Sunday, April 19, 2009

Being Uncomfortable

My yoga instructor shared a great quote today...

"If you can learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable, no one can steal your peace."

Something I continue to work on... how to be in the moment, even if that moment is uncomfortable. This quote brought a new beauty to being present and not running from whatever is happening.

This one will definitely go in the back pocket.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Yoga vs Stretching

My father challenged me to write a non-biased piece on yoga vs. stretching. Apparently I get quite fired up when people speak of yoga as just "stretching". I truly don't mean to, so if I have ever snarled or cringed when this is said I am very, very sorry. Perhaps the full practice of yoga has become so sacred to me I am tender about it being considered just a stretching practice. It has had a profound impact on my life, and I so rarely think of the flexibility or stretching benefits when I think of yoga.

Here's just a few things I've gained from practicing:
  • It has given me space to reflect every day and come back to the simplest essence of who I am- outside of my career, my relationships, etc.... just me at the core.
  • It has taught me how to breathe, which in my opinion is the most powerful tool we own.
  • It has made me appreciate my body for what it is.
  • It has made me a gentler person (at least I hope) and more grateful for the life I have been given.
  • It has taught me to not only be grateful for my life, but to show this gratitude by being the best person I can each day and act kindly toward other beings and the earth.
  • It has taught me that we are all connected and share in the struggles of life (some way more than others, so perspective is important)
  • It has carried me through some of the hardest periods of my life and reminded me to "just breathe".

So, to answer the question as posed by my papa, here goes...

Q: What is the difference between yoga and stretching?

A: Although yoga involves stretching your muscles, it is quite different than the stretches you might do to prepare for running, working out at the gym, etc. Yoga in its entirety also goes far beyond physical practice.

Some key ways yoga is different (note, this is extracted from various articles... my way of removing my bias :)) :

  • Yoga places emphasis on alignment, meaning that how you are touching your toes is more important than whether you can actually touch them or not.
  • Most yoga poses are not stretching an isolated area, but rather involve the whole body in both stretching and strengthening.
  • Yoga involves awareness of the breath. Many styles, such as vinyasa, hatha and ashtanga, use specific breathing techniques and also use breath to guide the movements.
  • Asana, or the physical practice of postures, in only one aspect of a yoga practice, albeit the most well-known one these days. Even if you only engage in yoga through asana practice (an excellent place to start), be aware of the eight limbs of yoga. Each limb relates to an aspect of achieving a healthy and fulfilling life, and each builds upon the one before it. Only one of the limbs involves the performance of yoga postures.

Here is a description of the eight limbs (From

  1. Yama: Five ethical guidelines regarding moral behavior towards others:
    Nonviolence, Truthfulness, Nonstealing, Nonlust, Noncovetesness
  2. Niyama: Five ethical guidelines regarding moral behavior towards oneself:
    Cleanliness, Contentment, Sustained practice, Self study, Surrender to God
  3. Asana: Practice of yoga postures.
  4. Pranayama: Practice of breathing exercises.
  5. Pratyahara: Withdrawal of the senses, meaning that the exterior world is not a distraction from the interior world within oneself.
  6. Dharana: Concentration, meaning the ability to focus on something uninterrupted by external or internal distractions.
  7. Dhyana: Meditation. Building upon Dharana, the concentration is no longer focused on a single thing but is all encompassing.
  8. Samadhi: Bliss. Building upon Dhyana, the transcendence of the self through meditation. The merging of the self with the universe. Sometimes translated as enlightenment.

Weight Management Tips from Amazing Acupuncturist Peter Borton

I received a monthly newsletter from one of my favorite acupuncturists- Peter Borton at and he has some interesting insights on weight management I thought I would share. The full article can be found at

Excerpts from Peter (more tips in the full article... read the last one here though... the most important!)-

- Get enough sleep (but not too much). Since insufficient sleep is associated with weight gain, make sure you’re getting enough sleep that you feel well rested in the morning. If you tend to feel more groggy after a certain time in bed (usually over 9 hours), you may be oversleeping.

- Don’t skip meals. When you skip meals your metabolism slows down to adjust for the decreased supply of calories. Also, you’re more likely to overeat at your next meal.

- The amount you eat per meal is more significant than your total daily calories. If you eat two meals of 1000 calories each per day (that’s 2000 calories total), you most certainly are supplying your body with more than it can handle at each meal, and the excess will be stored as fat. On the other hand, if you divided those same 2000 calories into four 500-calorie meals spaced out evenly over the day, you are more likely to under-supply your caloric need. Then the body will burn fat for extra energy.

-Allow enough time between meals for the stomach to empty and your body to burn the calories you have consumed. This means at least two and a half hours with no food whatsoever (water is okay). If you tend to get hypoglycemic between meals, trying eating more protein and fewer simple carbohydrates.

- Never microwave anything in a plastic container or plastic wrap; reduce your consumption of foods that come in plastic containers (dry goods in plastic are okay) and cans. Plastic residues in our food may interfere with our hormone function.

- Stay relaxed when you eat. Always eat sitting down, turn off the music, turn off the television, and put down your book or newspaper. It’s a good idea to stay relaxed after eating, too.

-Sugars allow the amino acid tryptophan to enter your brain. There it is converted into serotonin, which elevates our mood. Without adequate carbs, there may not be enough tryptophan entering the brain, and consequently not enough serotonin. This is why some people feel depressed when eating a low carbohydrate diet. This can be addressed by eating slightly more complex carbohydrates (vegetables!, moderate amounts of whole, raw fruits, or small amounts of whole, unrefined, cooked grains) and/or taking supplemental tryptophan (1500 mg twice a day or 3000 mg at bedtime, always taken apart from protein-rich foods).

-Don’t stop eating fats. It’s a good idea to avoid margarine and deep fried foods, since they’re unhealthy, but moderate amounts of animal and vegetable fat supply essential nutrients. They give us energy, support nervous system function, and are useful in promoting satiety. That is, they help us feel full. Most people would feel full - perhaps even bloated - after eating a piece of cheesecake (which has plenty of fat), but meanwhile you could probably drink a glass or two of soda or bottled juice and still eat a meal with it. The soda/juice has no fat, so it doesn’t fill you up much, but it has maybe two-thirds the calories per can as a piece of cheesecake!

- Finally, just because you may prefer a slimmer body, don’t withhold love and approval from yourself. This is like depriving a sick person of medicine because you dislike sickness. Think about how you would treat a loved one with a weight problem. Even if you thought they would fare better with different eating habits or more exercise, would you reject them or stop loving them? You are so much more than the shape of the body you reside in. When you stop loving yourself, the impact on your health can only be negative. Practice a combination of discipline and compassion. You can do it.