Data Collection in Yoga Studios: The abolishment of the anonymous yogi

10ea831Yoga studios are asking students to provide an increasing amount of personal information. Name, address, telephone, email, along with a release of liability is pretty standard.  But they also want you to log in with Facebook, which gives their program access to all your friends, as well as date of birth, and provide the name of an emergency contact (whatever happened to 911?).  All of this may be to cover their ass for legal reasons, but there’s the undeniable truth that they’re also compiling data. Data to email you things that you don’t want. But you wonder if it’s a matter of time before they start asking about ethnic makeup, marital status, income, education, medical questions, and whether  you have a dog or cat. All of this data compiling can be used for a myriad of things –none of them relating to your consent.

Recently, I went to a hot, stuffy, dark yoga studio, and the woman thrust an iPad in front of me to register. There wasn’t an “option” -let alone any indication she would be willing to do the data entry herself. I can just imagine her thinking, “All I do is click this mouse”.  Mind you, I work daily on an iPad. Still, asking the public to perform a quick registration on one is short sighted. It’s a clumsy, awful process –I’d never ask anyone to register with anything less than a keypad. But as I did, the program kept rejecting me –passwords didn’t match, a missed field, a button that didn’t work.  Typeface and fields –all too small, which had to be adjusted continuously. Oh, yes, and did should I mention again that she hadn’t turned on the fucking lights? What is this –they hadn’t paid the electric bill? She chastised me:  you should come in earlier!  Well, I had –if I had been allowed to simply pay a fee, sign a waiver, and go take a class.

What irked me was this:  A lack of choices. You HAD to use the iPad, you HAD to provide all the information, you HAD to create an account. And then I realized that if one of our wounded warriors had come in, how the yoga-clerk would have sat idly by, watching him or her fumble, get frustrated –all before going to class. God forbid, one of my veteran friends with limited vision, or anxiety issues should go in. Yeah, disaster time. The yoga-clerk wouldn’t have had either the insight or inclination to say, “Look, go take the class. We can sort through this later.”  Like an info-automaton, she just kept insisting that we go through this process. Rejection after rejection, plus her chastising. Honestly, SHE wasn’t worth it.

So I did the sensible thing. I went back, rolled my mat (which the teacher had nicely put down for me –I hope she finds a better studio, maybe one with lights), and told her that I had to leave because their computer wouldn’t let me login.  The girl looked on dumbly, only offering,  “The computer is saying….”  Which pretty much says that she wasn’t thinking, and was without a clue that even she had choices on how to handle the registration process. (I’m reminded by many yoga teachers who say that yoga is all about choices. It should be that with the business side of things too).

So here’s the deal:  if you’re going to open a yoga studio, you have to give people CHOICES.  You cannot assume everyone is going to want to give you personal data, because we can’t be sure how secure your firewall is, nor can we be sure that at some point you won’t be hacked, and that our data will either sold or shared by you, used to support some bogus study,  or stolen by sheer thievery. And the other truth is this:  maybe we’re not there for your friendship. Maybe we just want to be an anonymous yogi.

And if you’re going to work with a veteran, you’d damned well better give them a choice because they fought for that right.

Offer your students the choice to create an account. Or simply give them a piece of paper, collect basic data, and enter it yourself. And still –some people might not even want to give you their name, let alone their email. Are you going to turn them away?  Or will you let them sign a release of liability, and send them onto their way into the yoga studio?

 

Hellertown, PA: Veteran says “I’m a Marine and I’m not doing yoga”

Got you to click on the post, didn’t it? 14784300-mmmain

USMC Veteran Liz Thompson shared that statement in her story with The Express-Times, where she described her struggle the transition home after a 9-month deployment to Iraq in 2005. Liz eventually found her way to yoga after it was suggested to her by a friend and she has since become an instructor herself and teaches a class for Veterans at the American Legion Post 397 in Hellertown, PA.

Check out the rest of Liz’s story in The Express-Times!

 

Yoga People: Stop Posting Selfies

Yah, so it’s been awhile. We have no excuses.  So sorry. But we have news to post about an upcoming Paradox Sport climb, and we want to comment on the last exit of Canadian troops from AFG.  But first….

Yoga teachers post a lot of selfies on Facebook. We see a myriad of photos –from what they’re wearing to class (in case you can’t wait), to proof that they can touch the back of their head to their ass, or lodge their foot in their crotch.  But more hilariously are the number of “Likes,” or comments. This validation of the ass to head selfie is either a form of politeness, or truly, yoga is full of narcissists. Or maybe they just need a foot to the crotch. We can only say, “We will file this extraneous information into its proper place.”  It must be like an itch. Ommm…. click click click.

So really. Stop it. It just makes you look like this.

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WarRetreat asks U.S. Army Veteran Dyan Ferguson: “What’s Love?”

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For Valentine’s Day, we asked those who serve veterans after war through innovative programs, “What’s War?”

“What is LOVE? 

Love is what I feel when I take a moment to feel my breath and my sensations… to look at a bird or the clouds… to feel the sun on my skin… to smell or taste a warm cup of strong coffee… to notice people around me and to offer a smile… When I take a moment to really pay attention to my internal world and to what is happening around me, my mind goes silent for a few seconds.  Then I feel real, deep, endless love.  And that is always followed by the bubbling up of gratitude for everything life has given me — from my family and friends and everything they bring to me life, to the fact that I live in a democracy that cares about its citizens’ well-being, to the opportunities I have had to serve others, whether in the military or a nonprofit that supports veterans… And in those moments of feeling love and gratitude, I invariably re-commit to love and generosity and service to this world we share and each of its inhabitants.” -Dyan Ferguson, U.S. Army Veteran, Co-Founder, Honoring The Path of the Warrior
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Honoring The Path’s founders, Chris Fortin & Dyan Ferguson at a veterans’ retreat.

Dyan is one of the founders of the organization, “Honoring The Path of The Warrior.” They take combat veterans into the great outdoors, introducing them to white water rafting, hiking, and teaching them stress reduction through yoga and meditation. These free retreats are in Northern California. “The intent is to provide Veterans with connection, community and tools that support them in using their own strengths and experiences to find a meaningful and productive path in civilian life.”

Find out more about Honoring The Path of The Warrior!

“What’s Love?” U.S. Army Veteran Eric Walrabenstein Responds

For Valentine’s Day, we asked movers and shakers in veterans’ service organizations: What’s LOVE?

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“Love is, at its essence, a kind of capacity…

to be present for others.

to allow for our differences.

to endure difficulty.

to go beyond our self interest.

Love is the capacity to do all of this with an effortless grace that allows us fully and spontaneously embrace all that is.” -Eric Walrabenstein, Veteran, U.S. Army, Bootstrap Stress Management System

Eric Walrabenstein

Eric Walrabenstein, U.S. Army Veteran

Eric Walrabenstein is a nationally-recognized expert in the fields of yoga and mind/body health and the founder of Yoga Pura, one of Arizona’s largest yoga centers. As a former infantry officer in the U.S. Army, he knows first-hand of the sacrifice and dedication the members of our armed forces make every day. 
 
His wide-ranging experience in the military and civilian sectors, combine with his profound understanding of yoga technology and mind/body health to make him uniquely equipped to help our troops and veterans end their struggle with chronic military-related stress conditions. 
 
In addition to his work with BOOTSTRAP and teaching at his Arizona center, he regularly travels the nation training yoga, meditation, and mind-body health teachers from around the world. 

Developed by veterans for veterans. Get your free kit!

THE BOOTSTRAP KIT:  Developed by veterans for veterans. CLICK HERE TO GET YOUR FREE KIT!

 

Sexual Predators in the Yoga World

trustJanuary is the time when everyone promises to start a new routine. Some join a gym, or a yoga studio. By sharing that there are yoga predators in the world of yoga isn’t being done to scare you off. However. we can’t sugar coat yoga, by telling you only the good stuff. You should also know the problems that arise when teachers abuse their power.

It is a fact that a few male yoga teachers, who have gained the trust of women, have sexually harassed and abused them. A few years ago, one of the first sexual scandal stories to break was about John Friend, founder of Anusara yoga. Last summer, three women came forth in a civil suit, with allegations of sexual harassment, assault, and racism against Bikram Choudhry, the founder of Bikram yoga. The suit has yet to reach the courts. They were abused were betrayed not only by men, but by the women who worked with them and knew.

While most people might come to the conclusion that these heinous acts are relegated to the “corporate” style yoga teachers, it happens in small towns as well. Recently, I heard unfortunate news of a local yoga teacher/licensed massage therapist.  He was a popular teacher, whose classes were full. A following of women who would follow him from studio to studio. He was their sun and moon. One of his students trusted him enough to get a massage. What started off as a relationship of safety and trust turned into a nightmare. His hands wandered, and he used force.  At one point, he pushed down on her carotid artery. While she wasn’t raped, she felt violated, humiliated, and scared. She reported it to the police. However, after much consideration, she did not press charges. Under the suggestion of the police, she got a restraining order. He turned in multiple weapons. His massage license has been taken away, and he’s been kicked out of all but one yoga studio. Since then, more women have said they experienced similar treatment, but were too embarrassed to come forth. (Because charges haven’t been filed, and to protect the anonymity of the person to whom this happened, no one is being named on this blog).

Inevitably, he has his defenders. There’s one studio, along with a crop of sycophants, who can’t bring themselves to face the truth.  What they don’t realize is this: their support marginalizes all victims of sexual abuse.

We feel obliged to mention this problem to veterans. Especially men and women who have suffered sexual trauma while in the military. We wonder if rape and sexual harassment go underreported in the yoga world. We wish someone in the yoga world would start keeping track of the flock. Given the “celestial fog” many yoga teachers bask in, reporting a popular person for inappropriate and abusive acts is beyond difficult. According to Lucas Rockwood, a teacher in NYC and founder of “Stop Sexual Abuse in Yoga: I Am My Own Guru,” it goes unreported and nothing changes. We can’t ignore the issue, and send anyone blindly into a studio. We’re obligated to send a warning shot over the bow and reassure you that you are your own guru. 

The majority of yoga teachers are caring, compassionate individuals. A small minority are the predators as described above. So, what do we tell you?  Especially as individuals who have experienced profound stress reduction, and even a bit of magic through yoga?  We tell you to be careful, and that no one has a right to touch, oggle, or make comments about you. If you have trauma, and you don’t want the teacher to touch you, just go up to him or her before class –and tell them in no uncertain terms. You do not have to apologize, you do not have to explain why. “Please don’t touch me,” should suffice. If they have an issue with it, walk out the door. If they forget, don’t go back. It’s your mat, your space, your practice. We agree with the great Judy Weaver, founder of Connected Warriors, “If a teacher can’t direct you into a stance without using their hands, they have no business teaching yoga.” 

And if it happens to you –go to the police and press charges. Take along your friend when you do –it’ll help a lot. And remember, you are not alone.

Watch this terrific you tube video by a really great yoga teacher who wanted to raise awareness about the problem of sexual assault and abuse in the yoga community. This is Lucas Rockwood, who founded the the movement: “Stop Sexual Abuse in Yoga: I Am My Own Guru.”

Update:   Since getting kicked out of the studios, and losing his license he has taken a trip overseas, but plans to return. And yeah, I know who he is. And dude, if you’re reading this: get treatment for your predatory nature. Psychiatric help, not just chanting on a pillow. I would say that if I see you again, I’ll kick your ass, but that would be bad karma. But since I’ve never been perfect, let’s just let that statement sit.

Grateful for big, loud, things

"Restrepo

Film Still from “Restrepo”  Photo by Tim Hetherington

“The Army might screw you and your girlfriend might dump you and the enemy might kill you,but the shared commitment to safeguard one another’s lives is unnegotiable and only deepens with time.The willingness to die for another person is a form of love that even religions fail to inspire, and the experience of it changes a person profoundly.” 

― Sebastian JungerWar

Yeah, I know. You’re circling the yoga studio in your car, not sure if you really want to go in. Everyone walking in seems so… bouncy, and they’re smiling, and what the heck are they happy about? Plus,  you’ve seen the “7-Days of Gratitude” started on FB, and a few of your friends have even posted things they’re grateful for.

What a bunch of goody-two-shoes.

After all, you’re intense. You’ve seen the most extreme part of life. War, poverty, suffering, pain. Violence, tragedy and danger.  You’re fierce in your beliefs, and so is everyone else you know. You walk on the earth.  But those people who go around saying they’re grateful?  You’re not so sure. Reality check?

You gun the engine, race ahead, trying to find a parking spot on the crowded street. Who the heck put this studio here, anyway?  What fool thought to put it next to a Starbucks and a hot dog stand? You shake your head. Honestly, you like your intensity. And you don’t feel like “letting go.” Besides, what is that? Letting go. Do they think there’s a window in your brain to open, and your intensity will just go away?  BIG LOUD AWFUL THINGS have shaped who you are now. And while there’s stuff you could do without –like the lack of sleep, or the reel that plays back and forth in your head …there were good things too. Like feeling you had a sense of direction, fighting for the person next to you, and knowing they’d do the same for you. Things were so certain ….and now? The only thing certain is everyone is talking about gratitude, and it kind of annoys you.

So now, you’re circling the block again, and you’re wondering…. yeah, you comprehend the meaning of gratitude. Life, liberty, pursuit of happiness means more than it did before you went to war. Some of your friends lost the chance at all three in a gritty battle or alone, at home, when hope had run out. Will they understand war ushered in the best friends of your life?  That the brother and sisterhood is unquestioned? Yeah, sure, there was trauma, but there were funny things that still make you laugh. Will they get it? It was the best and worst time of your life, and you’d do it again (only this time you wouldn’t lose your best friend). Do they understand it was the intensity that kept you alive? Do they know how much it pisses you off to be tossed off as an ‘adrenaline junkie?’ It seemed that way, but you weren’t though it’d be a lie to say that war wasn’t exciting. You were fighting for the guy on your left and your right.

Finally, you find a spot. It’s three blocks away from the yoga studio, but it will do. You park, gather your stuff –the yoga mat with the wrapper still on it, and a towel. You follow the others with yoga mats strapped to their backs. Some look rushed and harried. One even walks into you and doesn’t say, “sorry.” So maybe some of these yoga people are assholes, which makes sense: in any given group, there’s always going to be one.

You reach the door,  no time to hesitate, there are people behind you. But you remember one thing someone wrote here on WarRetreat:

We know you miss your war. It’s fine. We’re not asking you to become anyone else. If you’re already grateful, maybe you’ll find more. But no sane person is going to insist.  And maybe you won’t like yoga. Maybe your thing is to climb a mountain, ride a bike, or write a poem.

You check in, find a spot. The music starts. You sit, and breathe. And then you do it again.

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Marine Corps Times: Yoga, MMA combined, “Kevlar” for The Brain

Chemical: Kevlar

Our comment;  We’d love more information, and since the author is a board certified psychologist who served 2 tours in Iraq, perhaps he’ll be able to get some studies funded, and discover why these two modalities when combined seem to work. What’s the routine? How long? What’s the longterm outcome? We’re hopeful more research will be done!

From the Marine Corps Times  

“The military spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year on mental health research and care. Although advances in medications and talk therapies for often disabling and chronic psychiatric conditions are a sound investment, other less expensive and non-traditional alternatives can provide substantial dividends.”

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Read:  for the Mind: MMA, Yoga May Offer Benefits As PTSD Treatment  by Bret A. Moore

Innovative Yoga Teacher Training Puts Them In A Soldier’s Shoes

Sign up now for the Oct. 19 class in Auburn NH

Sign up now for the Oct. 19 class in Auburn NH

Fire a weapon, crawl through an obstacle course, work with veterans with combat injuries. Experience a tiny bit of the world a combat veteran has gone through. This is open to all certified yoga teachers who aren’t afraid of a challenge, and want to gain a hands-on experience in a safe environment  for a one-day workshop in New Hampshire.  

Sign Up now for the October 19 course in Auburn NH.

The Combat Connection presents Yoga For Vets 101 a one day/12 hour intensive training course for yoga teachers with no military experience who want to teach combat vets,in a clinical or studio environment.  Becky Blais and Paul Zipes, both military veterans and certified yoga teachers  will teach this one day/12 hour course designed to immerse all certified yoga  teachers in a safe, supportive and high intensity environment.”

This is an experiential boot camp for certified yoga teachers that will give them a hands-on experience into the world of a combat veteran. What does a weapon feel like?  What have they heard? Learn a proven methodology of what works for veterans Boost your confidence and skill set by receiving information on military protocol, and terminology.  Learn the 3 most common injuries of combat veterans, and what’s hands “off” and hands “on” when teaching. Paul and Becky have thoughtfully put this workshop together…. don’t miss it!