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Posts from the ‘Health’ Category

Non-Imitative Yoga and Becoming Virtuous in Aristotle and Plato

In Aristotle’s account of how a person becomes virtuous, he argues that a virtuous action is done in the way a virtuous person would do it.  This account often appears circular to those who first encounter it, but I would suggest it is less circular than spiral.  The person who aspires to virtue looks to the person further around the spiral who is already virtuous in order to consider how to be virtuous.  By looking at the virtuous person as the model, they become a virtuous model themselves for the next person.  Some readers of Plato argue that Plato presents a view of goodness as imitation.  One becomes virtuous by participating in, which is to say, imitating the Forms of virtue, of Justice, of Courage, of Wisdom.

On Aristotle’s account, the virtuous person serves as a model for how the apprentice virtuous person should be, but that model is fundamentally about learning to make the judgment in a virtuous way out of their own character.  The judgment in the process shifts from, what would that person do to what would I do.  A person has become the phronimos, or the one of good judgment, when they are able to make their own judgments without a model, that is, when they become a model, not by having replicated the previous model, but by uniquely being able to determine what the bulls’ eye of virtuous living would be. Read more

Stop Selling Me: Exercising without Consuming

I have long been involved in two forms of exercise that really don’t take that much equipment.  Running and yoga.  Running requires a good pair of shoes.  I should probably replace my shoes more often.  I buy the top of the line shoes, but I almost always only have one pair of running shoes that I’m using at a time.  Yoga requires a mat, a towel, a bottle for water and some running pants and a sports bra.  I have three yoga mats, actually two are my husband’s that I have commandeered.  I use my old bath towels for yoga towels in addition to one YogiTowel that I got with my annual membership deal at the studio.  I don’t actually like it much better than the bath towels.  I’m happy to wear my running tights some of which have holes in them to yoga class.  I don’t really care how I look in class–it’s hot and sweaty and no one looks good.  Running, same.

I particularly like running because nothing needs to be bought to do it well.  My yoga studio on the other hand can sometimes seem like a pusher of yoga gear.  I did a little research and learned that it is common business plan for yoga studios to have good deals for yogis to attend class and to make most of their money on overpriced yoga gear.  I don’t really begrudge them the effort, but I only buy things when they are on 75% discount, and rarely even then.  I’ve been thinking about this for awhile–there’s always a little “here’s the sale going on” bit at the end of class that detracts from the spirit of the class.  I try to just meditate through it. Read more

A Year of Hot Yoga

Today is my one year anniversary of hot yoga–vinyasa and Bikram–in Indianapolis. Today I will have attended 176 classes in the last year for a total of more than 250 hours in the hot yoga studio.

I went back and read what I wrote about it in the first month of my renewed hot yoga practice (here and here and here and here last year (four times in my introductory month and then nothing about yoga all year). In the post where I first mention it (at the end of this post), I compare hot yoga unfavorably to cold running.

With this return to hot yoga in the context of a cold running routine, I’m not nearly as excited by the heat as I used to be.  It’s great.  I like the sweat.  But I don’t know.  Maybe it’s because I’m twelve or fifteen years older than the last time I did real hot yoga.  Maybe it is because this studio is really not messing around about the heat.  Maybe the heat just makes you think about cold.  Maybe it’s because after a cold run my lungs feel bigger, like all the cold air rushed in and hasn’t left, while hot yoga makes me feel like I am never quite getting enough air.  Instead of feeling like a respite from the cold, the hot yoga has me missing cold runs.

Things changed.  Here I am now, in the middle of a deep freeze winter, happily attending hot yoga every day, getting plenty of air in the hot yoga studio instead of running in the cold.  I have run some outside this winter, but it’s been 6 degrees out there for the last week, and I think that is below my threshold. Read more

High Insurance Health Plans/ HSAs and the Logic of Neoliberalism

This post could have been called, “And then they came for me.”  My employer is self-insuring and has experienced recent spikes in health care costs.  Several years ago, employees saw their premiums rise considerably and last year they rose even higher.  To respond to employee frustration with these increased costs that employees were asked to shoulder, my employer has now begun to offer high deductible health plans (HDHPs).  HDHPs offer free preventative care, but everything else for the first $6000 or so (plans vary) must be paid out of pocket, negotiated at the insurance company’s rate, by the patient.  After that, patients are responsible for 20% of costs.  Alongside the HDHP, patients can set up a Health Savings Account (HSA).  Patients can place a pre-tax portion of their paycheck into the HSA and draw on it through a card, like a flexpay account, but this account rolls over year to year.  My employer is putting some money each year in each person’s HSA who chooses to take it.  At this time, employees still have the option of taking the high premium regular insurance.

I have signed up for the HDHP and an HSA.  The HSA is managed by a third party company, Employee Benefits Corporation who is paid by my employer to manage the HSA.  Several days ago I received an email from Employee Benefits Corporation.  The first line read, “Congratulations, this is your important first step to becoming a better healthcare consumer!”

From what I have described you can see how the HDHP and the HSA are meant to encourage patients to think of their health care as consumers and not as patients.  This plan is how Republicans want to address health insurance coverage.  Such a plan supposes that patients should think of health care as consumers who have to make wise chooses about how to use their money.  I already started thinking like that in the transition to the HDHP.  In December, I had a test done that I probably would have waited on and maybe never had done if I would have had them covered in the New Year, but I knew that I wouldn’t have coverage in the New Year.  I also got a prescription filled early in order to get it filled under the previous health insurance coverage. Read more

Exercising Under Neoliberalism

This post originally appeared on Fit is a Feminist Issue and is crossposted with permission.

The strange algorithms of Facebook brought Sam B’s post from several years ago–“Am I really lapping people on the couch?”–to my feed last week.  People like to talk about their athletic efforts and workout regimes in terms of how they are doing better than other people.  At the yoga studio where I practice they regularly say at the end of class, “You did more in the last hour than most people will do this entire day.”  This sentiment  suggests that I did something worthwhile because it was better than what other people are doing.

But I hesitate to just blame my fellow athletes for thinking about our physical efforts in this way.  This way of thinking is exercising under neoliberalism.  If liberalism underwrites capitalism through the idea that individuals bear responsibility for their position in the world and private property requires the protection of the government, resistance to liberalism came from workers organizing for their rights against the ownership class.  Neoliberalism demands that workers be considered as individuals, not as a collective with shared interests.  If labor opposed capital under liberalism by arguing that labor is the source of wealth production, under neoliberalism workers themselves are viewed as human capital, and as human capital, of being responsible for their own precarious situation that being workers puts them in.  As human capital, the workers bear their own risks.  Under liberalism, workers could demand that working conditions be improved to protect them because they argued that their well-being was necessary for wealth production.  Under neoliberalism, workers are made responsible for the conditions. Read more

Genetic Testing Penalties, American Individualism and Political Nihilism

Over the last six weeks, I’ve been on the medical check-up tour.  I visited my general practitioner’s office, my gynecologist, my eye doctor and my dermatologist.  I’ve given my family medical history many times.  In the last visit, at the dermatologist, I realized when I had to check none of the boxes they were concerned with, that family-wise, I was in pretty good health standing.  On the contemporary view of American politics, this situation should make me shrug my shoulders at H.B. 1313, which passed out of committee late last week, which would allow employers to penalize employees who decline genetic testing.  While such testing might lead to higher insurance rates for employees who have certain genetic dispositions for illness, people like me might have little reason to refuse such testing (except that it’s a gross invasion of privacy). Read more

My first yoga workshop

Any day now I’m going to cry in yoga.  I’ve been having this thing happen to me where I’m holding a position and I’m sure I just cannot do it anymore and I have that emotional release that happens when you cry only I don’t cry.  I stay in the pose, and it is amazing.  Today I had that same feeling but only because I kept falling out of poses that I know I can do and it was so frustrating.  

Last week, I had a class that was really frustrating.  I didn’t seem to have my balance.  Poses that I had felt strong and successful doing in the class before were a struggle.  I was annoyed with myself.  I already mastered this!  Why do I have to deal with this again?  Lying there on my mat in shavasana in between poses it occurred to me that this is life–having the same struggle over again even though you mastered it before. Read more

Writing, Running and Yoga: The Pain and Possibility of Perseverance

Monday night I went to a high intensity interval training pilates class.  During my third minute of elbow planks, I thought I was going to cry.  I cried once when I was running a half marathon, when in the last half mile I realized I was going to PR.  There’s something about that moment when you think you are reaching your threshold and you just cannot do anymore and then you keep doing it.  That moment is where you realize the struggle is mental.

I’m reading Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.  It also brings me close to tears.  Murakami makes me feel guilty for the times I have stopped because of the pain. He makes me feel bad for being a mid-distance runner and not a long-distance runner.  In the pilates class, which is grueling and unlike any pilates I have ever heard of, the teacher berates us for giving up.  I understand that.  Motivate, push yourself.  That’s all good.  But I had to learn to pay attention to pain in running and to take it easy–to do what looks like giving up, to stop feeling the exercise as demand.

At one point Murakami talks about the one time he ran an ultramarathon. After mile 34 his breathing felt good but his legs wouldn’t work, so he had to propel himself my moving his arms and hands.  Then at mile 47, he broke through a wall.  It stopped hurting.  He kept going.  He ran the next fifteen miles unencumbered.  I think I know that feeling.  It happens for me three minutes into an elbow plank.  It’s when you realize that you can persist through the pain if you tell yourself to just keep on. Read more

Running, Hot and Cold

When I lived in South Texas, where I took my running up another level, I got used to running in the heat.  In serious heat.  Summers could run more than 100 days with temperatures over 100 degrees.  We used to say there was a warm season and a windy season, which was also warm, but with wind.  I think my blood thinned.  It was hard.  I would have to work on drinking enough water every day to make sure that I didn’t get dehydrated.  I would feel sticky just walking out the front door.  But I rarely decided not to run just because of the heat.  I’d just wait for the sun to go down (which let’s be honest, didn’t help that much).

Since moving to Indiana, I’ve been running in the cold.  The real cold.  I ran the Jingle Bell 10k in Indy in the middle of December in below freezing temperatures.  I ran fast–for me.  I even won something.  img_1448The week before Christmas, I was in Spokane and ran everyday in below freezing temperatures on snow and in snow.  It was amazing.  Unlike running in the heat which feels to me like a sap on my energy, running in the cold is invigorating.  It wakes you up.  Cold running makes me happy.  Maybe because running releases the hormones that combat depression that winter often makes us prone to with the shorter days and the grayer weather.  I’ve been running on snow and ice in both Indiana and most recently in Spokane, Washington and find that running in the snow and ice slows you down but is an amazing core workout because you have to work those muscles just to stay upright.  img_0438

My first winter in Indiana I was not thrilled by the idea.  I ran on treadmills, but I don’t like the treadmill.  It doesn’t let me adjust my pace the way I would like to, the way that allows me to respond to my body and do what feels good, as I discuss here.  But it was so cold!  I invested in some gear: I bought a running hat and running gloves, more warm running clothes, I already had a running windbreaker.  With the right gear, I feel pretty good out there until about 15º and below (once, running outside my phone stopped working and said it was overheated, but since it was 10º outside, I decided that that’s the only temperature-related notice they have).  A colleague suggested doing a short five minute workout in my house so that I would already be warmed up before going outside, so I started doing that.  But still, there were days that I just chickened out because of the cold.

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Me after the Indy Jingle Bell 10k

I’ve been thinking about cold running because I have returned to hot yoga in the last week–I’ve gone everyday for the last five days.  When I first started doing yoga in graduate school it was at a Baptiste hot power yoga studio in University City in Philadelphia.  I liked the workout.  I would smell myself sweating out the toxins.  But boy is it hot (Bikram yoga, which is the bread and butter of this studio, puts the heat at about 105º with 40% humidity).  With this return to hot yoga in the context of a cold running routine, I’m not nearly as excited by the heat as I used to be.  It’s great.  I like the sweat.  But I don’t know.  Maybe it’s because I’m twelve or fifteen years older than the last time I did real hot yoga.  Maybe it is because this studio is really not messing around about the heat.  Maybe the heat just makes you think about cold.  Maybe it’s because after a cold run my lungs feel bigger, like all the cold air rushed in and hasn’t left, while hot yoga makes me feel like I am never quite getting enough air.  Instead of feeling like a respite from the cold, the hot yoga has me missing cold runs.

I never thought I’d be looking forward to the cold runs.  But here I am.  Beep beep boop.

Day 27: Foucault at the Doctor’s Office

I just got back from the doctor.  Every time I go to the doctor I am amazed at how right Foucault is about the disciplinary power of the medical establishment.  Foucault explains that a number of institutions are put to work beginning in the 17th and 18th centuries to take control over–to discipline–bodies.  Sovereign power forms in order to protect life, and this protection of life, and this right to take it, becomes integral to the work of the sovereign.  In the 17th and 18th centuries, Foucault argues in the last lecture of Society Must be Defended, “techniques of power”… “were essentially centered on the body, on the individual body.”  These techniques organized, arranged and surveilled bodies in an effort to increase their (re)productivity.  Foucault writes:

They were also techniques for rationalizing and strictly economizing on a power that had to be used in the least costly way possible, thanks to a whole system of surveillance, hierarchies, inspections, bookkeeping, and reports–all the technology that can be described as the disciplinary technology of labor.

This is how going to the doctor feels to me.  Tests are done, questions are asked, personal histories are taken.  I have had this same conversation with my doctor about my personal history over and over again.  But she still asks the same things.  Apparently nonjudgmental questions that are loaded with judgment are asked: questions about your sex life, your alcohol consumption, drug use, cigarette use, whatever.  It doesn’t matter if you are doing something wrong or not, you feel like you are.  In fact, the being in the doctor’s office, like being stopped by a police officer, creates the feeling that you are somehow in violation, you need to be better disciplined.  They don’t even have to say it.  You feel it.   Read more