Daily Archives: August 4, 2014

In Defense of Self Care … In Defense of Rowing Gloves


I’m one of those people who thought for a long time that the best way to get anything personal / health-wise done was to do it the Classic way.

While I readily avail myself of modern technology, and I have a dishwasher and washing machine and other domestic first-world “necessities,” I’ve been a bit of a stalwart when it comes to rowing. The sores, callouses and bleeding hands have always been associated with strength, perseverance and championship, regardless of whether you win or not.

I used to think that using a seat pad was for losers, along with the concept of wearing rowing gloves to protect your hands.

That all changed after I became a yoga teacher. Yoga philosophy adheres to eight schools, or sutras, which begin with ahmisa, or “non-violence,” as it is known in sanskrit. Ahimsa begins with nonviolence toward the self and then it can organically extend to other beings. If you don’t practice ahimsa, then you’re sorta not really practicing yoga, so sayeth the sages.

The other reason my lack of wearing rowing gloves comes in conflict with my life after becoming a yoga teacher is that I CAN’T TEACH YOGA VERY WELL (drive a car, walk a dog, cook a meal, wash anything, break up a fight) WHEN MY HANDS ARE ON FIRE.

After four miles, or just 36 minutes in the boat last week, my hands looked like this:


There was a blister (which you can’t see) immediately below my pinky which burst later that day during a downward facing dog. All over my mat. (Well, not actually all over it, but it burst on my mat, and it was distracting for one and painful for two.) That first blister was covered up with bandages and no one wanted to touch me in class during partner poses.

We don’t row in these anymore:


Centuries later, this was a modest improvement, likely owing to our collective protestant work ethic:


Then rowing became a “sport” (if you can imagine that) and the boats became smaller, albeit they were still wooden:


Then women (GASP! HORRORS!) got involved in the sport:


Chances are they just got the mens’ retired boats.

Fast forward decades to after the invention of plastic and fiberglas:


And still women (these two British girls set a new British record and won Gold at the British Rowing Championships in the Junior 14 girls’ double scull. … and it didn’t happen in a viking ship) are making waves:


No, they’re not wearing rowing gloves. None of those people are. I didn’t wear them for a long time. But then I realized: I’m not competitive, I’m not an Olympian, I’m not a champion … YET, but now because I have the gloves, I CAN DO ANYTHING! Just kidding, sort of. But if you look at the oar handles on the picture of those junior girls champions, you will see they have rubber grips on them. Every season, new ways of doing the same thing are coming out to enhance and improve the rowing experience.

Fiberglas oars, which weigh a fraction of the original wooden ones are commonplace; why would you needlessly weigh down a boat and risk splinters in your rowers’ hands if you can get lighter, safer oars?

Same goes for fiberglas shells. Why would we do any of these things if they didn’t enhance the experience AND our ability to improve our technique and endurance? If Yale bought fiberglas shells and brought them to a regatta and no one else did, they’d smoke the hell out of any other school there.


This is my hand today after wearing the gloves and rowing six miles instead of the four miles in the first picture. No blisters, no pain, a little redness, but I got to go 1/3 farther and focus on my technique.


My point is this: when we make a conscious decision to not choose a smarter way of working, are we impressing anyone?

Not me.

I bought my gloves at www.thecrewstop.com and I am not at all being compensated for this post. They don’t even know I’m writing about them. I love the gloves; if I were to make one comment, it would be to just go all the way and include the baby finger in the design; I found the outer edges of my hands slightly irritated (but not at all injured) due to the current design of their sculling gloves.

So if something exists in your particular world which will help you do what you love or do your job longer and with less negative consequences, go for it.

This is the life I have been given: as an American female in the 20th & 21st centuries. Of course I think about the strife and struggles of peoples in less-modern nations and worlds, but one hour of my suffering will not abate a minute of theirs. I have come to the point in my life that I just have to be OK with where I live and how I live and what goodness and grace has come to me or else I’m squandering it. This post is much larger than the simple discussion of rowing gloves, and maybe I’ll go into what I really mean another time, but I think you can get a sense of where I’m going. Our suffering does nothing to improve the lives of others and in fact it makes our own lives worse and ultimately adds to the universal vibration of suffering and sadness.

So shit… smoke ’em if ya got ’em: we have all sorts of things to improve our lives; using rowing gloves is one of them for me. I will wear them proudly.

Thank you.

30 Days of “A Year of Living Your Yoga” — Day 29: Practice Makes Better


Welcome to Day 29 of my 30-day blog series based on Judith Hanson-Lasater’s “A Year of Living Your Yoga.”

I will try to keep these posts to about 500 words.

Here is the quote:

August 27 — A yoga class is a support group for people who can’t do yoga. Do you shrink from doing something because you judge yourself as not good enough? If so, remember that your yoga class is not full of experts; it is made up of practitioners of yoga. Go to class today, and practice from your heart.

This is possibly one of my favoritest quotes of hers. I say this all the time, “yoga practice.” We are practicing yoga we are not perfecting it or finalizing it.

Monday’s triangle pose will definitely feel different than Tuesday’s triangle pose. Does it matter that they feel different from one another? No, because YOU are different on Tuesday than you were on Monday.

This quote of course has virtually nothing to do with yoga. It’s all about life and not getting hung up in the minutiae.

I don’t care if you sing the same song the same way every day of your life. Each day you sing it, you will be a different person, a full 24-hours different (older) and that’s a fact. There is no perfection ever because we are constantly changing. So any hopes, dreams, aspirations you might’ve had about being fantastically perfect are … um … toast. The definition of perfection when you declared it has changed by even one second. Can’t catch it! Perfection and stasis are like the Gingerbread Man of life.

So count on it that your Warrior 2 will be different than the day before; it just will. And that’s a good thing.

As a yoga “teacher,” I’m really just someone who comes up with a plan for how you are invited to spend your 90 minutes with me and others in the room. You can come in and do your own thing and while it might be distracting and make me wonder why you bothered to show up if you’re just going to blow off my class plan, if you pay me, I’m good.

Teachers are guides. We don’t have all the answers. We don’t have some sacred knowledge that you don’t possess. We all use the same tools you have at your disposal: intuition, brains, insight into a situation and a response. As far as experience goes, our only experience that is different than yours is that it’s ours; our training encourages that we go deeper into ourselves and look inwardly more than the average bear. Do I have that down? Only in the yoga class, it seems. But, if I have a lesson plan ready to go, but no one is seeming to get it, or for some reason it just doesn’t ever click with the class, I’ll scrap it halfway through and just wing it.

Do you want to know The Hardest Thing for me to “do right” during a yoga class?

Ringing the bell or chimes at the end of class. No joke.

this little bowl. who would ever suspect that it could render in me vast trepidation to the point where my class would end a minute late?

this little bowl. who would ever suspect that it could render in me vast trepidation and frustration to the point where my class would end late?


I love my yoga teachers. Before I became a teacher, one of them would sound her chimes so loud, I’d shudder during svasana.

So I went up to her after about two years and started meekly with “Maybe it’s me, and I have sensitive ears ….” and then asked her if she could use less energy to sound the chimes at the end of meditation. (I was once accused by someone of speaking obtusely … I wonder: is saying “use less energy” obtuse? I just try to get to the essence of things politely) “Sure!” she said, happy as a clam!

Since becoming a yoga teacher: my ability to confidently sound that chime at the end of class is at zero. It’s shattered. If you could see me, in the dark (during the evening class)… I get my little brass singing bowl and mallet and I carefully bring them to my mat as silently as possible. I take the mallet in my left hand and I prepare to ring the bowl. I miss every time.

I can tell you where to put your hands, and how to position your hips, and where your eyes “should” rest in the gaze in Warrior One, or I can verbally cue you to a camel pose but when it comes to that bowl… fuhgedaboudit.

I whiff the bowl or I barely stroke it so it sounds like a muted “tink.” So then I take a breath because my face is all squinched up like an exasperated Kermit the Frog and I’m all amped up. I want to let people out on time but I can’t get the stupid stick to strike the bowl just right … and then I hit it so hard I end up hissing to myself and apologizing. Then the two more times after that, I whiff again. I feel in my heart, that I’ve blown svasana for my practitioners and that all the good stuff we did in class is ruined. But then I remember: “practice” and it’s OK. There is no perfect.

Practice doesn’t really make perfect. Practice makes better.

During my upcoming vacation, I’m going to bring my bowl and my striker and I’m going practice until I get it to the point where I’m good with it. I came very close to it the other day: I struck it on the fattest point of the bowl, the sound was more rich and less panicky if I do say so myself. But I’m still bringing it along.

Thank you.