EPISODE 86
Learn To Dance – Karen X – Oats

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Karen X rose to notoriety after one of her YouTube videos went viral. In that video Karen taught herself to dance in a year. Now she’s on a mission to encourage people to practice something for 100 days.

In this Show, You’ll learn:

  • Tips to stick to your passions
  • About body workers and shoulder injuries
  • Gravity yoga inversions and dizziness
  • The good and bad about oats

Links & References from the Show

Got questions?

Lucas:

Yoga students, if you love to learn about yoga, health and wellness, plant-based nutrition, flexibility and mind/body biohacking, you have come to the right place, my friend. Welcome to the Yoga Talk Show with Lucas Rockwood, where my goal is to make your yoga practice just that much easier. Find us online at YogaBodyNaturals.com. We’re also on Facebook and YouTube. Check us out. Now let’s get on with the show.

I’m really pleased today to be joined by my new friend, Karen X, and Karen is in Texas at the moment, I’m here in Barcelona, and we’re talking about setting goals and achieving things. If you’ve been hanging around the YogaBody world for any length of time, you probably know that I’m a personal development junkie, I’m an adult learning junkie. I never really learned anything when I was young. I just kind of skipped through school, and when I became older I got really, really obsessed with learning everything. Book learning, business learning and also skill-based learning, physical-based learning through yoga, and I just found it really, really rewarding, when it was something that came from the inside, came from me as opposed to someone else telling me this was the way to go.

So I’m here with Karen, and you might have seen Karen’s video. It’s called Girl Learns to Dance in a Year (time lapse). If you just punch that into YouTube or Google it will come up right away. She’s got a very, very interesting story about how she taught herself to dance.

So thanks so much for joining us, Karen.

Karen:

Thank you so much for having me, Lucas. It’s wonderful to be on the Yoga Talk Show.

Lucas:

So we’ve got people in a whole bunch of different countries and all different ages and backgrounds, but pretty much everybody listening, they have some kind of goal. Some people are in high school and they’re gymnasts and they want to learn how to do the splits, some people are approaching their later years of life and they want to gain mobility back in their hips. Some people want to lose weight. Pretty much everybody listening is interested in some kind of growth, some kind of learning, and so I know they’ll be inspired by your story.

(02:13) You can tell it better than me, so tell me about this journey you went on and the whole process of learning to dance in a year.

Karen:

Oh, thank you. (02:22) Learning to dance was something that I’d actually wanted to do for probably about 10 years, but I never did it, I never started because I just couldn’t see how I could get as good as the people that I was seeing on YouTube. But one day I saw a video on YouTube of this guy dancing. You can search for Pumped Up Kicks Dubstep, and if you look that up you’ll see a guy who’s dancing in a way that is just supernatural.

And I saw that, and I just realized this thing that I’d always wanted to do, I really was just going to have to do it, because if I didn’t I would probably regret it for the rest of my life. So I set out to start learning to dance, and I almost didn’t because I thought I would never get as good as this guy was.

(03:15) Initially, my goal was just to practice for five minutes a day, and I think that that’s a way you can really keep yourself going, because anyone can do yoga for five minutes a day or dance for five minutes a day. And once I realized that it was something that I really enjoyed doing, I started practicing more. I started practicing one to two hours a day.

This whole time I was filming myself, I was recording myself, and that’s something that actually really helped me improve faster. I started putting together all the footage of myself practicing, and I realized this would be something that I wanted people to see. Because I think when you see people who are really, really good at yoga or really good at dancing, the first reaction is intimidation. It’s like, “How did they get so good, and how could I ever get so good?” The thing is, you never see that advanced yogi when he was just a very beginning, doing his first Crow pose, or you never see that first moment where the dancer that you worship was just trying out and not very good. And so I wanted people to see the practice and the hard work that goes into acquiring talent.

And so I put the footage together. It’s a montage of my practice footage over the last year. I put that up on YouTube.

Lucas:

It’s interesting. There’s a famous quote that says if you knew how painful it was for me to be successful you would never want to be successful. It’s a really interesting thing. In these more recent years, I’ve gotten really into entrepreneurship and building businesses in and around the things that I love, which is health and wellness, and all the business mentors I find, you hear over and over people saying, if I knew how hard this was going to be I never would have done it. I’m glad I did it, but I never would have done it.

But at the same time, I like your approach. I like this eyes wide open approach. In all of our yoga studios we always mirror the walls, and people are initially very resistant to it and they say why do you mirror the walls, why are you having us look at ourselves? It makes us self-conscious. Yes, it does make you self-conscious but it does something else and it makes you self-aware. It’s that same thing that you did, by turning the camera on yourself and revealing what is really awkward and uncomfortable, which is learning anything new, and most people want to hide from that.

But when I took my first yoga class, I walked in and I started doing hot yoga and you have to take your clothes off, so you’re standing there half naked in the mirror looking at your body, you’re not happy with the way you look, you’re clumsy, you’re awkward, you’re not flexible. It is really in your face. I imagine somewhat similar to when you first turn the camera on yourself. But at the same time, it really forces you to get honest, and it can really be a huge reality check. I always say that the YouTube generation, the amount of physical abilities people have is just shocking.

When I first started doing yoga YouTube was still in its infancy, and these days the level and ability and just mastery of yoga is like no time ever in history, and it’s all because if you can see it you can be it. If you can get that visual image in your head of hey this person is also like me, they’re 26 and they’re in the bay area, or this person is also like me, they’re 106 and they’re in Rishikesh, India, or whatever it is, you get that image in your head and it’s hard to get it out and it really changes your standards.

Okay, so you’re hanging out on YouTube, you’re watching this guy do Dubstep dance, you’re getting inspired, you want to learn how to dance. Do you have any dance background? Did your mom stick you in ballet when you were six? (07:02) What’s your background in terms of movement?

Karen:

(07:05) I took tap dance classes for maybe a year when I was in middle school, and then I’ve taken some Zumba classes at the gym, but I would say pretty minimal dance experience. When I started I was very awkward, trying to learn this new hip hop style of dancing.

Lucas:

And so what are you doing during this time? Are you in school, are you working? You’re coming home and you’re starting off with a small commitment. You said you started off with a few minutes per day, and what are you doing? (07:35) You’re just putting on music and you’re just at home, or are you going to a local dance studio or how are you learning through this process?

Karen:

(07:42) I didn’t have very much time, because I was working a full-time job and dealing with a lot of career transition, and I found that was actually a blessing, in a way, because that really limited the amount of time I could spend dancing to five minutes to an hour a day. And so I really had to make efficient use of that time. I really could not afford to mindlessly practice and not get better. I knew I had to make every second that I was practicing count.

(08:10) And so I did a lot of things, I went to dance classes. If you go on Yelp and search for dance classes you can find local dance studios nearby. And then when I found teachers that I liked, I would run up to them after class and harass them into teaching me more. And I ended up finding this one guy that I learned from privately. I think private lessons, if you can afford them, they are worth it. And they may be 3 or 5 times more expensive than a group class, but you will learn maybe 10 times as fast. And so if you can swing it every once in a while from someone that you really respect, I definitely recommend that. I was also looking on YouTube for dance tutorials.

And I think one thing that really helped me improve was when I started really becoming my own coach. I think it’s so easy to just get in front of the mirror and be like, “Okay, what do I do now? What yoga pose should I do now?” Once I started recording myself with a camera, I saw that there were things that I could not see in the mirror, because when you’re doing it in the mirror you’re watching yourself while you’re trying to do yoga and you can’t really do both of those things perfectly at the same time.

(09:33) But if you film yourself and watch it back, you’ll see things that you couldn’t see in the mirror, and you can compare the footage of you to the footage of someone whose technique that you admire and notice the little things that are different. And then you can go back and correct those things and film it again and do it again and again and again and again, and if you keep doing that you’re going to improve so much faster than if you just practice without thinking about it.

Lucas:

It’s interesting. One of the things that I find is people are afraid that they’re going to look awkward, they’re afraid that they’re going to mess up, they’re afraid that they’re going to look stupid, and all of those things are true. That’s what I always tell people.

Karen:

Totally.

Lucas: We do these yoga courses and we’ve just started incorporating video into it, I’m such a fan of video, and incorporating teachers teaching. And so we’ll videotape them teaching. Some of them are new teachers, some of them are experienced teachers, but all of us do really weird things. You put your hands in a funny place. I always walk around with my chin way up in the air, like I’m trying to talk over a mountain, like all these weird little ticks you have in your body, you don’t really see until you see. And all of your worse fears, they’re all true. You look strange, you talk funny, but so what is the whole point. Let’s grow and let’s be committed to learning.

And there’s this weird thing where people just shut down. I don’t know what the statistic is, but it’s something like after university most people read one book the rest of their adult life. I don’t know why, but people just stop learning, and when you’re older there’s kind of this idea that old dogs can’t learn new tricks, and I actually find that I learn so much better now. It’s so much faster, it’s so much more rewarding, my brain works better, everything just seems I’m just primed for learning. When I was younger it just all seemed superficial and superimposed. And I think when people can regain their desire and just the pure joy of learning, there’s so many different opportunities.

Okay, so you’re at home, you’re dancing, you commit to this one-year period, which is a huge commitment. Most people aren’t going to do this. (11:42) What was your ultimate goal? Did you want to perform? Did you have an idea of having a real — did you just want to do this for yourself? Did you want to go to the club? What was the idea?

Karen:

(11:50) I wanted to look supernatural. That’s still my goal. I’m not there yet. I’m not looking supernatural yet. But when I was little I would practice my telekinesis, so I’m a firm believer that with practice you can do anything. It turns out it cannot give you telekinesis. I would sit in my bedroom and I would be staring at a glass and I would try to tip it over, or I would try to move objects with my fingers and I would spend hours in a very concentrated state trying to do this and it did not work out for me. I kept trying until probably an embarrassingly old age, until I was probably middle school or maybe even high school, I don’t know. I was really convinced that this would happen, and it didn’t.

But then when I saw this dubstep dancer, I was like wow this is the closest thing I’ve ever seen to super powers and it is real and it can be practiced, it can be learned. And so that’s what I set out to do. And I was curious how good I could get in a year. I think because he was so good and I didn’t know if I even wanted to try because he was so good, I knew it was going to take a huge amount of commitment and I didn’t know if I was going to be ready to sign up for that kind of commitment. I didn’t know if the work was going to be — if the effort was going to be worth the payoff for me.

But I knew I had to give it a good effort, and a good effort is a year. But I think dance was the one thing that for me, I enjoyed in the moment. I enjoyed that effort so much, that it was worth the payoff. And I think for different people, that is a different thing. So figure out what your dance is. What is that for you? And the only way to figure that out is to be willing to try everything. I still practice dancing every day, and I will do it for as long as I can imagine.

Lucas:

So tell me about this new project you have, because I love this concept and I love anything that gets people to make commitments. My blessing and curse in life is that I’m an obsessive compulsive person, so for me commitment has never been an issue. If I’m in, I’m all in. And so people always admire that about me, but it’s not to admire. It’s just my tendency. But a lot of people, they really need some kind of — this is why every year around this time of the year, there’s fitness challenges and at yoga we do the 30-day challenge and the 60-day challenge. Can you come every day for a month? Can you come every day for 60 days?

(14:40) So tell me about this GiveIt100.com project that you have going on. I love the concept, and I want to hear what your vision, your goal is with it.

Karen:

Okay. So after the dance video I made went viral, I got so many emails from people who said, “Wow, I want to learn how to dance now,” or, “I want to learn guitar,” or, “I want to learn yoga, I want to learn photography.” I realized wow, this two-minute video was actually making people change their behavior in a very positive way.

(15:12) And I thought, well what if this could be something that anyone could do? Instead of girl learns to dance in a year, it’s anyone learns whatever skill they’re passionate about in X period of time. And so out of the dance video came this idea that anyone could do their own learning time lapse project. And so my co-founder and I, Finbarr, we created a website called GiveIt100.com, and it is a 100-day challenge where you choose something that you want to get better at and then you commit to sharing a 10-second video every day of your progress.

Lucas:

The first thing I saw when I went on there, which was some guy doing forward bending. And this is something that I help people with every single day. People say, “I want to touch my toes, I’m 40 years old, I’m never going to touch my toes, I’ve never done it,” and I always say exactly the same thing. I’m like listen, give it 30 days, I promise you’ll see massive changes. If you give it a year you’ll change your whole body. And I love the fact that one of the first things I saw there was a guy in business casuals trying to touch his toes, and the great thing is the guy was making progress. It was like day 11 and the guy had made serious, serious progress. There’s other people learning the splits, there’s lots of gymnast stuff. And there’s, of course, people doing completely different stuff as well, like people are doing music and languages and all kinds of things, things that the only way to get there is to chip away at it a day at a time. Is that the basic concept?

Karen:

Yeah, yeah. (16:50) The vision behind this is a couple things. It is really seeing yourself improve. I think when you’re a little kid and you’re growing taller, you never notice it yourself of course, but then your aunt who comes and visits you every couple years is like, oh my God, you’ve grown so much, and you’re just like what are you talking about.

(17:16) I think a child doesn’t notice that she’s growing taller because she’s not up against a measuring stick, and the same thing as when you’re as an adult learning something, you don’t even notice that you’re getting better because you’re in it, you can’t see it. But if you were to record yourself and give yourself a measuring stick and look back, “Oh, this is where I was five days ago. This is where I was five months ago. This is where I was five years ago,” you’re going to see massive, massive improvement and that is something that really can help build your self-confidence. “Wow, this really is working.”

Lucas:

Within a span of a year, you taught yourself to dance, and that inspired people and so now there’s this website where people can go and it’s not like one of the 100,000 learn something online websites. This is a, “Hey, teach yourself something, whatever it is. Come to this site, there’s a community of people here, just check it out,” kind of chipping away at a skill every single day. So I love the concept. So for people listening now who have some goal, maybe they want to lose weight, maybe they want to do the splits, maybe they want to save a bunch of money, whatever it is they want to do, how do they get started on your website? (18:23) What kind of challenge would you throw up to them and how can they get started today?

Karen:

(18:27) So you just go to GiveIt100.com and you click on sign up. It’s going to ask you for what is the thing that you want to get better at, and this is where a lot of people might get stuck. Just think about what you think you could actually want to do for 100 days, and I think people wonder, “Oh, I don’t know what I would do.” It’s not that important to nail it in the first try. Just think about something you might want to do for 100 days, put it through and then give it a shot and start uploading videos, 10 seconds every day of you doing it and just see how it feels.

(19:08) Because after three or four days, if you’re not feeling it try other things, explore other things. This website will let you quit a challenge, and it will let you start up new challenges, and you can have up to three at a time. And so keep your mind open, keep trying new things, and eventually when you find something that you’re passionate about it will prioritize itself.

Lucas:

Perfect, I love it. So for everyone listening, check out GiveIt100.com. Thanks so much for joining us, Karen. I appreciate it. (19:47) And what’s next on your agenda? Do you have another 100-day project or a 1-year project that you’re working on?

Karen:

(19:54) Well, my project right now is making this GiveIt100.com the best place it can be, and that’s a lot of work.

Lucas:

Sure, sure. Well perfect, thanks so much for coming on. I appreciate your time, and I look forward to hopefully getting some of our YogaBody listeners up there marking their progress and setting some goals and doing some really cool things.

Karen:

Yeah, I look forward to seeing the YogaBody people up here. Say hi to me once you’re on there. I’m easy to find. And Lucas, thank you so much for having me here.

You’ve got questions? We’ve got answers. Welcome to the FAQ round. If you’ve got something you’d like to ask, please send it into podcast@YogaBodyNaturals.com. Now let’s hear what’s going on with our listeners.

Ann asks:

(20:42) Two and-a-half years ago I injured my shoulder very badly, and since then I’ve been going to body workers to try to heal it. Sometimes it feels not too bad, but sometimes it’s very painful. It is definitely the rotator cuff, but the main problem seems to be the tendon on the neck side of the shoulder slips out. I have a body worker here who can put it in, but I often feel that when he works on the shoulder the tendon slips out more easily and often than when I’m doing regular things around the house. I have gravity exercises from when I had problems from my other shoulder from playing tennis, but they don’t work on this shoulder, as they tend to pull out the tendon. I’m wondering if you have any suggestions or exercises I should use as balance, strengthening the shoulder versus pulling out the tendon.

Ann, I’m certainly not a body worker and so I’m not 100% sure what’s going on, but if you’re sure you have a rotator cuff injury there’s one pose that is absolutely fantastic. I don’t know why people don’t talk about it enough, and it’s forearm stand. Forearm stand for healing a rotator cuff is the best thing ever. I’ve been really fortunate where I’ve never had any kind of shoulder problems, until last year. Just kind of strangely, I was opening a jar and somehow it just messed up my rotator cuff. It must have been something I’d done earlier, some yoga thing that just became exacerbated.

In any case, it was really, really painful. I couldn’t use the arm. I did a lot of research and found people teaching sort of a modified version of a forearm stand, and I started practicing it and within a week it was fully gone, I could do everything, jumping through, jumping back, standing on my hands, all of that stuff. It was very, very phenomenal for me.

And so I would recommend doing forearm stand. A couple things about forearm stand. If you’re not familiar with it, it can be a little tricky. You can do it at the wall, just keep your head off the ground. It will be intense, but not dangerous. Do it at the wall. The other thing is you can do what’s called a dolphin pose. Dolphin is you’re in down dog, you drop your elbows down to the ground, that’s a dolphin pose. You can also do that same variation with your hands interlaced. So you have like a tripod. Down dog, elbows on the ground, you can hold that for two minutes. Planking is also very, very effective. Not planking like plank pose, but planking where your elbows and your forearms are down on the ground. I would do static holds. I was doing two to five-minute holds per day, and it helped tremendously.

The thing about body workers and a lot of listeners and subscribers who are body works get mad at me, but sometimes body work is not the right thing for an injury, especially if you have inflammation. Rubbing into that inflammation is not necessarily the right thing. I’ve had a lot of muscle tension and muscle imbalances, where massage was really, really beneficial. But there are lots of times when it’s not, and I’ve had plenty of times when body work made it worse. And I know people will say that was bad body work and maybe that’s true, but at the same time, my advice to you is if you’re getting body work done and it’s not feeling right, trust your instinct. And I would also really try to take it into your own hands. It’s very rare that body work alone is going to heal an injury.

Wendy asks:

(23:56) I’ve started doing gravity yoga poses. (For people listening, gravity yoga is the long hold, passive poses we teach that are specifically for flexibility. It’s not the only thing we teach, but we’re kind of known for that.) I’ve tried to shoulder poses for the first time yesterday, and after the wide dog I was very spacey and dizzy and this lasted for a couple of hours. Is it just my body getting used to inversions?

So Wendy, it’s completely normal. Downward dog is an inverted pose. So is a ragdoll pose, just a forward bend is an inversion. When you do inversions, especially initially, it’s normal to feel dizzy. Now it’s very strange to feel that for a couple of hours, so I don’t know what’s going on there. My guess would be that you experienced a bit of vertigo, and you got kind of like a carsick feeling. I’ve never heard of that happening to anyone for so long.

But my suggestion would be make sure next time you practice on an empty stomach. First thing in the morning is a good time. And maybe cut way back on your hold and make sure that doesn’t happen again. But with tingling in your limbs, with dizziness, these tend to pass very quickly, meaning days or a week at the most.

(25:05) I’ve had chronic tenderness and pain in my left hamstring, near the insertion at the sit bone, for about three years now. It comes and goes. Sometimes it just aches when I sit on it. I’ve come to the conclusion over the past year or so that it’s most likely Tendinosis. So I’m thinking the additional stretching may alleviate this. It does actually feel better this week than normal, which is interesting, in terms of stretching prior to starting the gravity poses this week. I normally practice Bikrim and do hamstring stretches after running. I want to improve my flexibility and hopefully rid myself of this hamstring issue, before I go to teacher training in April. Hence, I’m working with supplementation and gravity poses.

First thing, Wendy, there’s a very good chance that you have a torn hamstring. Especially, it sounds like you’re running and you’re going in a hot room. Running, especially on a damaged hamstring, it can be really, really terrible. And hot yoga is also really, really bad when you have a torn hamstring. I’m a huge fan of hot yoga. You have to be careful when you’re injured, because that heat masks the pain. It’s very similar to taking a couple of Advil. You walk in that hot room, and within 15 or 20 minutes you stop feeling the pain, and again, you re-aggravate that hamstring, re-aggravate that hamstring.

A truly pulled hamstring can take 18 months to heal. If you reinjure it, I know it sounds crazy, but three years is not out of the question. And if you really have had an injured hamstring for that long, you could be doing some serious tissue damage.

My first recommendation would be get out of the hot room. Get out of the hot room until you feel like you have control over this injury. If you’re sitting down and feeling pain, that’s a real, real injury, you shouldn’t be in the heat. Second thing is be really careful with the running. I would consider not running. Cycling is very, very good for healing hamstrings, so is swimming. If you can switch to cycling or swimming, those are really, really helpful. Running, because of that impact and the harshness of it, it’s not gentle enough for healing a hamstring. I would take this really, really seriously. Again, without seeing it I don’t know, maybe it is a tendon issue like you said. I’m worried that it’s a hamstring.

Hope that’s helpful. Thanks for your great questions. If you, too, have questions, send them to Podcast@YogaBodyNaturals.com.

The food you eat affects your body and mind every day. Welcome to the nutritional tip of the week, where we explore plant-based diets, super food nutrition, edible insects and new tropics. The goal here is mind/body biohacking for a better you and a better planet. So hey, let’s talk nutrition.

(27:47) For today’s nutritional tip of the day, I wanted to talk about oats, like oatmeal, like steel cut oats, all the different forms of oats that you hear about. Oats look really, really healthy. They look really natural, it looks like something that your grandfather would make, like a good old-fashioned food. A lot of the marketing and packaging in and around oats makes them look very healthy, we think of oatmeal cookies and healthy cookies.

(28:13) Here’s the thing about oats. Oats have a few interesting nutritional benefits, but very few. They tend to be much, much sweeter than you could imagine. So the glycemic index of oats is anywhere from the high 50s, all the way into the 80s. So in many cases, your oats, your morning bowl of oats, has a higher glycemic load than a white baguette piece of bread, meaning it hits your sugar, your blood sugar levels like crazy. Very, very strong impact on your blood glucose level, which brings in the insulin, which triggers fat storage, really not a good idea at all.

(28:51) To make matters worse, what people usually put on top of oats is some kind of sweetener, like maple syrup, brown sugar, some kind of dairy, which is also inflammatory. It’s kind of a disaster. All around, oats are one of the trickiest foods, because they look fantastic. I mean, they look really, really good. They look like a food that it just seems like it should be healthy, but they are very, very sweet. What I mean by that is when it’s metabolized in your body, the glycemic load of that meal is very, very similar to having a dessert. So having a sweet muffin, having a cake, having a doughnut, something like that, it’s very, very similar, in terms of how it hits your body, as high as an 83 glycemic load. That’s really, really high.

(29:34) So my recommendation is stay away from oats altogether. Don’t eat them. They’re processed before you get them, and even the steel-cut oats, they’re still way, way too starchy. They give you way too much sugar. You don’t need it. The health benefits are not nearly exciting enough to justify it. So stay away from them completely. Breakfast is the stupidest meal of the day. Eat dinner food for breakfast, eat lunch food for breakfast. Breakfast food, pretty much across the board, is crap. It’s all just a bunch of sugar and caffeine, basically. None of that stuff is going to help you start off your day right. What that’s going to do is set you up for a metabolic disaster that’s going to hit at about 10 a.m., when that sugar and that caffeine wears off, and then you need a chocolate bar or then you need another cup of coffee or whatever it is.

(30:21) Breakfast is a silly, silly meal filled with sugar and inflammatory and stimulating foods, not really what you need at all. Focus on eating leftovers from dinner before, try to get rid of the grains, try to get rid of specifically bread and oats. Try to focus on real, real, natural foods, and you’ll do a lot better. We’ll talk more about breakfast in future episodes. What do you eat for breakfast? What has your experience been with oats? Can you give them up? Love to hear from you. Please leave us a comment and tell us what you think. Hope that’s helpful. We’ll talk to you soon.

Hope that’s helpful, talk to you soon. You’ve been listening to the Yoga Talk Show with Lucas Rockwood. If you like this show, I always appreciate reviews and ratings on the iTunes Store. It helps other listeners find out about what we’re doing, and it keeps me motivated to dig around and find new and diverse topics to share with you. For complete show notes, links to everything discussed in the show, along with a ton of other free yoga videos and online resources, please head over to YogaBodyNaturals.com. Thanks so much for listening, and we’ll talk to you very soon.