If your goal is to lose weight, feel great, and be fi t, then one of the best exercise routines I know of is yoga. Why yoga? Isn’t that just a bunch of stretching and easy movements? Well, yoga comes in many different forms, which isn’t surprising considering it has been around for millennia. That long history means yoga is not just a passing fad. In fact, many structured exercises in existence today, like P90X and Pilates, have defining characteristics borrowed from yoga. Yoga is many different things, but yoga as exercise basically consists of stretching, breathing activities, and postures that create isometric strengthening exercises. Yoga links breath to movement and creates a deep mind-body balance that benefits us in many ways. If yoga is done in a conscious and proper way, it can significantly help us with endurance, strength, and flexibility. Yoga is a lifelong activity that can be started young and continued well into our twilight years with only a few modifications. One of the world’s foremost yogis, B. K. S. Iyengar, lived well into his late nineties—and practiced yoga until the end. But he is far from an exception; many yogis live very long and productive lives. Yoga has benefits on multiple levels, including fitness, mental calmness, emotional balance, and relaxation when meditation is added. I have found no other single activity as valuable for our overall life fitness as yoga.
What Is Yoga?
This is by no means a book on yoga—many great texts (and people) are already around to define and teach it. So simply put, yoga means joining or bringing together and was originally focused on spirituality and meditation. When someone has spent many years practicing the physical postures of yoga, also known as “asanas,” then a natural progression into the meditative aspects of yoga usually occurs. I believe yoga to be the most powerful medicine we can take (albeit a very slow one), and the best custom-made exercise program around. Our fast-paced modern world constantly bombards us with choices. It markets and advertises us into a state of confusion, all of which makes yoga even more important than it was centuries ago. Yoga is a journey, not a destination. If practiced over time, it enables a well-balanced mind-body connection.
What makes yoga so effective is that all the kinks have been worked out over the last few thousand years—something very few activities can claim (tai chi is one of the exceptions). As we’ve discussed, yoga is also custom fit to our body and our life on any given day. Yoga that is done in a varied and proper way can prepare our entire body and mind for daily activity. And just like with the drug Valium, as we prepare our bodies and build self-confidence, our mind becomes calm and peaceful. Since we don’t engage in hunter-gatherer activities as our ancestors did, we need to engage in some regular activity to keep ourselves fi t. Yoga’s popularity is rapidly growing because once we experience the benefits from it, we continue to embrace it.
Yes, yoga can act as a custom-made medicine for what ails us. Yoga does many positive things for us mentally, physically, and spiritually, both directly and indirectly. Th e physical postures help us become stronger, more flexible, and better grounded to the earth. On an indirect level, we develop a deep consciousness that helps us build awareness of our limitations and mental security. Th at was a mouthful, but what I’m saying is that our subconscious brain becomes happy and content with our body and its limitations. What a novel idea—something physical that helps our mental well-being! Yoga connects our mind and body through breath-connected movement, which leads to a great internal peace. The medication diazepam (Valium), one of many of a class of benzodiazepines, helps us relax in that very same way. The medication is directly a muscle relaxant, which in turn decreases muscle nerve input to our brain, creating a sense of relaxation. Now, granted, the pill works a lot faster than yoga, but yoga lasts longer and has virtually no side effects—such as sleepiness, lethargy, and addiction.
Customized Exercise Program?
Yoga is the most customized exercise program around for activities of daily life. Every day we walk, talk, sit, twist, bend, reach, stumble, jump away from danger, repeat motions—the list is lengthy. All of these daily life movements are done against the resistance of gravity rather than against steel weights, elastic bands, rotating wheels, or other weight training objects. Each body has a specific height, weight, body fat content, strength, flexibility, and range of motion, and yoga takes all of this into account. Th e asanas, or physical postures of yoga, consider all the exact specific configurations of your body and place it against gravity to help it stretch, strengthen, and become connected to your mind. Let me illustrate this point with a specific yoga pose, Warrior I. In Warrior I, one knee is bent with the quadriceps supporting most of your weight against gravity, the thigh of the bent leg is ideally parallel to the floor. As one gets into this position and holds it, resistance of the force of gravity strengthens the quadriceps muscle. The back leg is also working to balance the body and is being stretched at the hip. The arms are skyward in a vertical position against gravity, a way they are not used to, which creates a strengthening of the arms. The core muscles are woken up and involved in keeping the torso upright and aligned as the practitioner tries to square their hips. Whew. Overall, many muscles are being used against the resistive force of gravity to the tune of your precise body weight! That exact exercise weight prescription is right for you that day. How could any machine, weight set or trainer fine-tune your workout so perfectly? And that’s only one of many typical yoga poses.
Yoga is as varied as the people teaching it, so I recommend you begin by finding a qualified teacher. Search for a Yoga Alliance-certified teacher online and start in a beginner class, many studios offer the first class for free or a reduced rate, so if it’s not a good fit you can simply try another teacher or class. Friends may also be a helpful resource for finding the yoga class that best suits you. As a slow medicine, results will take time, but will be very steady and consistent. You will quickly notice that you may be more clearheaded, walk with more confidence, and find physical tasks easier to manage. As your yoga practice progresses, many more positive changes will occur. If you can’t find a local teacher, many wonderful texts and DVDs exist to get you started. So no more excuses; go do yoga and have fun. Adding a walking regimen of 20–40 minutes a day four to five times a week to your yoga practice makes for a well-rounded exercise program If you spend your workday sitting behind a desk, try standing to do your work if possible. You will soon notice the positive results such a little change can make.
3.10 Work All the Muscles
The human body has about 450 muscles, a little over two-hundred bones, and many tendons and ligaments, and cartilage that all need our attention. I believe yoga to be the best way for all of these parts and pieces to get full attention and use. Remember “Use it or lose it?” If we get all of…..
5.3 Social Groups
In my younger days all my friends and buddies from the neighborhood
would come and hang out at my house. Although I was glad at
the time, I never understood why. Now, looking back, I can see that my
mother created a social, friendly environment for children who wanted
to come over and be part of the family. Everyone would partake of deep
discussions, all the while being mindful that the individuals involved
were much more important than other small details in life, including
time, possessions, and monetary issues. In her own way, my mom helped
recreate the small, hunter-gatherer social environment and that drew the
neighborhood kids like a magnet. We all subconsciously long for this
comfortable social environment.
In recent times, Facebook, Twitter, email, and blogging have taken
over so powerfully and quickly because they promote the social activities
that all of us long for. We tend to use them as modern substitutes for the
small social gro
ups that we, as humans, continue to crave.
One survival technique built into our DNA is to propagate our genes
by shared social activities. These social activities—back tens of thousands
of years ago—were important for gathering food, protecting our off spring,
protecting ourselves, caring for each other and, ultimately, perpetuating
the species by raising healthy children. Just look around and you can
see this very powerful innate drive at work today. Teenagers want to be
“part of the group” with their rebellious music, hair, tattoos, clothes, etc.
Passion that comes with team spectator sports also gives us a taste of group
ls, parties, concerts, and social gatherings are modern
examples of trying to be part of a group that protects and nurtures us.
Unfortunately when we use modern substitutes (such as electronics) to
fi ll the longing and desires to be part of a group, unintended side eff ects
occur, such as
stress, cyber bullying, depression, and loss of self-esteem.
Social Activities 115
To be healthy human beings, we must kindle and nurture our n
have a group to belong to. (From Your Body: Instructions for use by Dr. Haas, Instruction 5.3)
Instruction: 2.21 Vitamin Supplements
Vitamins and mineral supplements are a big business in the
United States. Yes, it is true we need vitamins and minerals, but I’m generally
not a huge fan of taking supplements unless a major medical problem
exists. Why not? Well if we lack certain vitamins and minerals, we need
to examine why we are not getting them in our food intake rather than
reaching for a bottle. We were created perfectly and this earth is a perfect
Slash and Burn (Food) 49
environment for us to fl ourish, and all the vitamins and minerals we need
should be in our diet. If they aren’t (or we think they aren’t), we have to
look at the problem. If it’s because we don’t eat enough green vegetables,
fruits, or meats, for instance, why don’t we just eat more of those things?
Th at sounds simplistic, but if you were truly lacking a particular vitamin
and you take the “pill form,” then what else are you still lacking by not
eating the real food? You may also be lacking fi ber, proteins, or minerals,
but supplements won’t help with ancillary defi ciencies such as these.
Medical reasons for taking vitamins would include such illnesses as short
bowel syndrome, mal-absorption diseases, or taking diuretics, etc. Th ese
conditions can cause a serious lack of certain vital nutrients, and should be
supplemented. Please always speak to your doctor about supplements you
may need or want to take. What if you’re not lacking a particular vitamin
and take a supplement to be “on the safe side”? What’s the harm? Taking
vitamin supplements could possibly stop your body from absorbing that
particular vitamin and its cohorts from fresh fruits and vegetables. Our
bodies are very smart and know what they need and don’t need from a
particular food. By taking an “artifi cial” supplement, we may mess up our
internal feedback loop with other foods. I believe taking massive amounts
of unnecessary vitamins can at worst lead to diseases such as dementia,
cancer, and connective tissue disease.
If on the other hand you are taking vitamins because you are just
worried that you’re not getting enough of a particular vitamin or mineral,
why are you worried? Is it because you are eating lots of fast foods and
junk foods? If so, don’t try and fi x it with vitamins. All that is going to
do is fi x the mental and emotional guilt you have by eating those nasty
foods, and you will do yourself wrong. So my bottom line on vitamin and
mineral supplements is that if your doctor tells you that you need it, take
it. Otherwise, it is a marketing ploy to part you from your money.