‘Bending’ the Rules: Yoga Day 1

 

 

Tonight was the first time I have ever done yoga.  Now over the years of intense football lifts and experimenting with different types of exercise, I can honestly say that hot yoga kicked my ass.  I have never had to move my body into so many different – not to mention difficult – positions ever.  It was just one after another after another of just bending my body and stretching muscles I don’t think have ever been stretched before.  

The room was fairly small with very dim lighting and fake candles aligned the walls of the room, it made for a very peaceful and not distracting environment.  It was fairly warm when I first walked into the room, but not even close to as hot it felt upon departure.  I don’t exactly remember the chronological order of the poses, but I do recall opening the class with the sequence of downward facing dog, low plank, and then cobra.  The instructor predominantly used the americanized terms of the different asanas, however she did use some sanskrit words toward the end.  

The instructor did not exactly explain the poses, however she would adjust you or tell you if your pose was incorrect.  Before some of the poses she would tell the class what muscles were being stretched and what experiences we may undergo.  For example, she told us that during one of the back bends, we may feel much more energized and alert.  We did a series or warrior poses for a good portion of the class, which I really enjoyed.  I had never felt so connect to the ground before, like it was assisting me to keep my balance.

 Toward the end we ventured into more difficult balanced based positions.  We had to rest our legs on our elbows, which I believe she called the crane.  We then did a series involving extending the leg behind the body and balancing on one foot. This was fairly difficult for myself, however once I really focused on the muscles being used and my breath, I began to stay steady.  

The amount of perspiration I produced in that class was ridiculous.  Honestly, this hot yoga may not be for me.  It was very fast paced and at times I felt as though I was falling behind and had to catch up with the class.  This caused me to have a lot of anxiety, making me forget completely to focus on myself and my breathing.  The teacher did not talk as much as I’d hoped about breathing techniques.  I was out of breath for a good portion of the class which really made me have little care for how I breathed, just as long as I didn’t stop.  

The most notable, and my favorite part, of the class was the corpse pose at the very end.  The instructor referred to it as Savasana and told us to feel ourselves breath and reflect on any burden in our life.  This pose truly was something different.  Not only was my body physically exhausted but my mind felt like it was in a million different places at once.  However as soon as we layed down and lights were shut off, everything just seemed to disappear.  The experience was awesome and really wrapped up the night nicely.  

Lastly, when I finally emerged from the basement studio, my body felt renewed.  It honestly felt like I was in a newly formed suit of skin where my every movement was fluid and every thought was pure.  I am very excited to go back next week, now that I know what to expect, I will try to focus my energy on my breathing and my own poses.

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No Choice but to Dance

Peace, love, unity, and respect. These four words constitute the belief system of a new manifesto for the rave culture that has breached the adolescent to young adult culture. Centering on the performances of Electronic Dance Music (EDM) artists, the culture involves vibrant colors, bright lights, and a wild celebration unlike any other. Sold out venues have become more and more the norm as the popularity of Electronic music increases. Artists such as Avicii, Skrillex, and Swedish House Mafia, have not only sold out arenas, but also they have headlines some of the most notable venues in the United States such as the Hollywood Bowl, Madison Square Garden, and Radio City Music Hall.

Mainstream EDM’s presence emerged in the early 90’s but in recent years, the genre has steadily been booming with more recognition than ever before. The ground shaking bass lines, catchy hooks, and up-tempo rhythms keep listeners engaged and animated throughout. Using a computer and turntables for instruments, producers use an array of different sounds and pre-existing song samples to create different subgenres of dance music including house, progressive, dub step, etc. The music focuses on the buildup and release of the “drop,” which is usually a loud burst of an appealing beat and a bass line that could potentially be measured on the Richter Earthquake scale. The adrenaline evoking combination can spike any blood pressure and leave one with no choice but to dance.

For some, the new genre can be quite hard to enjoy or understand, however artists such as Skrillex are outspoken about their music stating that the unique experience and emotions the music captures are what make it so special.

Within the scene of young adults that regularly attend these shows, a new family oriented group has arisen. They live behind the belief of treating one another with the intentions of PLUR, or peace, love, unity, and respect. One raver stated, “The scene is about bringing people together. It’s more then just music…No one is alone at a show. Everyone has a friend waiting to be met.” Accommodating the vibrant neon outfits come an accessory which the ravers refer to as “Kandi.” This homemade beaded jewelry can be worn as bracelets, necklaces, cuffs, or even masks. The Kandi is then traded amongst the mass as a gift to show equality. “Kandi is wearing our hearts on out sleeves” states a twenty-year old raver “basically it shows memories, Friends, Quotes, Really anything.”

Like many other past music cultures, the use of psychoactive drugs is viewed as a commodity within the attendance of a performance. However, many ravers believe this is a misconception perceived from the guests looking only for a fun night out. “It’s the ones who don’t see the true beauty of what going on that feel the need to use drugs” he tells us “most of us (PLUR scene) are actually sober.”

Every generation has a fresh different sound it can cling to and claim as it’s own; the 60’s had the Beatles, the 70’s had disco, the 90’s had punk rock and hip hop. EDM is this generation’s innovative genre of music, and its popularity is nowhere near the peak. Because of its elasticity with the use of new technology, the possibility’s for new noise is virtually endless, leaving the horizon of the genus very unknown, yet thoroughly optimistic.

(Virtual) Reality Check

On February 12, 2015, President Barak Obama made history by becoming the first active President in history to be featured in a Buzzfeed Video. As hilarious as the notion may sound, it marked a significant example as to how a majority of Americans are absorbing their information. Using it as a platform to advertise Obamacare, the President set a precedent on communication between Government and citizens.

In 2008, when Obama began his first term as President of the United States, I was in 8th grade updating my MySpace song to Jules Santana. YouTube and Facebook were fresh out of the oven and had not grossed a large number of users. For 14y/o Sam, they were more of a network for interacting with friends after the school day had finished; like a new and improved AOL instant massager.

As of December 2015, there are 1.5 billion monthly active Facebook users. About a third of which claim their newsfeed is their main source of receiving news. My news feed no longer shows pictures from my neighbor’s recent vacation; it has become littered with activism for every cause imaginable, most frequently the 2016 Presidential election. It recently struck me that never before in the history of human interaction has there been a platform that can showcase as many voices as social media can. Social media has given society the unique ability to organize itself, quickly and concisely, into collections of like-minded people. Facebook has been the most influential of these new platforms; I would argue it has successfully “shrunk the world.” But ‘sharing’ mere ideas to promote drastic social change is a slippery slope fallacy.

Through the still fairly new interaction platform, people have found a solution for sharing their ideology’s with their friends and family. Political activism has been reduced to its most simple form: clicking the “like” or “love” button on an article or video. And for the issues that really hit home, the “share” and “retweet” button have become some of the most important features of social interaction and raising awareness. Social media has given society the unique ability to show support or consideration though these forms of ‘social currency.’ Social currency seems like a weird term, but considering the underlying value of Internet popularity, demonstrated through advertising and sponsorship, it seems that this rating system is shaping the way people express themselves.

The ability to shape ourselves has made us into our own brand, and like a skilled marketer, we do this the best we can to keep ourselves looking the way we wish to be perceived. However, people often mistake this process as being ‘fake,’ or fooling the world into believing they are better than their reality persona. My understanding is that the process showing our better selves to the public is no different from opting to wear ‘those jeans that make your gluteus look great’ to class rather than sweatpants. We construct our own reality physically and virtually.

However, I seldom find a ‘friend’ or ‘follower’ that uses their social medium to voice their own thoughts; rather the trend is to share short, palatable content, created by another party, which aligns with their specific beliefs. A Facebook timeline has evolved from a chronological photo album into a virtual tack board that showcases the values, virtues, and (at times) vices that define an individual. While some argue the new form of activism is shallow and useless, there is significant proof its effectiveness to raise awareness and change attitudes. The simplicity and low risk/reward ratio for revealing a personal opinion has revolutionized idea sharing.

With the 2016 General Election on the horizon, my (and many others I assume) newsfeed has transformed into a battlefield of thought promoting ideas from both sides of the political spectrum. But how influential can a tad bit of information be? And are we silencing our own personal voice by sharing the voice of others?

The answer is different for every individual, however in the grand scheme of social media and the world, what you post on your social medium cannot hurt anyone. If social media sharing has made any fact apparent, it’s that the ideologies of our friends and neighbors are as diverse as our heritage. It is our responsibility to accept that people have different ideologies about our world and do our best to promote what we believe in inherently fair and just. A community of voices invites the possibility for a wider range of ideas and drastically lowers the cost for participation. If we ostracize people who differ from our own ideas, then progress will be limited.

The “I share, therefore I am” attitude, coined by Harvard sociologist Sherry Turkle, has reshaped my outlook on social media. I will admit, I have learned new and important information while browsing my newsfeed, but it still seems like the bite-sized bits of information are not sufficient enough for me to “share.” You are what you share, and in my opinion, ones character is very apparent through the items they share.

Aside from our judgments on individual’s social media activity, our social platforms have given humans the ability to voice their opinion on any topic, at any time, and to people who represent our reality. I believe this process has pushed the boundaries of the first amendment and facilitated a better autonomous conversation. And remember, just because you do not get retweets or likes doesn’t mean that you say less. So be yourself and share ideas on topics you hold close to your heart; or don’t. Use your social media as a platform for debate; or don’t.

Hell-thy Habits

“College is all about change.” Almost every senior in high school has heard that sentence dozens of times. Various interactions, obstacles, and everyday challenges experienced in College become habits that are carried with people the rest of their lives, but there are some changes that are not entirely wanted. The most notorious of these changes is the “freshman 15,” the most dreaded change that will affect them. Many early student think to themselves in high school, “No way that won’t be me. I am always playing a sport, there is no way I will gain 15 pounds.” But after 3 months of beer, late night food, a diet consisting of a cafeteria buffet and fast food, (on top of the little exercise) it’s apparent that the freshman 15 is almost unavoidable. Even if you don’t hit the 15-pound mark, our healthy habits that were more easily maintained throughout your life begin to slowly spiral downward, unless you are prepared.

 

When I was a senior in high school I was a starter on the varsity football team, and varsity lacrosse team. I grew up in a household that understood the impact that eating fresh vegetables and fruit can have on our bodies. I would not call myself a health nut, or a crazed athlete, but I would definitely say that I held habits throughout my daily schedule that would classify myself as an in-shape individual. I had a limited schedule, and my eating hours were always consistent. I would always have a full night of sleep, and my stress levels were not very high. I was living out a healthy life, with the occasional chips and salsa dinner, but overall was an energized person with the expectation that this would continue easily when beginning at SJU.

 

The biggest curse/blessing of the college experience is having the freedom of time. We are not each bound to the same place and the same time every Monday through Friday. Without having a steady schedule to live by, and coming home to a house where you are taken care of each night in terms of dinner on the table after a hard practice, it makes it difficult to continue these routines we have lived with our entire lives, not to mention the unrealistic social aspect of college. The new amount of free time became as much a burden as it was a blessing, mainly because it forced me to be responsible for managing my life, something that had always been organized for me through school, sports, choir, parents, and other extracurricular activities. After a long day of college classes, studying, and working out, we become too exhausted to make ourselves dinner, or get to bed at a reasonable hour, forcing students to eat the waste that is served at cafeterias and screw up our sleep schedule. I realized soon enough that I was not the healthy individual I had been only a few months back, and it was having a serious effect on my overall health. I would sleep for only a few hours a night several days of the week, and at very consistent times. I was consuming a more substantial amount of unhealthy food, and would drink alcohol throughout the entire week.

 

Over my 4 years as College student, I have only begun to develop a schedule that successfully facilitates healthy habits into my hectic life. I have realized that every individual has a limited amount of self-discipline, which makes sharing ideas on how to manage ones life so difficult. For example: where many advocate for self-change, others may say the situation you are in is the problem. In our current technological era, it is simple to share and discover solutions for everyday issues. There hours of YouTube videos, millions of pages, and even mobile apps that help construct an individuals life.   However, I found myself looking for solutions to everything, physically, mentally, psychologically, and socially, that I deemed a problem. This, ironically, caused many issues. When a solution seems to not work for you, regardless of how disciplined you are to it, it can make you feel like there is something inherently wrong with you. This is what happened to me, and I can assure now, this is definitely not the case. We must realize that if we are going to treat our bodies like an enormous problem solving puzzle, we cannot expect perfection. The way we react to a new diet could differ completely different to another person. We need to realize that every single human is different. Every single person experiences the world in a different way: from metabolism to sleep, attention span to creative thinking.

 

I was fortunate enough to speak with Dr. Theresa Bowers about the importance of a healthy lifestyle in college. Dr. Bowers has six children of her own whom have graduated or are currently attending college. She speaks about not only what she believes are the most important to things to remember when entering college, but also how the habits we form in college will effect our lives more than we are aware of.

 

Question: What would you say is the most important thing that college students need to remember when entering college for the first time in regards to living a healthy lifestyle?

Answer: I think the most important thing is to get enough sleep – and regular hours of sleep – not multiple naps — this helps with making good decisions in social situations, helps combat depression, and helps academically.

 

Question: What small choices do you believe would go a long way?

Answer: Choose to surround yourself with friends who are like-minded and will help you to succeed. In terms of nutrition, try to eat your meals at the same time each day of the week.

 

Question: What common mistakes have you seen as a doctor, but also as a mother of 6 children who went through the college process?

Answer: Students who are not comfortable standing up for themselves and for their own beliefs…… trying too hard to fit in……. not making wise decisions when it comes to having fun —- not remembering that as a young adult every choice you make, whether socially or academically, has a great impact on the rest of your life.

 

Question: Do you have advice in regards to the school’s dining hall, and how to choose better options?

Answer: The dining hall should post calorie counts and nutrition information about all of their food – and not just in some pamphlet – but on the sign board so as you are choosing what to eat you at least know the nutrition involved. Most college students are aware of not eating too many calories, or too much fat, but when it is right in front of them —- it helps in making better choices.

 

Question: Why is health so imperative during those 4 years of our lives?

Answer: It has an impact on the future —- and habits usually begin in college that are difficult to break in later years.

 

I eventually was able to form better habits throughout my time as SJU, but I still have difficulty following those habits. I will be entering the “real world” in a month, and learning more about how to make healthy choices now is just as important as it was four years ago.