are having financial issues do something about it:  
Money issues can trigger back pain says John Sarno.  You can read this amazing book on that.  Howard Stern was all over the media telling of its wonders.

Mind Over Back Pain, by John Sarno
Come up with ideas, talk to someone, write to me, do something! 

Because financial fears are very debilitating.
If you are not sure ask someone that knows you.  

I had trouble believing I had my own issues when my dad died four years ago,  but the finances triggered a lot of hidden emotional family issues underneath.  

And this can cause the back to “go”. For me it did.  Reading these books and doing these exercises helps.
8.- Hacking Mental Energy and Concentration
I’ve been trying the coffee with coconut oil every morning and it is working for me.   [Note: I am NOT endorsing]

I started doing this after reading The Bulletproof Diet by Dave Asprey and also interviewing him together with James.  The KEY is to blend it… otherwise it IS too greasy.
Dave was inspired by people who meditate in Tibet and put ghee (boiled, purified butter) on their tea.  He has all sorts of studies supporting that eating the RIGHT kinds of fat is actually good fuel for the brain. 
You may recall a recent Time Magazine cover on “butter” and how it turns out to be actually good for us..

Turns out the study from a few decades ago that caused a war on fats had left out half of their findings… !!! …  

I mean c’mon!  Leaving out? Gee!

I ate so many carbs in my 20s I am surprised I am not diabetic.
As I said I am not endorsing, I am telling you because it seems to be working for me.

It helps me be less hungry and more focused both in practice, in the morning, and afterwards, for breathing and concentration practice and for writing ideas.
If you feel tempted to try coconut oil in your coffee make sure to a) put very little at first (it can send you to the bathroom rather quickly) and b) use extra virgin, really good quality, or look at Dave’sbook for the whole story.
9.- Hacking Sleep: 3 Tips
1.- Blue Lights, Computer Lights = No Good
You probably already know that computers are not good after a certain time because at night they continue to emit a blue light that inhibits melatonin which is a chemical the brain produces to induce sleep…

Michael told me about the orange glasses…  I am using them. 

These glasses are less than 9 dollars in Amazon and they help filter out all blue lights, hence leaving you ready for sleep.
But I also found out there is a software F.LUX which you install in your computer and turns things orange after dark.
I have it on right now and my computer is slightly orange because even though I’m in Miami, the sun is setting. It does that.  And after it sets the screen will go full on ORANGE.
2.- Pain
I learned this from that interview with Dave Asprey again.  

He proposes that if you lay down on something that offers a bit of pain (he has a blanket with plastic sticky things pointing out but I find the floor mat for the entrance of your door, those that are hard are probably just as good) and you relax onto the slight pain, then the body starts to release endorphins (the body’s morphine)

It had me thinking of fakirs.
Does it work?  It does for me.  

You can read the reviews of it here on Amazon

Then again I only started practicing this fakir type of practice for 20 minutes before bed a week ago, so the longer term may speak with further results. 
3.- Black Out Curtains
I learned this from Tucker Max on his book How To Naturally Increase Testosterone.

Black-out curtains are critical for a good night sleep because any light (as well as cell phones or lights from  LED clocks) again, disturb sleep because we don’t just absorb light with the eyes but also, hear this: with the skin…
10.- Hacking Space

There is one more book that has been a total game changer for me in the past month.  It is this book:

The Life Changing Magic Of Tidying Up. The Japanese Art of Declutering and Organizing.


As soon as I got back home from Florida James and I took a whole Sunday to throw things out.

She recommends that as the first step, BEFORE thinking of decoration or moving things or buying anything…

At the moment there are 30 full garbage and recycling bags in the kitchen.  I can’t even walk through… We are waiting for the freezing rain to stop to put it out for the donation pick up and the garbage pick up.

It is amazing what happened to the living room though… 

There is space now…

All the books we had, with words jumping at us, are gone. There is a clean slate.

I love it.

We are interviewing her together for the James Altucher show soon, I am very excited about that.

I think getting rid of “stuff” is a yoga practice… It is aparigraha, or detachment, and it is using what we need only.

It brings back efficiency.  It opens the room and the room in the mind.

This is how clean the living room looked like after the bags were gone:

I can count the number of things in it… Not something I could do before.

In Conclusion:

Remember that all of these here are just suggestions.  

What I’ve found so far to be of extreme use is to practice yoga every day so the body can get back to its original blue print of breathing and stretching.
What you try and what you chose to use is part of your own laboratory.
In the end it is all about releasing and letting go, especially around these times when the year is just beginning.  I hope you have a brilliant start of 2015.
What is Your Yoga Hack?
I would love to know what have you found THIS YEAR to be very useful.  

Something you did not know last year and that you do use now and that is helpful.
I look forward to sharing more on the journey next year and to hear from you, answer questions ( and share observations while we practice together.

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