Savage Roads

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Are You Breathing?

                           We participate in this Act every Moment of our Lives, & Hardly Notice.

“Are you breathing?”

As the question resonated throughout the yoga shala in Mysore, I realized I had never before stopped to notice if I was breathing at all.

Even though we’re participating in this act every moment of our lives, we are hardly aware or in control of it.

It’s been said that each one of us is born with a fixed number of breaths, implying that the slower we breathe, the longer we live.

With an average breathing rate of 15 times a minute, the average human life span is 80 years. The tortoise breathes about four times a minute and can live for over 150 years, while dogs, who have a breathing rate of up to 35 times per minute, can only live for about 10.

A more recent version of this concept can be found in the Rate of Living Theory by Max Rubner, which states that the faster the metabolism of an organism, the shorter its lifespan will be. Or conversely, the slower we use up our energy, the longer it will last.

While breathing is an evolutionarily intuitive force, most of us have lost touch with it due to our modern lifestyles. Poor breathing is as much a result of bad posture as it is of our environment, emotions and food. We don’t really breathe to full capacity anymore or recruit the correct muscles needed for proper breathing, using only about one-tenth of our total lung capacity.

And when our breath is disturbed, so is our mind.

By breathing correctly, we can improve our physical and emotional well-being, and, using more advanced technique, we can use our breath to tap into our subconscious.

All we need to do first is get back to basics and re-learn how to breathe.

The first step is simply to become mindful of the breath. When we breathe habitually without attention, the primitive brain is active, resulting in minimal awareness. As soon as we bring our focus to the breath however, the frontal part of the brain starts operating. This gives us greater emotional control and improved concentration, which is helpful when pursuing meditative practices.

Setting an intention also helps to slow down our breathing rate, allowing us to take long deep breaths that give the body sufficient time to assimilate oxygen.

Second, we need to become aware of how we’re breathing. There are three ways to breathe. The first is abdominal breathing, which happens when we push the diaphragm down, raising the belly up. Second is thoracic breathing, which is when we expand the rib cage and breathe through the chest or thoracic region. Last is clavicular breathing, in which we raise our collarbones to fill the uppermost lobes of our lungs with air.

Abdominal breathing is considered more efficient, as it provides the most even distribution of air. It also puts less strain on the heart as it’s supported by gravity. Put together in sequence, these three become the Full Yogic Breath; nevertheless, correct abdominal breathing is sufficient in our daily life.

Third, we need to remember to breathe through the nose and not the mouth. The nasal passage helps to warm, moisturize and filter the air. It also contains a large number of nerve fibers, which influence the involuntary activities of our body like digestion, heartbeat, and even respiration itself. If we don’t breathe through the nose, we don’t activate these nerve fibers.

There is also better assimilation of oxygen from breathing through the nose due to the presence of nitric oxide that exists exclusively in our sinuses. This cannot be achieved by breathing through the mouth. In fact, as per a 2002 study, humming (bhramari pranayama) resulted in a 15-fold increase in nitric oxide as compared to quiet exhalation.

Swara yoga is one of the subtle sciences that highlights the biorhythm of the breath as it alternates between the right and left nostril throughout the day. Usually the switch happens every 90 minutes. When breath flows equally through both nostrils, it activates our pranic energy, and every system in the body then works at optimum capacity.

All yogic practices help us equalize this alternating flow of breath, but let’s talk more about pranayama. In pranayama, this is achieved by maintaining specific patterns of inhalation, exhalation and retention. While it is called the “science of breath,” it literally translates into control (yama) of the cosmic energy (prana).

As per Swami Gitananda, “pra” stands for that which existed before and “ana” means an atom. Therefore, he says, prana stands for “that which existed before any atomic or cellular life came into being.” It is that source of universal energy from which everything in the universe has been created.

In India, when a person dies, people say he has “lost his prana.” Loss of prana is compared to loss of life, as prana depletes at an accelerated pace if we succumb to fear, anger, unhealthy food, or a bad environment. Physically, it can be generated through consuming the right foods, drinking water, being exposed to the sun and breathing pure air—the most potent way. Hence, prana is the subtle energy or vital force created by the physical act of breathing.

Pranayama is a way to control this energy.

There are three things we must appreciate before starting pranayama practices: the wisdom to start under the guidance of a teacher, the willpower to sit still in one asana (Hatha yoga helps here) and the patience to follow the instructions.

It wasn’t until my Hatha yoga training that I learned how to honor the breath with the right methods. We practiced breathing until we mastered it in all the ways that the body could move, and then we finally learned to be still. Over a period of time, there were changes in my habits, food choices, thoughts and overall energy levels, but there were also episodes that seemed nothing short of a healing crisis.

That’s why I reiterate: Pranayama practices should never be done without proper guidance from a guru. Once you start working with the breath, there are far-reaching changes not necessarily limited to the physical. But with guidance, you can get through this practice safely and learn to channel the energy correctly.

A simple and easy way to work with breath is by chanting “aum” and trying to extend the breath a little bit more everyday without force until we can make it deeper and longer. In fact, Gayatri mantra is said to create the most ideal breathing pattern when chanted correctly.

But always remember there’s more benefit in getting the basics right than prematurely moving to advanced stages.

At the very least, breath is the source of all life; at most, it can be our spiritual guide. Simply by understanding the details of inhalation and exhalation, we can experience its influence on our bodies as well as our minds.

Taking a few minutes to center ourselves daily and reconnect with the breath will retrain our body to breathe correctly even when we are too busy to notice. And by practicing yoga on top of this, we can learn to harness the energy of the breath and experience its true powers.

After all, the only pertinent question of life is, are you breathing?

Author: Namita Chandra

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

To my Jewish, Irish, Asian and Italian friends

To my Jewish, Irish, Asian and Italian friends, let’s remember:
Your ancestors were lower than dirt when they arrived here.
Italians were referred to – openly – as a subhuman race of rats and criminals.
Irishmen were apes and monkeys.
Laws were passed to keep Chinese women out of the country, so that the Chinese males who were brought over for menial labor couldn’t produce offspring.
Jews were spat upon in the streets and routinely excluded from polite society.
Unhire-able. Undesirable. Laws were passed to allow for the mass discrimination and segregation of your great grandparents, not much more than a century ago.
It’s nice that you now view yourselves as “Real Americans.” Just yesterday, your kind were anything but. And I don’t mean in the deep south or in obscure corners of the country. Your forebears were considered human garbage on the streets of New York, Philadelphia and Boston. It wasn’t all that long ago when mainstream politicians were actively seeking ways to get rid of you too.
Here’s Uncle Sam being swallowed by Chinese and Irish immigrants, many of whom came over in the mid-1800’s to work on the railroads:
In “The Evolution of the Murphy”, an Irish child begins life as a potato, then becomes a vagrant, a cop and finally a corrupt political official:
Here’s an Irish ape, swinging a bottle of rum, rocking back and forth on a barrel of gunpowder:
A ship filled with big-nosed Jews, being ridiculed for fleeing the pogroms and sporadic outbursts of homicidal rioting against them across Russia and Eastern Europe. You’ll notice the ship itself is given a giant Jew nose for a prow, nice touch:
Here are Chinese locusts infesting America. In 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act was signed by President Chester A. Arthur. It mandated a 10-year moratorium on all Chinese immigration into the United States. Amazingly, the US didn’t fully repeal the restrictions on Chinese immigration until 1943, as a check on Japanese attempts to weaken American-Chinese relations during the war:
Here’s an Oregonian settler offering a choice to the Chinamen who were inhabiting the west when he arrived – you can go or stay:
The irony of a country built by immigrants building walls to keep out specific types of immigrants should be lost on no one. Here you see a former African slave, a Civil War vet, another Irish ape, a Frenchman and a Jew building a wall to keep out whatever might come in behind them:
In 1915, Congress passed a law stating that immigrants had to pass a literacy test to come into the country. President Wilson vetoed it, but a much harsher measure passed two years later. Here was the list of undesirables banned from entering the country – word for word: “alcoholics”, “anarchists”, “contract laborers”, “criminals and convicts”, “epileptics”, “feebleminded persons”, “idiots”, “illiterates”, “imbeciles”, “insane persons”, “paupers”, “persons afflicted with contagious disease”, “persons being mentally or physically defective”, “persons with constitutional psychopathic inferiority”, “political radicals”, “polygamists”, “prostitutes” and “vagrants”. Here’s the “Americanese Wall”:
The first mass migration of Italians were the Sicilians – many of whom first arrived in New Orleans. It was said that Roman Catholics could never be real Americans because their loyalty would always be first and foremost to the church. There were conspiracy theories that they were planning to set up a Papal State within the US. Below is a casual instruction manual to deal with their kind and drown them like rats:
An Italian with the features of a monkey shines the shoes of a dandy. Southern Italians in particular were looked down upon for being “not quite white”:
President McKinley (top left) believed in open immigration. Here’s Uncle Sam, at his direction, looking on as Italian rats “directly from the slums of Europe” pour into the country. Sound / look familiar?:
The American “fool pied piper” leads more Italian rats toward Ellis Island as the cheering European aristocracy rejoices in the background. You can imagine some demagogue back then saying “they’re sending us their worst people”, can’t you?:
 “Close the Gate” from 1919 – immigrants were routinely depicted as “Reds”, communists, Marxists and anarchists by this time – the irony being that these were some of the very things they were fleeing from. Not unlike the Middle Easterners currently fleeing from the very terrorism and religious genocide that many are accusing them of supporting:
I have many American friends who can’t recognize how recently their own ancestry and ethnicity would have been a problem for them. Are you one of them?
If so, I hope this hits close enough to home so as to awaken you from your contented slumber.
This post originally appeared on The Reformed Broker.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Harley-Davidson Plans 50 New Models

                      Matt Levatich, CEO of Harley-Davidson..."We will continue to deliver what matters to riders"

Harley-Davidson Inc. leaders are counting on a slew of new models and drivers to increase sales and earnings.

In a call with analysts following the release of its fourth quarter and annual 2016 earnings today, Harley-Davidson (NYSE: HOG) president and CEO Matt Levatich said the Milwaukee-based motorcycle manufacturer plans to introduce 50 new motorcycles during the next five years.

The success we saw with the launch of the Milwaukee-Eight engine is a sign of the innovation we have in place. We are confident our 2018 line will also help sales,he said. I have never been more excited about the products in our pipeline.

Harley-Davidson plans to increase drivers — who may eventually become buyers — by adding foreign dealerships and introducing more Americans to the Harley lifestyle, Levatich said. Company plans call for adding up to 200 dealerships outside the United States by 2020. In the U.S., the company’s Harley-Davidson Riding Academy looks to teach people how to ride a motorcycle. In 2016, more than 65,000 riders were trained through the Riding Academy.

We do not just build motorcycles, we build drivers, too. We are focusing on the next generation of riders,” Levatich said.We want to add more dealers overseas and grow riders here in the United States, reaching out to new markets including younger riders, women, African-Americans and Hispanics.

For the fourth quarter of 2016, Harley-Davidson’s net income was $47.2 million, or 27 cents per share, compared with $42.2 million, or 22 cents per share, during the same quarter in 2015. Sales, however, were $933 million during the quarter, down from $1 billion during the same period in 2015. In the U.S., sales fell 3.9 percent.

International sales are a bright spot for the company, with sales outside the United States increasing 2.3 percent in 2016. Levatich said Harley-Davidson added 40 dealers around the world during the past year, with the manufacturer now selling 52.5 percent of its motorcycles outside of the United States.

Harley-Davidson shipped fewer motorcycles overall in the last quarter of 2016 to help dealers reduce their inventory, said John Olin, senior vice president and chief financial officer. The company is doing the same for the first quarter of 2017.

Olin said economic and political uncertainty in the United States and around the world contributed to lower sales. We believe we will see continued strong headwinds, but think the plans we put in place will help us continue to grow, he said.

While not giving specifics about what Harley-Davidson has under development, Levatich said they will change the way people view Harley-Davidson. It will push us into new markets. We are definitely entering a new stage of product development.

Levatich said the investments Harley-Davidson have made in both new product development and manufacturing deficiencies will have lasting benefits.

We will not see overnight returns, but we are making decisions that will attribute to long-term success,” he said. “We are adjusting to the new normal of U.S. market performance. We will continue to deliver what matters to riders.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Harley Davidson Vintage Photos II


                    A second collection of rare vintage photos from the official Harley Davidson files.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Argument

The emotional trigger that begins an argument may have little to do with your present situation, but has dug up a wound.

When we find ourselves in an argument, we may feel like we are losing control of emotions that have taken on lives of their own. When we can become aware that this is happening, taking a deep breath can help us step back from the situation. Once we can separate ourselves from the heat of the moment, we may find that the emotional trigger that began the argument has little to do with the present situation, but may have brought up feelings related to something else entirely. Looking honestly at what caused our reaction allows us to consciously respond more appropriately to the situation and make the best choices. 

We can make an agreement with our partners and those closest to us that asking questions can help all of us discover the source of the argument. The shared awareness can result in finding simple solutions to something physical, like low blood sugar or even a hormonal surge. Maybe we are taking ourselves too seriously, and we can just laugh and watch the tension dissolve. We could also discover that perhaps we are addicted to the excitement that drama brings and the chemicals that our body creates when we are angry. But there may be a deeper issue that requires discussion, understanding, and patience. The more we allow ourselves to step back and examine our reasons for arguing, the easier it becomes to allow real feelings to surface and guide us toward solutions that improve our lives. 

When we can be clear about our feelings and intentions and communicate them clearly, we have a far better chance of getting what we want than if we lose control or allow our subconscious minds to manipulate the situation. We might take our frustrations out on the people closest to us because we feel safe and comfortable with them, but misplaced anger can cause more harm than good. Arguing for what we truly believe can empower us and help us to direct our passions toward greater life experiences. Truly knowing our reasons for arguing enables us to grow emotionally in ways that will affect our whole being.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Harley Davidson Vintage Photos

               A collection of vintage black & white photos from official Harley Davidson files.