Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Question for Yogis

This is not a "Catholic" post. Nor is it about the news. My question is for anyone with some experience with different styles of vigorous yoga.

Back on January 2, I wrote a post about how I managed to quit smoking through prayer, exercise, diet and other healthy habits.

In that post, I mentioned that my exercise regime has become some "intense" or "vigorous" yoga.

At the time, I was primarily doing Rodney Yee's yoga DVD's. I was alternating Yoga Burn, then Intermediate Yoga the next day, and then Power Yoga: Total Body, and then I would cycle back.

I also mentioned that I had recently ordered Mark Blanchard's Progressive Power Yoga Trilogy (PPY) on Netflix, and that I thought it was a great workout, but long.

Well. Blanchard's workout is longer than Yee's (90 minutes each compared to 60 minutes). But once I had tried Blanchard's workout, there was no going back.

I have been doing Blanchard's PPY Trilogy every other day through January and February, with the Yee workouts on the off days, and Father Thomas Ryan's Yoga Prayer on Sunday.

I do all three DVDs of the PPY trilogy in one week (Vol I on Mon, Vol II on Wed, and Vol III on Fri).

The more I do Blanchard's work-outs, the more the others I'm doing on the off days seem way too "easy" and anything but "intense".

Yee's workouts used to take effort, but seem a breeze in comparison to Blanchard's.

Some folks don't like Mark Blanchard's style. Honestly, I think most of what rubs people the wrong way is that Mark seems in many ways to refuse to act like some New Age hippie guru.

He comes across a bit more like a sports coach or physical trainer, and he has a sense of humor that might not appeal to everyone.

Sure. critics are right that he also does seem to touch some of the women in a manner very different than he touches the men in his class or his mother (who is also a student).

That's a fair critique, but I'm not looking at the TV through most of the workout anyway.

Besides, with his wife and mother right there in the room, I'm not sure he is really consciously flirting (though that's not an excuse to avoid becoming conscious of what he is doing).

On to my question(s).

I'm wondering if I should try Ashtanga yoga, and if so, can it be learned from DVD's.

Ashtanga is supposedly a very physically intense and athletic style of yoga.

I like Mark Blanchard's "tough" style of yoga better than Rodney Yee's unique adaptation of Iyengar style yoga and flowing power yoga.

Yee has a nice flow that seems condusive to a sort of meditative "mindfulness" that I like, but I'm simply not getting the same work-out effect I used to get.

Even Yee's Advanced Yoga doesn't seem to have the same challenge as Blanchard's PPY.

Might Ashtanga bring together the meditative flow with the physical intensity I like in Blanchard's PPY trilogy?

Could Ashtanga be a better practice between the PPY trilogy days?

That's my real goal - to have a more challenging work-out on the days off from Blanchard's DVD.

Might Ashtanga even become a replacement for PPY?

I like Blanchard's style better than Shiva Rea's "Vinyasa Flow" (I own Yoga Trance Dance).

Shiva Rea feels a little too much like areobics to me, and not like yoga. I do this one on occassion in addition to other DVD's, but not as a stand alone work-out.

I like Blanchard better than Kundalini yoga (i.e. Maya Fienes' Kundalini Yoga to Detox and Destress).

I do like to occassionally do Fienne's DVD, but only for variation, rather than my staple.

I like Blanchard's DVD better than Baron Baptiste's The Trainer's Edge: Long and Lean Yoga, though Baptiste may come closest in physical "intensity".

I've been looking around at the yoga studios and health clubs in my area, and there's no way I can get to the only Ashtanga studio in the area with my work schedule.

There is an Anusura studio I can reach, and I went to a free class that was way too easy for me.

Will I like Ashtanga if I like Blanchard's style so much?

I wonder if Ashtanga can be learned from a DVD since I cannot get to the Ashtanga studio (i.e. - David Swenson, Richard Freeman, etc...)?

Of course, the easiest way to find out might be just to rent the Ashtanga DVD's. But which one is going to give me the best taste of what Ashtanga really is?

Any suggestions from any yogis out there?


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Unfinished Business: Revisiting Welfare Reform

Thomas Massaro's article in Commonweal argues for making welfare an issue in 2008.

He specifically proposes the case for better empirical observation of the results of the 1996 welfare reform.

There are some interesting questions raised either implicitly or explicitly and almost in passing as Massaro pleads his case.

Did the welfare reform of '96 lead to an increase in teenage abortions?

Has welfare reform created a new class of working poor?

Has the stereotype of the lazy welfare mom in the 1990's been replaced with the uninsured worker, receiving a subsidy, but still struggling to put food on the table for kids she cannot spend time with, and who either cannot afford to own a home, or is about to go through foreclosure?


Thursday, February 21, 2008

Latest Gun Mayhem Provokes Silence on Gun Control

The link above highlights recent school shootings and public reaction to highlight how successful the NRA has been in marginalizing the issue of gun control beyond common sense.

The article clearly expresses some strong feelings on the subject that provoked some thinking on my part about the whole meaning of a "right to bear arms".

The second amendment to the Constitution states the following:

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right to the people to bear arms shall not be infringed.
It seems clear to me that there is no individual right to bear arms in the constitution. Rather, the people have a collective right to bear arms in order to form a "well regulated militia" for the purpose of the "security of a free state".

In other words, the second amendment guarantees the states the right to form a National Guard and/or a police force. It does not grant the individual the right to carry any weapon he or she wishes.

Even the majority of guns rights activists acknowledge that a person planning terrorists attacks does not have a right to a nuclear weapon - even if a citizen of the United States.

Indeed, most guns rights activists would agree that no individual has the right to own a bomb of any kind!

And let's be frank here. Anyone who thinks an individual has a God given human right to own a bomb is a lunatic.

No individual has a God given moral right at birth to own any sort of weapon whatsoever. Period.

The so-called "right to bear arms" is nothing more than a social convention - part of a social contract.

It would be far more appropriate to speak of the privilege to bear arms!

If the social contract granting the privilege to individuals to bear arms is violated, it makes perfect sense for the collective (the majority of voters) to restrict the privilege in any way the majority is made to feel safe.

I grew up in a small town in Ohio where the first day of deer hunting season was an unofficial holiday. Schools and businesses would literally shut down for the day, because nobody was going to show up anyway.

I fully understand that many people use guns responsibly for the purposes of hunting and sport. I also understand that many people feel a need to protect themselves.

We may have a God given human right to eat, but I'm not sure that translates to a God given right to hunt if food is available by other means. Indeed, we already have hunting laws.

We may have a God given human right to the pursuit of happiness, but I am not sure this translates to a God given human right to find pleasure in shooting guns for sport, any more than people have a God given human right to find pleasure in bare-fisted boxing, practicing cruelty to their pets, or snorting cocaine.

The state does have a right, duty, and obligation to moderate the pursuit of pleasure when it harms the individual or society and threatens the common good.

It seems almost self evident that if nobody owned guns, we would not need guns to protect ourselves from others with guns. And more people are shot by family members than criminals - in accidents or drunken fights, etc....

Do I favor the total elimination of guns?

I have never owned a gun and never will. When I see guns these days, I feel sort of queasy in my stomach. I would not have any heartburn if we lived in a world where guns did not exist.

At the same time, I am not sure I favor use the force of law to completely eliminate guns from society at this time.

I am willing to let the hunter have his hunting rifle.

But I am not opposed to restricting the type of guns manufactored for private use, requiring some ID or even a background check before selling the hunter a gun, and requiring ID to purchase ammunition, and putting safety locks on the rifle, and maybe banning hand-guns (which no respectable hunter uses to hunt), etc....

Bottom line is that we most probably do need more gun control than we have. Thirty-nine senseless deaths since last April makes that clear.


Tuesday, February 19, 2008


Thursday, February 07, 2008

Will Catholic Republicans Back Huckabee?

Well, Romney dropped out earlier today, and it seems that it is really down to McCain and Huckabee as the only viable candidates for the Republicans.

Some would argue that Huckabee is not really viable.

Mccain would restrict abortion, but would allow exceptions for rape, incest, and health of the mother. He also supports federally funding embryonic stem cell research.

Huckabee opposes all abortion, believing all abortions is murder. Huckabee opposes embryonic stem cell research.

It seems obvious to me that any self-respecting pro-life Catholic Republican who can still vote in a primary must back Huckabee. That is the only way to ensure that a true pro-lifer runs against the inevitability of a pro-choice Democrat.


Biblical Fasting

The link above is to an article written by a member of the New Life Community Church, which seems to be, based on their own statement of beliefs, a conservative evangelical Protestant community.

The article is not what I would call "scholarly" in the academic sense. Yet, it is a very good treatment of fasting from the whole of scripture.

The result is similar to what we might reach by passing though canonical criticism and then reading the text with a second naivete.

I was reading the article because we just entered Lent yesterday, and Ash Wednesday is a day of fasting for Catholics.

Indeed, fasting or some other form of "penance" are encouraged for the entire season of Lent.

At some points, the author of the linked article may sound overly critical of "monks and hermits" within the Catholic and Orthodox traditions.

At the same time, his Biblical evaluation of the perceived motives of "monks and hermits" is on target.

In other words, those motives are "wrong", whether real monks and hermits, individually or collectively, actually had such motives or not.

He also does not seem to favor a mandate from ministers for a whole community to fast, though he ironically points out Biblical examples where such things occurred.

Some readers may note that a contemporary theme of fasting often discussed in Catholic circles is absent: developing compassion with the suffering poor.

I may be mistaken, but I don't think this notion, however worthy, is found in Scripture.

That's OK. We Catholics don't buy into sola scriptura.

I am merely pointing out that, to my knowledge, the idea of fasting in order to develop a sense of compassion for the poor is probably not a Biblical idea.

Frequent readers may recall that I question whether Jesus actually approved of fasting.

We see in Mt 9:14-15 (quoted in the article) that Jesus' disciples clearly did not seem to fast during the entire length of his public ministry.

It can be argued that any and all indications that Christians would fast post-resurrection is precisely post-resurrection interpolation: perhaps inspired by the Holy Spirit - but nevertheless not rooted in explicit teachings of Jesus while he walked the earth.

Of course, Matthew does record that Jesus fasted for forty days - though no other source confirms this, and there were no eye witnesses to the event described (other than Satan).

Among other world religions, some Buddhists and Sikhs view fasting as a violation of the virtue of moderation or temperance.

There is some truth to the potential for this, and it would seem consistent with the image of Jesus portrayed in the Gospels that he may have preferred moderation in food and drink over asceticism, absolutes and extremes.

On the other hand, the final text received into the canon do take fasting by Christians for granted - as the author of the article linked above clearly demonstrates.

Regardless of whether the historical Jesus actually fasted or approved of fasting, we all know that fasting is part of the final Biblical heritage and Catholic tradition - particularly associated with the season of Lent.

Should we chose to participate in fasting from food during this Lenten season, I believe the article linked above gives some good guidelines straight from Scripture on how and why to approach this ancient discipline.