ACE on Knee Rehabilitation

February 26, 2012

Since I recently dislocated my patella, I thought I would share an article I just received from the American Council on Exercise late this week. And, for those who sneak vegetables into their kids’ diets, a little pat on the back!

 

I hope you enjoy, and have a marvelous Sunday!

The Mind-Body Connection

February 23, 2012

At Peace. Katon 241162. All rights reserved to the artist. Please do not copy or steal.

Yesterday, after my “lengthening and strengthening” class–20 minutes core, 40 minutes stretching–a new student came up to me. She explained that she suffered from anxiety and my class was the first time she had actually been able to relax and destress. Needless to say, I was thrilled. Destressing is what I designed the class for. It’s low-key core exercises, coupled with deep stretching, are meant to aid the student in pushing away the cares that plague us in our busy lives.

Afterward, also, a fellow instructor (whose started taking the class for her own reasons) and I discussed the differences between Eastern and Western lifestyles. (She’s Japanese. Having gotten to live there for 3 years, I understood her completely.) She noted how Asians are reared in meditation. They allow oneself to become mindful and–surprise!–still.

The go-go-go lifestyle of the West has caused a dissociation between mental awareness and the physiological reactions that occur in the body. By physiological, I mean both physical sensations and emotions. But, I admit, I never fully understood this until I had been practicing yoga and Pilates for well over two years. Meditation seemed useless to me. I had a billion other things I’d rather be thinking about during the “deep relaxation” period at the end of yoga classes. My mind is very active; as a writer, I’m constantly creating so it is hard for me to push away my thoughts and give my own head space. Even this morning, I struggled to do so.

However, what I have discovered through my personal journey is that the space is necessary. It’s needed. It’s what created the productive but relaxed atmosphere in Japanese society, I believe, even when individuals feel the full weight of their stressors. There is a sense of cohesion in that culture, aided in part by the morning exercise regimens broadcast on the radio; many people take part in these every day.

They also allow themselves to slow down, to stop, to take the moment and enjoy life. I love the pastry shop Anderson’s, and think back on all the delighted faces I saw in there. Perhaps not the healthiest of places to buy a snack, but it made people happy.

(Please note that I will not discuss the suicide rate in Japan. I believe that stems from an overemphasis on personal responsibility, a reflection of cultural beliefs. It grieves me to think that the idea of failure can bring about such a tragedy as each life is worth something special. As one friend posted this morning on the effects of failure, life = risks.)

To me, health boils down to a few simple things: live in moderation, laugh more often than not, make peace with your mistakes (you grow from them), and

Equilibrio. Mervan. All rights reserved to the artist. Please do not steal or copy. Thank you.

love others with everything you are. Everything we do, everything we become, starts with a choice. If we become mindful of our choices, we become aware of what we are doing. Life is not about moving through the motions. It is about risk-taking, intelligent thought, and–yes!–stillness, that moment when you sit or lie down to breathe and clear the mental clutter. (If you happen to fall asleep, so be it.)

For those of us who have grown up on the go-go-go routine, connecting mind and body takes practice. It takes commitment, and time. I have people who tell me that they cannot come to my class because they cannot handleletting their heads calm down. I don’t take it personally. I tell them that it may not be the right class for them, or the right time for them to begin the journey toward reintegration. Sometimes life’s events put us in a place where we are unable to handle finding our quiet place. It is better to accept that fact than to fight it.

Yet, when the time comes, it is still a choice to begin the journey. You won’t succeed every day. Like me. But the goal of a disciplined practice is relief, reintegration, and the awareness of who you really are. When mind and body connect, you perceive a whole new person. A whole new you.

Do Your Research

February 16, 2012

I had another conversation with a really nice lady who comes to my class about trying to lose the pudge that seems to creep upon you when you reach the far side of 35+ years of age. (She admitted that she was closer to 50, and she looks great for that age.) She brought up a point that she was trying to “be healthy” but, like me, she has sweet teeth (plural, as she put it).

 

This, as well as another conversation with a woman during my stretching class yesterday about her 50-pound weight loss success via Weight Watchers, got me thinking about the importance researching the healthy lifestyle habits that you’re looking to do. There is so much information out there, particularly “for free” on the World Wide Web. How does one sift through it all and find what’s credible?

 

It’s no small feat and I am giving advice like everyone else. But here is what has worked for me. I hope it works for you too.

 

First, I look for credibility. I check out the letters after names and find out the acronyms of organizations. If it smells fishy, it might be. Even advice from the most reputable organizations I take with a grain of salt. They tend to be right about many things, but no one is right about everything. Continue researching until you are satisfied with the direction you need to go.

 

Second, I avoid sites trying to sell you something. There is no quick fix to weight loss or fat loss or any sort of supposed health habit that you can do for yourself. It takes a lot of dedication, discipline, and sacrifice to be healthy. While it eventually becomes natural, it’s hard at the start. Expect pot holes and road bumps and few scraped knees along the way, but avoid Internet peddlers trying to sell you a quick fix. The photos and statements are misleading.

 

Third, I look for people who have experience with the same ailments, dietary needs, etc., as myself. The blogs I’ve linked to this page are good examples of that. This not only reenforces the fact that I am not alone out there, but a lot of them have great tips on where to find good, solid researched information.

 

And last, I listen to myself. My body tells me what I need to know if I spend a few minutes a day and pay it some attention. Doing so can save you much grief. Today, for instance, the knee I dislocated 3 weeks ago has been grumbling. Having talked with my father-in-law, a former Navy doc and pharmaceutical representative for one of the largest companies in the world, I went and got myself a joint condroitant–and I really hope I spelled that correctly. For those who aren’t sure what it is, it’s a joint lubricant and strengthener.

 

Follow your nose as you follow your health quests. If something smells funny, it might be a trap. Always go the safe and cautious route, and direct any questions you have to your doctor. If you feel like that doctor won’t listen to you or entertain ideas about natural or holistic health regimens (should that be your aim), find one who will. You should always feel supported by your medical provider.

With the Lenten Church Season fast approaching, I’ve had several people ask me how they can observe their religious customs without giving into the discomforts associated with them, usually translated, “I’m always hungry!” There are some who cannot maintain their commitments, while others go overboard during a fast. The question I often get is how does one balance both food and religion so that they 1) don’t break their commitments, and 2) don’t starve themselves into unhealthiness?

 

Every religious sect has their own customs regarding a fast. First and foremost, before you attempt to undergo fasting, consult your physician and listen to what s/he directs you to do, particularly if you have a disease like Diabetes that requires constant vigilance for blood sugar levels. Second, with this advice, consult your priest on how you may best carry out observation of the fast without harming yourself. Remember, an ill body increases the difficulty of not only maintaining a fast but also your quality of life. Your physician and your priest can help you decide how strict of a fast you ought to do. They will also help you stay firm to your commitment.

 

(Warning: do not go overboard with fasting. This is not a weight loss regimen. Fasts should not be done frequently for long periods of time, as they shut down your metabolism and cause lethargy. Strict fasting can also cause the observer to grow faint, to collapse, to need fluids or nutrition, and other medical help. Be mindful when you fast.)

 

With that said, here are some easy tips to help you handle your hunger:

 

1. Decide what you will cut out of your diet beforehand. It may be one thing, or more than one thing. Stick to those commitments, and do not try to add more. Also, remember that fasting is not always about food. If you struggle in other areas of your life, trying giving “the problem” or “distraction” up instead. (I have friends who give up Facebook.)

 

2. Try out recipes that incorporate the foods you can eat. The Internet offers a million options out there. If possible, cook some of those you find interesting before the fast begins to see if you will like them. Disregard, tweak, or keep as you see fit.

 

3. For those who give up meat, substitute soy, legumes and bean products in their place. If you do not give up all animal products, eat an egg or a few slices of cheese, which studies say helps reduce hunger cravings. If you’ve decided you need meat but don’t want the usual products, try eating fish once or twice a week for a healthy alternative.

 

4. If you do decide to give up all animal products, make sure you get a small amount of healthy fat into your diet. Nuts, olive oil, coconut oil, ghee or similar fats are good sources, but remember: a little goes a long way.

 

5. Many times, there are celebration days within the fasting season–enjoy them! Do not restrict yourself more than absolutely necessary. They are called feast days for a reason.

 

6. Schedule small meals throughout the day. Make them rich with vegetables, fruit, legumes and beans, and complex carbohydrates to help keep you full. If you have a snack, eat nuts and dried fruit, cheese and crackers (a personal favorite), or a whole fruit or vegetable. The fiber from plants not only helps keep you full, it aids in elimination.

 

7. Should your fast dictate stricter meal planning, consult your physician as how to best accomplish this. Your body needs sustenance to function properly.

 

8. Drink plenty of fluids, especially water. These help keep hunger signals at bay. (Try drinking a glass of water when you get hungry and wait 20 minutes. If the hunger is still there, then eat.)

 

9. As counter-intuitive as it sounds, exercise is a great natural way of suppressing appetite and stress, which leads to binging. Continue to do a moderate amount (for you) but be careful not to get carried away. Fasts can use up more energy than we’re accustomed to feeling due to our busy lifestyles.

 

10. Get plenty of sleep. This helps combat stress and therefore makes you less prone to hunt down that late-night snack when you’re tired, overworked, or suffering from a negative mood swing.

 

I hope that you find great peace in your journey, whatever faith you choose to practice. Eating is a symbolic way we express ourselves, and fasting a way we express our faithfulness. Always, always be mindful when you take part in a fast. Seek the advice of doctors and religious authorities, but listen to the queues your body gives you most of all. If you’re trembling, feeling ill, suffering from frequent headaches, lethargy, or negative mood swings, these may be signs that your physical self cannot cope with the stresses you are exerting upon your body. Do not fret. Fasting is a discipline. What you cannot do this time, you may be able to do the next time, but remember: it is the willingness of the heart that matters most, not the outward display of piety.

Most of this is from a previous post that I have since deleted, not for any other reason than it simply would not transfer. I hope you have a wonderful weekend. If you haven’t tried Pilates, get into a mat class! It’s the best way to begin learning how to strengthenĀ  your core and develop long, lean muscles.

 

***

‘In explaining Contrology’s guiding principle, Pilates liked to quote Schiller: “It is the mind itself which builds the body.”‘ (Site here.)

 

I am a Pilates instructor with a very deep love of this type of exercise. I began it my final semester in college, and continued to do it most of the time for the next two years afterwards, until I became certified in 2008. I love it, and I believe Pilates can help anyone achieve a better state of being, physically, mentally and, yes, even emotionally. I find Pilates calming, relaxing, and as my students know very well, there is hardly a class I can get through without a yawn or two šŸ˜‰

 

Joseph Pilates with a student on a barrel, one of the contraptions he devised. Photo linked to website containing rare footage and more information on the founder. (I. C. Rapoport; please do not steal or copy. Thank you.)

A bit of history: Joseph Pilates was a sickly child who needed ambulatory exercises developed by his German doctors to aid him in gaining enough strength to get out of bed. By the time he was 14, he was so physically fit, he posed for anatomical charts. During WWI, he and many other Germans were interned in concentration camps in England; there, he aided camp physicians by working with non-ambulatory patients, and was credited with the wellness of the camp’s inmates (and, perhaps, others) when an outbreak of influenza struck the nation. After the war, he moved to the States, where his exercise techniques were quickly embraced by several dance companies. Today, Pilates is affected by dance as much as dance is affected by Pilates.

 

Perhaps this is a reason why I love Pilates so much. I enjoy movement. There is freedom in its movements. Pilates isn’t limited to the original exercises Joseph devised to help his patients strengthen themselves so they could live a quality life.Ā  So that they could help themselves, as he had done from his youth. It is movement done with the correct anatomical position kept in mind. It focuses on strength, yes, but equally as importantly are concentration, control, fluidity of motion, and posture–a big one many of us today struggle with in our largely sedentary lifestyles.

 

The focus on the breath, a vital part of life, aids the body in numerous ways, including detoxification, increased circulation, and increased oxygen to muscles and the brain. Without the breath, we are…nothing. What amazes me more is how many people forget to breathe throughout the day. (Take a moment. Check yourself. Are you breathing? If so, how deeply? If not, well you better start :))

 

I also love movement. I am not a sedentary, stationary person. As proven this past week with my knee injury, I despise being told to stay still. I need to move, and Pilates has helped me overcome the challenges imposed upon me (for my own benefits) by the doctor. It gets me off my rear end. It awakens me, enlivens me, makes me ready for the day, and keeps me cheerful.

 

This is part of the reason why I teach several timesĀ  a week, but a small reason at best. Mostly, I teach so often because I love it, and I want others to enjoy it as well, finding happiness in a few moments when they can concentrate on healing and wellbeing.

 

For Pilates does this as well.

 

Perhaps this is why Joseph is quoted to have said, “My work is 50 years ahead of its time.”

 

For more information on Pilates, see here.