The Casual Blog

Tag: Vinyasa

My new crown, and notes on health and violence


New construction on Hillsborough Street

This week I bit the bullet and went to the dentist to get a crown on my bottom left molar (tooth number 18).  The filling in that tooth was worn out and starting to crack, and a replacement was needed. The procedure involved a lot of drilling.  The anesthetic worked, and the drilling wasn’t painful, but the noise, the burning smell, and the uncertainty were not pleasant. But it’s good to have operational teeth, and I am  grateful for modern dentistry.  

I took my first yoga class in many moons last Tuesday morning.  I’ve been working out at the gym most mornings, but yoga fell out of my routine after a teacher I’d liked left.  Returning to Blue Lotus, just across the street from our building, I was reminded vinyasa is harder than it looks, but also more calming than it looks.  It’s good to contract and stretch, to move in sync with others, and to be reminded to breath deeply.

I suppose we could spend too much time on our bodily health, but for most of us, that risk is theoretical; we usually err in the other direction.   At times our bodies seem so solid, and at times so fragile.

There was a fascinating, though also gut wrenching, piece in the NY Times this week about the effects of an assault rifle shooting into a human body.  Guns like the AR-15 propel bullets at two or three times the speed of a handgun, and so unleash exponentially greater energy.  Five trauma surgeons described the gruesome effects of such bullets. They make a small entry wound, then tumble, exploding bones and causing widespread tissue and organ damage, and then tear a large exit wound.  One surgeon noted that seeing a victim of such a shooting is traumatizing for bystanders.

Kudos to the high school students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High and elsewhere who have been making themselves heard on the  subject of assault weapons and other guns.  A lot of us who think the lack of reasonable gun laws is very bad policy have gotten discouraged and wondered if we’ll ever get anything positive done. These students are righteously angry, and they are hard to ignore.  They may be changing the terms of the debate.

Now if we could just get some of that energy focused on addressing the risks of thermonuclear weapons.  While assault weapons on public streets are very dangerous, the destructive potential of the world’s nuclear stockpiles, including the US’s, is incomparably worse.  Apropos, recently there was a short interview with Daniel Ellsberg, who worked as a nuclear strategist in the 1960s.  In Ellsberg’s view, only amazing luck accounts for our not already having had a nuclear apocalypse.

I started reading Ellsberg’s recent book, The Doomsday Machine, in which he recounts learning that in the early 60s, US war planners expected in case of any nuclear war to kill several hundred million people.  We know now that they underestimated, and that the blasts, fires, pulses, fallout, and famine from nuclear winter could well mean the extinction of all humans, not to mention many other life forms.

There are serious voices trying to get this issue on the table, though they get little play in US mainstream media.  A few weeks ago, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists put the Doomsday Clock at two minutes to midnight   signalling the closest we’ve been to disaster since 1953 and the height of the cold war.   Last year 122 nations in the United Nations voted in favor a new treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons.  This year’s winner of the Nobel Peace Prize was the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.   

This essay by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists is well worth reading.  It explains that we need to de-escalate international conflicts and enter into nuclear control diplomacy. As the Scientists note, humans created this problem, and they can solve it.  

Rising like the phoenix from the ashes — new construction viewed from Casa Tiller


A juicy yoga class and other educational experiences

As much as I really love yoga, I go back and forth on Yvonne’s once-a-month Juicy Flow class at Blue Lotus. I like doing a class on Saturday mornings, and I like Yvonne, but I have the same issue the first Saturday every month.

Rather than her usual hour-and-a-half of Vinyasa (which is a lot), Juicy Flow is two hours, with a lot of fast movements. It’s eclectic. She puts a lot of thought into the music mix, which can range from goofy 80s pop to the world. In terms of movement, it’s always different, and there’s always something lively and fun. But it’s always exhausting, and tends to make me sore for a couple of days afterwards.

I was particularly hesitant about Juicy Flow this week, because I’ve been having some issues with my shoulders, and the class ordinarily stresses those parts. But I decided to give it a go. As usual, she’d come up with some demanding variations of traditional asanas, and several three-minute-long Kriya sequences of fast, big movements, including shoulder turns, squats, rolling up and down, scissoring legs, and open palm punches. There was also some free-form dancing.

Like every good yoga class, it was a learning experience — finding out some new things about what my body can and cannot do, and what the possibilities are. It was sufficiently demanding that I was not thinking about much of anything other than Yvonne’s directions. The two hours went fast. It was sweaty and exhausting, but also fun, and left me feeling amazingly calm and relaxed.

I was pleased to see news reports this week that Harvard and MIT are starting a free online education initiative called EdX. I might be interested in some courses. In fact, I’ve been auditing Michael Sandel’s Harvard course on justice (i.e. theories of ethics) through iTunes U. I usually watch Sandel or a Ted Talk in the early morning while getting my heart rate up on an exercise machine. It gets my head going.

Opening up the Ivy ivory tower strikes me as a very good thing for society in general, and I hope a lot of people will use it for continuing their education. It’s worrisome that anyone could think of college as the completion of an education. Seriously, has there ever been anyone who is reasonably well-educated after four years of college? College is kindergarten for adulthood. Getting fairly well educated takes a long time, and even then, there’s always more to explore.