MIND: Rest

Ours is a culture where we wear our ability to get by on very little sleep as a kind of badge of honor that symbolizes work ethic, or toughness, or some other virtue — but really, it’s a total profound failure of priorities and of self-respect.

// Timothy Ferriss

BODY: The Benefits of Yoga

Yoga is an ancient practice with origins in India stretching back thousands of years. Many practitioners find that it helps them achieve a sense of calmness and tranquility, along with numerous physical benefits. While yoga studios are still common everywhere, given our current situation it is much easier to start getting into a routine using apps or videos online.

If you’re on the fence about starting a new regime, read on for some of the benefits of a regular yoga practice!

1. Yoga can improve your overall health.

If you are new to yoga (5 classes or less) it is best to try out different styles of and flows to see which one works best for you. The speed and intensity of yoga classes will vary; with apps such as Down Dog you can choose the type of class as well as the focus, whether it is on strength or flexibility.

Improved flexibility is one of the immediate benefits of yoga. In the beginning it can feel like your body is tight and clunky, but after a consistent regime you should notice your muscles start to loosen and it becomes easier to move through the practice. Aches and pains may start to disappear as tightness in parts of the body can manifest elsewhere.

During your practice you will contract and stretch muscles, move organs around, and come in and out of yoga postures; as you do this you increase the drainage of lymph (a viscous fluid rich in immune cells). By encouraging lymph drainage you help your lymphatic system fight infection, destroy cancerous cells, and dispose of toxic waste. Consider yoga your detox exercise!

Along with detoxing your system, yoga has been shown to lower cortisol levels in practitioners. Many people deal with low-level stress in their day to day lives which is healthy, but consistent stress can cause the adrenal glands to secrete cortisol in response to perceived crisis, which serves to temporarily boosts immune function. A problem will occur if your levels stay elevated even after a crisis and your immune system will end up being compromised. Excessive cortisol has also been linked to depression, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, and insulin resistance. Through yoga you can help your body and mind relax and create a state of calm, hopefully lowering your stress hormones to more sustainable levels.

The health benefits of yoga are vast; some advanced yogis have been recorded controlling their bodies via their nervous system. Some have been able to create unusual heart rhythms, generate specific brain-wave patterns, and using meditation techniques, they have been able to raise the temperature of their hands. Consider the multiple health benefits available if you learn to calm your body and mind at will.

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2. Yoga increases self-awareness and mind-body connection.

During your yoga classes your body is put through a series of postures and stretches designed to increase strength and flexibility. In the beginning it can be discouraging to not feel your body “responding” as easily as you may have expected, but with more practice you will find you are able to flow through the postures smoother than before.

Lunges and stretches will increase your leg and core strength, as well as engaging every muscle in your body; meanwhile the exercises force you to focus on the moment, and during meditation you will be encouraged to clear your mind, which helps alleviate stress and will improve your mental stability. Even if you are physically capable of completing a yoga practice, the goal is to be able to silence your mind as you focus on moving your body.

Meditation doesn’t need to be cloaked in the New Age sage-chanting vibe. It doesn’t have to be sitting in a cave working through Tibetan chants (though it can be, if that’s what you’re after). Meditation has built up a following in recent years and now through YouTube videos and apps such as Headspace it’s easier than ever to incorporate it into your lifestyle.

Meditation can improve the quality of your life by giving you time to slow down and process what is happening. While it can be arduous in the beginning, the more you practice the easier you’ll find you slip into a zen-like state. It’s incredibly important to incorporate this into your yoga practice as it helps you achieve calmness and tranquility.

3. Inhala, Exhala!

Yoga focuses heavily on breathing paired with movement (or lack thereof) which can improve your lung capacity (volume of breath and efficiency of exhalation). Many poses and breaths work in tandem to open your lungs and “create space” in the body, allowing you to decompress and destress.

Devoted yogis tend to take fewer breaths of greater volume, which is both calming and more efficient. In 1998, The Lancet published a study where a yoga breathing technique known as “complete breathing” was taught to a group of people who suffered from lung problems. After one month of practice their average respiratory rate fell from 13.4 breaths per minute to 7.6; they also found that their exercise capacity increased.

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4. Yoga can improve the quality of your sleep.

Yoga can be done at any time during the day, but if you incorporate a practice before bed you will find your mind and body relax more efficiently, allowing you to achieve a more restful night’s sleep. Doing any light physical activity or stretching before bed is beneficial, and yoga will help you relax; I’ve been guilty of occasionally dozing off during Savasana (aptly referred to as “Corpse Pose”) at the end of my practice.

While excitement and stimulation are great in life, too much will cause excess stress on your nervous system. Yoga will help your body find some relief through poses aimed at giving much needed downtime to your body. Many studies suggest that yoga will help you achieve better sleep, thereby affecting your stress levels and making you more productive in your daily life.

5. Yoga can improve your posture. 

As you move into different poses you will notice you’re encouraged to be aware of the flatness and curvature of your spine. After a few weeks of consistent practice you should notice that your posture improves without much conscious effort on your part.

Your head is like a bowling ball: big, round and heavy. When it’s balanced over a straight spine it takes much less work for your back and neck muscles to support it. However, once it’s moved slightly forward, you will start to strain muscles and create fatigue. Poor posture can cause back, neck and muscle problems and the worse your posture is, the more your body tries to compensate, creating a ripple effect of stress and possible fractures on other parts of your body. (1)

Getting into yoga doesn’t have to be an expensive or daunting endeavour. I’m currently using the Down Dog app, which is available for free or via a paid yearly subscription if you’d like more control and variety in your classes. The app is incredibly user friendly and can be used by people of all levels of skill.

I like to practice a couple times a week to check-in with my body and see which areas feel like they need more stretching and attention. It can be frustrating to start a new exercise but yoga has multiple health benefits that will help you now and make your body more supple and toned as you age. Good luck and namaste!

Source:
1. Haigh, Chris. “7 Reasons You Should Start Doing Yoga Immediately.” Lifehack, 10 Sept. 2013, http://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifestyle/7-reasons-you-should-start-doing-yoga-immediately.html.

BODY: The Benefits of Maca

Achieving optimal health using natural remedies has become a go-to for many people. Given the current hyper-focus on keeping the body fit and clean, one superfood to consider adding to your diet is maca. In recent years the use of maca outside of traditional medicine has risen exponentially and can be found around the world in powder form for baking or as a supplement.

The maca plant, Lepidium meyenii, is sometimes referred to as “Peruvian ginseng” and is cultivated in the Peruvian Andes, though it grows wild in Peru, Paraguay and Argentina. Traditionally, maca has been used since the days of the Incans to enhance fertility and sex drive, though it can also help energy and stamina. It is classified as a cruciferous vegetable and the main edible part of the plant is the root, which can range in colour from yellow, purple or black. (1)

Despite the earthy taste, which may be bothersome to some, maca is versatile and can be added to smoothies, baked goods and energy bars. The ideal dosage has yet to be determined, however in most studies the dose ranges from 1.5-5 grams per day. It is widely available in stores and online in powder form, 500-mg capsules or as a liquid extract.

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Maca Smoothie (5g) with soy milk, strawberry & banana. Topped with apple & mixed berries.

While much of the research is still in early stages, here are some of the preliminary benefits found in the maca root:

Rich in Vitamins and Minerals: Good source of Vitamin C, Copper, Iron, Potassium, Manganese and Vitamin B6. It is also an adaptogenic superfood which not only helps support the body’s ability to deal with stress but it also contains all eight essential amino acids and plenty of phytonutrients.

May Increase Libido & Improve Function of Hormones: Maca has been heavily marketed for its ability to enhance sexual desire, with most studies showing improvement after six weeks of use. Some evidence has shown that maca can increase men’s fertility and improve semen quality (though the test subjects ingested maca regularly for four months). As well, maca may help relieve menopausal symptoms in women by alleviating hot flashes and improving sleep.

Mood Boosting: Maca has been shown to boost mood as it contains flavonoids which can help reduce anxiety and symptoms of depression. It has also been traditionally used by Peruvians to improve cognitive performance.

Maca is generally considered safe, however, if you have a history of thyroid problems, you may want to be careful with maca as it contains goitrogens which may interfere with the normal functioning of the thyroid gland. (2)

Start out slowly by adding a teaspoon (approx. 5 grams) or less to your coffee, baked goods, or smoothies a few days a week and see if you notice any changes to your health. Maca is a powerful superfood with key nutrients that can help support your body and keep you feeling strong.

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Maca Energy Balls with dates, walnuts, almond flour & coconut!

Sources:
1. Gaia Herbs. “Why We Love Maca: Top Benefits of This Amazing Adaptogenic Herb.” Gaia Herbs, 26 July 2018, http://www.gaiaherbs.com/blogs/seeds-of-knowledge/why-we-love-maca-top-benefits-of-this-amazing-adaptogenic-herb.
2. Palsdottir, Hrefna M. “9 Benefits of Maca Root (and Potential Side Effects).” Healthline, 30 Oct. 2016, http://www.healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-maca-root.

MIND: Detached

So as long as you can forget your body you are happy and the moment you begin to be aware of your body, you are wretched. So if civilization is any good, it has to help us forget our bodies, and then time passes happily without our knowing it. Help us get rid of our bodies altogether.

Lady Chatterley’s Lover // D.H. Lawrence

MIND: Compressed

As for the body, it is solid and strong and curious
and full of detail; it wants to polish itself; it
wants to love another body; it is the only vessel in
the world that can hold, in a mix of power and
sweetness: words, song, gesture, passion, ideas,
ingenuity, devotion, merriment, vanity, and virtue.
Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable.

Evidence // Mary Oliver

SOL: Ownership

it took 28 years
to muster the courage to remove their
fingers from my skin
one by one, expressing infinite
tenderness, and explain
my body is my body is my body
it is not for their consumption
less for their control

my body is my body is my body.

3AM Thoughts // AKA “Only With My Permission & Under Certain Conditions.”

BODY: Miracles

Consider this:

We have 37.2 trillion cells in our bodies (compare that to the 400 billion stars in the galaxy!). The cells that make up your body are dying and being replaced all the time. By the time you’ve read this sentence, roughly 25 million cells will have died, but you’ll make 300 billion more as your day unfolds. Your brain is 2 percent of your body’s weight but uses 20 percent of its oxygen intake. Your brain generates 12 to 25 watts of electricity. Your brain is 73 percent water, and just 2 percent dehydration affects attention, memory, and other cognitive skills. (Hydrate!!) The average brain has about 50,000 thoughts per day…and 70 percent are believed to be negative. The brain’s storage capacity is virtually unlimited. And that’s just the beginning.

Ninety-five percent of your decision-making takes place in your subconscious mind, and the brain in your head isn’t your only brain. There’s a second brain in your intestines that contains 100,000 neurons. Gut bacteria are responsible for producing over 30 neurotransmitters, including the “happy” molecule serotonin.

Take a moment in reverence of the miracle of life that you are.

We have nothing to do with making this miracle happen; it’s working in spite of us, our inexhaustible life force. Yet we take all this for granted. We worry that our breasts are too small, our butts too big, or our noses too long. If you ever feel insecure, insignificant, or inadequate, remember that there are more cells in your body than stars in the galaxy.

Wake Up to the Joy of You (as seen here) // Agapi Stassinopoulos