Monday, February 13, 2012

Follow the Money

There’s an adage that goes something like, “If you visit a doctor, you’ll get medicine. Go see a nutritionist and you’ll learn that all of your problems are caused by your diet. If you visit a chiropractor, you’ll find the problem is your skeleton.  Visiting a massage therapist, you’ll be told it’s a muscular problem. A neurologist will find a nerve issue.  A Reiki master will tell you it’s all about your energy. Go see a psychiatrist and it will become clear that it’s all in your mind.”

Basically, you can’t really trust anyone who’s set up to make money.  Once someone is getting paid for their information, they immediately become biased. I’m not saying they can’t be trusted at all, but I’m advising you keep in mind that if someone is making a livelihood from giving you specific information, then they’re going to be highly motivated to believe and dispense said information; no matter what.

Paula Deen is an example of this.  When she was told she had Type 2 diabetes, it was no surprise to anyone who knows anything about the strong correlation between nutrition and health.  But, if she had a brain and a soul, she would have recognized that her lifestyle was killing her.  This would be bad enough, but it was not only killing her, but also slowly killing all of the people who watch her shows and get inspired by her demented ideas of what ‘food’ is.

Instead of changing her tune and possibly learning from her condition, she’s adding another notch to her evil belt. Now she’s a spokesperson for Novartis, a big pharmaceutical company that thrives on keeping us sick and feeding us drugs.  If we, as a country, used our brains when we ate, we’d not only put pharmaceuticals and doctors out of business, but we’d enjoy a much more pleasant, healthy and productive life.

I noticed a similar phenomenon with yoga teachers in the wake of a NY Times article that outed yoga as being not all it was cracked up to be, and actually suggesting that it could be a dangerous practice.

(By the way, I wrote a very similar article over a year earlier, so it’s nice to know that the NY Times is stealing from me.) Read that blog post here

But what’s really discouraging is hearing the responses from people who have set themselves up to make their living from yoga. They have blinders on, and will defend yoga at all costs rather than adjust what they believe in the face of new information.

I’m not beholden to any type of exercise, any particular diet or any supplement or medication. i can change my advice and my beliefs as scientific discoveries change the landscape.  If I had my career all tied up in weight-training, for example, I never could have made the dramatic shift away from weights that I did in 2009 when I came to the understanding that not only was it not the best way to work out, but that it carried a lot of dangers with it. If I was selling a program that included a lot of deep breathing, I never could have abandoned that in favor of shallow breathing when I discovered its superiority in late 2010.

So in the end, the best advice is to give a lot of weight to your intuitions and to keep in mind how much of a financial investment any guru has in the subject. Your best teachers will be the ones who have no long-term attachment to their material, but whose teaching change and adapt over time as they learn and grow.

2012 Injuries

My exercising has been sporadic lately.

About three weeks ago I stopped my programed workouts because of a series of small injuries. My thumb was sprained, my back was seizing up and the issue that I had been working on to fix and realign my foot/ankle seemed to have transferred up into my knee, causing it to feel unstable, but thankfully, without pain. The ankle pain had finally stopped, but whatever misalignment that was causing it has obviously repositioned itself and has destabilized my knee. 

So, I hobbled around for two weeks and spent another week fairly pain free, but still not prepared to get back into it. The knee, as I said, doesn't hurt, but the weird clicking and feeling of instability are off-putting.  I did go back to the studio and try out some of my movements to see how I’d feel the next day, but it wasn’t encouraging; I still had residual pain in my wrist and back and the weird misalignment in my knee.

Now, three weeks since the last time I worked out, I’m started to get eager to sweat again, but my body still doesn’t feel happy. 

In the meantime, my only form of exercise has been running in the park with my dog in a sort of Fartlek style.  He gets me out of breath and keeps me agile with sudden turns and direction changes, so it's a fairly good workout, but not to the degree that I'm accustomed.

So, now I want to start up again, but at a much reduced degree of intensity until I feel ready to pump it up again.  Instead of using my prescription, though, I’m going to have to play around with my movements until my body comes around and starts co-operating with me again.

Inspired by my Fartlek play with River, I’ll bring this concept into the studio and explore a combination of yoga, Nia and strength training.  My main goal will be to return ease and comfort to my body.  It'll be an exploration of my strength, flexibility and ability. I want to work on balance and stability as well. Who knows what will come of it, but I will simply set a timer for 45 minutes, begin with a warm up and see where that leads me.  Then, after the timer goes off, I'll begin to cool down.

On a related note, my diet has been falling from grace, and I’ve been eating a lot more sugar and refined flour.  I suspect this may have something to do with my physical discomfort, so I’ll be keeping an eye on that as well.

Finally I'm a healthy person!

A year and a half ago, I started practicing breathing reduction, based on the teachings of Konstantine Buteyko. His program included this exercise that you were supposed to do every day. So, for about three weeks, I did it every day. But I soon gave it up because I was struggling to hold a control pause any higher than 8 seconds, and the teachings say that a “healthy person” should be able to easily hold a control pause of at least 20 seconds. Any less than that, they say, is a sign of poor health and an imbalance in your body. I was told that if it weren’t for the fact that I exercised so much, I would have much more disease in my body because of my poor breathing habits.

Buteyko taught that an extremely fit and healthy person could easily hold up to forty second control pauses. My ego was riled. I considered myself a healthy person, at least. (and I’d even go so far as to say in excellent health and fitness) but I couldn’t even imagine holding a twenty second control pause, much less a forty second one!! It was frightening and demotivating to me.

So I stopped practicing every morning, but I never lost my awareness of hyperventilating throughout the day.  By reducing my breathing, I was changing every aspect of my life, from the way I walked and talked and ate and slept. It totally changed the way I approached exercise, (once again!) So, it was enough, for a while, just to make those adjustments to my life. But 18 months later, these things have become habit, so this New Years was the perfect occasion to add the practice back into my life. 

I was surprised that when I first started in January, how easy it was to hold a control pause well above eight seconds. I was using control pauses of 12 and 13 on average right away, and it wasn’t long before it was up to 16 seconds with ease.

Last Friday, the last time I practiced, in the twenty minutes that I practice for, I held a total of 14 control pauses and rested between them an average of 1 minute, 7 seconds. My average control pause was 21.8 seconds. Whew!  Finally, I’m a healthy person!  Now I’ll continue to do those daily exercises and strive for that 40 second control pause so one day I can be Buteyko healthy!

I’m sort of joking, of course. But I’m also seriously impressed with the non-measurable benefits of breathing this way. For the past year and a half, I’ve been reaping the benefits of being more grounded and centered and relaxed and sensitive by nose-breathing. It also, interestingly, serves as a gauge for how I’m feeling and what I’m eating; in that when I’m doing or eating something that isn’t good for me, I find it harder to breathe through my nose.

The exercise also serves as a great meditation. Even if I weren’t doing the yoga Kriyas in addition to my daily breathing exercises, I still feel like I’d be getting in a good meditation just by sitting there focusing on shallow, slow, relaxed, quiet, nasal breathing.

The third part of the morning ritual triad is my exercise. Breathing/Exercising/Meditating. But, I haven’t been doing that part. At all. But that’s a whole other story. Literally. On another page. I’ll write it soon.