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PostHeaderIcon What is the Best Weight Loss Diet?

If you’re trying to lose weight, you might have asked, “what is the best weight loss diet?” Of course, this a misleading question, one that gets consumers to impulsively buy whatever weight loss regimen is being marketed to them. There is a more productive question you should be asking yourself, but I’ll get to that later.

Atkins, ketone, intermittent fasting, low carbs, low fat and portion control. These are some the most popular diets that have been used specifically for weight loss, though their birth may have come for other reasons. For example, the ketone diet was first created for people who have epilepsy and the Atkins diet for people who have diabetes.

But if you want to lose weight, which diet works best? My job and my hobby is to read every study I possibly can on health and fitness. I get my sources from professional journals. My certification had me reading several thousands of studies and analyzing how they were conducted. What I’ve learned is that all of the diets listed above will work for weight loss if followed exactly as directed. Some diets work better for people who want to keep up sports performance and fitness than others, which I will get to later.

To read about diets for health and longevity, check out this link:

Low Carb versus Low Fat

In order to lose weight you must consume less calories than you are burning. So all the diets above are approaches you can use to help you eat less calories. Low carb diets work because people tend to eat carbs in very condensed ways. There are only 4 calories in one gram of carbs but a bun, bagel or portion of rice has so many grams of carbs condensed in it that this can add up to a lot.

Low fat diets work because there are a whopping 9 grams of calories for one gram of fat. That adds up to a lot.

While both methods are successful for weight loss, cutting carbs does interfere with athletic performance as many studies have shown that eating carbs can increase speed and stamina. Low carb crash diets work by reducing water weight (because we store water in glycogen, the body’s stored version of carbs). However, this doesn’t mean fat was lost and that weight can be gained back immediately.

Since we get vital nutrients from carb rich foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains, it is wise to get your limited carb intake from the most nutritional sources you can.

Ketogenic Diet

Ketone diets (high fat, very low carbs) makes the body adapt to burning fat instead of carbs as an immediate fuel source. It takes about 2 weeks of being on this diet before this change takes place. Meanwhile, you might feel the effects of not having enough carbs in your body to fuel your workouts which can lead to fatigue, nausea or dizziness. While the body does adapt to burning fat eventually, you won’t be performing at your athletic best because carbs still fuel the body more efficiently than fat. A number of studies were done on this with the consensus being that athletes on high fat, low carb diets fatigue faster. (Scroll down for references below)

If you are at high risk for heart disease, check with your doctor before trying the ketone diet. Many studies have shown that it can raise your good cholesterol while others show that it can raise your bad cholesterol as well. Some studies show that this diet benefits obese individuals more.

Low carb diets are known to lower cholesterol and blood glucose levels but ketone diets are high in fat as well as being low in carbs, so the subject of cholesterol is still controversial in regards to the ketone diet. This diet is still a very new trend so more conclusive evidence should be available in the future when the long term studies are in.

Since saturated fat is more likely to raise bad cholesterol than other types of fat, it is wise to focus on consuming “good” fats rather than the bad when choosing a high fat diet.

Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting, means going for long periods without eating, like a few hours. This is not to be confused with long term fasting (not eating for days) as long term fasting can cause starvation and severe malnourishment (sometimes heart attacks). There are many approaches to intermittent fasting. Skipping dinner or breakfast is one approach. Not eating one day and eating another day, or just eating once a day is another approach. This works because most people underestimate how much they are actually eating. If you aren’t eating anything at all, there’s a good possibility you are consuming less calories.

Our metabolism tends to be much higher in the morning so people who skip dinner instead of breakfast tend to get better results.

This diet seems to have different effects on women than on men, the health benefits swaying towards the male population.

If you are using nutrient timing to maximize strength and muscle gains, this diet could interfere with that.

Balanced but Portion Control Diets

Just eating smaller portions or eating more water and fiber while cutting out junk food have been touted for years because this method also promotes a balanced diet which means you are still getting most of the vitamins and minerals you need. Studies have shown that people on very low carb diets have several vitamin deficiencies because the source of carbs (vegetables, fruits and whole grains) are foods high in micro nutrients.

You can learn more about this method here:

What about Cutting Protein?

Low protein is hardly ever recommended. The reason being that if you eat less calories than you burn, the body starts to eat itself in order to survive. That means burning fat and getting skinnier, but it can also mean losing muscle and bone as well. Protein contains amino acids, the building blocks of tissue. Amino acids are also what enzymes, immune cells and hormones are made of and we don’t want to lose these precious catalysts that keep our body working. However vegan or vegetarian diets work for many as long as you get your protein from non-meat sources.

Know Yourself

In the end, you have to figure out what works for you. If you are a carb lover, you might prefer a low fat diet. If you crave fatty foods, low carb may work better for you. Portion control might be your cup of tea if you don’t enjoy going long periods without eating; but others prefer intermittent fasting because for them, food can be one big event that is worth waiting for. If you’re a field or endurance athlete, you should also ask yourself if its okay to sacrifice sports performance in order to lose weight. If the answer is “no” then low carb diet may not be the best approach for you.

Keep in mind that these diets are specifically for weight loss, not for increased strength or stamina. There are other nutrition approaches to these goals.

What about the other health benefits of these diets? For example, some studies have shown that intermittent fasting helps to boost the immune system. Most of the health benefits that come from dieting only helps those who were eating to much junk food in the first place. People who were already eating healthy, balanced diets did not benefit from them because they were fine to begin with. If you’re severely overweight, that makes you higher risk for related ailments such as high cholesterol and diabetes, and going on a diet can benefit you simply because you are cutting back on what was making you unhealthy in the first place, eating more than you should for your activity level. Increase in exercise also gives the same benefits and more.

The More Important Question

But what about the more important question of how to keep the weight off? The truth is, while diets work in the short term, the majority of dieters gain the weight back within six months to three years and they often gain back more than they lost. Only 5% of crash dieters keep the weight off.

I recall working for a yoga studio that charged hundreds of dollars to go on a juice cleanse. All the people who did it lost weight within days. They were stoked. Then I got to watch them gain the weight back immediately after the juice cleanse was over, which to me, seemed like a waste of money.

The reality of it is this: If you want to keep the weight off for life, you have to stick with your diet for life which is why registered dietitian, Sona Donayan, says “you need to have a long term plan, not just for weight loss but for maintenance in the future.”

To read my interview with Sona Donayan on dieting trends, this out:

Whatever diet you pick, it should be something you can commit too. Or you can choose not to diet at all, a decision I made in 1996, and I haven’t gone on a diet since. I still managed to lose weight after my pregnancy and continue maintain a healthy weight by committing to lifestyle improvement and by changing my attitude towards food and fitness. Permanent weight loss is possible, but it requires us to look deep inside and improve our awareness; but that is the subject of another blog.

Check out this related article on foods and supplements for healthy joints:

Related articles:

References:

Intermittent Fasting and Human Metabolic Health

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4516560/

Comparison of weight-loss diets with different compositions of fat, protein, and carbohydrates.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19246357

The use of carbohydrates during exercise as an ergogenic aid

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23846824

Three-Year Chronic Consumption of Low-Carbohydrate Diet Impairs Exercise Performance and Has a Small Unfavorable Effect on Lipid Profile in Middle-Aged Men

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6317154/

Consuming a hypocaloric high fat low carbohydrate diet for 12 weeks lowers C-reactive protein, and raises serum adiponectin and high density lipoprotein-cholesterol in obese subjects

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24075505

Effects of an energy-restricted lowcarbohydrate, high unsaturated fat/low saturated fat diet versus a high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet in type 2 diabetes: A 2-year randomized clinical tria

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29178536

Low carbohydrate, high fat diet impairs exercise economy and negates the performance benefit from intensified training in elite race walkers

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28012184

LowCarbohydrate Ketogenic Diets in Male Endurance Athletes Demonstrate Different Micronutrient Contents and Changes in Corpuscular Haemoglobin over 12 Weeks

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31480346

Ketogenic Diet

https://examine.com/supplements/keto/#citations

The Lowdown on Intermittent Fasting

https://examine.com/nutrition/the-low-down-on-intermittent-fasting/

Photo by Charles 🇵🇭 on Unsplash

PostHeaderIcon Recovery–Why Corpse Pose (Shavasana)

When taking care of ourselves, we often become obsessed with punishment. No pain, no gain right? We know that stress will develop us and make us stronger, but we often forget that recovery is equally important in fitness.

Stress breaks down the body. Recovery rebuilds the body, creating larger muscles, more blood vessels, greater flexibility and more mitochondria in the cells. Without recovery, we are just breaking ourselves down, making ourselves weak, fatigued or injured. There is a a lot science behind this phenomenon.

Part of recovery is getting enough sleep, which I’ve blogged about in the past: https://heroestraining.com/?p=694

Breathing properly also helps with recovery as oxygen plays a huge roll in providing us the energy we need to grow and survive. You can read more about breathing here:https://heroestraining.com/?p=318

Eating proper foods at the right time also help with recovery as food is the fuel that energizes and repairs us. https://heroestraining.com/?p=1284

On top of that, merely learning how and when to relax can not only aid in fitness, but can reduce anxiety, tension and cardiovascular disease.

No other yoga pose symbolizes the many benefits of recovery more than Shavasana or corpse pose. This pose is loved by some and dreaded by others. Today, I’d like to explore what makes this pose so important at the end of a yoga class and why some choose to avoid it altogether.

The Posture (Asana)

Corpse pose is very simple. You lie on your back in a neutral position and do nothing. If you have back problems or tight hip flexors, it might feel better to bend the knees or put a pillow under the knees. If you have kyphosis or hunched shoulders, it might feel better to put a pillow under your head. If you are further along in your pregnancy, you may have to lie on your side. Either way, get comfortable.

This pose is traditionally held for five to ten minutes at the end of a yoga class. Seasoned yogi’s can stay in this pose for as long as they desire. Master yogi’s use this pose to help them reach Samandhi, or a state of oneness with the universe. Some yogis practice this pose in order to overcome the fear of death.

While the physicality of the pose is very simple, there are many underlying characteristics that make some people uncomfortable, especially if you were taught that lying down and doing nothing is only for the lazy who have nothing better to do.

Why Shavasana?

We’re just lying there. What’s so important about that? So many people just don’t understand the purpose of corpse pose. Yet, if shavasana is so meaningless, why does almost every style of yoga implement a mandatory corpse pose at the end of every class?

One of the best reasons for performing shavasana is to heal and prevent injuries. The best explanation of this was given to me by a great massage therapist who was explaining the role of fascia. Fascia is the connective tissue that sticks everything together. It sticks muscle to other muscle, bone and skin. It surrounds our organs, nerves and blood vessels. There are thick tissues of fascia that travel through our bodies, such as the thoracolumbar fascia that travels down the entire back and into the buttocks, connecting and protecting all the points in our body.

Tons of research is being done on fascia which is changing how we perceive fitness. It’s not just about strengthening bones and muscle anymore. It’s about healthy fascia that functions better.

Our fascia is full of nerves. It can tighten and relax. It can be trained to move in many directions or to become stiff and hard so it can’t move at all.

Whenever we feel stress or injury, our fascia can harden or get inflamed, causing symptoms such as frozen shoulder, whip lash or muscle knots. Essentially, it turns into a splint or a cast so we can no longer move the muscles it surrounds. While this is a rational survival mechanism to protect ourselves, when the facia overreacts it can cause lack of blood flow and flexibility, slowing down the healing process. There is a psychological element at play as well. If the body suspects future trauma, the fascia can react with tightness years after the injury has healed

I was told that if you get into a car accident, face some other kind of trauma or feel tremendous pain, the best thing you can do is lie down and do nothing. Let your body be vulnerable. Let it know that you are not in a dangerous situation and the body won’t seize from the stress. So long as the body feels it is in danger, it will harden. The healing process doesn’t start until we finally relax.

One of the biggest reasons our fascia may harden is because we over stretched. While I always advise people not to force a stretch in yoga class, it can still happen. Our connective tissue reacts to this by hardening itself, creating that natural splint. In case of overstretching, shavasana is applied at the end of a yoga class to help alleviate this reaction.

Many people start a yoga practice due to past injuries or pain. Sometimes they are recovering from real trauma like a surgery or illness. Other times, they realize that they have been over training which has led to muscle or joint pain. Pain and tension is felt most by those of us who can’t relax. When it’s time for corpse pose, these type A personalities stress that they really should be doing something. Shouldn’t I be stretching my pain or rolling it out? What they don’t realize is the best thing they can do for themselves is relax. We do an hour or two of yoga in order to align our bodies so we can finally reach that state of relaxation, clarity and healing.

Sometimes mental stress is all that is needed to harden the fascia. Our nerves don’t always know the difference between physical and emotional trauma. Shavasana helps us to ease this stress. Allowing ourselves to just melt into the mat is one way to let the body and mind know that things will be okay.

But what if I can’t stop thinking?

Some people hate Shavasana because they can’t stop thinking. In my opinion, not thinking is not a requirement of shavasana. The idea is to physically do nothing so that nothing is distracting you from what is important.

How many times do we put off making the right decision or having to find a solution to a problem by always giving ourselves something else to do? When we’re in Shavasana, you can’t do that. You are forced to face your true self. That thought you have been avoiding will manifest and if it does, I believe you should face it. Examine it. Be brave. Remember, meditation isn’t a hiding from reality but a confrontation of reality:https://heroestraining.com/?p=206

Stress, Anxiety and Insomnia

Once, I was taking a heart opening yoga class. While in shavasana, I felt this tremendous amount of grief that I had been harboring for far too long. Tears welled up in my closed eyes and I was finally able to let that grief go and open my heart again.

We live in a time where it’s almost impossible not to be distracted. We are overwhelmed with pop ups, ads and notifications. New media sources are rewiring our brains, changing how we think and interact. This makes a disciplined yoga practice more important and more difficult than ever.

Some of us hide in these distractions. If we are always stimulated by external forces, we don’t have to be comfortable in our own skin. We can avoid facing our dreams, our conflicts and our true selves.

Shavasana is your time to turn it all off and take a vacation from it all. It’s your time to truly connect with who you really are while everyone and everything around you is competing for their influence on you. As scary as that sounds to some, once you take the time to unwind and get comfortable, you’ll wonder why you waited so long to do it. It’s when we take a moment to find clarity that all the answers appear. We all need to take time out of every day to connect with our deepest selves. Remember, if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything:

https://heroestraining.com/?p=438

Sometimes we fall asleep during corpse pose. This only means that you are probably sleep deprived or that you need more rest. As mentioned earlier, some of us forget that we need to recover and this is a good time to connect with what your body truly needs. Rest calms us, which is why we breath and sleep better after yoga.

Fear of Death

One of your favorite sayings is, “I’ll get enough rest when I’m dead.” You suddenly find yourself in corpse pose. That means you’re resting. Is this what its like to be dead? Suddenly, an asana that seemed peaceful starts to create anxiety.

Fear of death may or may not be a conscious thing. Its something we all deal with as we all die eventually. Corpse pose literally means the pose of death. Legend has it that Indian soldiers did corpse pose to help them deal with their fear of death so they could be brave in battle. This is not an easy thing to face, so its understandable why someone would want to skip this pose altogether.

Yet something profound happens when we face our fear of death. The possibility that we will die becomes very real to us. Suddenly, we are more willing to live. We are more grateful for what we have and we are more aware of what is truly important. To me, facing the fear of death means finding a true appreciation for life in all its glory. What is important to you? Don’t put off what you genuinely love because nothing is temporary.

Not all yoga practitioners are warriors. but we can all learn to be brave enough to live a full life. Deep down inside, we are all fighting a hard battle.

Samandhi or Enlightenment

Shavasana can also be called Samandhi which means unification. Some yogis believe it is that acceptance of universal peace that comes right before death. So when they lie still, they are trying to calm their mind so fully that nothing can distract them from reality. They become an embodiment of universal truth. Samandhi is traditionally thought of as the highest and final level of yoga, another reason why its done at the end of the class.

This illustration, is a great example of samandhi. When water is still, you can notice the smallest ripple. A mind full of waves and fluctuations is confused and undisciplined.

Awareness and Respect

Life happens. We can’t always fit a yoga class into our schedules and sometimes we have to leave early. We must realize, however that the tenants of yoga are non-violence, respect and awareness.

If you must leave yoga early, check the time. Go into shavasana on your own, then sneak out quietly with as little disruption as possible. Yoga etiquette dictates that if you leave class early, to do so before the rest of the class has started corpse pose. That way, they don’t have to hear you scrambling for your stuff and shutting the door on your way out while they are doing their best to relax.

Keep in mind that relaxation and being still is very difficult for most people and that any small distraction can frustrate them. Once everything has stopped moving, the slightest noise can sound as loud as a tree falling. The rustling of bags as you get ready to leave can be extremely irritating.

If you have to fidget during corpse pose because that helps you stay calm, I suggest you find an item that makes no noise. Maybe a rubber part of your mat. This way, you are not distracting the rest of the class.

And of course, please keep your cell phones on silent. ;)

With much respect and compassion,

Namaste

In September, I will be doing a workshop on applying the concepts corrective biomechanics to improving yoga poses. This workshop will focus on yoga alignment with more detail than is possible in a regular yoga class. For more information, click below.

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PostHeaderIcon But What if my Knees Hurt?

Knee pain can be a daunting obstacle to success in fitness. When my clients complain of knee pain, I try to nip it in the bud right away so they can reach their fitness goals without aggravating this important joint. If an injury gets worse, it can cause setbacks or even force you to stop training. The good news is that knee pain is often just a warning that you might be overtraining or moving incorrectly. If we listen to this warning, we may be able to avoid a real injury and even the need for surgery.

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In most cases, knee pain is a sign of improper exercise form, tight or weak muscles in the legs (especially the glutes), a weakness in the arches of the feet which can cause the knees to track wrong or a simple sign of overtraining and a need for a short rest.

Weak Arches

When someone tells me that it hurts their knees when they squat, I can tell right away if this is caused from weak arches or “flat feet.” If the knees buckle inward because all of the person’s weight seem to fall to the inside of the feet, this creates tracking problems because the bones are now pushing into the inside of the joint which can create pain and wear in the bones and ligaments. This misalignment, if not corrected, can wear down the cartilage on the inside of the knee joint, causing arthritis. This condition can be sped up if we add load which is why proper form when weightlifting is imperative for longevity.

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Orthotics can help fix this condition but teaching the client to activate the arches of their feet by being aware of where they shift their weight can help build up the muscles of the feet that help protect the knees. Often, the pain goes away immediately when proper form is taught

If not, there are exercises, stretches and massage techniques that can wake up the muscles of the feet that are not activating.

Weak Hips

The gluteal muscle group (buttocks) are one of the largest muscle groups in the human body and are supposed to be the most powerful. However, our modern sedentary society has changed this. The invention of chairs, beds and toilets have taken away the need to deep squat and lunge out of our lives; and unless we constantly get up and down off the floor, we rarely strengthen and stretch our hips.

This lack of conditioning can leave us with a booty that’s too weak hold up our body weight. This lack of muscle support leads to knee pain. In cases such as this, I have clients do strengthening exercises, like pilates floor work so they can strengthen their hips without having to hold their own body weight.

Clammies are a classic example:

Mule kicks are also great, though you might have to cushion your knees:

After a few weeks, the client has built up enough muscle in their glutes to be able to squat and lunge without knee pain.

Tight Hips or Legs

Tense muscles can be an issue for athletes, runners or people starting a fitness regimen. This is simply a case of overtraining with little stretching or recovery.

Using a foam roller or massage tool to release tightness in the IT band, glutes, quads or calves, along with corrective stretching usually resolves knee pain for people who suffer from overuse stress.

Rest and icing the area also helps as does addressing any muscle imbalances. Is one part of the hip much stronger than the other, leading to it doing all the work? If so, corrective exercise can nip that in the bud.

Here is an example of using the foam roller to relieve tension that can pull on the knee joint.

There are solutions

The good news is there are solutions to most knee problems that do not involve drugs or surgery. After assessing how a person moves , listening carefully to where they feel pain and how they approach their lifestyle, we can find ways to overcome the obstacles that get in the way of being fit, healthy and functional.

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PostHeaderIcon 14 Life Lessons Martial Arts Has Taught Me

I started studying martial arts 25 years ago and what I learned strengthened me, not only physically but spiritually as well. Furthermore, martial arts is super cool. To those of us who practice it, its a way of life and a great source of energy and play

Much of my life can be compared to the movie “Kung Fu Panda” or “Karate Kid”, but I think many of the mystical aspects are simply the result of understanding its principles or advanced training. I’ve applied its broad philosophies to all aspects of my life.

I am always reminded that it is an “art” and like all arts, how we approach and practice will grow and change as we age and mature. Here are some lessons I have learned in my incredible journey, seeking the best masters wherever I roamed.

Time and Effort:

My first lessons in martial arts were in Shoa Lin kung fu. The literal definition of “kung” is “effort” and the definition of “fu” is “time spent.” The best translation of this term is “time and effort.”

My First teacher used that term constantly and as I pursued other ambitions over my life, I realized just how important these words are. Time is interwoven with effort like a perfect soul mate. In movies, we often see a hero who goes through a short boot camp and this makes him unbeatable, but I’ve learned that this is not the formula for champions. Time is absolutely necessary.

I’ve tested it. I once thought I could train for a few months and have what it takes to be a winning cage fighter until I realized that I’d be going against people who trained every day since they were little kids.

Can you imagine trying to build five inches of muscle on your bicep in only two weeks? Or going from Kindergarten to Med school in only three years? The body and mind adapt slowly over-time so get into the habit of making long term goals and enjoying the journey.

Meditation is Powerful:

Shoa Lin kung fu emphasized meditation and breath work. The class often started with us facing the wall and doing nothing for a few minutes. This practice helped me hone in with how I was feeling; whether or not I could focus, or if my mind was racing.

We always fought better and had more focused energy after meditating.

It was my first taste of mindfulness, a lesson that has helped me in every aspect of life.

For more information on the benefits of meditation, click here:

Meditation (A Running Into Reality)

Understand Nature:

Shoa Lin emphasized animal styles. We learned how to move like cranes, tigers, eagles. In the beginning I was trained to stand in a horse stance (squat) or low bow stance (similar to a yoga warrior stance) in order to feel rooted to the earth.

Bruce Lee said to be like water because it is powerful and flexible.

Master Jeff Jedds, says to be like wind because it can move water, air and even earth without being seen.

During the Lua (Hawaiian Martial Arts) seminars, I learned to move like sharks, birds or dolphins.

Mohammad Ali used to say, “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.”

Tai chi, like yoga, emphasizes physics and how force and power are manipulated.

I have learned to study nature in all its glory, to watch how the wind moves the water and how the water moves the earth, to understand the structure of my body and how it adapts to the structure of the earth.

Power, Energy, Chi and Alignment:

When we were young, my brother and I used to hit each other’s abdomen for fun. One day, he hit me in such a way that I fell in pain. I didn’t feel my body bruise from the outside. It felt as if he sent something shooting straight into my intestines. I asked him what he did. He showed me that he didn’t hit hard at all. He actually hit me softly, but he focused on the alignment he learned in tai chi class.

This started my fascination with how alignment increases power. I realized that force didn’t come from strain but from proper posture. If the whole body is moving correctly in one piece, we have more energy, move more efficiently, and can unleash more strength with less stress.

Eventually, I moved to New York and immersed myself in work and performing arts. I could no longer go to Kung Fu class, but I tried to practice what I could on my own. My days at the conservatory introduced me to The Alexander Technique, The Linklater Method, Pilates and Yoga. Years later, I became a Personal Trainer. I continued my education in alignment by getting accredited in Biomechanics and other modalities that focus on correct posture. I can write a million books on this subject, but it all got started in my martial arts roots.

This month, I’ll be teaching a workshop on chi, alignment and energy work. For more information, click here:

Chi Kung/Yoga Workshop

It is the best way to connect with your culture and ancestors:

My first experience with traditional martial arts taught me history. I had to understand why the ancient techniques were developed and in doing so, I learned about wars, dynasties, culture and tradition.

I learned just how complex the art of war is. I’ve learned that starting a battle has grave consequences and that fighting just to defend one’s ego is one of he dumbest reason to start a battle. Humanity has a long history of destruction, murder and bloodshed and one can’t help but see the foolishness in someone who chooses fighting above all other solutions.

Now that I’m practicing Filipino martial arts,  I learned that the Filipino Guerilla fighters defeated Magellan and that they changed the face of western boxing.

Through my new friends, I’ve met people who have preserved the culture of their people by learning the fighting styles. One of these people is Michelle Manu, who has dedicated her life to learning authentic Lua (Hawaiian Martial Arts). Not only did I learn some bad ass moves, but I learned how her people think, how the Hawaiian families interact, the martial art roots of the Hula dance and how they perceive their natural environment.

Had these lessons not been passed down through a martial arts lineage, this history would be lost to foreign invaders and the intrusion of western culture.

Michelle Manu will be doing a workshop on Lua in May. More information here:

The Ancient Hawaiian Martial Art, Lua

A fight’s a fight

At some point in my life, I wanted to test myself to see if I really was as good as I thought I could be. I made the choice to try competitive cage fighting. My coach, Pat King, is a Brazilian Jujitsu blackbelt who trained directly under champion Royce Gracie. One of the things I find myself repeating are his words, “a fight’s a fight.”

This phrase can mean so many things. But mainly, what he tried to instill in me is; in a real fight, nobody cares what rank you are or how experienced you are. It isn’t choreographed and no one is going to let you get away with being sloppy out on the streets. Once you are in a fight, all they want to do is destroy you. There are no rules in war. There is no cheating. The opponent might poke your eye, pull out a weapon or two or have a friend waiting on the side to jump you. A real fight isn’t romantic or pretty. You’ll almost always get hurt. It’s never as predictable as we make it out to be in practice so be prepared for anything and do whatever it takes to survive.

Trust the technique

Pat you used to say, “trust the technique.” I still hear his voice in my head saying this. Whenever someone beats me, it’s almost always because my technique is wrong. It takes a lot of time and effort to get a technique right. Brazilian Jujitsu is extremely precise which is why it’s so effective. But you have to do the technique exactly as you are taught, or it will not work. You must master it. You can’t fake it.

Every time I couldn’t execute a hold or get out of one it was because I didn’t “trust the technique.” This was a true lesson in discipline and self-mastery.

If you are trying something that isn’t working, go back and ask yourself if you are taking all the proper steps.

Focus is everything

Pat used to say that in the sport of cage fighting, everyone knows all the moves and they know how to counter them. So who will win? The fighter with the most focus.

You have to let go of any distraction, love problems, family problems or any other frustrations must be out of your mind. You must focus only on the fight. The slightest distraction will cost you the battle.

Master the art of falling and get up fast

Pat wouldn’t rest until I knew how to fall properly and get up as fast as I could. We all need to learn to take a fall. In martial arts, it’s imperative that we don’t stay down. In life, I’ve learned not to take my failures too hard and to get up right away.

Never give up

Where I used to train MMA, there was instructor named Thor who was also a professional fighter. However, many times he would have us watch his fight and he would lose (which was quite disappointing).

One day, I met up with someone I hadn’t seen for a while and he said that Thor is now a national champion. I remember Thor keeping up after knee, back and shoulder injuries. Supposedly, people told him to quit all the time, but Thor never gave up on himself. He learned from his mistakes and eventually became champion. That’s more than I can say for myself.

I think those of us who are truly successful are those who kept it up long after everyone else decided to quit. Thor said that even when everyone else stopped believing in him, He still continued. He deserves to be champion.

We often admire or envy those who achieved success but we don’t always know the story of failures, humiliation and pain that they went through to get there.

Art is what makes life worth living

As I reached my forties, I became worn out from MMA. I wanted to go back to traditional martial arts. I reunited with an old friend from my Shoa-Lin school who went on to become a master.

There are so many styles of kung fu Adam Dayen could have taught me but he decided to teach me the style that he felt I would have the most trouble with. He taught me Baqua because my hips and back are tight, and this internal martial art requires a lot of twisting and turning. The goal is to learn to get behind your opponent. Baqua is a standing grappling art, full of throws, but its also very deceptive. You’re constantly stepping to the side and taking the opponent’s back.

One day, Adam said to me that I have been focusing too much on competition. “Fighting destroys us,” he said, “but you know this from your writing and painting- –  art is what makes life worth living.”

I never forgot what he said. I realized why I gave up on becoming a competitive MMA fighter. I never really knew why I did it, except that I stopped enjoying it the way I used to. I stopped looking at the practice as an art, to explore and grow with. I got obsessed with competition, with being the best and wondering if I was doing what it takes to outshine everyone. I forgot that the reason I started training in the first place, was because I loved how it made me feel.

Competition teaches us to excel but art teaches cooperation, taking time out for ourselves and spending it with those we love.  Can you imagine a life without music or stories; without creativity and expression? Can you imagine a life without inspiration and imagination? What would we have to look forward too?

Approaching my sport with the heart of an artist has helped me deal with how I’ve changed over the years. I’ve learned to have fun and really embrace the training. I can step back and see the beauty in it. Bruce Lee once said, “Don’t set into one form, adapt it and build your own, and let it grow, be like water.” I have learned to embrace the changes of my life as I mature and to allow my martial art to reflect that.

Master your stance. Practice stillness

During this time, I was going through some personal issues. I would sometimes show up for training feeling run down or frazzled. Adam was all about standing in holding ball posture and just sinking in that stance for about ten minutes. It cleared my mind and help me find strength. He told me that I needed to learn to stand still if I wanted to master the internal martial arts. It sounds funny, knowing how much I move around all day but standing still made a huge difference. This is another reason why I’m so grateful for learning yoga. Holding a pose and just breathing alleviates a world of stress and brings me center and clarity.

Adam had an amazing amount of discipline, stemming from our old school Shoa-Lin background. He would sit in a horse stance (squat) for a half hour or spend an hour practicing a punch across the park, as if he were jogging long distance.

He took me back to those days when we used to memorize moves and forms so we could practice them on our own. I used to go to the park and practice these forms or katas before I forgot them. I still remember the tai chi form, however. If I ever need to clear my mind and calm my body, it comes in handy.

The greatest masters become healers

One of my favorite kung fu folk heroes is Wong Fei-hung. He was an acupuncturist and eastern medical practitioner who was also a well-respected martial artist. Mastering martial arts requires impeccable knowledge of alignment and energy flow.

Our eskrima grandmaster has mastered energy so much, he can cut or burn himself and he will be healed by the end of the day. He can just look at someone and they will drop their weapon. Maybe its confidence or mind tricks but I’ve seen it myself.

Grandmaster Sultan Uldin told me about his trip to the Philippines to meet the remaining Eskrima masters. He said that most of them gave up fighting and become faith healers. When we shift our intention from harming someone to healing them, our knowledge can be used in this manner.

I’ve been helping people with health and fitness for fifteen years and I see so many people who have given their power over to our medical system. They stop moving due to some injury and assume it will never get better. I’ve seen my martial arts colleagues get hurt from getting thrown or from sparring and they always bounce back, just as strong as ever. I find myself having to give energy to those who are afraid of getting hurt. Movement and exercise give us power and strength so we are harder to hurt and kill. It’s when we move with improper posture and alignment that we get hurt.

To learn more about this art of self healing, check out my Chi Kung/Yoga Workshop

Be Humble

Adam moved to orange county and we couldn’t match schedules anymore, but I stumbled upon a Philippine martial arts group and picked up eskrima stick and knife fighting. I’ve been doing this regularly for over 3 years. I don’t get to practice as often as I did when I was young but, I realized that a little can go a long way if I stick to it.

What amazes me about this group is how humble everyone is. We all have a history of martial arts practice and are willing to hear what the other person has to offer. My main teacher, Josh, is so thankful and respectful to everyone that I look forward to practicing every week.

Over the years, I’ve watched my favorite fighters win triumphantly, and get taken down by newcomers. There is always someone who you can beat, but there will always be someone who can beat you too.

I’m pretty sure that’s what Bruce Lee meant when he said, “I have the absolute confidence not to be number two, but then I have enough sense also to realize that there could be no number one.”

I didn’t realize until now, how I have had to earn learning these lethal techniques. The more I learn, the more I realize what a gift it is. A lot of martial arts are a secret and are only passed down if the student is deemed worthy. Many martial arts moves are hidden in dance and many masters don’t teach the authentic techniques until they know you are worthy. I see how new comers are treated and realize what a strong vetting process is involved.

Often, you learn techniques that may not make sense at first, but if you have faith, you figure out the reasons for these intricate moves and why it works in a battle. Every time I learn something new, I must empty my cup and pretend I’m a newborn once again. I find that success comes from constant passion, constant innovation and constant education. But if we think we already know everything because we learned one thing, we get stuck in a rut. Being an artist, I have no tolerance for ruts.

Being humble isn’t just about staying quiet. It means you are always willing to listen and learn. If you’re always willing to learn that means you are cultivating curiosity and passion. You will always be open to what others teach and exposed to all the gifts that are available to you. Martial artists are always finding the best way to live long and not get killed, but I think the ones that continue to learn and master the art are also finding ways to make the living worthwhile.

This month, I’ll be hosting a workshop on the energetic aspects of yoga and chi kung. More information here:

Chi Kung/Yoga Workshop

I will be hosting a workshop taught by the amazing Lua Black belt, Michelle Manu on the rare and ancient art of Lua. For more information click here:

The Ancient Hawaiian Martial Art, Lua

PostHeaderIcon 5 Unexpected Benefits of Yoga and Meditation for Seniors


By now, most people are aware of the obvious benefits of yoga and meditation. Yoga is good for flexibility, balance, and strength, while both yoga and meditation are hugely beneficial for mental health. These benefits are all particularly useful for seniors, who may struggle to find healthy practices that are safe, adaptive, and accessible. Plus, group yoga classes — which usually include a built-in meditation practice — are free for many seniors. For example, Humana Medicare Advantage plans pay seniors’ way into SilverSneakers fitness programs, which offers yoga sessions, walking groups, water aerobics classes, and more, and many local YMCA centers have free yoga courses for seniors. If these perks aren’t enough to convince you how perfect yoga and meditation are for a senior lifestyle, maybe one of these lesser-known benefits will do the trick.

Good for Stress

According to Harvard Health, as we grow older, our natural stress response can start taking a more dramatic toll on the body. Seniors have a multitude of common stressors, from loneliness to boredom to the loss of friends and spouses. Yoga and meditation cannot make all the stress in your life melt away, but they can help you manage it so you don’t feel the strain as heavily.

Good for Gut Health

We are still discovering the true importance of gut health and how it connects with other systems in our body. Recent research has shown that regular exercise can help keep your gut microbiome healthy, and the gentle movements of yoga are especially perfect for this. Furthermore, yoga’s power to reduce stress is also beneficial for your gut’s health.

Good for Joints

Yoga exercises the whole body, including the joints, making it a great tool for seniors suffering from arthritis and joint pain. Many seniors assume that yoga has too much potential for further injury, but this is not the case. The Arthritis Foundation recommends it as a form of exercise, celebrating its ability to strengthen joints, improve flexibility, and reduce pain.

Good for Bones

Weight training is an effective way of combating osteoporosis, or a weakening of the bones that occurs naturally with age. By the time we are 60, our bones have lost a significant amount of mass, making them more prone to damage. Yoga involves various weight-bearing poses, which allow you to build bone strength in a way that is gentler and more progressive than traditional weight training with dumbbells and gym equipment. However, you do need to be careful; check out the dos and don’ts of yoga for osteoporosis at Yoga U.

Good for the Immune System

Another common consequence of aging is lowered immunity. There are many complex reasons for this, from natural processes to the increased chance of illnesses such as diabetes, which can also weaken the immune system.

Both yoga and meditation shine in this area, due in large part to their relationship with stress. People tend to think of stress as a purely mental problem, but it has significant, tangible effects on our bodies as well. This is because stress triggers a “fight or flight” response that uses up a lot of our body’s energy. What the above studies on yoga and meditation show is that somehow, a mind that is constantly stressed directly leads to a body that struggles to keep up with illnesses and injuries.

For many years, yoga and meditation were associated with alternative medicine — practices that had anecdotal evidence of health benefits, but no science to back it up. However, this is no longer the case. Yoga and meditation have shown promising results for health troubles in every part of the mind and body, including those that tend to disproportionately affect seniors. This is due to their unique combination of physical exercise, mental relaxation, and spiritual awakening — and their ability to bring all three together.

PostHeaderIcon Foods and Supplements That Heal Joints and Arthritis

I’m writing this blog due to a special request from some of my arthritis students. I was also experiencing some joint pain. Whether it was from over exertion or just getting older, I don’t know, but it gave me a vested interest in the subject. I’m happy to say that the joint pain has subsided so the foods and supplements that I tried (on top of my own corrective exercise practice) seemed to have worked.

Please do not take any online blog as medical advice. This is just information about food and supplements that you can investigate. Always speak to your doctor about supplements, especially if you are on current medication.

Pain is a very tricky thing. It is something created by the brain due to its interpretation of stimuli in the body. There are people who have herniated discs, complete joint degeneration or torn muscles who feel no pain at all. There are also people who cannot find anything wrong who live in constant pain. How sensitive we are to pain has a lot to do with our history of soreness and injuries as the brain is always reinterpreting what it is feeling. Some studies have found that many people feel more pain after getting a diagnosis or an MRI.

This Ted talk by Lorimer Moseley explains this well:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bj9CUGzw6fs

I understand that other foods or supplements may be used for joint pain or inflammation but these are the one’s with the most scientific backing.

Foods

How you eat is vitally important to how your tissues heal and build themselves. Without proper fuel and nutrition, the body is unable to sustain itself. Research has shown that foods that reduce joint pain are the ones that contain omega 3 fatty acids, antioxidants and flavonoids. Also, protein is responsible for tissue repair. Eating a whole foods diet that encourages healthy gut bacteria also helps.

Omega 3s

Omega 3s reduce inflammation which reduces pain and joint discomfort. Diets high in saturated and trans fat tend to increase inflammation so cut back on fat from processed deserts, meat and dairy. Replace it with fish, flaxseed, pumpkin seeds, or chia seeds. Ideally, we should be getting a balance of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. Omega 6 comes from vegetable oil, but most American’s have diet high in refined oils and are low on oils that come from omega 3 sources.

Being mindful of the type of fat we are eating also helps in our awareness of how much calories we’re ingesting. Too many calories can also contribute to obesity which is linked to joint pain.

Some omega 3 supplements work better than others. The best source of omega 3s is fish but that leads to enviornmental and toxicity issues. Farmed fish has little omega 3, since they aren’t fed the krill and algae that give wild fish their quality fat. Modern farmed beef and other sources of meat have more saturated fat than omega 3s due to their grain fed diet. Grass fed beef has more omega 3s. Eggs from chickens who were fed diets high in omega 3s also have a higher percentage of omega 3s.

For more details on supplementation, click here: https://consumereview.org/reviews/omega-3/new/?msclkid=a899248a7c3019e42de8781996ab6b90&utm_source=bing&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=US%20-%20INFO&utm_term=omega%203%20and%20joint%20health&utm_content=INFO%20-%20Exact

This site will give you guides on which is the least toxic fish to eat in your area: https://www.epa.gov/choose-fish-and-shellfish-wisely/fish-and-shellfish-advisories-and-safe-eating-guidelines

Boswellia, Curcumin/Tumeric

Boswellia Serrata is a ayurvedic herb that is often used for joint pain. Research has shown that it can reduce pain in the knees of people with osteoarthritis.

Curcumin is the phytonutrient found in the herb turmeric, which can be found in many cuisine’s such as curry. Curcumin is well known for its anti-inflammatory properties and can help relieve pain in a way similar to over the counter pain pills. The beneficial properties of curcumin absorb better when eaten with black pepper.

For more information on boswellia, click here: https://examine.com/supplements/boswellia-serrata/

For more details on curcumin, click here: https://examine.com/supplements/curcumin/

Protein

Protein is found in animal foods, dairy and in smaller amounts in nuts, seeds and whole grains. Protein are made from amino acids, the building blocks of tissue. Often, joint pain is caused by damaged tissue. Overuse injuries can lead to tendonitis and arthritis. It is recommended that we eat about 20 grams of protein within two hours after a workout in order to rebuild the muscles we wore down. Without adequate protein, our muscles may be breaking down faster than they can recover for strength gains.

The best amino acid for building muscle is leucine which is found in dairy and animal products.

Collagen Protein is found in joint cartilage. It is found in animal gelatin and in animal cartilage. It’s one of the main reasons why eating bone broth soup has become so trendy, but it seems to absorb better through supplementation.

For more information on the efficacy collagen and how to take it, click here: https://examine.com/supplements/type-ii-collagen/

Probiotics

Evidence has suggested that probiotics can help relieve joint pain as well as fight disease, boost the immune system, ease symptoms of depression and cure gastrointestinal disorders. These are benefical bacteria that aid in digestion and other functions.

Probiotics are one of the latest health trends and you’ll find them everywhere. You’ll find it in yogurt, kefir and other cultured dairy products. Non- dairy sources are kimchi, kombucha, sauerkraut, and other cultured vegetables. Some food manufacturers are adding them to regular foods such as bread or biscuits.

‘Regardless, maintaining healthy gut flora is what its all about. pro-biotics thrive on fresh whole foods diets that are high in fiber. So, if your meals consist of junk and processed food, taking a probiotic supplement won’t help you as much as switching to whole fruits, vegetables and fresh meat and dairy. Your gut flora reflects what you eat on a regular basis and people with the healthiest flora tend to have less joint pain and health problems in general.

For more information on probiotics and joint health, click here: https://www.naturalarthritistreatments.net/rheumatoid-arthritis/7-benefits-of-probiotics-in-rheumatoid-arthritis

WARNING, some probiotic strains have been known to cause more joint pain after prolonged use in older population groups who are on other medications or supplements, click here for details:

https://www.ehealthme.com/ds/probiotic/joint-pain/

Supplements

Chondroitin and Glucosamine

Glucosamine and chondroitin are both components of cartilage, so they are often sold as supplements to help with joint pain and mobility. Some evidence shows that they may reduce cartilage loss. Studies on both chondroitin and glucosamine show that they may reduce swelling in the joints and help with mobility. Glucosamine has shown to have mixed results. It seems to work for some people but not for others.

Click here for more details:

https://examine.com/supplements/chondroitin/

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is necessary to absorb collagen protein. A vitamin C deficiency can cause joint weakness due to lack of collagen formation. It can be supplemented but is also found in citrus, many fruits and vegetables.

Personal Experience/Anecdotal Evidence

There is a supplement a few of my clients have sworn by. I can’t remember exactly what it is, but I do remember that the ingredients consisted of omega 3s, blueberry extract, turmeric and maybe chondroitin and glucosamine.

I take omega 3s regularly and I find it helps with inflammation but mostly it helps regulate my mental and emotional states and prevents PMS symptoms.

Turmeric and black pepper is a staple food in my cooking. I put it in my salads, my eggs, my soups and just about anything I cook.

I prefer to get my vitamin C from fresh fruits and vegetables. That way, I’m also getting the other phytonutrients found in these foods. for example, eating oranges regularly has shown to prevent eye sight degeneration, but simply taking a vitamin C supplement does not because you can’t package all the other phytonutrients that come from eating fresh fruit and vegetables. There are some supplement companies such as Juice Plus + that have come very close by turning powdered foods into pills, but it’s much cheaper to make your own salad than to take these supplements. Plus, if you’re snacking on an apple, you’re less likely to be snacking on a calorie rich cookie or an empty nutrient bag of fattening chips. Also, the longer a food stays on the shelf, the less antioxidant power it contains, so nothing beats quality freshness.

If I get my nutrients from fresh foods, I’m more likely to be at a healthy weight. I find that when people rely on supplements, they don’t eat as healthy and they end up with the same problems. Having a diet of supplements and unhealthy foods usually leaves us with empty pockets and other issues such as kidney stones. Nothing can replace a nutritious diet.

I was having joint pain several months ago and started supplementing with Dr Axe’s collagen protein. I like it because it is unflavored and consists of only collagen protein. There is no added sugar or fat, unlike other protein bars or powders. I sprinkle half a scoop in my breakfast and put another half in my workout drink or coconut water. It does not change the taste of anything I mix it with. My joint pain has completely diminished. I don’t know if it is due to the collagen protein or just because of how I’ve been training but I’m going to keep using it, also because its a simple way for me to get enough protein when I don’t have some yogurt or lean meat around.

As we get older, we need to make sure we are getting enough protein. Muscles atrophy with age so protein needs increase with age.

I tried glucosamine a while back and it didn’t work too well, though I know people who swear by it. My husband purchased a large bottle from Costco. I think it messed with my urinary health. Large doses of calcium does the same thing to me, but that’s another blog.

I recently tried boswellia just to try it and my joints feel better than ever. I’ve been sprinkling the herb it on my cereal.

Keep in mind, I started suffering from arthritis in my back when I was in my twenties. The only thing that fixed it was regular core strengthening. Bracing my joints with strong muscles have armored them from damage and pain.

Often what seems to be arthritis can just be a tight muscle that pulls on the tendons attached to our joints so as we get older, we must make flexibility a priority. This includes moving in all planes of motion, stretching or myofascial release with balls or rollers or a massage therapist.

I hope this blog helps with many inquiries I have received on this subject. Please follow up with your own research. I’ve posted links for reference. When we change our diet or add a supplement, it could take several weeks to see a difference so try things one day at a time. I hope you figure out how to balance your lifestyle and keep joint pain under control.

Related blogs:

How I Cured My Muscle and Joint Pain: https://heroestraining.com/?p=1169

The Best Diet for You: https://heroestraining.com/?p=999

Much a do About The Hips: https://heroestraining.com/?p=775

Release Neck and Shoulder Tension: https://heroestraining.com/?p=541

What Pain Has Taught Me: https://heroestraining.com/?p=931

Photography credits:

unsplash-logoJongsun Lee

Photo by Calum Lewis on Unsplash

PostHeaderIcon 13 Ways to Improve Your Health for Better Aging

We all want to stay vibrant, active, and healthy in our senior years. Unfortunately, that rarely happens through luck alone. It takes effort and dedication all year long to ensure today’s good health lasts into the future.

 

The keys to healthy aging aren’t a scientific mystery. Adopting a lifestyle that includes good diet and exercise habits—and excludes substance abuse, social isolation, and chronic stress—can prevent many disabling health conditions. Unfortunately, while most people understand these principles, many struggle to execute them.

 

If you want to improve your health for a better aging experience, try these 13 practical solutions for a healthier lifestyle.

Eating a Healthy Diet

Specific diet recommendations change as you age, but the principles remain the same:

Eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, lean meats, and fish. Avoid ultra-processed foods, and too much sugar, salt, or saturated fat. Older adults should take extra care to maintain a healthy weight, stay hydrated, and get enough fiber, calcium, and vitamin D.

 

Changing your diet is hard work, but the benefits are worth it. A balanced diet not only promotes a strong, healthy body, it also sets the stage for good mental health. These tips will help you make sustainable changes for healthier eating:

  1. Make small changes; gradual adjustments are more sustainable than crash diets.
  2. Make a grocery list and stick to it. If you can’t resist impulse purchases, use grocery delivery or online ordering with curbside pickup.
  3. Eat well despite obstacles. If you face mobility challenges, try a meal delivery service that delivers either meal kits you cook yourself or pre-made meals that only need to be reheated. Homebound and food insecure seniors may be eligible for meal delivery through Meals on Wheels.

Preventing Substance Misuse and Abuse

Substance-use disorders are more common among seniors than you might think. Not only are seniors vulnerable to alcohol abuse, in part due to declining tolerance to alcohol, but they’re also susceptible to prescription drug problems. Keep yourself free from dependence and addiction by following these tips:

  1. Don’t drink more than three drinks on a given day, or seven drinks in a week, per NIH recommendations.
  2. Manage medications. Avoid taking too much, too little, or triggering a dangerous drug interaction.
  3. Keep a list of your medications and provide health care providers with an updated copy.
  4. Don’t change how you take a prescription without talking to your doctor.

Staying Active

Physical activity is great for both physical and mental health at all stages of life. Older adults should aim to be active every day for a minimum of 150 minutes per week. These tips make that benchmark achievable:

  1. Exercise for 10 minutes at a time. Short workouts are easier to commit to when you’re starting out.
  2. Adapt exercises for safety. Many exercises can be done using a chair or wall for support.
  3. Schedule workouts to encourage follow-through. Exercise with a friend if it helps your motivation.

Nurturing Social Connections

Spending time with friends probably isn’t what comes to mind when you think of health-promoting activities. However, research has proven that social connection is highly important for good health. Social connectedness reduces stress and negative thinking, increases your sense of purpose and self-worth, and even protects your physical health. If you need more friends in your life, take this advice:

  1. Schedule time to call friends and family to maintain connections.
  2. Join a hobby group or religious community, or start volunteering to meet new people.
  3. Connect online. While not a substitute for face-to-face interaction, the internet is a great tool for reinforcing established relationships and forming new ones. However, be wary of online scams. Stay Safe Online names some of the most common scams.

 

Changing long-standing habits is never easy. But when it comes to your health, it’s always worth it. When you make these important changes to your lifestyle, you’ll be rewarded with better health throughout your senior years.

 

Image via Unsplash

PostHeaderIcon Making Fear Work for You

It was about 15 years ago. I was a new mom looking towards a career change. I wanted to be a personal trainer and I was confiding in my cousin via messenger. I told her I was a bit scared, since I sacrificed and spent so much money on acting school, then I stopped pursuing show business. Now I was going to invest what little money I had on more education in a new field.

She told me I was being negative. Looking back, maybe I was being negative but the truth is, we are always scared when we embark on something unknown. Fear is just our mind telling us that we are doing something that is unusual and to approach with caution.

Fast forward fifteen years and I’ve lived a full life as a Certified Personal Trainer. My career continues to grow. I became a fitness instructor, a yoga instructor, a sports/fitness nutritionist, a corrective exercise specialist and much more. I lived my dream and helped thousands of people along the way.

The point of this story is you’re going to get scared when its time to make a change. I always do. But that doesn’t mean you won’t do it. One definition of the word “courage” is to recognize one’s truth. The other definition is to be afraid, but to go ahead and do it anyway. Confidence only comes from experience. Until you get to that level, you must rely on courage. This means, you just have to journey into that great unknown with fear in your heart and pretend that it doesn’t phase you.

If you want to change any direction of your life, be it health, relationships, career or anything else; be prepared to feel fear. If you’re not afraid to feel fear, if you enter into your quest with the fool hardy notion that everything will come easy and things only happen to those who are always confident and perfect, you will be more likely to fail. The most successful of us fail several times before we get it right so be prepared for obstacles. If you’re looking to lose weight, there are weeks that may not go so well. Something might happen that will pull you out of your diet or training regimen. At this point most people give up, but if you are prepared for obstacles, you will soldier on and meet success.

Fear just may be the greatest motivator to excel in life, as long as you use it to take action and not to hide behind a rock. It’s not easy, planning classes in many formats, including workshops. I have to get in front of large groups of people and keep them entertained and motivated, most of the time for an hour or more. I have nightmares that I miss my class or that no one listens to me or does the exercises. I am afraid that I’m teaching things that may be wrong or out of date. I’m terrified that my clients will not make their fitness goals.

How do I handle these fears? I make sure my classes are prepared and thought out. I keep up to date with all the latest information in fitness, nutrition and motivation. I plan and practice everything until it looks effortless. I take good care of myself so my body can handle the challenges of my job. When I do screw up, and it will happen (especially if you are doing something new and different) I look back to see what I could have done to make it better. Then I try again and do a better job. If it weren’t for fear, I wouldn’t care. I’d half ass everything and that is not a formula for success.

You Don’t  Have To Be Perfect:

One other related message I want to convey is that you don’t have to be perfect. That is one of the greatest lessons I’ve had to learn. For so long, students have been asking me to make them a yoga video and I never did because I struggled to find the right camera or production team to make it awesome. Someone finally told me to just film myself as if I was teaching a class. “It doesn’t have to be perfect.” I swallowed my fear and did just that, all in one take from my laptop. I made a yoga and pilates video for the students who asked and they said they loved it. I had to start somewhere.

This is true for everything I’ve ever done. I’ve had to just do it and learn along the way. I know the first class I ever taught was not perfect, but I had to keep teaching and learn from my mistakes before I became he kind of teacher that people told each other about. My first class had two people in it. It took several months to build it up to an adequate amount. To tell you the truth, I was fired from my very first job teaching yoga because I wasn’t a very good teacher. It took me a long time to gain the kind of experience that taught me to excel. Now my yoga classes are packed. But I had to start somewhere. Shoot, I had to get out of the house after having a baby and start taking yoga again.

Everything is a great act of courage and I want to encourage everyone to be brave. That doesn’t mean you’re not scared. That means,  you do it anyway. Deep down inside our timid, insecure selves is something very special that we have to let out. We have to give the world our knowledge, our special way of being. Imagine if I let my fear of starting a new career path stop me fifteen years ago? I could have taken the safe, unchallenged path. Imagine if my teachers did the same thing, and all our teachers before them? We owe it to the world to go out in spite of our fear, even if we’re not perfect.

So what do you have to lose? You can always go back to what you were doing before. Nothing is guaranteed, but if you feel a pull towards a certain path, do it. If you’ve been looking to try out yoga or dance or fitness or martial arts, try it. You’ll be the beginner. That’s scary but its also exciting. It means there’s so much for you to learn. It may just change your life completely.

There are so many quotes about courage, but instead, I’d like to share a poem I found which I wrote when I was a teenager. Every once in a while, my father would take me to the sand dune to train for the cross country team. It was the hardest workout but when I reached the top, I took in the most awesome view of the ocean horizon.

A Hill of Sand

A hill of sand dared I to climb

With sinking foot, fast beating heart.

I’d slip and trip from time to time,

Yet from that slide would never part

I claimed I’d make it if I cared

With fortitude, moved on, stopped not.

Without a doubt and not a care

Could falter me to take my shot

I climbed through wind, through dust, harsh heat.

I looked back not, there wasn’t time,

Ignored my thirst, my aching feet,

Seeing the peak of that hill shine.

Then reaching it, though breathing hard,

I turned about in awe to view

The past I left behind so far,

And all below who never knew,

Knew that their necks needed to strain

So hard to mark that I so high

With oh so much there climbed and gained

Few followed me, most stayed behind,

For some preferred to walk a path

Unlike a hill but flat and dull.

Others preferred a hill of grass,

No sinking feet to lift and haul,

Then some would have a hill less steep

Where movement was in simple ease,

While others never reached their peak,

Like those who never would be pleased,

But I atop my sandy hill

Beheld great freights, broad rocks and trees,

And views those cowards never will.

For this steep hill was made for me.

–By a 16 year old Rhea Morales

 

For a related article about the new science of stress and why its actually good for you, check out this link:

Great News About Stress

Photo credit:
Photo by Jeremy Lapak on Unsplash


PostHeaderIcon Managing Pain and Injuries

Foods and Supplements That Heal Joints and ArthritisLast September, I hosted my first DIY alignment and pain relief workshop, where I taught some basic corrective exercise concepts to help people with their chronic pain. While self massage and exercise techniques can cure and relieve many muscular weaknesses and pain issues, looking at our lifestyle and what has caused this pain is a must for success. Here are some things to keep in mind:

HABIT AWARENESS:
Chronic pain can often be attributed to overuse injuries. One example of this is running way past your pain threshold until the tendons start to fray, causing knee pain or shin splints. Another example is hunching over a laptop several hours a day causing impingements in the neck. When we overuse muscles without allowing them to recover or move them in a dysfunctional way, overtime, we may start feeling pain.
Corrective exercises are implemented to counter damage caused from unhealthy patterns. However, if you keep doing the things that cause pain, corrective exercise may not be enough, we need to change our dysfunctional habits.

During our workshop, I asked the class to be very aware of their patterns and habits. We are often unaware that what we do everyday adds up to pain. One thing you need to ask yourself is if there is an unhealthy physical pattern you are doing, such as hunching over a desk (steering wheel, texting device etc.), wearing inappropriate shoes, doing an exercise with improper form or working one muscle while neglecting the opposing muscle (ie.building up the chest but not the upper back)?

For tips on proper lifting click here:

General Tips For Proper Lifting

Habit research shows that the best way to be successful is to replace that habit with something else. Ask yourself what you can do to change this habit and visualize yourself doing it. You might have to change the ergonomics of your desk, learn to lean back and put your head on the head rest of your car when you drive or even change your exercise routine. Maybe you just need to make time to rest and recover.

PSYCHOSOMATIC PAIN:

Is there something in your personal life that may be a source of pain (a relationship, job situation or grudge you refuse to forgive?) More often than not, physical pain is just masked psychological pain.

Have you been ignoring it? Can you change your situation?
If not, change your mind set.

Sometimes our pain is just telling us that its about time we change our situation. Is there a career change you have wanted but have been putting off? Are you in a dysfunctional relationship you should have ended long ago? Have you been lying to yourself or someone else and its about time you come clean? Do you have a medical condition you have been ignoring and its about time you get medical help? The solution may be right around the corner but you have unconsciously chosen to live in pain instead.

But if there seems to be no logical solution, research on mindset has shown that simply changing your perspective can relieve mental anguish. For example, believing you are the only one who has trouble fitting in can cause anxiety but when a psychologist started a study that convinced college freshmen that they are not alone in their insecurities, these students did better in school and the drop out rate went down. Our point of view on how damaging stress itself can be can make or break us. Mindfulness meditation experts have found that simply accepting that there is pain can at least ease some of the anxiety that makes the struggle hard. For more information on this research, click here:

Great News About Stress

NUTRITION:

What we eat can build and nourish our body or it can poison it. Are you eating in a way that nourishes your body and mind or are you slowly killing it with a junk food diet? For example if you don’t have enough carbs to fuel an intense workout, your muscles will fatigue which may cause them to use improper form, adding pressure to your joints.

We need adequate protein to repair and build. If you are doing strenuous exercise but not consuming enough protein to build back your muscles, bones and connective tissues, then you are just breaking down your body.

Micronutrient deficiencies can be the cause of pain. For example, muscle cramps can be the result of a vitamin B or D deficiency. It is also the side effect of a lack of minerals such as calcium, magnesium or potassium. If you are not sure about your diet, talk to your doctor about getting tested for vitamin deficiencies. For more on diet, click here:

Foods and Supplements That Heal Joints and Arthritis

The Best Diet for You

APPLY WHAT YOU LEARNED

During the DIY Pain Relief Workshop, we learned how to assess common postural and muscular weaknesses in the body that could be causing pain. We learned self massage techniques, various stretches and other exercises that help to fix these deviations. For example, if your pelvis tilts forward, it can cause lower back and hip pain. Exercise and a change of habit can fix the problem. I encouraged my students to take the one most important thing they learned from the workshop and apply it to their lifestyle.

The DIY workshop covered a lot, so I am having another workshop on this subject in February. We will review the basic tenants of the last workshop and maybe add more exercises for those who have been applying what they learned and want to take it to the next level.

For More information on the next DIY Pain Relief Workshop, click this link:

Special Events

For more information on how to relieve hip pain, click here:

Much a do About the Hips

For information on relieving shoulder pain, click here:

Release Neck and Shoulder Tension

More related articles:

What Pain Has Taught Me

What To Do In Case of an Injury

How I Cured My Muscle Pain

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)