Yoga – Mind, Body & Spirit

I just finished my 200 hr Yoga teacher training!  I was blessed to delve into yoga for 200 hours and this educated me, inspired me and really wet my curiosity to learn more.  Learning about yoga has improved the quality of my life, helping me to more clearly see the path for my life, my purpose, my dharma.

Yoga means union.  It is a linking of our body, mind and spirit, bringing unity to our lives.

Yoga is more than postures, asana, and has many forms.  Raja yoga, or Ashtanga yoga, follows the eight-limbed path, only one of which is asana.

The great Yoga teacher Patanjali wrote about the eight-limbed path (Astanga yoga) in his book of yoga aphorisms, the Yoga Sutras.  Out of the Sutras, meaning thread in Sanskrit, come the Yamas and Niyamas.  These are the first two limbs of Astanga yoga and are the ethical principles, personal and social observances that help create a more open and joyful life.  These are not Rules or Commandments, merely guidelines to help the yogi increase her own awareness and fulfilment and are the starting points to moving along to the other limbs.  These are asanas, (physical postures), pranayama (breath control), pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses), dharana (concentration), dhyana (deep meditation) and samadhi (unity or bliss).

8 limbs

Living healthy is more than just the physical, although the physical is vitally important. We must do our best to strengthen and train our physical bodies, through movement, healthy and nourishing food and reducing our toxic load. And we must nourish and strengthen our mind and emotions so that we can move through life with more ease and less conflict, both within ourselves and with others.

Let’s delve into healthy living.  We can use yoga as a tool, along with many others.

Be mindful.  Listen.  Move with alignment.  Breathe.

The First Yama of Yoga – Ahimsa

The first Yama, Ahimsa, means non-violence.  This is the first and foundational principle.  Violence towards self or others makes a journey into the yogic lifestyle impossible.  Non-violence towards yourself means forgiveness, understanding and love towards yourself.  Towards others, ahimsa shows up as compassion, forgiveness, understanding and the task of not perpetuating more violence or harm.  Do no harm extends to nature and all of mother earth, since we are nature and nature is part of us.

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It is easy to love a cute animal, baby or even people who love us back.  How about animals we are scared of?  How about people who disagree with us, our ex’s, or the guy who cut us off on the way to work?

And the big one, ourselves?  Do we love ourselves?  Do we say kind things to ourselves in our head?  This can often be the greatest task.  Often we treat ourselves much worse than anyone else and we would never say things to another person that we say in our heads.

Challenge:  Monitor what you say to yourself.  What are your thoughts like?  Don’t worry about changing them, but start paying attention.

just love yourself

And the enemy is…SUGAR!

 

 

Why is sugar our enemy?

  1.  Weight gain, excess sugar gets converted to fat.  Healthy fats, omega 3s and monounsaturated fats, can help increase metabolism.  So it isn’t fat consumption that makes us fat, but the excess sugar.
  2. It is addictive and we crave it:  see this wonderfully informative Ted-Ed talk about the dopamine response and sugar.  Learn how sugar behaves like a drug.
  3. We eat too much of it (see #2) and this replaces healthy foods, leading to a worse diet and much worse nutritional status.  Sugar is cheap and thus easy to add to foods, replacing healthy alternatives.
  4. Tooth decay.  Ok, we all know that sugar attracts bacteria that attack our tooth enamel, putting us at higher risk for cavities.  No one wants cavities.
  5. Eating a lot of sugar can increase our triglyceride levels, leading to an increased risk of heart disease.
  6. Too much sugar can lead to diabetes.
  7. To much sugar causes glycation in the skin causing damage to the collagen and elastin, making us look older and our complexions less healthy.
  8. Insomnia, due to the crashes and highs of the sugar rollercoaster.  These can keep us up at night.
  9. Worse memory.  Too much sugar can make the memory function less optimally.  People on a low sugar diet have improved memory functioning.

What is the number one New Years Resolution?  Yup.  Lose weight!  One way to effectively lose weight is to cut out sugar from your diet.  Sugar makes you fat. Simple.

And then you go to point number 2 above and so on.

And please don’t go to those artificial sweeteners!  They aren’t any better and don’t help with weight loss either.

The best replacement sweetener that I have found is Xylitol, which has the added benefit of being healthy for the teeth, or Stevia.  Both are plant based.

Based on my personal experience, simply cutting out sugars helped me lose weight.

How?

Read labels. (Don’t eat anything with more than 5 gms of sugar per serving!!!)  Sugar is everywhere!  So many products in the grocery store contain sugar, things you wouldn’t even think of!  Ketchup, bread, sauces, cereals, etc.  So read those labels!

Be aware of all the different names for sugar.

Never eat ANYTHING with sugar as the top ingredient.

Remember that breads, pastas, starchy carbs are converted to sugar by the body.

I will talk more about sugar in later posts, as it is just too important and such a simple way to lose weight and be healthier.

 

 

Start Dreaming!

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Everyone has dreams.

When you were a kid, what were your dreams?  Be an astronaut?  A teacher?  A doctor?  Maybe it was to be a palaeontologist!  Whatever your dreams were, it was enough to transport you into a great big world of your imagination.

How can we as adults, with all the stress and worry of our everyday lives and jobs, find that spark of imagination and adventure again?

  1.  Start a dream book.
    1. Find a wonderful plain journal/book.
    2. Fill it with pictures cut from magazines, printed from the net.
    3. Write your dreams all over it!
    4. Don’t edit yourself.  In this book, anything is possible!
  2. Try new adventures.
    1. Take a course
    2. Go with friends and do something new.  For example, rock climbing, caving (spelunking), writing a novel, go to a “paint nite” in your local bar or whatever.  You are only limited by your imagination!
    3. Sign up for adventure website, travel sites and others.
  3. Start a bucket list.  Add to it daily.  This is a work in progress and will change as you change and grow.  So wonderful to have and to begin to cross things off!
  4. Keep asking yourself, “What would I do or could I do with my life if I didn’t have to work?”  This can help clarify your passions and interests.

Once you start your imagination going again, it can gain momentum.  Remember your old dreams, start dreaming some new dreams.  Start living with dreams in your eyes and adventure in your heart!

 

The Increase in Chronic, Degenerative Disease

FireplaceA chronic, degenerative disease is one in which our normal body structure or function deteriorates over time causing unwanted symptoms and effects on the body. As opposed to an infectious disease caused by a foreign organism, usually bacterial or viral in nature, these chronic degenerative diseases are caused by the body’s cells not being able to function properly.

Chronic implies a long-lasting effect, not a sudden, one time occurrence, but changes that take place over time.

To truly understand degenerative diseases, one must understand the root cause of these diseases. Dr. Kenneth Cooper, MD, author of the book The Anti-Oxidant Revolution, delved deeply into the cause of these diseases. His exploration of free radicals has greatly expanded our understanding of how these debilitating diseases actually start! Free Radical Damage is linked to many of these chronic degenerative diseases. {Kenneth Cooper, 1994, The Antioxidant Revolution, 54-63}

Numerous studies have shown this strong link between free radical damage and disease. Studies have shown that normal aging in the brain and abnormal brain function can be linked to free radical damage.{Rao, 2009, Indian J Biochem Biophys, 46, 9-15}

A good explanation of how a free radical can damage the body is given by Dr. Ray Strand in his excellent, eye-opening book, What Your Doctor Doesn’t Know About Nutritional Medicine, 2002.

Here is Dr. Ray Strand:
“Within every cell in the body is a furnace called the mitochondria. Imagine yourself in front of a crackling warm fire. It burns safely and quietly most of the time. But on occasion, out flies a cinder that lands on your carpet,burning a little hole in it. One cinder by itself does not pose much of a threat, but if this sparking and popping continues month after month, year after year, you will end up with a pretty ragged carpet in front of your fireplace.
Similarly, this microscopic organism, the mitochondria, within the cell reduces oxygen by the transfer of electrons to create energy into the form of ATP, and produces a by-product of water. This process goes on without a hitch at least 98 percent of the time. But the full complement of four electrons needed to reduce oxygen to water does not always happen as planned and a “free radical” is produced.
The cinder from the fireplace represents a free radical, and the carpet represents your body. Whichever part of the body receives the most free radical damage is the first to wear our and potentially develop degenerative disease. If it is your eye, you could develop macular degeneration or cataracts. If it is your joint space you could develop arthritis, If it is your brain, you could develop Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease. After the passing of time our bodies can look just like the carpet in front of the fireplace: pretty ratty.””{Strand, 2002, What Your Doctor Doesn’t Know About Nutritional Medicine}(Page 20 – 21)

Within the last 100 years the incidence of many of these chronic degenerative diseases is increasing. According to the book, the Hundred Year Lie, cancer rates are increasing at alarming rates. For example, prostate cancer is up 286%, thyroid cancer up 258%, Liver cancer up 234% and so on. {Randall Fitzgerald, 2006, The Hundred-Year Lie: How to Protect Yourself from the…}(page 30). What can be behind this alarming increase in the leading cause of death in Canada and the United States? Presently in Canada , 1 in 4 people are expected to die of cancer! {Canadian Cancer Society, 2015, General Cancer Statistics, http://www.cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/cancer-101/canadian-cancer-statistics-publication/?region=on} And because the incidence of cancer is rising, even adjusted for age and the longer life span of people, the medical system is left scrambling and wondering.

According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in the United States, scientists are struggling to understand how the environment interacts with our cellular genetics, which causes molecular changes that start the disease reaction. To quote from their website, “Scientists liken the changes to a cascade — a series of ever-larger waterfalls of cellular changes — that may lead to cancer, Parkinson’s arthritis, heart disease or other diseases. Though we still do not understand the root causes of many of these serious chronic diseases, we suspect they can be caused or triggered by chemicals and other environmental exposures from years before.” {National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, “Our Chemical World, and Our Dilemma”, 2012, http://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/materials/new_environmental_health_the_508.pdf}

However, according the free radical understanding model, we do know that the underlying cause of cellular DNA or molecular changes is damage to the DNA of the cell, caused by those harmful free radicals.{Sinha et al., 2009, Indian J Cancer, 46, 146-50} Free radicals are produced by many things, normal cellular metabolism, even disease processes themselves increase free radical production {Fearon and Faux, 2009, J Mol Cell Cardiol} environmental elements such as pollution, chemicals, the sun, our processed foods we eat so much of, and of course daily stress. Even exercise increases our bodies production of free radicals. {Kenneth Cooper, 1994, The Antioxidant Revolution, 54-63}

These free radicals cause damage in different areas of our body, called oxidative damage, like rusting metal. Like we are rusting on the inside. Much of this damage leads to inflammation. Inflammation is also seen in almost every single degenerative disease, including diabetes, heart disease, cancer, obesity, arthritis, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, etc.

With this in mind, if you are truly interested in protecting the health and longevity of your body, you begin being interested in reducing your exposure to free radicals and neutralizing them once they are in your body, to reduce your oxidative stress and inflammation.

Louis Pasteur, the developer of the rabies vaccine and many other scientific discoveries, stated that the secret to health lies in host protection. Getting the host, our bodies, to have extraordinary health and cellular strength leads to its ability to resist disease and injury and operate at the highest functioning.

Higher Intakes of Fiber Help Prevent Weight Gain

It is known that dietary fiber may play a role in obesity prevention. The role that different individual fiber sources play in weight change is less certain. In a recent paper published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers investigated the association of total dietary fiber, cereal fiber, and fruit and vegetable fiber with changes in weight and waist circumference.

The prospective cohort study included 89,432 European participants, aged 20–78 years, who were initially free of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. Participants were followed for an average of 6.5 years. Adjustments were made for follow-up duration, dietary variables, and baseline anthropometric, demographic, and lifestyle factors.

Total fiber was inversely associated with weight and waist circumference change during the study period. For a 10 gram/day higher total fiber intake, there was an estimated 39 g/year weight loss and waist circumference decreased by 0.08 cm/year. A 10 gram/day fiber intake from cereals results in 77 g/year weight reduction and 0.10 cm/year reduction in waist circumference. Fruit and vegetable fiber was not associated with weight change but had a similar effect on waist circumference as total and cereal fiber intake.

Over a period of 6.5 years, weight gain and increases in waist circumference would be expected in typical adults. The findings of this research may support a beneficial role of higher intake of dietary fiber, especially cereal fiber, in prevention of weight and waist circumference gain.

Am J Clin Nutr Vol. 91, No. 2, 329-336, February 2010