When I first began doing yoga, I longed to master arm balances and inversions. In class, experienced Yogis all around me were easily popping up into the coolest looking poses… Side Crow and Firefly and Eight-Angle Pose!

I quickly discovered physical strength alone wasn’t nearly enough to do these poses as effortlessly or beautifully as they seemed to be doing them!

“Form first” is a training motto of mine — safety is paramount and form is a large part of staying safe and training effectively.

But form involves much more than that little 4-letter word let’s on — alignment, engagement, connection, focus, breath work as well as minute corrections and recalibrations unite in the symphony that is form.

Yoga is a great tool for developing form — like a mirror reflecting our strengths and weaknesses — we can use this insight to refine our form, on the mat and in life.

 Inversions are a great way to test mental and physical boundaries. But like all yoga poses, inversions must be built upon a solid foundation. Learn the form cues step by step, build strength with practice, and cultivate mindfulness to know when to advance and when to back off.

When your foundation is in place you will experience a multitude of benefits that a little time spent upside down can provide to help you:

  • Strengthen Arms, Shoulders, and Wrists
  • Tone Belly and Spine
  • Improve Balance
  • Overcome Fear
  • Gain a New Perspective
  • Spark a Spirit of Play
  • Get Curious about What Is Possible

Here are 3 Poses to Master so you can safely and confidently progress your inversions — plus you’ll enjoy the benefits already mentioned, even if you never advance to crazy arm balances like the Pose Dedicated to the Sage Koundinya I:  

  1. Downward Facing Dog – this foundation pose is vital in many forms of yoga practice and has a slew of specific form cues for you to master!  Downward Facing Dog 4

Form Cues:

  • Begin on hands and knees with hands shoulder-width apart, wrist creases aligned with top of mat. Spread all 10 fingers wide. Evenly disperse energy into knuckle pads, then press deeply through the thumbs and forefingers of each hand.
  • Activate your arms by magnetizing the thumbs toward each other, allowing the forearms to slightly roll in. Then engage the triceps (inner upper arm toward face) to counteract the internal rotation of the forearms. It sounds tricky but this subtle alignment creates a clear line of energy to protect both the wrists and the shoulders.
  • Lift your knees from the mat with feet two fist-widths apart and parallel to each other. Press your hips back and allow your head and neck to follow the natural line of the spine. Keep the knees bent for now.
  • Draw the shoulder blades down the back, creating space between the ears and shoulders.
  • Lengthen your spine and hips back while reaching tailbone back and up. Firm your belly with navel to spine and ribcage closed in.
  • Internally rotate your upper thighs back (just slightly to create space for the sit bones) to reach up and back.
  • Try to straighten the legs without changing the shape or length of the spine. Allow heels to grow heavy.
  1. Dolphin – this is a simple, yet challenging posture that strengthens the shoulders, chest, and back while giving you the power to control how much weight your upper body can handle.

Form Cues:

  • Begin on forearms and knees with hands shoulder-width apart, wrist creases aligned with top of mat and palms down.Dolphin Side 1
  • Spread all 10 fingers wide. Evenly disperse energy into knuckle pads then press deeply through the thumbs and forefingers of each hand.
  • Activate your arms by magnetizing the thumbs toward each other, allowing the forearms to slightly roll in. Then engage the triceps, hugging elbows toward each other. Feel the muscles of the chest turn on and contract.  
  • Draw the shoulder blades down the back, creating space between the ears and shoulders.
  • Lift the knees from the mat and lengthen the spine and hips back like downward facing dog. Dolphin Side 2
  • Align the head and neck with the natural line of the spine. Press down into the elbows in order to lift shoulders away from the floor. Draw energy up the core, pressing navel to spine.
  • Keep the spine lengthened and aligned as you work toward straightening the legs.
  • Once legs are straight, without compromising form, begin to walk the feet in toward the elbows bringing more weight onto the upper body.Dolphin Side 3
  1. Supported Shoulder Stand – this is a cooling posture, but is great for learning to align and balance your spine, pelvis, and legs while upside down.

Form Cues:

  • Begin by stacking 2-3 folded blankets (with no wrinkles or creases) to support your shoulders. Place blankets about the length of your torso away from a supportive wall.
    Shoulder Stand 1
  • Lie on your back with the top edge of your shoulders at the top edge of the blankets and your hips almost against the wall. Bend knees to 90 degrees so feet are flat against the wall.Shoulder Stand 2
  • Make sure to align your neck and soften your gaze toward your thighs or belly. DO NOT turn your head side to side in this posture.
  • Extend arms down by sides. Press feet into the wall to lift hips. Bend elbows placing hands on lower back. Carefully shimmy your elbows in and shoulder blades down, away from ears as you press hands into lower back to lift torso higher.
  • When you feel ready you may extend one leg at a time into the air while balancing on your shoulders and upper arms.
    Shoulder Stand 3Shoulder Stand 4
  • Engage and internally rotate your thighs then tilt pelvis to bring tailbone toward heels and low belly in.
  • Reach for the ceiling through your feet creating length and lift.
  • Breathe deeply and stay for as long as you can.

The benefits of practicing inversions are vast. They promote blood circulation, calm the nerves by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system, decrease depression and anxiety symptoms, ease fatigue, and improve immune function.

Inversions bring harmony to body and mind and can be a transformative component of any yoga practice.

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Here is Why It’s Never Too Late for You to Achieve Something Worthwhile

Have you ever asked yourself if it’s too late to achieve something worthwhile in life. These two most upvoted responses by Marcus and Jim respectively on Quora will help you if you still have doubts about what you can do at any stage of your career.

1. Marcus Geduld, Shakespearean director, computer programmer, teacher, writer, likes dinosaurs.

Too late for what?

If you slept through your 26th birthday, it’s too late for you to experience that. It’s too late for you to watch “LOST” in its premiere broadcast. (Though, honestly, you didn’t miss much.) It’s too late for you to fight in the Vietnam War.

It’s too late for you to go through puberty or attend nursery school. It’s too late for you to learn a second language as proficiently as a native speaker*. It’s probably too late for you to be breastfed.

It’s not too late for you to fall in love.

It’s not too late for you to have kids.

It’s not too late for you to embark on an exciting career or series of careers.

It’s not too late for you to read the complete works of Shakespeare; learn how to program computers; learn to dance; travel around the world; go to therapy; become an accomplished cook; sky dive; develop an appreciation for jazz; write a novel; get an advanced degree; save for your old age; read “In Search of Lost Time”; become a Christian, then an atheist, then a Scientologist; break a few bones; learn how to fix a toilet; develop a six-pack …

Honestly, I’m 47, and I’ll say this to you, whippersnapper: you’re a fucking kid, so get over yourself. I’m a fucking kid, too. I’m almost twice your age, and I’m just getting started! My dad is in his 80s, and he wrote two books last year.

You don’t get to use age as an excuse. Get off your ass!

Also, learn about what economists call “sunk costs.” If I give someone $100 on Monday, and he spends $50 on candy, he’ll probably regret that purchase on Tuesday. In a way, he’ll still think of himself as a guy with $100—half of which is wasted.

What he really is is a guy with $50, just as he would be if I’d handed him a fifty-dollar bill. A sunk cost from yesterday should not be part of today’s equation. What he should be thinking is this: “What should I do with my $50?”

What you are isn’t a person who has wasted 27 years. You are a person who has X number of years ahead of you. What are you going to do with them?

* What I’d intended as a throwaway comment, about the difficulty of second-language acquisition after childhood, has generated interest and disagreement. I will admit upfront I am not an expert on the matter, and was mostly informed by research I’d read about.

It claimed there’s a window of childhood, after which the brain stops being able to hear certain sounds—one’s not used by a child’s native language—which is why it’s so hard to learn to speak a second language without an accent.

Some people may master it, but not many. (How many people do you know, after 25, learned a foreign language and can speak it so well, natives have no idea they’re listening to a foreigner?) It’s also challenging to learn all the idiomatic expressions that native speakers have known since they were small children.

However, since having written this answer, I’ve learned that the Science behind this is very controversial. As I’m not an expert, let me refer you to the wikipedia article (and it’s linked resources).

“In second-language acquisition, the strongest evidence for the critical period hypothesis is in the study of accent, where most older learners do not reach a native-like level.

However, under certain conditions, native-like accent has been observed, suggesting that accent is affected by multiple factors, such as identity and motivation, rather than a critical period biological constraint (Moyer, 1999; Bongaerts et al., 1995; Young-Scholten, 2002).”

2. Jim Lawrenson, Still driving…

Unfortunately for ‘real’ people, the media is obsessed with the tiny minority who succeed early and display this very publicly.

This is then amplified by the high profile ‘subject’,  for PR purposes, to perpetuate their success.

Justin Bieber, Michael Jackson, Britney Spears, River Phoenix, Justin Timberlake, Bill Gates, Jimi Hendrix, Steve Jobs, James Dean, Richard Branson, Whitney Houston, One Direction, Amy Winehouse, Mark Zuckerburg. Need I go on.

Notice a trend in there somewhere?

You are probably being influenced, (like all of us), in how you assess your own progress, compared to these people. It can be a dangerous game to play.

It takes a tremendous amount of luck, as well as talent, to get into the right position at the right time. Not many people who make it will tell you that, often preferring to put it down to their hard work.

That is because they believe that this is the case, not because they are intentionally misleading you. I know that because, to an extent, I’ve done it.

You also may not have considered that even if you were on the list of young successes. It is very hard to follow that early success later in life. Your expectations of yourself are higher and based on that youthful virtual reality you experienced once, you can never improve on your past.

That can be a tough pill to swallow and despite all the money in the world, many struggle with that.

Look at any list of young successes from just 10 years ago and count the number who have disappeared, died or been in rehab. Lots.

Half the list of super successful people above are dead for a start off.

This is not an excuse for you to give up trying however. 

Try to think of life as a long road journey.

The journey can be as exciting or as boring as you choose to make it.

Wherever you are on the journey, there are new experiences, as long as you welcome them and seek them out. Some you can plan in advance.

Often, you need to get out of the car to experience them. Otherwise, you will see them flash past the window and feel like it is too late to stop.

  • Do something every day which contributes to your progress on the journey and always be learning and experiencing new things.
  • Don’t put off experiences which can be done today by getting out of the car, for a tomorrow which may never arrive.
  • Build a vision of where you want to get to in 1, 5 and 10 years and then think about the steps you need to complete in the next 30 days to move towards it, but don’t set deadlines that are too harsh. Do the first step on the list today.
  • Like any long journey, you will hit diversions, obstacles, traffic lights, speed bumps, closed roads and all manner of other problems. There will be crashes – you might be involved in them. Like any long road journey, if you want to get the destination enough, you won’t turn back, you will reroute. The car might break down or need repairing. Just accept it will happen now, and carry on.

Most importantly, don’t wait for all the traffic lights between your house and your destination, to turn green at the same time, before you set off.

They won’t!

Get in the car and start driving.

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How NEOFECT Created a Smart Glove (Robotic Arm) That Uses Online Gaming for Rehabilitation

Wearable technology keeps evolving. And it is transforming the way we experience the world. Watches, eyeglasses, rings, bracelets and even smart home devices like the thermostat are changing how we consumer information, monitor our health and use home products. Smart technology has a significant role to play in how people will live in the future.

NEOFECT wants to change how to aid rehabilitation and the provision of clinicial real-time patient data. In an interview with  Scott Kim, Neofect’s co-founder and CEO of the US office, he spoke to us about how he started NEOFECT, the company’s success factors and challenges they have faced in their bid to change physical therapy using online gaming.

Brief summary about your startup

Established in 2010, NEOFECT is a mobile health startup with a vision to deliver an affordable and effective at-home system to aid neuro patients with central nervous system disorders such as a stroke.

Its first product, RAPAEL Smart Glove, combines a wearable device, virtual reality and gamification for rehab exercise, while its software analyzes the data from built-in sensors and provides training tasks based on the patient’s activity level.

The device has been successfully employed by a number of major hospitals in South Korea since December of 2014, and approved for use in the US and Europe. NEOFECT has offices in S. Korea, San Francisco, and Poland.

Why and how it was started

The President of NEOFECT, Ho-Young Ban, experienced first-hand the difficulties faced by stroke patients and their families when his father and two uncles fell victims of stroke.

Although his uncles were fortunate to survive, they had to turn down the rehab therapy because of the costs involved. So, when his friend Young Choi came up with an idea of Rapael, Ban could not resist.

Soon after, their classmate from the University of Virginia’s Darden MBA program Scott Kim joined the team to launch the US operations.

Kim was born with spinal bifida and went through a surgery and a long rehabilitation process, so he immediately recognized the opportunity and became a co-founder and the CEO of the Neofect’s US office.

What has been the biggest success factors

Personal motivation of the founders combined with the latest, most advanced smart technologies have become the major engines behind the company’s success.

– Gamification, which motivates a patient throughout the rehab process. It helps to induce neuroplasticity for hand function of a patient with a brain damage.

Various rehab games are updated monthly and each game targets specific movements such as squeezing the orange for finger flexion/extension and pouring wine for forearm pronation/supination, for example.

– Artificial Intelligence: the software analyzes data from the glove’s sensors and provides training tasks based on the patient’s activity level. The algorithm is designed to enhance learning multiple functions by offering an optimal task at a proper level of difficulty.

– Wearable Device: RAPAEL Smart Glove is a wearable bio-feedback training gadget. Lightweight and designed to fit different hand sizes, it uses the Bluetooth technology to collect the patient’s data.

What are the biggest challenges you have faced launching and running the company?

The biggest challenge was the product’s concept itself. Many people believed that Rapael could be a threat to the therapists. Fortunately, after we launched the program in several hospitals, we’ve been able to prove that our device is designed with the doctors’ and patient’s needs in mind and helps them make the rehabilitation process more efficient.

Which do you think is most important: the right market, the right product, or the right team?

This sounds like a cliché, but the right team is easily the answer to me. With the right people, you can make necessary adjustments based on new information to make sure there is a product-market fit.

My previous job was to lead a team to make mobile apps – without any exception, all great apps loved by users were made by great teams.

Final words for those chasing the startup dream

Never underestimate the importance of execution. Many people waste their time just to validate what they think or others think, or even just to finish the conceptualization.

However, you should “fail fast” in order concentrate your efforts on building a product which has a market demand, and of course, to save time and money as well.

Plus, you should fail while you are small rather than big, if you’re meant to face it. The earlier you do the reality check, the faster you can reach your goal, although it might cost you a couple of failures at the beginning.

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