Friday, March 29, 2013

Another Recovery Update

I recently had another follow-up appointment with my neurosurgeon and he gave me the green light to proceed with exercise (with the understanding that I'm to "listen to my body" and make smart choices). So far I've been leery about working out because it always causes neck pain. My fear was that I might be slowing down my healing or worst, disrupting the bones from fusing. But now that the doc said I'm right where I should be as far as healing and fusing I'm feeling much more confident about pushing it a little harder. After all, I'm no stranger to pain and I can certainly live through a little more of it.

This marks my second week of a steady exercise routine. Granted I'm still not ready for The Ultimate Yogi or P90X, but I have been doing a moderate yoga routine 3 times a week along with hitting the gym to lift weights 3 times a week and, to round out the program, I'm also running 3 times a week. What amazes me the most is how much I improved in just 2 weeks.

My first run wasn't pretty. I ran only 2 miles and had to stop and walk twice. My second run was better. I completed the 2 miles without stopping and felt pretty darn good. By my third run I ran 3.5 miles and felt great. I mean really great. It's such an amazing experience to run without the searing nerve pain pulsing through my right arm. Maybe by putting so much focus on this new pain-free sensation that it's taken my mind off of the actual running.

Lifting weights also didn't start too pretty. I was disgusted by how weak I've become. I remember the weights that I normally lifted and, right now, I can't even come close. I actually felt embarrassment in the gym lifting what I considered "dinky" weights. But those negative feelings soon faded with each trip to the gym because I could feel myself getting stronger each time. I don't know how it's possible to make such improvements over such a short amount of time, but the human body is an amazing machine. It's positively adaptive and it remembers that I'm supposed to be strong. What a thrill to add a little more weight each time.

And yoga has been the exact same story. My first attempt at my old favorite routine was marginal at best. I had to modify a few things due to both pain and just plain lack of strength. But, as you can probably guess, with each session I had to modify less and this morning I completely the whole thing with not only no modifications, but strength to spare. And again, this is all within a two week timeframe. It just further proves my old theory that Consistency is Key. No matter what you decide to do, if you stick to it and practice it every day you are guaranteed to improve.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

When to Buy Organic

In a perfect world we would only buy organic everything, but let"s face it, our trips to the grocery store just keep getting more and more expensive every year. Within the past 10 months I committed myself to changing my diet for the better. It"s not like I went from eating Ring Dings to Swordfish steaks, but I made the move away from processed foods and greatly increased my consumption of natural foods. I have yet to move to all organic and still my grocery bills seem like the doubled.

I found this very helpful list of which foods that are the most important to buy organic as opposed to other fruits and veggies that are "cleaner" and may not be as important to buy organic.
This" Dirty Dozen" list are the fruits and veggies that can contain the highest amount of pesticides and toxins.

The Dirty Dozen:

  • Apples

  • Celery

  • Sweet Bell Peppers

  • Peaches

  • Strawberries

  • Nectarines (imported)

  • Grape

  • Spinach

  • Lettuce

  • Cucumbers

  • Blueberries (domestic)

  • Potatoes

This "Clean 15" List aren’t as heavily sprayed and therefore, don’t have to always be organic.

Clean 15

  • Onions

  • Corn

  • Avocado

  • Pineapple

  • Cabbage

  • Sweet Peas

  • Asparagus

  • Mango

  • Eggplant

  • Kiwi

  • Cantaloupe (domestic)

  • Sweet Potatoes

  • Grapefruit

  • Watermelon

  • Mushrooms

So what do you do if you read that Dirty List and are freaking out because you simply can not afford to buy the organic options for all those items? You may be thinking, "Maybe I should stop eating those things all together." Wrong answer! There is a better option. If you do your due diligence and wash the items properly you should be OK. Here"s the best trick I've found for removing the pesticides.

Washing Fruit and Vegetables with Vinegar
Fill your sink with a solution that is one part vinegar to three parts water and soak all of your fruits in this solution for a minimum of 10 minutes and then rinse. This is great for removing bacteria, and may help break down wax, too. The editors of Cooks Illustrated magazine tested this theory by using four different methods to clean pears and apples: a vinegar and water solution (3:1, water:vinegar), antibacterial liquid soap, scrubbing with a stiff brush, and just using plain water. Not only did the vinegar mixture work the best, it was far, far better when measured for bacteria -- it removed 98% of bacteria, compared to just under 85% for scrubbing. If you don"t have 10 minutes to do this, or perhaps you just have a couple of pieces of fruit, a good alternative is to keep a bottle of vinegar with a spray top. Just spray the fruit or vegetables with the vinegar, then rinse under a tap.

See more about washing your fruits and veggies here.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Lifetime Wellness Course Completed

I am very happy to report that I completed my "Lifetime Wellness 101" course with flying colors. OK, I did get two little quiz questions wrong throughout the entire 12 week course and only finished with a 98% rather than 100%, but that just shows that there is always room for improvement–in everything we do. I did learn a lot and more importantly I feel more confident now than ever in my knowledge on this subject. I found the course very easy to get through and most of it seems to come second nature to me. I would recommend it to anyone, not only looking to learn information to teach and/or share with others, but also for your own general knowledge. If you are interested in trying to achieve a more healthy lifestyle (and I would imagine you are if you found your way to my blog), this course teaches you and encourages you to live the most optimally healthy life you can.

One of the most important things you can do to keep your brain healthy is to constantly challenge it by learning new things. Why not consider taking an online class yourself? You can check out this course and many many other online classes here at Universal Class.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Get the Abs of a Ballerina

I tried out another one of Acacia's ballet-inspired "BalletBody"workouts this morning. This one was the Core Workout which promises to flatten your midsection and develop core strength with its Pilates-type workout. It started a little shaky with standing balance exercises and I had to laugh out loud thinking about how silly I must have looked. I couldn't help but to be grateful that I was alone in my house rather than in a public class making a fool of myself. Like I mentioned in my previous Ballet Workout Review, a ballerina I am not.

Luckily I didn't let my bad balance get in the way and discourage me. And I'm happy I didn't give up because sooner or later my yoga experience came to the rescue and I actually impressed myself with some of the one legged moves. There is no doubt that this is the type of video that will get easier with repeated use.

I did pretty good with all the standing exercises and found them all doable - both in technique (as long as I wasn't being graded) and difficulty. The movement sequences progressed into various moves to be done on the mat. That's when things got a bit more challenging. Not sure if it was because those moves were actually harder or it was simply due to the fact that I had already been working for 15-20 minutes at that point.

I loved that this workout included so many new moves for me. After being a workout junkie for more years that I care to admit it almost seems impossible for me to experience brand new moves and techniques. I think that is what got me so intrigued by the whole "ballet workout." This is a foreign thing to me and dancing workout moves are so very different than the typical routines. For this reason the video flew by and kept me constantly engaged. Well, my core muscles were constantly engaged, that's for sure, but this also kept my mind engaged just from the newness of it all. I think most people will normally except hundreds of boring crunch-type moves in a ab or core workout, but what you'll find here is an assortment of fresh new moves that you have likely never seen before (unless of course you really are a ballerina).

The routine ends with some back exercises and some deep stretches for flexibility. I'm hoping those deep stretches will save me from some of the inevitable soreness I'll be feeling tomorrow. I'm excited to try it again soon.

The video is approximately 45 minutes long and will be available for purchase through the Acacia catalog.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Is Yoga the Anti-Religion?

Last night I watched a documentary called "With One Voice" that featured a group of mystics from fourteen different spiritual traditions talking about Oneness. I was very pleased when my favorite guru, Sadhguru, started the show. Every word out of this man's mouth seems to resonate in me. It all seems so clear and makes so much sense. The basis of the movie was that we (all creatures on this planet) are inter-connected. There is no breaking point at which we, as a person, ends and the universe begins. Sadhguru explained the first time he sat for meditation and could no longer sense "himself" as being seperate from the ground that he sat on or the air that he breathed.

Although I am not yet to the point where I can say I know exactly what this feels like, I can at least grasp this concept of Oneness with the Universe. I was brought up Catholic and always believed in God. Whether I call this power "God" or something else, I believe there is an almighty force responsible for all that is. It's the whole institutionalized "religion" aspect that never did sit well with me.

During the documentary one of the speakers tried to draw the parallel of talking about religion as we would talk about food. Imagine a group of people and each person believes that we should only eat one particular kind of food and they are so sure and passionate that this one particular food is THE right food for us and all other foods are wrong. So you may have the "pizza" person condoning pizza and claiming that all other food is bad and wrong. Then you have the "pasta" person who does the same in favor of their food. How ridiculous would that be? And yet that is exactly what we do with religion.

I went from watching this movie last night to attending a funeral mass this afternoon. Although I was brought up Catholic and even attended Catholic school, I have since fallen away from the church. In fact, you will only find me in one for a wedding or a funeral and today it became clear why that is. The entire mass just seems so meaningless to me. I heard the priest drone on and on with what (to me) are empty words. It's the same words over and over, with the same robotic responses from the parishioners We all stood up, sat down, kneeled down, and then repeated several times. What is that all about anyway?

I sat there and just couldn't help but to think about the fact that my yoga and meditation makes so much more sense to me. Yes, I went seeking for a guru, which I found and learned a great deal from, but I got the info I needed and now I'm on my own. I can sit in my house, on a beach, in a field, in an airport, or anywhere else in the world and go within to experience the Oneness. I don't need a church or a priest. I just don't understand the whole institution of it and it makes me wonder . . . is it because of yoga that I feel this way? Did yoga make me lose my faith in the church? Because of yoga I have opened my eyes to things that I never knew existed. I saught out teachings from a guru that made more sense to me than any bible verse ever could.

Maybe now I understand the controversy surrounding yoga and religion. Maybe now I realize why my local church wouldn't allow me to teach yoga in their gym. A couple of years ago I didn't understand, but it's becoming more clear to  me. I guess what I believe in is that the Universe (or God, or the Source, the Devine, or whatever you would like to call it) is inside of me and there is no need for a middle man. Yes, it makes me a bad Catholic, but it doesn't make me a bad person. If fact, I think it makes me a better one.

If you are interested, you can watch the film here:

And I would love to hear your thoughts and feelings on this subject. Am I alone with these feelings? Am I the only one that fell away from religion with my increased practice of meditition? If your belief in your religion changed in any way (decreased or increased) since practicing yoga, please leave a comment or drop me a line to tell me about it. I'm fascinated with this subject and would love to explore it further.