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Archive for the ‘Motivational’ Category

PostHeaderIcon How Discipline (Yoga) Brings Freedom

The literal definition of “Yoga” is “Yoke.” A yoke is the harness that attaches Oxen to the plows that they pull. It is the thing that attaches them to their work. Some define Yoga as work. I think “discipline” is the best translation. The yogis and most of our greatest philosophers believe that discipline is the only thing that can free us from suffering.

Yet how can a harness possibly free us? Well, without the yoke, the oxen are wild and uncontrolled. They fail to benefit us. They will roam the farm, trample the crops and create more damage. If we can’t harness our impulses, they will destroy us.

 

Think of it this way, if you want freedom from your physical limitations or pain, you need to do hatha (physical) yoga. This consists of physical therapy, mindful exercise and proper breathing. All of these actions, if done diligently and habitually have been scientifically proven to reduce pain, increase strength, increase endurance, lower the risk of disease, lengthen one’s life and prevent mental illness. If we want these things, we must discipline ourselves to do our hatha yoga. I will use the term hatha yoga very broadly as I believe that any exercise done with  mindfulness can be seen as hatha yoga.

Without a habitual exercise habit, high blood pressure, cholesterol, obesity, weakness, disease and pain set in. We become a victim of our own lack of discipline.

Look at the most skilled dancers, athletes and acrobats. Its as if they can fly. We often wish we can move with just as much freedom. We forget to account for all the hours of discipline it took to achieve that level of mastery. Athletes of this caliber did not mindlessly move to achieve this level. They have had to focus on every element of their art and use their minds as well.

This brings us to Jnana (mindful) yoga. This is the yoga of knowledge. We must constantly be educating ourselves or fall in the trap of ignorance. Ignorance, our inability to know what is real; can harm our relationships, make us more susceptible to scams and ruin our opportunity for a better life. Disciplining our mind helps us focus which is great for alleviating stress and helping us improve any skill. Lack of knowledge or mindfulness might cause us to act stupidly and do things that we regret which brings me to the next type of discipline or yoga.

Karma (action) yoga teaches us to be mindful of what we do as everything has a consequence. If we want to be free from poverty, we must discipline ourselves to work at a job that pays us well. We must also watch that we aren’t spending more money than what we earn. if we want people to like us, we have to take actions that are kind and not rude. Knowing which actions to takes a certain level or jnana yoga. After all, most people don’t intend on doing harm. Many do it unconsciously.

Karma yoga can go much deeper. Ghandi came up with a method of karma yoga called satyagraha. This was a way of resisting unjust authority without enacting any violence. Ghandi disciplined himself to accept going to jail and even abuse as he worked in his quest to end racism and free India from English rule. When the government wronged him, he did not retaliate in violence, he instead allowed them to victimize him until they they realized their own wrong doing. This path of action was very well thought out and it took a ton of discipline to see it through.

Martin Luther King Jr. was a follower of Ghandi and used this exact same method to end segregation in the U.S., disciplining his people do peaceful protests. They trained themselves never to fight back. As a result, the media was able to record many blacks being abused at the hands of white law enforcement without them fighting back. It made the government look awful, the way they abused peaceful people and it brought sympathy to the blacks, who were once thought of as the barbaric race.

Ghandi was the only one who succeeded in overthrowing a government without having to go to war. This is a tremendous achievement as it taught us that violence isn’t the only answer. MLK used this same method of Karma yoga to bridge the great divide between whites and blacks and to make our laws more just during a time when everyone thought that civil war would break out.

In order to achieve “freedom” from an unjust government, these men had to be extraordinarily disciplined in how they acted and reacted, so disciplined that they didn’t even fear death.

The fourth style of yoga is bhakti (devotional) yoga. This is the yoga of the spirit. Sometimes the only way to overcome great odds is to connect with our own spirituality, whatever that may be for you. Ask anyone who has had to battle addiction or found hope  under extremely trying circumstances. Life can be terribly complicated. We are often plagued with questions we may not have the answer to and we have to rely on a higher power to find them. Whatever your spiritual views, we all have to meditate on our values in order to make sense of our lives. Without our moral foundation, we succumb to our lower selves. This can be a trap that can lead to unhappiness. We can’t always control the slings and arrows that life throws at us but we can control how we respond to it, as Ralph Waldo Emmerson said, “Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles.”

In the classic Yogic text, “The Bhagvad Gita,” Arjuna was lucky enough to get the advice of Krishna, the human carnation of a Hindu God. Arjuna was very hesitant and unsure of what he was about to do, go to civil war as a last resort against a very corrupt government. Krishna told him that he should freely follow his path. He could do it because he had been practicing yoga. Because he diligently practiced strong physical health, mindfulness, right action and spirituality, he had the tools he needed to make the right choices.

Without discipline, we are lost. We live in a culture where it is so easy to let go of one’s health, to lose touch with one’s loved ones and where the incidence of mental health is skyrocketing out of control. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met who are unhappy and have fallen into terrible physical health because they stopped being mindful of what they were eating or how they managed their lifestyle. I’ve seen people lose their families because they failed to be mindful about what was truly important to them. We have tools such as smart phones to help us sort through our lives yet I’ve seen people become slaves to the very tools that were supposed to free them in the first place. Without mindfulness, yoga and discipline, we become slaves to our own culture. Freedom is possible, but it takes diligent practice and great discipline.

If you can’t come up with a resolution this year, a good idea is to look at the different paths of yoga practice. Are you still mindful about your physical health (hatha yoga)? Are you doing your best to keep your mind focused and learning new things (jnana yoga)? Are the actions you take day to day benefiting your life and those in your sphere of influence (karma yoga)? Do your thoughts and actions vibe with your deepest spiritual values (bhakti yoga)?

Someone once said that regardless of your beliefs, the definition of a “spiritual person” is someone who is just trying to be the best they can be. When I teach class, I’m fully aware that everyone is at different skill and fitness levels, but I encourage my students to just to their best. This is why I take some time to be mindful of my practice especially at the end of the year. I’m not the same person I was a few years ago. Every year, I chip away at myself and try to be the best I can be and I’m hoping that this encourages others to do their best as well.

Happy Holidays. Looking forward to an awesome New Year!

If you are interested in learning more about the different paths of yoga or learning more about the deeper philosophies of yoga, check out these blogs:

What is Traditional Yoga? (The Original Styles of Yoga)

Yoga and the Eight Fold Path

Meditation (A Running Into Reality)

Meditation: THE ILLUMINATED PERCEIVER VS. THE AFFLICTIVE MIND

Demystifying the Chakras (from a hormonal perspective)

 

PostHeaderIcon Great News About Stress

I started reading more about the mindset of stress after hearing about the ground breaking study that interviewed thirty thousand adults. They were asked how much stress they had and if they believed that stress was harmful to their health.

After eight years, the records were checked to see who had died. It turned out that those who were stressed and believed that stress was harmful to them had an increased risk of dying by 43 percent. People who reported high levels of stress but did not think stress was harmful had no increase in mortality. In fact, they had the lowest risk of death of anyone in the study, even lower than those who reported very little stress.

You can read more about this study here:

Does the Perception that Stress Affects Health Matter? The Association with Health and Mortality

As you may already know, I’m always reading the latest findings on health and fitness. One subject that has greatly interested me is that of the new field of epigenetics, the science of how our environment affects and changes our genes. I became interested in telomeres, repeating segments of non coding DNA that live at the ends of cells. They wear down as cells divide. Scientists are saying that these telomeres are a great indicator of health and how long one will live. If they are short and worn down, it is a sign of deterioration. I read a whole book on this phenomena called “The Telomere Affect” by Elizabeth Blackburn PhD and Elissa Epel PhD. I learned from this book that the worst thing one can do to one’s telomeres is to be “stressed,” but their research also found that those who stressed about stress being bad for them were in far worse shape than those who had a “challenge” mentality. Those who responded to life’s hardships with an attitude to tackle it as a challenge had longer telomeres than those who reacted with fear and worry.

In Kelly McGonigal, PhD’s book, “The Upside of Stress,” she explains that two hormones can be released when faced with a “stressful” situation: Cortisol and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). While both hormones are released by the adrenal glands, they serve different roles. Cortisol helps turn sugar and fat into energy but also suppresses biological functions such as digestion, reproduction and growth. DHEA, on the other hand, helps your brain grow stronger from the stressful experiences. It also counters some of the effects of cortisol. It speeds up wound repair and enhances immune function. The ratio of these two hormones can influence the long-term consequences of stress.

For example, Alia Crum, PhD, psychology and mindset expert, conducted an experiment in which half the participants were shown a video that opened with the message, “Most people think that stress is negative… but actually research shows that stress is enhancing.”  The other participants were shown a video that started with, “Most people know that stress is negative… but research shows that stress is even more debilitating than you expect.” Both videos cited real research, so in this sense they were both true. But each video was designed to activate a specific perception of stress.

Next, the participants were put through a mock interview wherein the people they were supposed to impress acted very indifferent and critical. After this ordeal, saliva samples were taken. While all the subjects had a similar rise in cortisol levels, those who had watched the positive stress video had higher levels of DHEA, which has been linked to reduce the risk of anxiety, depression, heart disease, neurodegeneration and other diseases we typically think of as stress-related.

I was excited when I read about this experiment because it gave physical evidence of why our mindset is so powerful, something I have always encouraged in my students. Other studies have confirmed this idea such as research that hanging on to stereotypes about aging can effect older adults’ behaviors, IQ and even their health; a phenomenon known as ‘age-based stereotype threat’ (ABST).

You can read more about that here:

Old Age And Stereotypes

The wonderful thing about Crum’s experiment is that it shows that our environment can immediately change our mindset which can immediately change our biology. It’s as easy as choosing which video to watch.

According to Kelly McGonigal, the best definition of “stress” is that which arises when something you care about is at stake. Her book and many other studies points to the fact that people who say they experience a lot of stress have more meaningful lives. You don’t stress about things you could care less about. So, people who have a positive stress mindset, the kind that actually contributes to better health, believe in finding meaning in their stress and learning to grow from it. This doesn’t mean they sugar coat the horrible things that happen to them. It simply means that they try to use their experiences to make them better people. We all know people who have been destroyed from horrible circumstances, but we’ve also seen people who have grown from them and have used these situations to find strength, resourcefulness and empathy for others in the same situation.

I also learned that it’s usually better to capitalize on that fight and flight response. It’s there to make you perform better. More research shows that trying to calm down when your blood is racing usually doesn’t work. But what you can do is tell yourself that this is a good thing. Use that surge in hormones to help you score that goal, ace that test or wow that audience.

To quote McGonigal, “We get stressed when our goals are on the line, so we take action. We get stressed when our values are threatened, so we defend them. We get stressed when we need courage. We get stressed so we can connect with others. We get stressed so that we will learn from our mistakes. The stress response is more than a basic survival instinct. It is built into how humans operate, how we relate to one another and how we navigate our place in the world. When you understand this, the stress response is no longer something to be feared. It is something to be appreciated, harnessed, and even trusted.”

So what else can we do to create a mindset that helps stress work for our health instead of against it?

Limit the amount of news you watch. According to a major U.S. survey, exposure to the news was one of the most commonly reported source of daily stress. 40 percent of those who reported high levels of stress said watching, reading or listening to the news was a major contributor. This increases a sense of hopelessness. Studies also show that it creates post traumatic stress disorder in the viewer, whether they witnessed the situation being aired or not.

Be open about your problems and look to others for help. Try to reject the viewpoint that other people are a source of stress. When we isolate ourselves from others, we take away many coping mechanisms like realizing that someone else may have been in a similar situation. It also takes away our ability to share and help those in need. Research has shown that helping others is actually a great stress reliever as it counters that feeling of hopelessness and gives our life purpose.

Find time to exercise. Of course I would add this as my final thought. I’m a fitness professional. Lol! But everything I study points to the fact that exercise is that magic pill, if done properly and at the right amount. It also gives us time to unwind or clear our minds. When I go to the local Y or teach a yoga class, it also gives me a sense of community. This past year, there were two deaths in my family. During these times, it was very difficult for me to come to class and motivate others but when I expressed the fact that I had to take some time off to be at funerals or memorials, some students and colleagues shared similar stories with me and I realized that I wasn’t alone. So, while I may not be free of stress, my life is full of meaning. Thank you to all of my students, followers and clients for sharing this journey with me, and I hope you have a wonderful holiday season.

Btw, this December is Live Healthy month at the Porter Ranch library. I will be teaching a pilates class on Saturday December 8 at 1:30pm. This event is free and open to the public. For more information, click here:

Special Events

If you enjoyed this blog and would like to read more about mindset and belief, here is my very first blog ever written about mindset:

Empowering and Disempowering Beliefs

For more motivation on exercise, the magic pill, click here:

The Limitless Pill

My thanksgiving love blog to all my students who give my life so much meaning:

You Inspire Me

PostHeaderIcon How I Cured My Muscle Pain

I always loved fitness, but the one thing that motivated me to become a professional more than anything else was pain. I remember my physical therapist telling me that I was too young to have back pain and if I wasn’t careful, my spine would just keep getting damaged. He didn’t tell me what being careful entailed. Does being careful mean staying in bed and never running again or lifting my baby boy again? I loved to run and I honestly wondered if I would ever be able to do it ever again.

I had no idea what was causing the pain, but having a background in mindfulness made me look back at all the times in my life when my back was healthy. Coincidentally, these were the times that I was consistently fit. The times when my back was in the worst shape were the times when I was the least fit or had a sit down job. Since all other health options weren’t working, I decided to get fit again. This was not easy. I had a bad back. I started by just doing my physical therapy and some low impact cardio like walking or light aerobics. After a while, the pain subsided but it still came and went. It turned out I had two degenerated discs in my lower back. The best advice anyone could give me was a physical therapist who was also a pilates instructor. She told me to keep moving and stay fit. She said if I wasn’t opting for surgery, my best bet was to strengthen the muscles that protect my spine.

What made the back pain permanently vanish? Well, that’s quite a journey. I became a fitness expert. I learned how muscles and bones worked. I learned that there were specific muscles in my core, hips and even shoulders that weren’t working right. For example, my tight shoulders caused me to have to overly arch my back in order to stand up straight. I can now spot this in my clients or students instinctively. Sure, I was told I had degenerated discs in my lumbar spine but re-establishing mobility in my tight shoulders took a huge burden off my back.

Some muscles of my hips were much more flexible or stronger than others. In fact, it turned out I had a very strong core but was overcompensating, using my back to do all the work because I had weaknesses in my legs and butt. My core wasn’t weak. It was overburdened by taking all the weight my hips couldn’t bare. I also had very tight hip flexors which pulled on my back.

I want to share this with you because I’ve seen a trend in our health care system. Insurance companies only pay therapists to work on the “one” body part that needs it. So, if your back is in pain because you have tight shoulders, you’ll get a lot of therapy for your lower back when you should be opening your shoulders. This is only an example. My knowledge in corrective exercise has taught me that it could be your feet causing pain in your knees, hips or even back, yet our health system is structured to focus on one muscle group at a time.

I was surprised when my son’s pediatrician told me that they don’t refer out people with pronated or “flat” feet to physical therapists. They just suggest orthotics. When I became a corrective exercise specialist, I learned how to re-build the arches of the foot. The reason why feet go flat is because they are out of shape. Walking in shoes and on flat surfaces with no variety has caused the arches of our feet to atrophy. Much like sitting in chairs all day can atrophy the muscles of our back, most of our chronic muscle pain is due to inactivity more than anything. Wearing special shoes or a back brace is like leaning on a cructh. You’re relying on an external object to make up for your own weakness. There are exercises you can do to fix muscular skelatal problems.

Unfortunately, like obesity, the greatest cure can’t be taken overnight. If you have surgery, it might cure a skeletal issue but if you don’t keep your muscles strong, that part of your body will just get re-injured. If you use liposuction to suck out your fat, but continue to eat more than you are burning, that fat will creep back on. The only pharmaceutical drugs prescribed to lose weight only work along with “diet and exercise”. We can cleanse the damage we do to our heart, blood and organs by detoxing on a high vegetable diet, but if we go back to our old way of eating, those problems come right back. We need to start getting real about how we maintain our health.

These days I’m back to doing all the things I love. I run, practice martial arts, jump and hike. But I also keep up a steady practice of muscle strengthening and stretching. The frailty of old age happens when we lose muscle and bone but all of this can be prevented if we take proper care of ourselves. My job requires me to be in top athletic condition and I sometimes get little tweeks in my knees, or other joints, but the good news is that I know what to do if these obstacles arise and they are usually ironed out in a few days. I’m currently in the best shape of my life because I’ve taken the time to address my weaknesses and work out smart.

A lot of people come to me after class, asking about their aches and pains, so I’m having a workshop specifically on corrective exercise in September. If you are interested in taking this workshop, click here for more info.

Special Events

 

PostHeaderIcon Why Run, Walk or Dance against Cancer

I never thought supporting the American Cancer society and Stand Up To Cancer would be such an amazing experience. Last month I participated in The Rugged Maniac obstacle course run, and the Night Nation Run (which was really an unbelievable music festival).
I want to share my experiences because I think everyone should do this at least once. If you don’t like running or obstacle courses, the Night Nation Run is more of a dance party than anything. Really, anyone could do it. Here’s why:

These Events are super inexpensive:

Early registration or groupon registration is as low as $29. I’ve seen other races that go for over $100. If you want to donate to the fight against cancer, you have the option of paying more or starting a fundraiser page to get sponsors, but all of that is optional and isn’t pushed on anyone. Plus, they are fully refundable, unlike other events.

It Appeals to all Fitness Levels:

If you’re a crazy athletic type who likes to get rugged, you can participate in the Rugged Maniac Run. If you’re not competitive at all and just want to have a workout or an all around good time, the Night Nation Run is for you. If you’re a night person, do the Night Nation Run. If you’re a day person, do the Rugged Maniac Run. You even get to choose the time you run. If you are a serious competitor, then there’s a special run for you but you can also run for fun.

The experience is thrilling and amazing:

At the Rugged Maniac Run, I got to participate in 25 obstacle courses on a 5k course. You can also do a 10k if you like. Some of the obstacle courses are akin to what you would see in the military, like climbing over walls and crawling under wire but there were also inflatable water slides and a warped wall like in the show Ninja Warrior. Everyone was super supportive. It was a hot day, but the course had lots of water and mud so it kept me cool. There’s also a festival with contests and prizes involving a mechanical bull, a pull up contest and a plank contest. I won a free t-shirt from winning the pull up contest and one for almost winning the plank contest. I participated with my son and we both received a ton of free stuff. Here I am leaping over a fire pit!

The experience is awesome and inspiring:

At the Night Nation Run, I felt like I was a part of something larger than myself. It was humungous! There was a huge stage and a dance party. It took place at Angel Stadium. Everyone got free neon necklaces and other glow in the dark paraphernalia. There were selfie stations everywhere. They riled you up before you ran, DJs and entertainers were everywhere, making it fun and throwing out free gifts. You don’t even have to do the run. You can enjoy the atmosphere, people watch or participate in the huge dance party. The run took us on an amazing tour of Angel’s Stadium. Some people walked, some jogged, some ran. There were dance stations and music everywhere which was motivationg. You could just stop and dance anytime you liked. We got to see the enormous stadium and go into the dug out, feeling what it must be like to be a professional base ball player. After the run, the party continued. Famous DJs kept us dancing. I probably burned more calories from dancing than I did from doing the 5k. Free glow in the dark toys were tossed everywhere. I did this run with  my husband and it was one of the best dates we have been on. This is also a family event. Unfortunately, all my pictures were accidentally erased. :( But here’s one from the website:

Life’s too short not to:

We’ve all had friends and family who either survived or passed from cancer. As hard as it is on all of us, I’ve learned that life is just too short. We get caught up in our ruts and routines and we forget to truly live. Remember to take the time to do something different, even if its not one of these events. Sometimes its hard to break from routine, but once I do something like this, I feel so much better. Life becomes more meaningful and I’m glad to have spent quality time with my loved ones and fellow human beings. Isn’t that what life is really all about?

It Fight’s Cancer:

While all the proceeds from these events goes to fighting cancer, it fights cancer in other ways. First, it brings people together. Evidence has shown that people who have a strong support group are more likely to survive the disease. Secondly, it forces us to get exercise. Numerous studies have shown that exercise helps prevent many kinds of cancer. Third, it gets us out which means we’re not inside getting depressed as depression can lead to more chronic health ailments.

It’s Fun:

I don’t like to think of exercise as a work out. I like to think of it as play, a way to move, to get out and to connect with others. I also think of it as a meditation and as an experience that teaches us to overcome our many  obstacles. People who suffer from cancer also need to overcome many obstacles. Let’s lift them up by being there for them and doing something that makes us positive about living.

Here’s a link to the Night Nation Run website, where there are events all over the World. There’s also a virtual event:

NightNationRun.com

Here’s a link to the Rugged Maniac website, where there are events all over the US and Canada:

RuggedManiac.com

I’ll be participating in the Night Nation run in LA in July 21 and in the Rugged Maniac run in SoCal, Temecula on November 17. Let me know if you’d like to join us. :D

PostHeaderIcon Does Your Time Perspective Affect Your Health?

How we view reality is subjective. Just ask your parents or siblings how they remember certain events in the past. You will find that everyone remembers these events very differently. Studies on eye witness testimonies have shown that most memories are false. This is why lawyers are not allowed to “lead the witness” while questioning them. Hinting or suggesting certain view points can lead someone to remember something completely differently, greatly skewing the real truth.

For more information on how our beliefs control our reality, click here:

Voodoo, Beliefs, Health and Society

We all wear tinted colored glasses that shade our world in a way only we can see. Modern psychology has examined how these attitudes can promote success or lead to failure. Experts on Time psychology (such as, Philip Zimbardo, Ph.D and John Boyd, Ph.D, authors of “The Time Paradox”) study and break down our relationship with time. They say that time is money as we are often paid for our time but I think that time is priceless and have always struggled with my relationship with it. We all only have a limited amount of time in a day and how we spend that time is so crucial. Yet no one really knows how much time we have in a life. I could die tomorrow in an accident or many years from now. This mystery just makes time even more valuable. I think that’s why I enjoyed reading “The Time Paradox” so much.  Much can be said about how we view the Past, Present and Future.

 

THE PAST:

As stated before, we can’t always trust our memories to give us an objective reality about what really happened in the past. There are many sides to one story and our side is highly influenced by our attitudes. Some people believe in a golden age, when life was innocent and simpler. Other people say our history is full of horrors and we are living in the best times ever. Yet, how we see the past can directly affect our success in the future. if we are constantly focusing on our failures and disappointments, we have created a general attitude that we are losers. If this is so, we will go about our lives with a chip on our shoulder, not expecting success and always expecting failure. We could be sabotaging ourselves without even knowing it.

In contrast, if we focus on our little successes, we have proven to ourselves that we are capable and will have a more positive attitude towards our endeavors.

Studies have shown that the act of rumination, of constantly thinking about the negative aspects of the past can lead to depression and other chronic diseases that stem from emotional stress such as heart disease. Being depressed will cause us to try less, to take less risks and to attract more disappointments and failures. If we don’t change how we think about our past, we become trapped in this cycle.

Past negative attitude: I shouldn’t have eaten that cookie! This is why I never reach my fitness goals. What’s the point of trying? I’m just gonna stay fat and die early. I’m gonna wallow in my sorrow, stay home and eat a gallon of ice cream

Past positive approach: I didn’t reach my goal of losing 10 lbs in one month but that’s because I cheated by eating a few cookies. I did lose 7 lbs. That’s a huge success! I’ve never lost 7 lbs before. I just have to keep at it and I’m certain to reach my goals soon. Better not miss my muscle pump class.

These examples show two different ways of looking at the same exact situation. Which mindset do you think will lead to success? We can find happiness focusing on all the good times, or we can wallow in depression by ruminating over the bad.

For more information on using awareness to influence our free will, click here:

Science, Yoga, and Free Will

THE PRESENT:

There are three major ways of viewing our present situation; Present Fatalistic, Present Hedonistic and Holistic present.

Present Fatalistic people have a deterministic attitude towards life. They don’t believe anything they do now could change future outcomes. This is common in people who come from backgrounds of poverty, little opportunity and insecurity. The attitude goes something like this: “What’s the point of trying? I’m going to die anyway,” or “I’ve always been poor. That will never change.” Such attitudes sabotage us from making pro active decisions in our lives. So if you are overweight or come from a family of overweight people with chronic health conditions, there is little you will do to change this situation because you have little belief in your ability to make a difference.

Present Hedonistic people love to live in the moment and think little of future consequences. They are usually the life of the party, encouraging everyone to give in to their indulgences, which can be great for you’re health if your enjoying a Zumba class or a nice outdoor run. But this attitude may also lead to more drinking alcohol, smoking, recreational drugs or emotional eating with little thought of how this behavior will effect the future. Present hedonists tend to gamble more and be more promiscuous. The positive of this approach to time is that present hedonists tend to have more fun. The negative is that their inability to consider future consequences can still lead to health problems, addiction and failure to commit and follow through due to lack of planning.

The Holistic Present approach is living in the utmost present, the way we do when meditating or writing poetry. Buddhism and many other philosophies have preached the beauty, peace and serenity of living in this state. It’s also known as “mindfulness”. Many who reach this state even say that time becomes an illusion and the mental disorders that come with negative viewpoints of time drift away. This is the state we are in when we are meditating, enjoying a sunset, painting or writing a poem or completely focusing our mind on the task at hand. We see time as one holistic whole and live in one-ness with our place in the grand scheme of things. We let go of the pain of the past, the addictions of the present and the demands of the future. It’s a very clear and calming place to be. If we take the time to reach this state on a regular basis, it can have many positive affects on our mental and physical well being.

If you’d like to learn more about meditation and focusing on the present, click here:

Meditation (A Running Into Reality)

THE FUTURE:

Do you plan for the future? People who create goals for themselves are more likely to do well in school, be on time, succeed in losing weight and be financially well off. They save their money, plan their meals and workouts, do the work needed to finish future projects and tend to be more successful in all aspects of life. They know how to delay gratification, often choosing to make present sacrifices so they can be more successful in the future.

The negative of always living for the future is becoming so engrossed in what needs to be done tomorrow that we forget to enjoy today. Relationships might struggle due to lack of spending that quality time with those we love. This perspective can also lead to a type A personality, someone who is always worried about getting things done, always planning to fill the calendar and finding that we never have free time to live in the moment. This can lead to fear of not living up to expectations and such stress contributes significantly to cardiovascular disease. Feelings of anger and fear have been known to harden the arteries more than a high fat diet. So one must strike a balance between planning for the future and living in the present.

Since people who plan for the future, are good problem solvers, they can easily fix the negatives by planning their schedules to include fun time for themselves and their loved ones.

For more instructions on how to plan out your fitness goals, click here:

How to Make Your New Year’s Resolution

In Conclusion, we all have very different relationships with time and taking a moment to examine how we relate to it can help us with our health, our finances and relationships. Do you dwell on negative memories of the past and find it hard to forgive? If so, you could be setting yourself up for failure. Try taking some time to focus on fond memories and past successes and see how this can shift your attitude and positively change your outlook.

Do you believe that the choices you make in the present have some sway over your future? If not, then you are probably letting your environment decide the life you should be living rather than living the life you choose to live. Do you over indulge in the present moment, giving little thought of what you say or do can effect your future? Such impulsive behavior could interfere with future success.

Are you so focused on ambition and future outcomes, that you have become a big ball of stress and have forgotten how to relax, smell the flowers and make time with your loved ones? This can lead to frustration which can greatly affect your health. Therefore, taking the time to contemplate your time perspectives and learning to balance how you view your past, present and future can help you positively change your life and your health.
“You can choose how to reconstruct the past, interpret the present, and construct the future. You can choose to remember a wonderful glass of wine that you had yesterday, and forget the special bottle of wine that you spilled last week. Today you can choose to see the glass as half full and savor its flavor. And you can choose to expect the glass to be completely full tomorrow. In so doing , you make the most of your time by choosing happiness over despair, joy over heartbreak, and pleasure over pain.
The greatest gift that you can give to others and yourself is time. Embrace the gift of time whether you give it or receive it. Allow yourself to be fully present and to choose happiness. The past is gone, and the future will never arrive. The present is all that you have. Give yourself permission to enjoy the present and to pursue happiness in the future.”
–From “The Time Paradox” by Philip Zimbardo and John Boyd

 

PostHeaderIcon With Loving Kindness

It’s December of 2017 and what a crazy year this has been throughout the world! Earlier today, I asked one of my clients how she was feeling. Instead of telling me she felt stressed or frazzled, which is a typical response, she said, “I’d say I’m stressed, but there are so many people far worse off than I am.” The fires here in Southern California are finally dying down. While I experienced a bad power outage and had to be evacuated from one of my jobs, this is nothing compared with those who have lost there homes; it’s nothing compared to the hurricanes that hit the Caribbean and most of the southern states, the devastating earthquakes that hit Mexico, Iran and other parts of the world, the tragedy of the worst mass shooting in history, and just the general social unrest regarding race, assault and harassment.

You’d think we’d all be bitter and cynical, but what I saw, especially in the fitness community, was a lot of gratitude for what we do have, as many of us have looked for ways to raise money and help those who are not as lucky as we are. Suddenly, our own problems become miniscule and money becomes less important.

At this time of year, I try to take some time to contemplate my new years resolutions. Sometimes I just take some time to reflect on what’s important. In the past I’ve focused more on gratitude and character, but this year, I’d like to raise my glass to compassion, pure, selfless compassion, also referred to as love.

I noticed, this year, that whenever there was a tragedy, not only did we become more grateful for what we have, we become suddenly aware of what is really important. Our heart goes out to people, whether we know them or not. We sympathize and automatically want to help. We become aware of the fact that we aren’t alone. We are all in this together.

People often ask me how I have the energy to teach and train so many people. Looking back over my career, I honestly think its because I receive just as much as I give. My clients and students have taught me so much. You have shared your lives with me, and I realize I’m not alone. No matter what is happening in my life, I can go teach a class or train a client, and for the time I’m doing it, I forget about me. I’m there for you, and there is something truly healing about that. You’ve all been through so much. Many of my students and clients had to be re-located due to the gas leak a couple of years ago. Some have been affected by the fires. Many suffer from chronic illness or take care of loved ones, but you still show up and live your life. Some of you might have taken some time off to deal with your own lives right now. Maybe I haven’t seen you for a while but it doesn’t mean that I’m not thinking of you and wishing you well. I’m so moved by stories and I have listened to so many stories of you living life, overcoming adversity and still showing up to train, and to greet me with your bright faces.

So, this holiday I’d just like to say Namaste. I just want to bow to you and send out my love and kindness as you have all done for me, whether you realize it or not. My life has truly been touched by your beauty.

 

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PostHeaderIcon My Experiment: Applying Yoga breath/Pranayama to Running and Athletics

I like to do hill sprints occasionally to really get my heart rate up. I consider it power and strength training for my heart. Lately, I’ve been experimenting with how changing the manner in which I breath effects my performance.
What truly inspired me was a study I read about in the book “Body Mind and Sport” by John Doullard.
This study consisted of teaching athletes classic yoga pranayma breathing and having them apply it to their sport. This usually took a few months to teach because the athletes had to learn to exert themselves while only breathing through the nose and with very deep diaphramatic breaths.
This study was inspired by top athletes like Roger Bannister who broke the four minute mile. He described his experience as euphoric and not at all torturous. He didn’t feel as though he was working hard, but as if he had found a perfect flow.
I observed this once while watching Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt competing. His sprint looked effortless. His mouth was closed. There was no sign that he was over exerting himself. When it was over, he had so much joy, he ran more laps, waving to fans and celebrating. There was no sign of exhaustion, and yet he beat a world record. Most people in the world couldn’t run that fast if they killed themselves doing it.
What John Doullard’s studies showed was that those who mastered yoga breathing even while performing a seemingly intense, athletic feat felt less stress. Everyone who participated in the study could still perform with high skill. They just didn’t feel like they were working hard. The recovery rate was faster. In fact, many felt they could keep going and they didn’t feel tired after the training if they applied yoga breathing.
So I tried this for myself. First I did the smaller hill which usually takes me between 27 to 30 seconds to complete. I stood at the bottom of the hill and cleared my mind. I started breathing the way I do in yoga class until I felt I had the long, slow and deep breaths down. Then I bolted up the hill. I found that if I could keep the long breaths going, I brought my time down to 26 seconds which is an amazing improvement for a runner. I also realized that it didn’t feel like I was running fast at all. Perhaps it was because I was breathing slow and not panting. The slowness of my breath made me feel as if I were running at a more even keeled pace.
I tried this on the longer hill as well. This hill usually takes me 50 seconds to 1 minute to complete. When I focused on the yoga breathing, I was able to complete it in 46 seconds!

160917_001Another book that inspired me to experiment, not just on how hard I exercise but on what my mindset is when I exercise is “Power vs. Force” by David R. Hawkings M.D. Ph.D. This book is based on thousands of studies using applied kinesthiology to test strength. The book breaks down which mindsets give us the most strength. For example, the mindset of shame makes us weak. If we were to push on a person’s arm who feels shame, their arm would fall right away, but if you were to push on a person’s arm who feels joy, that arm is full of strength and energy. This book concludes that after testing thousands of people, that joy and universal love (that stems from compassion not infatuation) has the greatest energy.
I decided to test this theory on a whim as it was a very stressful week for me and I had so much on my mind. I was running my usual pace when I decided to try clearing my mind and focus on something more expansive than my every day worries.
I managed to quiet all the noise in my head. I don’t remember how I did it. Perhaps my own curiosity motivated me, for I wanted to see if my sprint time would improve if I achieved a  higher state. I think I connected with the spirit of the hawks that built a nest in that area to lift me up. Focusing on the beauty of nature, put me in a different state, and I swear my time improved by at least 3 or 5 seconds! Some things came to mind. I recalled that my kung fu instructor who said that everything happens for a reason and I was able to rise above my worries and realize that its all happening the way its supposed to.

I invite all of my readers who have experience with yoga and pranayma to take what you learned inside the yoga studio and start applying it to your workouts and your life. After all, what use is practicing meditation if we can’t use it to improve all aspects of our lives? Instead of seeing exercise as torture, see it as a meditation, an opportunity to tap into your higher power. Then see if you can apply these breathing and focusing strategies to career and relationships. Lately, I’ve been training more clients and teaching more classes than ever but I’m learning to breath through my work, to focus on the moment and to start applying my practice to my life.

To read more about the benefits of meditation, click here:

Meditation (A running into reality)

To read more about the benefits of breath control, click here:

Don’t hold your breath

For more on applying a positive mindset to fitness, click here:

Yoga, Joy, Gratitude and Prana

 

PostHeaderIcon The Limitless Pill

I once heard of a culture where a preventative medical practitioner is paid a wage by the patient in order to keep the patient healthy. When the patient gets sick, the practitioner doesn’t get paid. So the idea is not to save a patient once they are already ill, but to simply prevent illness. I thought this was an interesting take on health until I realized that this is what I do.

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As a fitness/yoga instructor and personal trainer, I am paid to keep my clients and students healthy. When they are too ill to train with me, I am not paid, at least in most cases. While there are medicines and surgical procedures that can cure many illnesses, they don’t always work.

Yet the proper exercise and nutrition regimen has been clinically proven, time and time again to prevent and sometimes cure most of the deadliest illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and certain cancers. Being fit lowers the risk of many diseases such as Alzheimer’s, depression, erectile dysfunction, fatigue and chronic pain. This fact is backed by countless of scientific studies. People who exercise have been cited in many studies to have a greater chance of being in a good mood, doing better on the job, and being more intelligent and alert.

It would take pages of citations for me to list all of these studies so here is a reference summarizing many of these studies from the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. You can click this link:

Lack of Exercise is a Major Cause of Chronic Diseases

Our society is fascinated by the idea of a magic pill, such as the one found in the movie and TV Show “Limitless” that makes us smarter or that cures all things. There is no panacea for all illnesses yet exercise and nutrition has been proven to work for most illnesses without any side effects.

Of course some exercises work better for some ailments than others. For example, I wouldn’t have someone who suffers from herniated discs in their lower back to take up parkour. Still, there are other types of movement that have proven to help ease the pain of people who do suffer from herniated discs. There seems to be a stereotype that fitness specialists are just here to torture you and make you puke. Yet, if you look at my class schedule you’ll see that on top of training, I also teach chair classes for people who suffer from Parkinson’s disease and water arthritis classes which is full of people who not only have arthritis but who also depend on wheelchairs and walkers.

The medical community has stated that exercise is important for general health, as important as brushing your teeth to avoid getting cavities. Yet, why do people not do it? In fact, why do people spend so much money on medication, surgery and the sheer cost of suffering from a disease due to inactivity when they should be devoting their efforts to getting on an exercise program? It is no secret that exercise is the best thing that most of us could possibly do for our health. In fact I’ve helped many clients get healthy enough to stop depending on drugs which has saved them thousands of dollars.

I’d like to end my blog with a question posed by Dr. Mike Evans in the video I cited below, “Can you limit your sitting and sleeping to just 23 and a half hours a day?” Just taking 30 minutes out of each day to move can not only save your life, but increase your standard of living significantly. He also states that of all preventative measures, movement is the one that will give you the biggest return on your investment. Make a commitment to your health with a disease preventing exercise regimen if you haven’t already.

23 and 1/2 hours: What is the single best thing we can do for our health?

for more motivation on how to make that change check out this post:

If You Don’t Stand for Something, You’ll Fall for Anything

Also, click this link to view some motivational posts Motivational posts

PostHeaderIcon What Pain Has Taught Me

I was able to move through my childhood unscathed. Maybe a scratch or bruise here and there, shin splints or a pulled groin muscle that healed eventually. There was that minor concussion after full contact sparring when I used to do kung fu. Actually, maybe I did get injured more than I thought I did but when we’re young, you bounce back and tend to forget. Then we get our first chronic injury, the one that keeps coming back to haunt us. That happened the first time I hurt my lower back. I didn’t even know why or how it happened. These days, I have a good idea but I had to experience chronic pain before I could understand some of the underlying causes that we often overlook. I was barely 21 or 22 when the chronic back pain started and I remember thinking that I had finally gotten old and that it might be down hill from then on. At the age of 22, I thought that I had reached old age. These days, I see teenagers who look like they had already reached the end of their lives, backs hunched over from texting and video games and I now know that injuries have nothing to do with age. It could happen anytime to anyone.

The first thing I learned about injuries and pain is that it doesn’t have to be caused by specific trauma like a car accident. The pain can just start unbeknownst to us. We have no idea where it came from or why its there. It could have been caused by mental or emotional stress, a lack of sleep or recovery, overuse; or it may have been there for months but we were too pent up on adrenaline, caffeine or pain killers to notice. Then one day, we can’t hide from it anymore and the pain makes itself known.

My back pain recurred many times in my life, before I made the choice to commit myself to fitness and keep my core healthy for good. It came back again after I worked in an office. Maybe it was sitting in a chair all day that did it. The lower back would get so swollen and I would need to see a therapist or chiropractor but I had no idea why it would become inflamed and lock up on me. It occurred again after giving birth to  my son and that was the worst because it actually took me a few years to recover from that. The pain went away in a few months but my back would still bother me if I sat for too long or witness most forms of stressed. Training myself to be strong and athletic again, despite my weak link was an experimental journey that involved fear of doing the wrong thing, fear of being too weak, fear of resting it and not making it stronger, fear that making it stronger would be too much and finally the faith that came with believing that it will get better. I also hurt my knees and that took about a year or more to recover. This happened when I was teaching over 30 classes a week. My knees became worn down and I finally stopped teaching Zumba.

So I know what its like to be teetering on the edge of wanting to do something and wanting to not do something about our pain. We don’t know when we should be resting or when we should be building. Some people heal up after finally finding the right regimen, some never do and just accept their chronic pain. Some of us rest too much and allow ourselves to atrophy, others pound away at the injury, doing everything they can to strengthen their bodies when they should have just rested that area all along. We all heal at different levels and, unfortunately all the technology we have can’t always detect exactly what we should be doing. A lot of times it has more to do with how we stand, sit, sleep, think and eat.

Despite all the suffering I felt, I have to admit that being injured is one of the best things that has happened to me (knock on wood). I’m grateful because it taught me mindfulness. It made me realize that healing is not as easy as some people make it out to be. I also learned that healing modalities such as yoga, tai chi, pilates etc. may work or may worsen an injury and you have to figure out what is best for you. It also made me realize the true meaning of mind body. It isn’t taking a power yoga class because you want to look like a hot, new age chick in a bikini. The initiation of yoga and pilates into conventional gyms have changed the original mind body approach of these modalities. Yoga is meditation. It’s learning the body’s limits and strengths. We breath and move with awareness so we can learn what works and what doesn’t. Bringing conscious awareness into how we move helps us understand ourselves. It helps us to gauge if we are doing too much or too little, if our soreness is healthy or a sign that we are doing something incorrectly or abusively. This kind of awareness is priceless.

Injuries have taught me to be deeper, to make my work outs an internal art, to meditate, to incorporate mindfulness, mental illumination and emotional reflection into my healthy lifestyle. I have learned to consciously engage smaller muscles that I never knew were there before. My search for a pain free life has opened me up to many ways of thinking and moving and has empowered me to share with others. No one’s body is the same. We all have different sized limbs and muscles but the more we understand, the more empowered we become.

Pain has taught me that I’m not immortal and has driven in me the lesson that I am no better than anyone else. This, I believe, is a good thing because it is the ego that creates judgment, hostility, dictatorships and oppressiveness. Pain has taught me compassion and empathy and these traits are the heart of love.

If you find yourself having to deal with pain, please read my post on the steps you should take in case of an injury:

What To Do In Case of an Injury

Do understand that there is no one panacea for pain. The best advice I can give in our quest for a cure is to be mindful. Pain is just a loud message your brain is sending you that something is not right. It may take you a while to understand the message but the search for an answer will help you in all aspects of your life. The pain may be a call to solve a problem you have been ignoring for far too long. Often, its a bad relationship, job or situation. Sometimes its just the way we have been treating body. Pay attention.  It may be a call to learn more about your body and mind so you can live a fuller or deeper life. Humble yourself and listen.

Here I am with my son turning 40 years old, and feeling less pain now than I did when I was in my 20s.

 

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PostHeaderIcon Yoga, Joy, Gratitude and Prana

It was Friday morning yoga class, the day after Thanksgiving. We were doing some poses on the wall when someone started to laugh. The woman next to her laughed. I don’t know what the joke was about but the more they tried to suppress their laughter, the harder it was for them to stop. Eventually, the whole class start bursting into spontaneous laughter. Looking back, it reminded me of the time I was taking a hip opening class and we all started bursting into tears.

The deep, yoga breathing makes our emotions more intense because we are connecting with ourselves on a deeper level. We are not blocking what comes out. Yoga breathing makes us laugh hardier and sob harder. It makes us tune into who we are, where we are blocked, where we are hurt, where we are strong and where we are happy. Our emotions are a sign of us dealing with it and letting go.

That Friday, the joy of yoga filled the room. Is it a coincidence that this happened the day after Thanksgiving? During Wenesday’s class, the day before Thanksgiving, we practiced breathing in everything we were grateful for and breathing out all of our gratitude. This positive meditation recycled the feeling of joy deep within us which positively charged our energy. It is practically impossible to be unhappy while breathing in everything we are grateful for.

Often, people approach their health from a place of poverty. We tell ourselves we must eat right and exercise because we are not enough. We are not skinny enough, strong enough or beautiful enough. We approach our practice from a place of desperation rather than a place of gratitude. We make our practice into a chore that we must push through. However, when we approach our practice from a place of gratitude, we find a great rush of positive energy that moves us effortlessly. If we approach our practice with appreciation that we can move at all–that we have the resources to even get on a mat and do something–that joy creates passionate momentum but it can’t be done until we accept and love who we are.

I have written a couple of posts about the yoga of letting go, regarding the suffering that sometimes comes with facing our pain. You can read them here:

  Yoga and the Art of Letting Go  

Be Kind, for Everyone You Meet is Fighting a Hard Battle

Joy is a letting go as well. It is a letting go of our obsession with what we don’t have. It is a letting go of an attitude that focuses on emptiness and depression. The sheer act of standing straight and thinking of something we enjoy creates energy and confidence. Bring your hands close together, close enough to feel the biolelecctric energy emanating from your palms. The yogis call this energy “prana”. Practitioners of chi kung and kung fu call it “chi” but it is spelled different ways. You may find that if you think of something that saddens you, the energy diminishes. If you think of something you love, something you are grateful for, you will feel a surge of heat or electricity. Joyful and healing hormones fill the body with life supporting energy.

Try this the next time you come to workout, do yoga or when you have a moment to yourself. Think of everything you are grateful for as you inhale. Recycle that joy inside you and breath out all the gratitude. Notice how this changes your energy or mood.

Happy Holidays everyone. Thank you for your stories and for sharing your journey with me. Thank you for the magic of your presence. Thank you for being amazing and inspirational.

For more outpouring of gratitude, click here:

You Inspire Me

Namaste

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