Sunset on Half Moon Bay

Photo: sunset on the Pacific, near SF
The mag­i­cal moment on the Pacific Ocean: surfers on the lazy waves, the sun kisses the sea and the light turns golden.

I’m just begin­ning to process my pho­tos from my Novem­ber trip to San Fran­cisco to visit with my son, Matt. On Thanks­giv­ing Day, after vis­it­ing the SF wharves and the Golden Gate Bridge, we headed down Inter­state 280 and then cut over to Half Moon Bay, arriv­ing just in time to catch the evening light show.  It was worth the trip.

Where I’ve been spending my time

Photo: a work station in an office cubicle
It’s not the same as a yoga mat.

It’s not as wel­com­ing as a yoga mat, but it’s where I spend most of my wak­ing hours, learn­ing the ropes at LCG Inc., build­ing work­ing rela­tion­ships with my peers and ply­ing my trade as a writer-​​editor-​​researcher. The com­pany is about a tenth of the size of my pre­vi­ous employer, but I prob­a­bly do 10 times more work. I used to say that I worked in the Prop Shop; now I am the Prop Shop. Even though we have not pre­sented a pro­posal since I’ve been here (mid-​​November), mainly pre­lim­i­nary responses, I always got a clogged to-​​do list and a stack of tasks. There’s all kinds of writ­ing and think­ing that needs to go into prepar­ing to bid for a Fed­eral contract.

LCG is a dif­fer­ent kind of cor­po­rate ani­mal. It’s small busi­ness work­ing in the Fed­eral health IT sec­tor and grants man­age­ment. It’s a chal­lenge to under­stand­ing the details of each field. We’re work­ing with 17 agen­cies on the IT side and even more on the grants  man­age­ment side. I have to cre­ate a kind of score­card to keep track of all the clients, acronyms and play­ers. It’s also in Fed­eral gov­ern­ment so there’s all  kinds of chang­ing tak­ing place in the way that infor­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy is handled.

Just as with DMI, the com­pany gives me a lap­top that I can take home with me, usu­ally on week­ends. Most work days, I don’t have time to check my per­sonal mail, Twit­ter or Face­book accounts dur­ing busi­ness hours. I don’t even think about it. It’s a height­ened focus that can stretch over sev­eral days. I some­times have to force myself to pack up my bags and leave the office.

Yoga slows down

For the past four-​​five months, I backed off my prac­tice and focused on restora­tive or yin yoga classes. Plus, the hol­i­days were par­tic­u­larly dis­rup­tive of my nor­mal rou­tines, get­ting to the gym and class. I’ve had to take time off work to deal with den­tal surgery and that time has to be made up, assign­ments deliv­ered on sched­ule, and lessons learned. Thrive Yoga is on my way home, not 10 min­utes from the office, but I still find myself dri­ving past it because my dis­ci­pline has been sapped by my work­load.  But that’s pre­cisely when I should be going to class.

I wrote this entry last night, but my blog secu­rity sys­tem locked me out after mid­night so I could not post it until now.


One day out of 365

Does it make a difference?

Reuters United Nations declares June 21 Inter­na­tional Day of Yoga
The 193-​​member U.N. Gen­eral Assem­bly approved by con­sen­sus a res­o­lu­tion estab­lish­ing a day to com­mem­o­rate the ancient prac­tice, which Modi called for in Sep­tem­ber dur­ing his inau­gural address to the world body.

It’s as much a polit­i­cal vic­tory for Indian pre­mier Modi as it is a recog­ni­tion of yoga’s worth.

Spreading the vibes through public services

Increas­ingly, spe­cial­ized non-​​profits and ser­vice orga­ni­za­tions are spread­ing the use of yoga and med­i­ta­tion in schools and under­priv­i­leged com­mu­ni­ties, what in yogic phi­los­o­phy is known as seva. Here is a story from Canada:

Toronto Star Yoga pro­gram teaches kids how to cope with stress at school and home
The goal isn’t really to teach kids about poses, explains New Leaf’s exec­u­tive direc­tor Laura Sygrove, who co-​​founded the orga­ni­za­tion in 2007. Rather, it’s to teach them how to under­stand the con­nec­tion between their emo­tions and what they feel in their bod­ies. New Leaf’s work is rooted in a grow­ing body of research show­ing yoga and mind­ful­ness can sup­port young peo­ple who have expe­ri­enced forms of trauma.

ysc-logoThis ser­vice move­ment has grown so much that it has started coa­lesc­ing in broader orga­ni­za­tions. The Yoga Ser­vice Coun­cil is orga­niz­ing its third con­fer­ence  for May14-​​17, 2015 at the Omega Insti­tute. It has a really impres­sive list of founder and mem­ber orga­ni­za­tions, as well as par­tic­i­pat­ing fac­ulty (almost a Who’s Who of yogic lead­ing edge thinkers in North Amer­ica). The YSC has also brought out its first jour­nal issue.

A yoga mat that keeps you grounded

Photo: two yoga mats
The Bare­foot Yoga Per­for­mance Grip Mat on top of my Man­duka eKo mat: a lit­tle longer and a lit­tle narrower.

In 2007, I was des­per­ate to buy a new yoga mat because my prac­tice had out­grown the entry-​​level, low-​​cost one I’d been using. I had my eye on Bare­foot Yoga’s Eco mat, an envi­ron­men­tally friendly com­bi­na­tion of jute fiber and rub­ber, because it got a thumbs-​​up review in the New York Times, For Some Things, It’s O.K. to Be Sticky (Yoga Mats). I vis­ited the online store repeat­edly, but it was out of stock for months. Obvi­ously, the NY Times arti­cle gen­er­ated a lot of demand. I even­tu­ally ended up get­ting a Man­duka eKo mat, as I reported in On Mats and Tow­els.

I’ve stayed loyal to Man­duka since then. I bought another eKo mat at the end of my yoga teacher train­ing in the sum­mer of 2013 because the eKo mat was falling apart. The rub­ber sur­face was com­ing unstuck from the foun­da­tion layer, and the rub­ber was oxi­diz­ing so I no longer had trac­tion, espe­cially when the mat was moist. I hurt myself in a jump-​​back because my toes did not grip the mat.

Seven years later and still oper­at­ing, Bare­foot Yoga has the orig­i­nal Eco mat in stock, priced at $85. as well as an array of Bare­foot Yoga-​​branded mats, and Prana, Jade, Man­duka mod­els. Bare­foot Yoga has evi­dently decided that they are going to com­mit to earth friendly products.  As they explain on their site:

Tra­di­tional mats can be an excel­lent sur­face for yoga prac­tice. How­ever, these mats are made from PVCs (polyvinyl chlo­rides) that release diox­ins and other car­cino­gens into the atmos­phere dur­ing man­u­fac­tur­ing. Toxic addi­tives migrate into their sur­round­ings in the form of gas and small par­ti­cles. Thou­sands and thou­sands of mats and other prod­ucts are made with PVC, and none are biodegrad­able or recy­clable. Hence the need for more eco-​​friendly alternatives.”

But if mats are eco-​​friendly and biodegrad­able, they age and wear out. That’s what biodegrad­able means, break­ing down into non-​​toxic com­po­nents over time. Sun light accel­er­ates the process for rubber-​​based mats, as with my Man­duka eKo mat. I also have a Jade Har­mony mat, a gift from my daugh­ter, that has lost tex­ture and feels like an old, crum­bling eraser. So there’s a downside.

Test­ing a new mat

Why do I men­tion all this? In early August I got an e-​​mail from Car­olina Mills at Bare­foot Yoga Com­pany, Seat­tle, Wash­ing­ton, ask­ing me to a do a review of one of their mats, either a Hybrid Eco-​​Lite Mat ($23.95 on sale, $26.95 reg­u­lar) or a Per­for­mance Grip Mat ($59). I chose to test the sec­ond one, but I told her that I would not get to it until after I came back from my Euro­pean trip, say Octo­ber. Car­olina sent me a demo right away.

The mat stats mea­sures 24″ x 72″ x 4mm,  and weighs 5 pounds. It is made of Poly­mer Envi­ron­men­tal Resin (PER). “It does not con­tain phtha­lates or heavy met­als, and its method of pro­duc­tion is com­pletely non-​​toxic and latex free,” says Bare­foot Yoga’s write-​​up. It comes in three col­ors, black, char­coal and espresso, a rather somber selec­tion but that may have to do with the man­u­fac­tur­ing process.

The mat comes with a life­time warranty:

Life­time war­ranty cov­ers one-​​time replace­ment of your Grip Mat due to any defects that arise as a result of nor­mal use of the product.

Con­sid­er­ing the mid-​​range price and eco-​​friendliness of the mat, these terms are extraordinary.

Ini­tial assessment

Photo: three yoga mags
You have three color choices: black, char­col and cof­fee, Sorry, no happy pas­tels. Photo: Cour­tesy of Bare­foot Yoga

First, the mat is excep­tion­ally light and com­pact, easy to roll up and slide in a bag (none of the strug­gle as with a tra­di­tional sticky mat). I have no prob­lem car­ry­ing it around.  As men­tioned, the mat comes in one size. In my case, I pre­fer a wider mat, say 26-​​27″, but I’ve dis­cov­ered that I am not as picky as I used to be. How­ever, if Bare­foot Yoga wants to cater to male buy­ers (taller and broader), they might want to offer a selec­tion of wider and longer mats.

Since get­ting back to my yoga prac­tice, I’ve taken a low-​​key approach: yin, restora­tive and nidra yoga mostly, as I try to tame a Type A+ inten­sity that has pre­dom­i­nated in my practice. The Grip Mat was designed for a more active prac­tice so I have not put the mat through a stress test. Its grip should get bet­ter as it wears down. I wiped down the mat with a sea salt and water mix­ture, as sug­gested on the Bare­foot Yoga FAQ page, to speed up the break-​​in process.

A few days ago, my daugh­ter, Stephanie, told me that while I was trav­el­ing, she used my Bare­foot Yoga mat for her prac­tice. From the start, she found it had a great sur­face that kept her from slip­ping, even though it’s not “sticky”.

If you want cush­ion for hands, knees and feet, you may want to use a yoga towel or cut-​​up mat squares for padding. This mat is not a big, flat sponge.  Per­son­ally, I appre­ci­ate that I don’t feel as if  I am sink­ing into the mat. I am balance-​​impaired and have periph­eral neu­ropa­thy. Too much padding intro­duces a kind of sen­sory noise. With the Per­for­mance Grip mat, I sense a firmer foun­da­tion under my feet, and I can move through my sequences with con­fi­dence. In fact, the more I use it, the more it grows on me (or under me).

Since this mat’s strength is dura­bil­ity under heavy use, I will come back later and review it for this char­ac­ter­is­tic at a later time.

Old job, new job

Photo: a man seated with laptop in an empty meeting room
Writer at work. Buenos Aires, Argentina, 2012

Last Mon­day morn­ing, DMI Human Resources told that “due to chang­ing busi­ness con­di­tions and require­ments” the com­pany was ter­mi­nat­ing my job. Within 90 min­utes, I was dri­ving out the base­ment park­ing garage with my box of per­sonal belong­ings in the trunk. I was not the only one.

Please note that I am not dis­parag­ing DMI for mak­ing busi­ness deci­sions that had a lot  more at stake than my lit­tle job.  As an upstart com­pany that is not risk-​​adverse, DMI took a gam­ble hir­ing me a year ago. I had no expe­ri­ence writ­ing Fed­eral IT pro­pos­als. I under­went a “crash course with train­ing wheels.” At the end of my tenure, I know that I bring value and pol­ish to any pro­posal. I also “grok” how to lever­age my other tal­ents, knowl­edge and expe­ri­ence for max­i­mum impact. I am grate­ful for the oppor­tu­nity and priv­i­leges that come with a com­pany that wants to cre­ate a pro­duc­tive work envi­ron­ment. I was told that my ter­mi­na­tion was “busi­ness, not performance-​​related” (the cor­po­rate equiv­a­lent of The God­fa­ther adage). In a busi­ness heavy in human cap­i­tal, cut­ting over­head is really about ter­mi­nat­ing people.

Today, I join LCG, a tech­nol­ogy provider for health IT, sci­en­tific research and grants man­age­ment in the pub­lic sec­tor, in Rockville. I believe that LCG (re-​​branding for Lau­rel Con­sult­ing Group) did not make a high-​​odds bet with my hir­ing. For over a month, they had been look­ing for a pro­posal writer who could actively engage stake­hold­ers and boil down the inputs into a pol­ished prod­uct. Once I inter­viewed last Wednes­day, they acted promptly to acquire a resource that fits their cor­po­rate needs.

I start work on Novem­ber 17.

A yogi gives his take on drug abuse and treatmenet

One of the most acces­si­ble online resources about sub­stance abuse gets down with a lead­ing advo­cate of includ­ing yoga in treatment:

The Fix The Next Phase in Recov­ery — The Tommy Rosen Solu­tion
Ninety min­utes later, hav­ing come through an inti­mate and pow­er­ful expe­ri­ence, I would be directed to lie down, relax com­pletely, and let the full weight of my body rest upon the earth. This was savasana or corpse pose. The feel­ing was elec­tric — energy hum­ming through my body. I felt like blood was pour­ing into areas of my tis­sues that it had not been able to reach for some time. It was reliev­ing and heal­ing. It was sub­tler than the feel­ing from get­ting off on drugs, but it was detectable and lovely, and there would be no hang­over, just a feel­ing of more ease than I could remem­ber. I felt a warmth come over me, sim­i­lar to what I felt when I had done heroin, but far from the dark­ness of that insan­ity, this was pure light — a way through.

Also see Yoga and Recov­ery: Three Ways to Start on The Path To Well­ness.

The Dalai Lama and lululemon strike a deal

Photo: Dalai Lama and lululemon althelica CEO wave hands at camera
The Dalai Lama and lul­ule­mon althe­lica CEO are all smiles – Cour­tesy: lul­ule­mon atheletics

We have another ker­fuf­fle about the inter­sec­tion between “yoga busi­ness” and high-​​minded, spir­i­tual pur­suits, in this case the yoga gear maker lul­ule­mon ath­let­ica (brand­ing wants lower case) and the Dalai Lama’s Cen­ter for Peace + Edu­ca­tion agree­ing on three years of fund­ing for the Center’s activities:

The Globe and Mail – Lulu-​​Lama? Part­ner­ship between yoga wear maker, Dalai Lama sparks out­cry
They cited the dis­con­nect between a lux­ury retailer that sells pricey fash­ions such as $100 yoga pants and the Dalai Lama who preaches a mod­est life and advo­cates for the poor. Oth­ers said they were offended that “pol­i­tics” play a part in Lululemon’s mar­ket­ing, and sev­eral said they would stop shop­ping at the chain.

The orig­i­nal announce­ment from lul­uleon, plus the Dalai Lama Cen­ter and its press release.  A take on the reac­tion of the “yoga scene” is in YogaDork. Both lul­ule­mon and the Cen­ter for Peace + Edu­ca­tion are based in Vancouver.

Here are a few of my own knee-​​jerk  questions:

  1. Given that many yoga hard­lin­ers dis­trust lul­ule­mon, is this move noth­ing more than PR ges­ture to acquire a spir­i­tual smoke­screen for its cor­po­rate greed?
  2. Given the poor rep that lul­ule­mon has acquired over the past few years, what does the Dalai Lama get out of  this arrange­ment? Just money?
  3. Should we ask the Dalai Lama to show us his entire list of donors to find more contradictions?
  4. For that mat­ter, who else is lul­ule­mon back­ing finan­cially? After all, it’s tax deductible.
  5. Why do a size­able part of the reac­tion see the move as mix­ing busi­ness with polit­i­cal causes? Oh yeah, the Dalai Lama was the head of the Tibetan gov­ern­ment in exile before step­ping aside recently.
  6. Does this alliance mean that lul­ule­mon will change its mar­ket­ing tar­get to become more encom­pass­ing of lower-​​income yogis and yogi­nis? Is lul­ule­mon going to open more out­lets to avoid the crit­i­cism that they sell $100 yoga pants? Why do we have to fly to Orlando or upstate New York (Woodbury)?