Monday, January 23, 2006

Have You Downgraded Recently?

This week I was in the store. I needed some new razors. In case you're not up to speed on the latest razor technology, I'll tell you what's out there. There's the Mach 3, a 3 bladed razor, which is what I was using. And there's the Mach 3 Turbo, which has a lotion strip I think, and then there's the Mach 3 PowerMax or something like that, which I hadn't seen before. This one really freaked me out because it has a button on the top that makes it vibrate. I mean, this thing is vibrating hard. It almost hurt my hand to hold it! I guess the idea is that the vibe-motion gets the beard hair better. And next to all that was the Quattro, with 4 blades. Upon further research when I got home I discovered the Quattro not only promises a clean shave, but an entirely new lifestyle! And they were so expensive, about 1200 yen for 4 razor heads.

Now, for those of you who haven't met me, I am not exactly hairy. My best attempts at facial hair growth (while in the Peace Corps) resulted in a fine wispy halo of hair around my jaw, and an ugly moustache! I was standing there thinking, what do I need 3 razor blades on one razor for? Sure, I like a clean shave, but this is getting ridiculous. Next year they'll probably come out with something with 5 blades that also harvests wheat. That's when, out of the corner of my eye, down at ankle level, I saw the Gillette Sensor. That was the first razor I ever had, in high school. It had 2 blades and it worked great. Not much has changed about my facial hair since high school. And the Sensor came with more blades for half the price. And it looks cool. Kind of art deco design. I bought it, and threw out my old Mach 3.

It was a freeing experience, to actually downgrade something in a world that is always pushing the newest model. Try it this month, find some small thing that is complicating your life and choose a simpler option.

In Buddhism, there is a lot of talk of the "middle path." The Buddha is famous for rejecting a life of princely luxury, but he also rejected the overly austere life of the ascetic. The Buddhist prescription for happiness revolves around navigating between these extremes, and my little razor, with more than 1 blade, and less than 3 (or 4), is a reminder to me of that each time I see it in my bathroom.

Happy Simplifying!

Yoga Garden

***Update, February 7, 2006. I am not kidding, just three weeks after I wrote this blog Gillette started selling it's next-gen razor, the Fusion. Also, I ran across this Onion article from 2 years ago that predicted the whole thing. (May not be suitable for kids)

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Reading Between the Lines of Yoga Studies

Just before Christmas this study started popping up all over the web. I'll break it down for you. They took 101 people with back pain and divided them into three groups. One group used books to learn about back care. Another did a gym style stretching and strengthening class. And the final group did a 75 minute yoga class once a week. The yoga group decreased their pain and increased their range of movement faster than the others. Eventually, the gym style stretching group caught up with the yoga group, and the book learners didn't show much improvement.

This study can teach us several things.

First, It has been publicized as a testament to the healing power of yoga, but there is an important caveat, the fact that the stretching group caught up to the yoga group. This tells me that the most important factor here wasn't the actual movements, but the breathing. The style they used in this study was vini yoga, a very soft, slow style that uses the breath even more than a regular hatha yoga form. Breathing properly has so many benefits, I would bet that alone accounted for much of the yoga group's improvement. The change in the just the lymphatic system shows how much better your health can get with proper breathing.

Second, you'll notice this study was done by "Seattle's Group Health Cooperative Center for Health Studies" with a test pool of only 101 people. This is not a major study in any way, and yet it was leading health headlines at BBC, CNN, and Yahoo News for almost a week. This shows that there is a public hungry for scientific news related to yoga. I can count on one hand the number of serious medical investigations involving yoga that I have read about in the last few years, and they were all done by non-profit organizations such as this Seattle group. (Many were led by Dr. Dean Ornish's Preventive Medicine Research Institute)

Why so few? Well, sadly, I think the answer is that yoga isn't going to make anyone rich. The pharmaceutical companies that sponsor the "real" studies that have 1000s or 10,000s of participants aren't very interested in telling us that significant health improvements can come from an investment in a yoga mat and a few hours a week.

But that's ok, people are smart, and they don't need a study to tell them that something is working! So we'll have to trust our instincts until science catches up and tells us exactly why yoga makes us feel so good.


Yoga Garden

Thursday, January 05, 2006


Happy New Year from Yoga Garden. See you on the mat!

Yoga Garden