Sunday, December 27, 2009

Looking good and getting the girl

In India I realized that it is my surfacial skills which are the bottleneck. Doing microeconomic analysis about the situation at hand went fine; connecting with people by talking to them did not.

Most people develop these surfacial skills as young adults. Unfortunately, you can't skip the development of social skills. If you fail to complete this developmental task as a young person, it will continue to haunt you and drag you down until you solve it.

My current diagnosis is that the root cause of problems is constant losing in the Game of Talking. The best way to solve this is to get exposure to new social situations. Going alone to bars is lousy practise, since I've failed to get much positive reactions that way. Sports courses on the other hand look promising, since they offer an abundance of natural conversation fodder without any need to ponder ways to open up talking. Besides, as a side effect they produce better physical condition while bars only produce hangover.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Body as a mute create

In this poetic and insightful piece Megan compares your body to a mute create. Your body knows what it wants, but can't speak it, so it sends signals. These signals are reliable. They need to be interpreted correctly though, for example aching from new kind of training does not mean "go to bed and don't do that ever again" - it means "stretch the aching away".

Your poor body. It is mute and it is trapped there with you. It can't say what it means. It can only send you signals, sensations that your bossy, dominant mind can ignore. Your mind wants other things, like information to chew on or distractions. It will find them while your body tries to get attention. It sends lethargy or a pounding heart to tell you you didn't eat what it needs. It sends an ache to ask you to please twist and bend and lengthen it in more directions. It sends joint pain to say that you've gotten out of alignment, please come back to your spine and work from there. It gets weak when it wants you to know that you should fight your limits. As soon as you do, it will rejoice by pushing those limits away and teaming with you to charge down the new limits.

As soon as you are moving in the right direction, you have no greater cheerleader than your body. It LOVES you. It is SO EXCITED to do things with you. ...

My other natural instincts don't guide me well, nor do they give reliable "raw" information which just needs to be interpreted. Concentration instincts tell me to get immediate satisfaction, like playing World of Warcraft. Social instincts mainly tell me to withdraw from conversations. But signals from my body are exceptionally reliable.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Yoga and stretching

Last weekend I was in an elementary yoga course, where I learned the sun salutations, the deep ujjayi breathing and some asanas.

First, a quick description of Ashtanga yoga for those who don't know (like me 2 weeks ago). In yoga you do a precisely defined series of stretching movements and light gymnastics. They are called asanas. Each asana also defines when you inhale and exhale. If yoga was a state machine, then "states" would be the stretching postures while "transitions" would be inhalations and exhalations.

Yoga is primarily a meditative exercise, secondarily a breathing exercise and only then a physical exercise (although meditative component emerges only after you are so familiar with the asanas that they "empty your mind"). Lots of emphasis is placed on breathing and recruiting all the muscles below stomach for deeper breathing.

Now, back to the main topic.

Parapara stretching

Parapara is a dance for hands. The hand movements are quick and simple. The aesthetics concentrates on 45 and 90 degree angles and big, symmetric hand motions. In parapara, choreographies are song-specific. Everyone dances the same way. Professionals make choreographies for popular Japanese disco songs and distribute them as DVDs.

When I was in India, after I came from gym I danced at least 15 minutes of parapara as a form of stretching. 30 minutes wasn't exceptional. The big circular motions ensured that every part of my hands got stretched.

Parapara stretching was effective, since I didn't have much soreness or snapping, even though I had only begun strength training and therefore my technique was lousy and my body was unprepared.

Traditional stretching

Shoulder snapping started only after I returned to Finland. Gym was far away from my flat, so I did final stretching in the gym with the traditional movements they teach in school, for example:
  • grapping some wall corner with your hand and strethching it backwards,
  • putting your hand behind your neck,
  • pushing the wall, or
  • trying to reach the ground while keeping your feet straight.
These are solid movements to aid recovery, but they didn't quite cut it. First of all, I had some serious shoulder snapping, which forced me to stop exercising for some weeks. My weightlifting book says that most people's shoulders are woefully unprepared for strength training. For a beginning weight trainer, the question is not if you will have shoulder problems but in which specific lifts they emerge for you.

Nor did these stretches increase flexibility. I still couldn't reach the ground while keeping my feet straight despite having done that particular stretch after every gym workout for almost a year.

Yoga stretching

So parapara worked well and traditional stretching didn't. Yoga combines the best of these two so my hopes are high.

In parapara, you do lots of movements but each single movement is light and easy. Similarly in yoga, you don't lock your feet and don't try your flexibility limit, as the next breath takes you to the next posture quite soon.

In traditional stretching, each stretch is easy and everyone can complete them. In yoga, each asana has a posture which no beginner can complete. You do it as far as you can while focus on breathing keeps the stretch light.

Parapara has the weakness that it only stretches hands and needs videos. Yoga seems to provide equally efficient dynamic stretching system for the whole body, enabling me to avoid soreness and increase flexibility.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

I can barely walk now.

Went to rope skipping group exercise at gym. Lacked both the technique and the aerobic fitness. In addition to just jumping, the girls did one-leg jumping, double-speed jumping, running rumping and moving sideways while jumping. I had more than enough trouble with just jumping.

It was preceeded by gradual warm-up and followed by stretching, so all the soreness and stiffness hit only 24 hours afterwards. Before that, nothing but normal tiredness. Seems that stretching really works.

It's a long time since any exercise hit my weaknesses so surgically. A rope cost 4 euros, so price is not an excuse to not own one.