Slower and Deeper

Anyone who has ever had the horrible experience of a panic attack will know exactly what I mean!

Faster and more shallow won’t, necessarily, bring you the peace that you’re looking for whereas deep, slow breathing will calm the mind and the body.

The foundation of your yoga practice is Pranayama or ‘yoga breathing’, techniques which allow you to control your breath whilst you move through the various postures. Most of us think about exercise in terms of cardio vascular – running, jogging, aerobics etc. all of which tend to leave you out of breath and sweaty at the end; yoga is different. With yoga, the idea is to create a relaxed mind and body and holding your breath or taking short, sharp breaths whilst you are in the poses will just lead to stress and tension in the body i.e. the opposite of what you are trying to achieve. There are many different styles of Pranayama but here is a basic explanation of one of the most common known as Dirga Pranayama:

Dirga Pranayama is called the three part breath because you are actively breathing into three parts of your abdomen. The first position is the low belly (on top of or just below the belly button), the second position is the low chest (lower half of the rib cage), and the third position is the low throat (just above the top of the sternum). The breath is continuous, inhaled and exhaled through the nose. The inhalation starts in the first position, the low belly; then moves to the second position, the low chest; then to the third position, the low throat. The exhalation starts in the low throat, moves to the low chest, and finishes in the low belly.Rest your hands on the individual positions to feel the breath rising and falling through each position. breathingWhen you start practicing, you may want to individually isolate the movement in each position, using the hands. When you have a good feel for the breath moving in and out of each position, practice without the hands. Eventually relax the effort of the Pranayama and breathe into the three positions gently, feeling a wave of breath move up and down the torso. [Source]

So, whilst this is all very interesting, how can it help you in your day to day life? The answer is pretty simple really. Stress is known to be a contributor to a number of health problems such as anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes. When you are stressed your breathing becomes shallow and rapid which can then make you feel short of breath which only serves to make the problem worse. Anyone who has ever had the horrible experience of a panic attack will know exactly what I mean! With the breathing techniques that you learn through yoga you can, very effectively, reverse these symptoms because you will be activating the parasympathetic nervous system. Deep breathing stimulates the vagus nerve which will slow down your heart rate and calm your body and your mind. In addition, with deep breathing, you engage the abdominal muscles and diaphragm instead of the muscles in the upper chest and neck. This conditioning of the respiratory muscles results in improved efficiency of oxygen exchange with every breath by allowing more air exchange to occur in the lower lungs. If you practice yoga regularly you will find that, as your breathing techniques improve, you will have more energy because your body is becoming less stressed and therefore more efficient and as Krishnamacharya said “If you can breathe, you can do Yoga”

Breathing techniques are also used in meditation which can be hugely effective in reducing chronic pain or any other affliction which is made worse by stress. This video explains meditation techniques – we could all do with less stress in our lives so why not give it a try?

I started meditating about a year ago and although, at first, I found it difficult to just sit and relax, after a time I found that I craved the peace that it afforded me. Initially I had dozens of thoughts rushing around my head but gradually I realised that, if I just accepted that those thoughts were there rather than acknowledging them or engaging with them, the meditation process became much easier and a great pleasure.

 

 

Shocking Simon Cowell

“The stereotypes of weak older people hurt us all; I like showing younger people what’s possible”

There    are some things in life that we just don’t think of as being possible and one of them is shocking the famously unflappable Simon Cowell yet that’s just what this 80 year old woman managed to do…

You might be tempted to do what he did in the beginning and just dismiss her out of hand but just watch, appearances really can be deceiving! You will not believe the skill, energy and passion that this woman demonstrates. After watching her perform David Walliams was prompted to state “However old you are, you can still be spectacular and beautiful and do something amazing”

However entertaining it is to see Simon Cowell stuck for words, why are we so amazed when older people do something wonderful? Yes, it’s pretty much a given that your body will not work quite as well when you are 60 or 70 as when you were 16 or 17 but that’s no excuse for giving up on life or on the things that you want to do with it. The more you think that you can’t do something, the more likely it is that you won’t be able to do it so , instead, try telling yourself that you can and see what happens – maybe you’ll be the one shocking people.

A bit like this chap, Ed Whitlock, who completed a Marathon, in under 4 hours, at the age of 85! His motivation apparently comes from running circuits in a cemetery – that’s pretty good inspiration!

Oh and he also holds a World Record for running the fastest mile for someone in this age group: 07:18.55

This beautiful lady is Johanna Quaas and, at the age of 91 she’s the world’s oldest active gymnast – have a look at her in action – you’ll be stunned at her agility. As she says “The stereotypes of weak older people hurt us all; I like showing younger people what’s possible”

What these people have achieved with practice and determination is incredible and, if it’s possible for them, it’s possible for us too – how great is that!

Not Big but Long…

…wearing lycra is not obligatory…

If you’d like to be long, strong and lean…….

Many yoga postures, or asanas involve supporting body weight with our arms or legs much in the same way as press ups or squats. Poses are held and the muscles involved gradually become stronger so that we are able to support our weight for a longer period of time which also builds endurance. You may think that yoga cannot possibly have the same effect on muscles as pumping iron at the gym but you’d be surprised at the strength required to hold some of the poses.

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There is no doubt that this guy is extremely strong; to support your entire body weight on one hand like this takes years of dedication and practice. However, even yoga novices will notice a big difference in their strength and also endurance after just a few week of practice. With yoga you also work out your entire body in one go; it’s not like going to the gym where you have to wait around for equipment or move from piece to piece – you just need you!

Practically all yoga involves you having your core muscles engaged as they are needed to stabilise your body as you move through the various postures. If you have core strength you will greatly reduce your risk of suffering from back pain and you will also find that your posture improves and all physical activity becomes easier.

At the university of california researchers carried out trials, over a period of 8 weeks, in which participants did 4 sessions of yoga each week. at the end of this time musclar strength had increased by as much as 31% and muscular endurance by 57%

Although yoga will not make you bulk up like Arnold Schwarzenegger in his hey day it will improve muscle tone and definition; the ‘yoga body’ is traditionally defined as ‘long and lean’ which is a look that I think most of us would be happy with.

These postures are all strength building and range from novice to intermediate to expert and demonstrate what is possible with regular practice:

Yoga is for everybody  and wearing lycra is not obligatory so why not give it a try? Even if you regularly play other sports and don’t feel the need to add in something that may seem so ‘low impact’, give it a go for a month and just see how it improves your performance. If you have any existing sports injuries, tell yoga teacher and she or he will work out a programme for you which will be designed to strenthen the muscles needed to support you in your recovery. Have a look here to find a yoga class near you

Liberating the Spirit through Fasting

With this lifestyle I lost more than 20 kg in 6 months

This is a guest post from one of my good friends – I really hope you like it :O)

Hi everybody,

My name is Kevin, I live in Monaco and I was overweight for 24 years (76 kg / 165cm), until the day that I looked at a YouTube video of Thierry Casanovas (Regenere.org).

He was talking about the modern diet (cereal, meat, milk, cooked meal, refined sugar…) and the effects it can have on the body and also on the spirit. He explained that modern nutrition wasn’t ideal for humans because it’s much too difficult to digest, too rich in sugar and completely empty of micro nutrients. He explained that, in our society, we overconsume food and it was a real problem but not a fatality! He said that ultimately we are responsible of our health.

Raw food 3After this video, I watched more of his videos and they made sense for me; my meals were too sweet and always cooked, my girlfriend Joane and I decided to have a vegan diet because we thought that it was perfect for humans. Joane changed her diet overnight, for me it was longer, in the beginning I ate like her the evening and I changed my breakfast, no more milk and pastry but fruits, and for the lunch I changed nothing.

After a month and a lot of videos about fasting, I really wanted to try it. One morning I woke up too late to have my breakfast, and I decided to not eat anything but I still felt good! I then fasted for 3 days. What I experienced during these days was completely amazing. First I was completely free because I didn’t have to eat, I lost 2-3 kg without frustration and it costed me 0 € and the most exceptional thing I was feeling, was the liberation of my spirit, I really felt like a cloud had spread away my mind. In fact, my system had been cleaned, because when you are not in the digestive process your body removes the toxicity created by the cerebral, physical, digestive activity. And for the first time of my life I let my body do what is good for me, I didn’t try to take some pills or try magical recipe to lost weight and be healthy. I just came back to basics! Raw food 2

After this fasting experience, I integrated fasting into my lifestyle; no more breakfast, fruits for the lunch and the evening raw vegetables and fruits too, because cooked vegetables lose the mineral contained therein. After a few weeks I was able to eat one time per day, in the evening, when I’d have a big meal; some people call that the warrior diet. With this lifestyle I lost more than 20 kg in 6 months without hard training or expensive pills or others things. The result after that was that I had more energy, a lot of energy I needed to spend! I started running and doing other physical exercises. Before that (weight loss and vegan nutrition) I never wanted to go out or do sport, because I simply didn’t have the energy for it!

But in every experience we do make mistakes, and I did! With the warrior diet, the vegan nutrition and some sport, I experienced some problems but I understood that it was my vegan diet wasn’t sustenance enough for me, I started to eat fish and eggs again and my troubles disappeared.

Currently I weigh 55 kg and still have a raw diet based on vegetables and fruits but when I’m with friends in a restaurant I eat “normally” and if I eat too much, I just don’t eat the next day, to restore the balance. Raw food 1

What advice can I give you? I think it is to experience and be responsible, don’t let people tell you what is good or not for you because only you know what is good for you. Don’t be afraid about sickness, invariably it won’t be serious, sickness is just an alarm to tell you are not on the right path.  We have, for me, natural human principles (fasting is one of them) but you have to create your rules to be able to apply them; these rules are personal and you have to experience different things to find your rules. I want to clarify, for my lifestyle, vegan nutrition wasn’t enough but I know people who have perfect health and are vegan. I want to clarify too, diet and fasting are not the only things that influence your health, your environment and your mindset can too! I’m sorry if you wanted more technical details about the physiological mechanisms of fasting but I am here only to share my experience with you all.

Ready to Tea Off?

….a calming effect on our mind but without causing us to feel sleepy

Most of us like a nice cup of tea but how  about trying a cup of tea that will be nice to your body? Matcha tea is made, primarily in Japan, from powdered, specially grown green tea leaves and it has some amazing health benefits. We all know that green tea is good for us but matcha tea has 137 times more anti-oxidants than normal green tea which means that your body will have 137 times more help in fighting the oxidants that can destroy or damage the cells in your body. In short, this bright green liquid is a super tea! Not only that, according to scientific research matcha tea can also help us to lose weight, particularly around the stomach area, by increasing energy expenditure and fat oxidation so it’s a really great thing to include as part of a healthy diet.

If that’s not enough for you to add matcha tea to your shopping list, research has also shown that, due to the high levels of polyphenols it contains, this delicious drink could actually help to prevent and treat several types of cancer and reduce the risk of many other chronic diseases. Still not enough? Ok, well matcha tea also contains high levels of L-theanine which has a calming effect on our mind but without causing us to feel sleepy so that we feel both relaxed and alert at the same time. It can also help to reduce stress which is a major contributory factor in many illnesses.

If this has all convinced you to try matcha tea then here’s something that you need to know; you don’t make it in the same way as you make normal tea. Using boiling water on matcha tea absolutely ruins it so you need to use water that is no more than 80C/175f or even a little cooler than that. Take between half a teaspoon and a teaspoon of the matcha powder and add it to a little water then, using a small whisk (traditionally made of bamboo), mix the two together vigorously. Once you have a slightly frothy mixture, add the rest of the water and enjoy!

Go Like Graham!

Dream as if you’ll live forever and live as if you’ll die today

The man in the photo above is called Graham Sayer and he is 80 years old; he works out five days a week but not to keep his body looking good or even to keep fit. In Graham’s own words:

 “It’s so that as I get older, I can continue to do all the things I love so dearly: to have adventures, to always have new experiences, to play, climb, swim, kick and punch to my heart’s content”

If Graham thought ‘I am 80’ every day and subscribed to society’s and the media’s notions of old age he probably wouldn’t do half of what he does but the fact is, to him, his age is just a number. His desire to live a full and exciting life is so strong that he doesn’t consider that there are any negative connotations attached to his chronological age. He’s had challenges along the way, including throat cancer, but he hasn’t let that stop him.

If he can do it why can’t you?

James Dean said: “Dream as if you’ll live forever and live as if you’ll die today” but most of us do exactly the opposite; we live as if we have forever – in short, we exist. However, it doesn’t need to be like that. If we can forget the fears that we have about growing older we can maintain the same mind set that we had when we were a child. Children don’t worry about what other people think, they don’t worry about falling over or hurting themselves, for them every minute of every day is an adventure and there is no reason why we can’t continue to think and live that way throughout our entire lives.

Can you go Without?

we would not suggest that you move to a 12 foot high platform or sit inside a tree

Do you really need a car? If you absolutely had to could you live in one room? Could you live without holidays? Do you really need so many clothes? How about food? Could you live without that? This man did:

devraha barba

Devraha Baba was a famous sadhu who was believed to be 250 years old when he died; he never ate food and drank only water from the river. His home was a 12 foot high wooden platform and he spent his days in a state of extreme meditation.

As he didn’t eat his body was free of toxins and his meditations ensured that his metabolic rate was very low which meant that his body did not suffer the wear and tear sustained in ordinary, everyday life.

Such was the power that he had over his own mind and body that he rarely wore anything at all , even when the temperatures were freezing!

He’s not the only one who has gone to extremes to escape from the outside world in order to find inner peace and tranquility:

This video puts a western perspective on the story of Ram Bahadur Bamjon who apparently remained in a state of meditation, without food or water, for a period of 10 months. He drew the attention of many, many visitors and this boy, who was only 15 when he began his meditation eventually left his chosen spot because he could no longer find peace there.

There are many such examples of people who appear to have extended their lives and enhanced their physical well-being through yoga. Whilst yoga-medi for months on end, there is a great deal of evidence to support the benefits of a vegetarian diet, regular meditation and regular exercise so perhaps we have much to learn from ancient wisdom.

 

Colour Me Happy!

You still have the same fantastic spices and the textures of these vegetables together will make your mouth do a happy dance! 

Everyone says that you should eat healthily but what is healthy? Well, the simplest way to think of it is anything fresh and anything colourful; fruits and vegetables give us almost all the nutrients that our bodies need, especially as we get older. The problem is that many people think of vegetables as an accompaniment to a meal and fruit as something to have when there’s nothing else for dessert but they can make wonderful meals in themselves.

If you’re a pasta lover why not give this recipe a try? The ‘spaghetti’ is made with spiralled courgettes which have far fewer calories than traditional pasta and tastes delicious! corgetti Plus they contain vitamins A, K, B6 and C as well as potassium and fibre. This dish is also quick and simple to prepare so, instead of stopping of at the chippy on the way home you could give this a try. You will need a spiralizer to make the courgetti, blend basil, olive oil, pine nuts and garlic to make the pesto; mix the two together and add sun dried tomatoes and some balsamic vinegar with a few pine nuts to garnish.

If curry is your thing then why not try substituting meat with butternut squash, mushrooms, potato, cauliflower and spinach? You still have the same fantastic spices and the textures of these vegetables together will make your mouth do a happy dance! Butternut-Squash-Chickpea-Curry-1

Butternut squash is a super source of fibre and also potassium and vitamin B6 so it’s healthy, tasty and colourful.

Have a look here to get some really great and original ideas for meat free curries.

If you’re a dessert person why not give this a try? Fresh oranges with Greek yoghurt, fresh mint and a drizzle of honey. Super quick and easy to prepare but really tasty or you could indulge yourself with pears poached in red wine with a drizzle of dark chocolate – yum!

 

As with all healthy eating, the key to it is ‘fresh and natural’; unfortunately, the makers of processed foods have hopped on the veggie band wagon and now it’s possible to buy all sorts of meat ‘substitutes’ which are actually just as unhealthy as any other processed food and less healthy than fresh lean meat. Processed foods are those which have been altered in some way; if the ‘alteration’ is the addition of significant amounts of salt or sugar it’s really not going to do you a lot of good.

Many people these days eat ‘convenience’ foods because they don’t think that they have the time to cook but, although it’s easy to put a packet meal in the microwave, you have to question how, what started as fresh natural ingredients, ended up as something dehydrated only to be eventually reanimated by electromagnetic radiation.

Colourful fresh foods will keep you healthier and happier for longer so why not try making your food a bit less beige and a bit more rainbow?

 

 

 

Not Just Bend and Stretch

There are people in the world who appear to have found ways to slow down the aging process……..

There are people in the world who appear to have found ways to slow down the aging process; one group are known as sadhus. They can slow down their heartbeat, slow down their breathing and live for weeks and even months on end without food. They meditate to distance themselves from their surroundings and to turn their focus inwards; they empty their minds so that they are free from all emotional and mental disturbances. Their bodies are not subject to the stresses that are caused by anxiety or depression and their life energies are retained within and therefore not expended.

They practice yoga, not the bending and stretching in lycra that we all know as yoga, but something far more ancient and spiritual. It’s believed to date back to the 5th or 6th century but was only introduced to the West in the late 1900’s by the Indian mystic Swami Vivekandanda. Yoga means ‘unite’ and the practises are designed to lead to the joining of the body and the mind in perfect harmony so that the practitioner can live in a state of complete freedom; free from all sufferings.

 

This video demonstrates traditional Hatha (meaning force) yoga; a series of physical exercises which allow the practitioner to master their body, whilst at the same time, focusing on their breath which will enable them to clear their minds.

swami_yogananda

The picture shows Swami Yogananda who, at 99 years old, shows the power and flexibility that the body can retain through the practice of yoga over many years.

The mix of deep meditation and movement brings a profound sense of peace to practitioners and has a very positive impact on the body.

Yoga combines the physical, spiritual and emotional and the absolute best part about it is it’s available to everyone:

Growing Up is Not Obligatory

So what would happen if you started saying ‘yes’ instead of ‘no’?

If you think about it, it’s much easier to say ‘no’ than ‘yes’. Saying no doesn’t require any thought or any commitment from you whereas saying yes effectively means that you have promised to do something or be somewhere.

Unfortunately, saying no becomes easier and easier as we get older because we have more experience of negativity. If someone asks you to go bungee jumping with them you will no doubt recall a story of someone being killed whilst bungee jumping. If someone asks you to go on a bike ride with them, you may remember that the last time you rode a bike you had a pain in your knee for two or three days afterwards. You’d really love to get in better shape and wish that you could go to a gym but you just know that the pain in your back just won’t allow it…….

Eventually, saying no becomes a habit and the list of things that you say ‘no’ to becomes longer and longer until the only thing that you’re comfortable with is sitting in a nice comfy chair in your living room watching the TV and wondering what to have for dinner. This may sound harsh but, when you reach this point, really you are just waiting to die. So what would happen if you started saying ‘yes’ instead of ‘no’?

This is 109 year old war veteran Richard Overton speaking about his life, his experiences, his relationship with 91 year old Ms Love and the fun that they have together. His attitude is that ‘if you give up, you’re through’. As he points out, none of us knows when we will die so we just need to forget about it, get on with life and never give up!

Tao Porchon-Lynch was 94 years old when this video was made. She truly believes that anything is possible. She says ‘don’t procrastinate, don’t put it off until tomorrow because tomorrow never comes’. Tao is the world’s oldest yoga teacher and she inspires pupils who are decades her junior with her amazing spirit and zest for life. She is not interested in people telling her what she can’t do, only in what she can do.

sen0707irene-xqgum3hk42nidmlbdo2_t620This is Irene O’Shea and, at the age of 100 she decided to do her first sky dive to raise money to help combat Motor-Neuron disease. Irene traveled around the world on her own when she was 84 and at 92 was taken out for a ride on a Harley Davidson. She says that she does all these things because she “is very happy and still capable”.

Of the sky dive she says “I loved it and can’t wait to do it again…I wasn’t scared at all”.

All of these people have the same energy – they, quite simply, live a happy life, doing what they want to do and enjoying each day as it arrives. The more time we spend telling ourselves that we can’t do something, the less chance we will have to do the things we could do if we actually believed that we were capable of doing them. It’s easy to be negative and it’s easy to say no but just trying saying yes and see what happens – you might surprise yourself!