I have spent a lot of time in the past year reading and working toward my yoga certification, a process that is now on hold due to the fact that the class I needed to take to finish “on time” was sold out. It’s not that there’s a time limit on my certifications; I just wanted to have it completed before my baby came. Ah well…

In Your Body Speaks Your Mind (Part I and Part II), and elsewhere, there is an idea in Eastern medicine that all disease starts in the mind. The chemicals developed in the brain transmit into the body, where they’re stored. Over time, the same negative signals (in addition to other factors such as diet, chemicals, environment…) can promote disease within the body and/or mind.

Yesterday, as I was teaching prenatal yoga, the ladies and I were discussing the idea that the Western world is obsessed with disease. It got started with a mention on anorexia nervosa (AN), an eating disorder. Strange, because this week I stumbled across a Tumblr post about a girl whose battled AN for ten years and now has heart problems because her perception of her self-image has forced her body to eat her own heart muscle. The post advocated a resistance against those Tumblr blogs promoting–and, in fact–giving advice to young boys and girls on–achieving the ultimate thin body.

It reminds me of this story I read in 7th Grade, where two girls became obsessed with a machine that magically transformed their bodies into the “ideal image.” They could eat whatever they wanted. In fact, I believe the machines were set up in an ice cream parlor. So they’d gorge on sweets and then pop into the machine for a slim-up. Over time, even what had been a healthy body slowly shrank into skeletal features because they couldn’t perceive what was thin anymore, and what had been thin yesterday wasn’t thin today.

Sound familiar? Look at what’s on TV, in magazines, in music videos, in shopping malls. What are young people today striving to look like? The recent Abercrombie & Fitch CEO’s admission to limiting his company’s sizes IS the norm in the fashionable world. And who doesn’t want to be fashionable?

What about the other end of the spectrum? Several years ago, I watched The Ultimate Fat Debate on Dr. Phil. It was a fabulous discussion held by three trim fitness instructors, three huge women, and (as a kind of mediator with Dr. Phil) Kelly Osborne, who’d been on both sides of the fence. I thought both sides had points–that we shouldn’t discriminate based on size (it happens to thin people as well as fat, friends, just so you know), and that people should be responsible for their own actions pertaining to their bodies.

What I didn’t agree with (personally) is the mindset of one of the heavy women, who advocates for an organization that promotes fairness for overweight/obese individuals. It reflects a large percentage of what overweight/obese individuals think, and the trend is growing: I look good the way I am. To me–please, again, don’t judge, because I’ve been on the heavy side myself so I know what it feels like–this is an excuse to maintain the same poor behaviors that have caused the weight gain in the first place. This isn’t a judgment. It’s more of an observation from the countless times I’ve seen overweight individuals shrug their shoulders and continue to do nothing to promote a healthier body and improve their quality of life.

What about school-aged children? I just finished reading Natural Prozac, a book on how to help reverse depression. (I say help because you might need a doctor first before ever trying the methods suggested in it.) One of the things that struck me was his talk on dopamine and norephinephrine levels of the brain, how they cause anxiety-based depression that keep people doing so much, they don’t feel it until they crash. I got to thinking about children in schools whose parents are told they need Ritalin because they have ADD/ADHD.

Granted, there are real cases out there where people do need drug therapy. A vast majority of kids however, as Dr. Robertson later states, actually just have abnormally high levels of dopamine and norephiphrine running through their systems on account of partaking of the things that cause the elevation of the levels of these neurotransmitters, namely (but not only) violent/action-packed movies and TV, violent/loud music, video games, and poor high-processed diets. They watch/listen/play these things before school, eat a lot of sugar, and then sit in a classroom. The answer? Exercise! They need to be allowed to burn off the excess energy (and neurotransmitters) so they can sit and focus easier. (Incidentally, this is one reason why I feel that physical education should be a requirement for all grades through high school, which it isn’t.)

Or, think on the huge boom in pharmacology in the last 60 years. Today, antidepressants are one of the biggest prescribed classes of drugs in medicine. Pain killers are another. Look at the advertisements on television. Drugs (and weight loss diets/supplements) are everywhere. I believe it’s like 1 in 5 adults are on some kind of anxiety or pain medication.

There’s also a rise in how often people go to the doctor to be diagnosed for something. Disease, in general, is on the rise. Again, this is partially due to things like high-processed diets, environmental factors, chemicals, and the like; but it is also due to a believe that something is wrong and instead of looking at what they can change in their own lives to improve (and even prevent) unhealthy feelings and disease, people want a quick fix. Drugs, surgery, etc. These businesses are booming.

Now at this point, you’re like, get on with it. So here is my point. You may or may not agree with me, and that’s okay. Not everyone will, or does. There are people out there who’ve begun movements to help bring awareness to these, and other, areas so that we may live healthier, better lives. It’s awesome to see!

In a yoga lifestyle, it is believed that you only have one body. Therefore, in a yoga lifestyle, we encourage people to accept themselves, love themselves, and build a fierce desire to take care of themselves. No replacement parts necessary. No mind-chemical-altering drugs needed. Food, exercise, meditation, hard work, and living in accordance with nature are all the best medicines a person needs…and laughter too!

Does that mean that, if you’re one of those struggling, this is all you need to do? No! For many people, we need a doctor’s help to get started. We need to talk to a therapist to get through some tough parts of our childhood/lives. We need the drugs to help balance us out until we just don’t need them anymore (or need less of them).

The yoga mentality is not one of absolutes, like so many other diets, etc., out there. It’s about taking care of you. It’s about letting go of the thought that contribute to disease-forming factors. It’s about living in moderation: enjoying that piece of chocolate cake but also enjoying the exercise you do afterward to burn off the excess calories. Living healthy can be fun if we believe it.

Take the chance. Read books like Natural Prozac and Your Body Speaks Your Mind. Go see a doctor or a friend or a nutritionist if you don’t know what’s going on or what you’re doing. You’ll thank yourself later, and your quality of life with increase.

And who doesn’t want increase in their life?

May 2013 Recipes

May 16, 2013

This week I’ve received a lot of tantalizing, and often vegan/vegetarian, recipes through blogs that I follow that I thought I’d pass along. I hope you enjoy them and have a wonderful week cooking new foods! As a side note, for those of you who are vegetarian or vegan, I highly recommend joining www.vegnews.com and subscribing to their blog.

 

Light & Easy Avocado Dip (also check out those Sweet Potato “Tots”, link within)

5 Next Generation Vegan Cheese Brands (article)

3 Bean Dal

Plum Basil Jam

6 Gluten-free, Dairy-free Whole Food Snacks for Toddlers

Radiant Glow Antioxidant Smoothie

Last month, I introduced the bodymind as discussed in Deb Shapiro’s Your Body Speaks Your Mind. The idea is based on the ancient eastern thought that all disease (or dis-ease) begins in your mind and then translates those issues into your tissues. Now, Shapiro doesn’t ignore the fact that other factors play a role in many diseases, such as gender, environment, and our chemically-altered food. She agrees that these are contributing factors, but (rightly, I believe) she goes on to say that the parasympathetic nervous system plays just as important a role as the rest.

In other words, feelings, particularly repressed and ignored feelings, cause problems over time. What I found to be interesting was that Shapiro particularly focuses on the things that happen to us as children, whether it’s neglect, malnourishment, or abuse. It is often these instances that begin to arouse sentiments that stay with us for our entire lives, even though we might not consciously recognize them.

Another interesting key phrase is “over time.” Our tissues can harbor things for a very long time without us even knowing it. The deeper the trauma, the deeper those pains are stored. For instance, one student of mine told me that she once fell and bruised her spine, but it wasn’t until years later when she had a massage (it might have been her first massage too) that the therapist was able to release that bruise out of the affected bony tissues.

Granted, not all issues stem from our childhood. Shapiro often remarks that sometimes illnesses, diseases, and accidental injuries manifest because of fears or going in the wrong direction or even while we’re battling ourselves during a hard time in life. Here are some great examples that I found while reading:

  • Bone issues are about core issues within oneself. Broken bones therefore signify deep inner conflict while arthritis (inflammation of the joint) implies a poisonous build-up of thoughts, attitudes, and feelings.
  • There are many things that cause headaches, including hormones, environmental issues, food allergies, a lack of exercise, and perhaps some other causes: spending too much time within one’s head, pushing oneself to achieve, repressed feelings, a rigid personality. Migraines, in addition to these things, could stem from a fear of failure, relate to issues of control/power, fear of participation/involvement, and even a way of getting attention.
  • Fibromyalgia (and chronic fatigue syndrome) possibly stems from a loss of purpose or direction, and a loss of spirit–the desire to participate in/enter life has gone.
  • Irritated Bowel Syndrome isn’t so much a problem with the intestines as with the nerves  causing the muscles to contract/spasm. Anxiety, emotions, and depression are major contributing factors.
  • Loneliness, isolation, and a lack of love/companionship seriously undermine the immune system, and may be contributing factor to cancer. Also repressed negative emotions that cause one to become timid or overly polite. Other characteristics of cancer include lack of assertiveness, avoidance of conflict, and ignoring one’s own needs.

There’s much more information stored in this book. I look forward to exploring its contents in more detail as needed. For those interested in researching alternative ways of experiencing physical and emotional healing, this is a great resource.

May 2013 Articles

May 2, 2013

I hope that spring is bringing rejuvenation to everyone this year. It’s been a very odd winter-spring thus far in certain parts of the country. This month’s articles include information on the curious, often misunderstood disease, Fibromyalgia, and the importance of moving; training the mind-body to be resistant to chronic stress; guilt and diet; and the second half of training the fascial network. There are quite a few articles this month! Enjoy!

 

Exploring Fibromyalgia

Training for Mind-Body Resilience

Eat Strawberries and Blueberries

Link Between Poor Diet and Depression in Women

Fast Foods and Pediatric Diseases

Overweight and Obese Women Should Scale Back Weight Gain During Pregnancy

Lack of Sleep, Hunger and Gender

Exertional Rhabdomyolysis

Lemon Meltaway Cookies

Guilt Tripping and Food

Cutting Edge: Training the Fascial Network (Part II)