Saturday, January 5, 2013

Why I practice yoga

Until recently, I viewed yoga as a religion or a practice directly in conflict with my Christian faith. Even when I began attending yoga classes, there were sayings that the teacher would lead us in that I would quietly just not do. No drama, just a lack of participation.  The phrases seemed uncomfortable and created a dissonance within and made me think that they were questioning of my Christianity.

But if the truth be told, I wasn’t that great of a Christian.  And I was unhappy. Something was missing. 

I started asking questions of my teacher, and very wisely, she fed me tidbits – not enough to spook me - but enough to make me think. One of the first principles of yoga I learned were the Yamas and Niyamas.  Although the names were foreign and didn’t sit well in my mouth, there was nothing to fight against.


Ahimsa – Compassion for all living things
Satya – Truthfulness
Asteya – Do not steal
Bramacharya – Self control
Aparigraha – Lack of greed


Sauca – Purity
Santosha – Contentment
Tapas – Discipline
Svadhyaya – Study of sacred scriptures
Isvara-pranidhana – Devotion to God

Nothing objectionable. Just a way to live.

Many yogis put emphasis on Ahimsa or Satya – do not harm and tell the truth. Good concepts, but for some reason the one that caught my eye was Svadhyaya – the study of sacred scriptures. Nothing in yoga said what to study, just to study.


For the first time in years, I picked up my Bible and began reading. Although I grew up in a church, attended a Christian high school and university, and am still a member, at 50 something clicked inside and a door opened. The connection between what was on the pages and what my life should look like became clear; I began to live what I was reading every morning. The unhappiness and discontent slowly peeled away. What was left was peace and acceptance. 

Yoga made me a better Christian

This morning, I turned to Ephesians 4 and 5. A short way in, I read the words “Put away falsehood” and I whispered the word, “Satya.”  In a few short verses, I realized that every Yama and Niyma was there. Every one of them. Oh sure, some are a bit more oblique than others, but the thought, the idea, the feeling is there.

Therefore, putting away falsehood, let every one speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. (SATYA) 26 Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil. 28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his hands, so that he may be able to give to those in need. (ASTEYA) (APARIGRAHA).  29 Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for edifying, as fits the occasion, that it may impart grace to those who hear (BRAMACHARYA) 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, in whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, with all malice (SAUCA), 32 and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (AHIMSA)
1Therefore be imitators of God (TAPAS)(SVADHYAYA) as beloved children. And walk in love (SANTOSHA), as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God (ISVARA PRANIDHANA).

My worlds intersected and I smiled.

Thoughts to take with me today: Anything that brings me closer to God can only be good. 

Friday, January 4, 2013

How to lose weight safely and 'easily'

Most TV talk shows, radio programs,  and even some Internet sites have  information about losing weight.

Saw one yesterday about losing weight WHILE eating pizza and french fries - as much as you want apparently - and still lose weight!

Color me skeptical.

But let's be real, people DO want to lose weight, get healthy, look better - all of those things - and the reason these ads/shows are out there is because it brings eyes and viewers.

There is a pretty easy way to lose weight, but it doesn't sell a lot of books or advertising time. I'm going to share what took me about 18 months to learn. Remember I'm not a registered dietician, personal trainer, nurse, doctor, or television journalist. I'm just a chick that lost 80 pounds and is willing to share my secrets.
Eat right, move more.

That's really about it.

If you need to lose 40, 50 (or in my case 90)  or more pounds, there aren't a whole lot of tricks that are sustainable over the long haul.
Eat right, move more.

How does that look in real life?  How do you get started?

Take one week and write down everything that goes in your mouth. Don't worry about a bunch of changes, just write it down.  Also, take note of how many minutes you got yourself moving.

Then go through the whole week and start tallies of your food groups on a daily basis. How many servings of dairy, protein, grains, fruits, veggies, fats. Count them up honestly, and KNOW what a serving size is. For example a bagel at Paneras/Starbucks/Dunkin Donuts is about 2 servings, not one.

After you have your totals, look at where the adjustments need to come in.

According to the USDA, this is what you are shooting for every day:

Grains - 6 - 11 servings
Protein 3 - 4
Dairy - 3
Fruits 2 - 3
Veggies 3 - 4
Fats 1 - 2

Those are your goals. DO NOT worry about calories so much as aligning with those figures. The calories will naturally drop.

Now look at your exercise. You need 30 minutes every day. Walk, climb stairs, elliptical, bike, go to a mall and just move from one end to another. It may be hard the first time. Good. That will make your successes all that much sweeter.

(If you are a diabetic and/or under a doctor's care for any reason, ignore me and do whatever he/she says. They know a helluva lot more than I do.)

That's the plan in a nutshell.

Questions I know some of you have (and I know these are real questions because I actually asked every single stinkin' one of these over the last two years)

"What about the diet plans out there - Atkins, Paleo, low-fat, etc?" I think there's a place for them, but instead of getting caught up in a complicated, involved plan, how about starting simple? Start with what is easy, and get some weeks and months behind you with disciplined eating, then if you need something extra or something that seems like it might work, then try it.

"How do I time my meals? Do I want to eat everything early in the day?  In my experience, the timing doesn't matter. I went on a cruise in October and wondered if I would gain weight because our dinner was 8:15 every night. Not only did I NOT gain weight, I lost.

"I don't like breakfast foods." Fine, eat what you want - your body does not care if you eat 4 oz of ground beef with a bun at 6 AM or 6 PM. But do eat something for breakfast. Your body needs the fuel.

"I can't live without my coffee."   Me either, so be aware of how much milk you are putting in each cup and count that in your totals. Coffee happens to be my last, lone vice. I like having a vice.  The guys at Starbucks know my name. All good :)

"I don't want to be hungry."   Make sure your grains are as complex as you can, and spread your meals out during the day. Other than that, accept there will be a little hunger until your stomach shrinks. And on some days, the hunger will be bigger than others. Eat a bit more on those days, just don't go crazy.

"I'd go on a diet but I can't live without my (candy bar, chips, french fries, pizza, burgers, soda, whatever)."  Can you live with your current weight for the rest of your life? Then do so, but otherwise, something has to go. Cut your special item back to 1/2 of what it is now and see if that is sustainable. But honestly, if your afternoon candy bar is more important than losing 50 pounds, then have the candy bar and be happy. Otherwise, choose.

"This is going to make me miserable!"  If that is your first thought, then yes, you will be miserable because you've already decided you will be. Turn that thought around and think of what you will be able to do - walk, climb stairs, play with your kids, run a 5K, buy clothes in the regular size department. I guarantee you that you will NOT be miserable doing any of those things.

"You don't understand, I will have so much loose skin." Yeah, I actually DO understand. Been there, done that, own the T Shirt. This is my approach - my skin can either be smooth and filled out with flesh, or it can sag because there is just less of me. I choose "Door B" every time.

"I'll start tomorrow, next week, next month." Sure you will.  Instead - start the next meal. Write down what you eat, inform yourself.  Remember you aren't even dieting at the beginning, you are just gathering information. You don't need a special day for that. Your body does not care what when it is.

"It's too hard to diet." Wanna know what's hard? Hard is figuring out how to get food in your body every day, not just when you are dieting. Somehow we figure out what to eat when we want to consume 3,000+ calories a day, but when asked to cut back, that seems harder.

"I don't have the willpower." Again, you are right, you don't because you've already set your intentions that you don't.  Try this. Tell yourself over and over and over, until you believe it, "I can do this, I can eat right, I can move more." After enough days of hearing that mantra, eventually it becomes part of your mind set and before long, your life has changed and you become someone with willpower.

"What about lifting weights?" I love lifting, it's fun.  But don't worry about it at the beginning. Worry about 30 minutes of movement. Get some weight off, enjoy what you are doing, then decide if putting in strength training is the next step.

"I come home too tired to work out."  Then work out in the AM.

"It's too early to work out in the morning." Then work out in the PM.

"I'm tired." Of course you are, so what difference will a little more tired make? Seriously, just do it.

That's about it for my advice. Any questions I missed, feel free to ask, I'll be happy to share my experience. Maybe you can do it better than I did with less stress and less anxiety about losing weight exactly 'right.' There are so many 'right' ways. Yours will come to you when you sent your intentions to eat right, move more.

Thoughts to take with me today: The journey begins with one step and continues with love and joy.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

My 2013 resolution

The first day of 2012 found me running 
The first day of 2013 found me sitting 

Both represented victories 

My resolution for 2012 was to learn to move.  My resolution for 2013 is to learn to say no.  Therefore, I say no to myself and officially give up.

I give up on fighting with myself about overtraining
I give up on fighting with myself about running
I give up on fighting with myself about rest days

Done, over, finis.

As much as I want to run, to be a runner, just let it cut loose and fly, the hamstrings say no, the knees say no, and even the low back has decided to speak up for no. Okay you guys, I’m listening – can you please shut up?

I figure my heart is one vote and other body parts provide at least three votes – so the heart is overruled on this one. At least for now. Maybe in the Spring after a long spell of two rests every week, we can readdress the running, but for now, the answer is no.

After months of overtraining, I cut back from 12 – 14 workouts a week to around 9
After months of working day after day, I allowed myself a permanent rest day
After only a few weeks of one rest day, apparently I’m a quicker learner so…

I’m building in a second rest day to allow my muscles to truly recover

To be honest, there is some anxiety about this decision, but it is coupled with INTENSE relief that I finally trust myself to do this. 

For the longest time I was afraid to not work out every day. Afraid that one day off would turn into two, then three, and before long, I’d wake up and years would have gone by and there I would be, back on the couch, eating French fries.  But my body was tired, achy, and sore, much more than it should have been.   After months of long spells of no breaks, there was not a major joint that didn’t hurt, and it was time to face facts – I was overworking my body, badly.  With much internal kicking and screaming, I took off Sundays, and discovered that Mondays came with me eager to work out (and no French fries).  Now, I’m going to take off Wednesdays – nothing more strenuous than some gentle yoga – and see what happens. If history repeats itself,  I’m gonna bet I come back roaring on Thursdays with energy and enthusiasm.

To reiterate an earlier post, trust, trust the process. It will be okay. Promise.

Happy 2013  

Just say no to excess (even with exercise).

Thoughts to take with me today: I think this is what yoga looks like in real life, not executing pretty postures, but living the precepts behind them - non-harmfulness, kindness, and contentment - especially to myself.