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Archive for October, 2016

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 Best Diet for You

There are so many diets out there that the general public is confused as to what they should and shouldn’t eat. What many don’t realize is that some diets are geared to certain types of people. For example, an endurance athlete may have completely different dietary needs as a sedentary person with diabetes. Someone training to gain large amounts of muscle may not have the same nutritional needs as  someone who is trying to lose weight. To help clear up this confusion, I’ve listed some popular diets below and showed which diet works best for which type of person. These are not fad diets, but the most researched and recommended diets in the medical literature.

Preventing Hi Blood Pressure- Dash

DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. This diet consist of low salt intake, low saturated fat, cholesterol and total fat. The staples are fruits, vegetables, and low fat dairy products. Fish, lean poultry, nuts, unsaturated fats and whole grains are encouraged. Red meat, sweets and added sugars are discouraged. this eating plan was developed to reduce blood pressure but studies suggest that it may also reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and bad cholesterol.

Weight Reduction, Reversing Overweight/Obesity- Moderate Energy Restriction /Low Energy-Dense

Moderate energy restriction diets are designed to help people lose weight in the most healthy way possible. They are designed to help people lose weight without sacrificing their metabolism and have been scientifically shown to be more successful in long term weight loss in active individuals than starvation or very low calorie diets. This diet consists of creating an energy deficit through diet and/or exercise. For example, if you burn an extra 300 calories a day and eat 300 calories less each day, this is a deficit of 600 calories a day. Since you must burn 3500 calories to burn a pound of fat, it would take you about 6 days to lose one pound. Since research has shown that losing 1-2 pounds a week on a moderate energy restriction diet is the safest way to lose weight without sacrificing your metabolism, I recommend this method of weight loss. Remember that calories count. If you change what you eat, but you are still consuming the same amount of calories, you will not lose weight. Extremely low calorie or starvation diets are not recommended without the supervision of a doctor or registered dietician due to the risk of lowered metabolism, loss of muscle, bone, organ tissue; and the risk of death.

For more information on why not to ruin your metabolism while dieting, check out this link:

Dieting too much? You could be hurting your metabolism

For more information on how to count calories, check out this link:

How many calories did I just burn?

If the thought of counting calories is daunting for you,  low energy-dense diets are recommended for people who want to lose weight without counting calories. Research shows that many have been successful at losing weight by making it a habit to eat foods that have less calories such as getting their carbs from whole grains instead of processed grains or from beans, whole fruits and vegetables. Make it a point to make your meat lean such as eating egg whites, poultry and low or non fat dairy products. Aim to eat foods higher in water and fiber and lower in fat as water and fiber help you feel full and contain no calories. Eating a diet with less fat has been proven to help people lose weight faster. Fruit juice and soda is not recommended for their high calorie content but vegetables, salads, broth based soups and unprocessed foods are encouraged.

For more information on switching to a more energy-dense diet, check out this link:

The Switch Trick: How to lose weight without counting calories

 

Cardiovascular Disease Prevention and Overall Longevity- Mediterranean/Vegetarian/Vegan/DASH

The Mediterranean diet has been shown to lower the risk of heart disease and cancer. Studies have shown that people on this diet tend to live longer lives. This diet is named after the Mediterranean as people in the Greek island of Crete are known for their health and longevity. This diet consist of lots of Vegetables (other than potatoes), 4 or more servings a day of fruits and vegetables, some healthy servings of beans and/or nuts a few times a week,  fish at least twice a week and replace red meat with lean poultry. Also, replace butter which is rich in saturated fat with cholesterol lowering vegetable oils such as olive oil.

Vegetarians and vegans tend to have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease due to the fact that meat products contain mostly saturated fats. Cutting out meat products can help reduce the risk of high cholesterol or triglycerides in the blood which can lead to heart disease.  Talk to your doctor about taking a vitamin B 12 supplement as this vitamin is only found in animal products. Vegans need to be aware of how they combine foods to insure they get all essential amino acids which are easily found in meats but in varying amounts in vegetable proteins. Food combinations such as whole grain rice and beans can provide a full spectrum of amino acids. Vegetable sources of protein that contain all essential amino acids are soy, chia seeds and quinoa. Vegetarianism is also better for the environment but do remember that eating nothing but junk food such as pastries, deep fried foods and processed carbs is still unhealthy even though these foods do not contain animal products.

Balanced diet, healthy food concept

Alzheimers Prevention- The MIND Diet

New research on Alzheimers disease risk has shown that dietary patterns play a large role in preventing the disease. The new MIND diet was developed to educate people on what to eat to keep the mind healthy. This consists of a mix of the DASH diet for hypertension, which I mentioned above and the Mediterranean diet for longevity and healthy heart health, also mentioned above. However, instead of just recommending many fruits and vegetables, the MIND recommends specific fruits and vegetables which have been clinically proven to help keep the brain healthy such as leafy greens and and blueberries. Nuts are encouraged for their brain healthy fats, as is olive oil and fish. Saturated fats and trans fat are discouraged due to their inflammatory effects. As a matter of fact, all of the diets listed in this blog discourage saturated fats and trans fats. There is a common theme, I believe, that what’s good for the heart is also good for the brain.

Athletes-High carbs/High Protein/Nutritional Timing

Athletes metabolize glucose and protein differently from sedentary people. Since glycogen stores are depleted quickly in athletes, they should eat carbs often in order to maximize performance. Also, athletes tend to have as much as or more than twice as many needs for B vitamins and protein than a sedentary person. This is very general as there are many different kinds of athletes. Power athletes and body builders require the most amounts of protein. Endurance athletes require more protein but not as much as body builders. It is estimated that one must consume 1000 to 3500 calories to gain one pound of muscle so body builders need to consume extra calories as well. Also, performance is enhanced when athletes time their nutritional intake. For example, athletes who eat a large amount of carbs and protein as soon after a workout as possible are more likely to be less sore the next day. Athletes also need to re-fuel for their next training session or competition which is also why eating the most right after a workout and often during the day is so important.

Food Sensitivities and Allergens -Gluten Free/Dairy Free/Allergen Free

Its been well known that Celiac disease (a reaction of the gastrointestinal system when exposed to gluten and gliadin which is a component of wheat and other grains) is a good reason to avoid gluten. There has been some mounting evidence that shows that some people may also have sensitivities to digesting gluten. If you suspect a gluten sensitivity, check with your doctor and have him/her test you for celiac disease and other sensitivities. Remember that whole grains are a source of B vitamins and fiber and most grains such as wheat, barley and Rye contain gluten. One Swedish study showed that people who cut out gluten for 10 years had low levels of B-6 and folate. A U.S survey found that half of people on gluten free diets had inadequate fiber, iron and calcium intake. Some natural gluten free foods that contain whole grains include rice, corn, millet and buckwheat. It is recommended that you check with a doctor or registered dietician if you suspect gluten sensitivity. People who have no sensitivities to gluten need not cut it from their diet.

The same thing goes for dairy free diets. Some people suffer dairy sensitivities such as lactose intolerance which makes the digestion of dairy difficult. Others suffer from allergies that cause reactions such as hives, gastrointestinal distress or anaphylactic shock. These people should avoid dairy and can get their calcium requirements from calcium fortified grains or juice. When taking a calcium supplement, keep in mind that taking above 50% of the recommended daily allowance is too much for the body to digest all at once. Try to get a little bit of calcium throughout the day. Avoid soda because the high levels of phosphorus in the soda can interfere with proper calcium absorption and compliment calcium intake with foods rich in magnesium such as nuts, seeds and leafy greens.

If you suspect any kind of food allergy, have yourself tested by a doctor so you know exactly which foods to avoid. While cutting out certain foods may be necessary for someone with allergies or sensitivities, eating a diet rich in variety is encourage in order to satisfy our nutritional intake so I don’t advise people to cut out whole foods unless necessary.

Foods we should all cut down on are processed foods, foods with added sugar, deep fried foods, trans fat and saturated fat.