Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Chronicles of Food #1

Plan, plan, plan. Prep, prep, prep. Eat. Eat. Eat. Time it. I ate too little! I ate too much! Weekends are for pizza! Do I have the money to support my current eating habit? Do it again.

I look over at the kitchen, which sits in the bagua feng shui map in sector 4: knowledge, wisdom, self-improvement, Saturn (representing discipline). Last night, I cooked firm, salted tofu with olive oil, quinoa with tumeric, hard boiled eggs, and mixed dried cranberries into a cup of cottage cheese. I cut into a cucumber that somehow got frozen, in my fridge! Not sure how it happened but a beautiful piece of produce was completely ruined! No, I did not decide to give it a proper burial, unless the trash is sufficient.

I am beginning my brave journey of actually logging my process publicly. I've always admired people who chose to take basically near naked photos of themselves as they whittle their bodies down into sexy healthy goodness. Even though I have always been in the fitness industry, fitness for me was never about how cut I could get, but instead, how functionally strong I could be. It's not that I'm becoming shallow in the shadow of my 40s, but that I see a different purpose and method to my madness, now that my body has proper healing time. I was teaching too many classes, doing too much cardio, and basically burning my body out. Looking back at my life, my body was not behaving well. It was not properly assimilating macro or micronutrients. I was not eating enough proteins, and sometimes simply overeating.

Just recently I decided that enough was enough, and that it was no longer enough to just keep saying to myself that it was just be vegetarian and lifting weights. No. I needed a nutrition plan that worked for me without making me feel like I needed to deprive myself of anything. But it stands to reason, that certain foods, certain timing, and certain amount of load, make my body feel optimal. It's not that I can't eat anything I want. The timing though, it has just everything to do with how well I end up feeling at the end of a day. And quite frankly, I want to feel good enough to get that workout in everyday, knowing this will improve my goals.
 Sometimes it seems as if there's really not much to this. Then I get a reality check about mine own nutritional complication I bring into the picture, such as this evening, when Valrhona chocolate and raw almonds seemed to call me at the same time, and I begin to see the patterns and traps that most come to me for, in order to help them see a path through.
This summer was about going deeply within, but it was also about seeing how others share the light of similar struggles all around. I have finally decided to pick up my staff and lead people the way they were meant to be lead, through the nutrition walk with more intensity than before.

I joined a community called Integrative Nutrition. I am now on the road to becoming certified as a health and life coach. It gives me the chance to dig through a number of questionable systems and get the low down of the nutritional book writing industry. I really want to know why authors and doctors have come to their conclusions, and how I can make the whole process a little less confusing and a little more compromising, more loving and more interactive, a customized experience...just from the changes in timing I have noticed muscularity and build. There is so much more to say, but I'll stop here by saying that, from wherever you are, are, adding this nutrition piece to exercise is the perfect marriage. I took my first set of pictures and I am so excited to see the changes.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Harnessing Fitness Goals

Observe a dream...have a goal....commitment to the building of that plan.

Evenly distribute your energy across the entire landscape of your goal....and attack each piece, one at at a time.
I see many people struggling, or doing nothing, in the gym. I hear the cries of the uninspired, the lackluster, the motivationally challenged. I understand that getting to live with and love your fitness goals could not be the easiest thing to balance with career and family, school, study and sleep. But somehow, if this goal could literally improve the very quality of your life and keep you out of the doctor's office, couldn't it possibly be worth it to find a way to invest in your health to this degree?

Yes. Yes!!! Yes!!! Yes! do we get to this?

I was blessed with an early introduction to health and fitness from an early age. I realize that I owe whatever fitness discipline I have to my parents. I'll even give credit to my siblings. My father was a black belt in Karate and lifted weights in the backyard. As we watched "Wide World of Sports" (the thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat) and the Olympics, he seemed to have unrequited dreams I wasn't aware of. My mother danced and did yoga. She taught me to eat right, based on nutritional ideas of that era. My brother trained and wrestled in the 1984 Olympic trials. My brother and sisters were all belted in Karate and Judo, competed and trained. My sister who belted in Judo, also had an affinity for salsa dancing. She and I even taught a class together at a certain point! It seems as if we had a pretty athletically inclined family.Yes, my family has much to do with the continuing acquisition of my fitness quest.

Thing is, the rest of my life up to this point has been up to me. Of course, teaching dance, yoga, cycling, kickboxing, weightlifting and personal training had kept me going, and I threw in marathon training to the mix. But did I do too much? Or not enough, in the long run...

This is where technically, you could have stopped reading at that second line: Evenly distribute your energy across the entire landscape of your goal....and attack each piece, one at at a time. If it's not something you can sustain for an extended period of days per week and months, it may not be an overall attainable goal...not that goals aren't challenging, but that they should, to reiterate, be attainable.

So maybe this is a common, standard belief. Maybe even that common standard is also to keep your fitness balanced over a variety of disciplines and an overage of fruit and vegetables. Maybe we've all heard ad nauseum, to get a fitness buddy. But has that gotten you into your goal and attacking each piece? What rock bottom moment do you need to rock you and shake you into action?

One thing that motivates me is to dare myself to live my life without my fitness. I have imagined what others have gone through, be it pulled muscles, torn ligaments, illness, disease or an affliction, a physical handicap. I walk into a club and see a man in a wheelchair, clearly unable to ever stand, enjoying the music. It reminded me of wearing braces on my feet until I was 3 and being told I would never walk. It was the memory of being so sick through most of my elementary school life that I missed many days of school. It was the suffering of flat feet, scoliosis and hypoglycemia. At that moment I realize that life is meant to be lived and each moment is clearly representative of that. And for that, I am so grateful.

Does that mean the harnessing of that goal can take less time to accomplish? Honestly, I don't even think you would want the acquiring of that goal to be manifested so quickly. If you could truly snap your fingers and manifest weight loss for example, would you appreciate it and hold the energy of that appreciation across future outcomes? There are many lessons that would never be cemented without the struggle and the reach-up. Many world-class athletes have experienced depression after having shown their superiority, but not without years of blood, sweat, tears and probably a few primal screams of frustration. Either way, many will say they worked their whole life for that one goal. That's a lot of training sessions.

Ultimately I can hand you a plan, a goal and pick you up and go with you to the gym, but you have to find that reason, that overpowers all your other senses. It's the one that gets you to stop waiting to enjoy the health everyone deserves.

Chasing Greatness

My friend and I were watching one of the world's greatest Olympians, Michael Phelps,

....and the current fastest woman in the world, Shelly Ann Fraser Pryce.

Last but not least, Gabby Douglas, the first African American history-making gymnast...


The Olympics have always acknowledged, inspired and honored our world's greatest athletes, serving as a symbol of the reward for following one's dreams. Every event, every win and every loss, measures the level of commitment, ability, timing, luck, or all four. I remember wanting to be Nadia Comaneci while watching with the family, laughing, crying, and dreaming all the way through the two weeks of exciting events. This wonderful memory has followed me into my adulthood. I wanted to cry my eyes out several times during the big wins I witnessed this year in London, dreaming about being in the audience. My son leaned over and asked me, "Mom, can we go to the Olympics live one day?" A smile spread across my face as I entertained the idea...for more than one reason.

But just as soon as that joy entered, so did the concern of a current youth population that does not seem to be targeted for anything. With an excessive exposure to video games, music with violent or sexual themes and negative and uninspiring television images, what future is there for children? Many children don't even seem interested in watching the Olympics, nor do they have a desire to push when things get tough.

What about our adult population? I have heard of more people who sit on the couch after work than I would like to know about. What kind of a tomorrow are we setting ourselves up for? Are we even living in the Consciousness that this moment in our history is more important than ever? Do we know what will help us achieve a different, more inspiring end? Do we really want our epitaphs to have our couch history recorded, or something we did to bring our greatness to Light and help us to change the world?

What if EVERYONE in the world RIGHT NOW, was doing their part to work towards their own personal Greatness?

It is far too simplified to say that change can be tough. Change is complicated, involved, detailed, challenging, unpredictable, uncomfortable, and beautiful, perfect and very, very necessary. Think of what would happen to us if we never changed...we'd never leave diapers, have a first love, celebrate our parent's 50th anniversary, see our children be born. We'd never find the career of our dreams or have a 40th birthday. Even more interestingly, we wouldn't ever see the importance of having any crowning moments in our life. How did we know that these events held sacred power and were very important? Our families guided us. They taught us everything we know about our tribal power and what makes us who we are. Change is simply part of the matrix of our lives.

As I type this, just to drive the point home, I look up and see one Olympic runner's story. He never got to run his best or get a gold medal...or place at all, but he did finish it with his father.

Even as I make most of my discussion about the Olympics, Greatness does not need to be qualified with a gold medal or even a sport. Greatness comes from within. I realize that most people want a formula, design, a system to follow. But even if one is handed a system to follow, one must find the discipline and fortitude to even stick to the model. What formula really needs to be followed for Greatness to pour forth? One step...the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. I wanna say that Lao Tzu said that, but then again I'd give him credit for quite a lot, kind of like all the quotes found on Einstein. Did Einstein really say that? Who knows?
The only real thing we all know, is that Einstein, a poor example of a smart child, rose on to adulthood genius. He, at some point, felt called to explore his Greatness. Once he found it, it couldn't be stopped. It flowed on its own...he was even smart enough to know when his Greatness could have chaotic, destructive consequences, and that is when he took his efforts and rerouted himself away from people who didn't have his best interests in mind. So then, his Greatness was even larger than any of us can imagine, because he understood the sacred principle of aligning with our goals.

If nothing else can inspire us, hopefully one shining moment in someone else's life, can. One famous author, artist or scientist of a time past, can tell his or her story, and help us to make that visualization with clear details, that to-do list started, and that one small step crossed off the list, just one, only one, at a time.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Thoughts on the Chakras and Koshas

The chakras are the bridge to a higher level of consciousness. It is a road that leads us to the eventual end game of what we call Enlightenment. Although spiritual studies and understandings have led me to believe that Enlightenment only comes in inspired moments, a balanced view, exploration and experience of the chakras can only lead to a higher state of consistent “Enlightenment,” or balance, and that is the goal.

Each chakra comes with a variety of lessons, imbalanced and balanced expressions of the chakra. Each chakra gives a solid foundation upon which to build the next. Each chakra also expresses itself through the koshas. Let’s look at the chakras first from the pathway of the koshas.
As the chakras start at its basic need, so does this idea resonate with the koshas, which begin at the annamayakosha, or food and survival, tribal connectivity and procreation. This resonates with the first chakra in particular, represented by the color red, and resonating with basic foundational, physically and physiologically rooted concepts. The chakras also correspond to the physical position they gather in the body. The needs that the chakra expresses are supported there. In addition to this, your body’s endocrinology also resides in each chakra.
The sacral chakra, represented by orange, resides in the annamayakosha. The sacral chakra corresponds to the need to receive love and pleasure, luxury, family and relationships. It can also be the seat of addiction, housing balanced and imbalanced expressions of issues dealing with money such as hoarding, gambling, or stealing, sexuality (porn, affair energy) and wide ranging emotions.

At the level of the manomayakosha, emotions, mental states of expression are there. Also present is trauma and dysfunction emanating from the lower chakras, as a result of the imbalance being present for an extended period of time. We hope to remember in this moment that energy is neither created nor destroyed, it only changes form and is therefore stored. The chakras carry the energetic imprint of the mental and emotional states of consciousness. The energy of the 3rd and 4th chakra live here in this kosha. The 3rd chakra is responsible for discernment, discipline and boundaries, while the 4th chakra is the gateway to the higher chakras, opening up and losing the boundaries and limits, expressing the higher realms of existence through unconditional, personal and compassionate love. This to me is the eternal conflict of the chakras; however, there is that delicate interplay that needs to happen in order for the whole person to progress.

Depending on what the manomayakosha decides to do with this energy, it filters up and into the 5th and 6th chakras, or the vjnanamayakosha, the witness center. Having nestled its energy here, people have either a clear or muttled view of reality, reality being defined by experience in the lower chakras and expressed in its highest self in the higher chakras, no matter what its origin point. This is why the foundation must be strongly and solidly built, in order for bliss to occur.
The 5th chakra is the channel to a higher consciousness, and speaks for Source, Universe, God, Brahman. It is the seat of the higher plane, or even the legs on which to travel. The 6th chakra is the seer, the third eye, ajna chakra, whose aim is to light the path before it. So the 5th chakra often speaks for the 6th chakra when messages are needed to be sent. When someone feels they are receiving guidance, it is through this point that the guidance speaks and rains on the blessed.
As the 6th chakra is expressed, and the vision is spoken on and carried out into the world through the 4th and 5th chakra, bliss is achieved, in a balanced expression, in the 7th chakra. The imbalanced expression of the 7th chakra can be experienced as delusion, deception, spiritual arrogance, spiritual distortion such as cult-like mentality, obviously false perceptions parading as truth. Through repetition of karmic acts of service on the world, and there are plenty to serve, the 7th chakra can again be reinforced and beautifully expressed.
Through the practice of meditation and inner guidance, the soul can take us one step further into enlightenment, or the understanding of ideas not originally understood. Meditation opens the path, and inner guidance tells the soul how to navigate through the pieces. We are in a space to receive fabulous gifts of the Spirit with our willingness to listen and learn.
The chakra body mapping is a beautiful way to see in the physical space a picture of your soul. This guidance can make clear which areas of the chakra body are free flowing, and which ones are stagnant and in need of a shift. Core issues and challenges are addressed more fully when knowledge of the state of the chakras is present.
The yoga therapy process describes the root chakra as the embodiment within the journey, tuning our senses to the physical practice of yoga as a source of finding that embodiment, rootedness, and awareness on the physical plane. The chapter smartly discusses yoga as a system of balancing and stabilizing within specific postures (balance poses, or hip openers for direct massage of the root chakra, releasing of latent anger and limiting, long-held beliefs, for example).
Though we are more than our bodies, we can safely say that, if we look at the model of the koshas, we are able to develop our spiritual lives through this yoga practice and grow from there, as a seed grows upward from the soil. At its base, we find a coiled, latent kundalini energy that consists of Shiva (pure consciousness and transformation) and lingam, referring to latent potential. It would seem fitting to unearth this coil by massaging, moving, and uncoiling it, as a ripened vegetable would be unloosed from the earth to be made ready to consume. This makes clear that the root chakra would then be, by IYT’s definition, the basis of the journey, the foundation.

Aligning to Source in Everyday Life

Aligning to Source Consciousness can be as easy as plugging into a socket. It is only a matter of making the space in your day a ritual event, much as we do for our preparation to go to work: we awaken, we stretch our arms, shower, prepare our morning 'get-up' (coffee, tea, food), our lunch and bags, then we head out the door. If only we would take a portion of that morning to set our priorities for the day, before leaving our homes, all the way down to the detail.

Alignment is a conscious event. Setting an intention with focus and energy is the way of manifestation. It is not only the intention that makes something real, it is the action behind it. Not only do we need intention, focus and energy, we also need our manifestation tools. What are these? What do they mean in your life? What I use for manifestation may be something different for you. I use stones and crystals, prayer and prayer beads, sage and incense, pictures, a dream board, and an altar, a sacred space, that represents what I do and what I am manifesting. The tools you use must mean something to you.

Here is an example of my ritual. I awaken, open, bless and protect my sacred space with Angels. I do my breathwork, meridian tracing, and a couple of sun salutations. I set up my intentions and speak to them in the areas of family, friend and community intentions, organization and task management, my relationship, our finances, and then education and research. All of these things bear deep importance to me and affect the quality of my life intrinsically. Then I get even more specific and imagine my smooth, unblemished ride to work, my joyful communication with my leadership and coworkers, and my loving interaction with my students. I imagine my healthy lunch and my graceful exit from my day. I enjoy spending time and integrating my son into my life. I manifest the outcomes of my exercise efforts and see them as healing, empowering, and enjoyable. I then imagine a restful night with reading and contemplation before turning in.

The alignment with Source stays consistent when we recognize that the connection is a daily act, and can involve every experience in our life, as sacred, important, and carrying the ability to be manifest in the way we see fit. We need to manifest a way to make every area of our life carry the resonance of our purpose. This is the essence of Blissfully Fit.