It’s not improving but unfolding that makes us grow. We are fine the way we are, and it makes me uncomfortable when someone tries to tell me something that will “make” me better. Our own process is precious, unique, special, and nobody knows what the next best step is, not even us.
Still there is no denying that the world we live in tends to attack our natural process of unfolding, large billboards show us what one in a million women look like (a model) and we think maybe we are not right, or the level of noise from the person sitting next to us on the train and talking non-stop drives us crazy, or worse, we try our best to do our job at work with a screen that is constantly shinning blue light into our eyes diminishing the mitochondria power in our vision and making us weak.
All the changes listed here have not made me happier per say, but they have transformed my life for the better. I have more energy, just as an example I am writing again.
Some of the tools offered are not expensive, some require an investment, some are easy while others may seem challenging, but when implemented, all at once or one at the time, the difference is a fully upgraded life.
While using these I’ve been keeping records. As the tools came into my life, one by one, I went from an apathetic state of not wanting to look at my website to revitalizing my mailing list, writing posts, offering a yoga workshop and planning a yoga research trip. My interest in finding out what works has been invigorated, and my curiosity for yoga is back at it.
As a person living with addictive tendencies and bipolar II, I am dumbfound at realizing that at the core of all impulsive tendencies there is probably one or two issues, either PTSD or sugar addiction. I don’t have a control group study to back me up on this, it is a complete instinctive realization that came to me as a download.
Quitting sugar was hard but I found myself a lot more capable of resisting impulsive tendencies without it. I was hoping to shed pounds quicker instead, but that, as is usually the case, is not what happened, instead I unlocked a new sense of will power, a more rooted center from which I make decisions.
Then, while searching for ways to increase serotonin (the brain compound that causes better moods) I was surprised to see that eliminating sugar was at the top of the list.
Take what you love and leave behind what does not resonate with you. Only you can decide what areas of your life could use a little help so you can keep unfolding in your own special way.
1.-Junk Light No More
The normal spectrum of color within our light sources (bulbs) has been reduced in the name of cost savings. The fluorescent lights in offices and, most offensively, in airports or stores like Kamart, is playing havoc with our mitochondria which is our own cell powering force. Computer screens emit blue light and cheap artificial lamps bathe us in melatonin-depleting good light.
There is nothing like natural light of course, but then again, the way we work and live does not always allow for access to it. To counteract this I now use the following things
- I replaced all LED (which are mostly blue emitting) light bulbs from my home and replaced them with these halogen lights. Yes they don’t last as long but they are better for the cell powering mechanism within my body, so they are health-cost-efficient.
- I purchased this blue block filtering screen, and as I type I am using it to avoid eye fatigue and get my eyes to work well and longer.
- I placed red LED lights around my desk and installed two real small lamps with halogen bulbs to counteract all the cheap fluorescent lights in my area. This makes people happy when they come and visit my cubicle. They don’t know why, they just feel like they like it when they are around me. So popularity is probably a side effect.
- My bedroom is now totally dark for sleeping, there is not a spec of light, I sleep in total, absolute darkness and with no clocks, LEDs or phones or computers around me. The addition of double black out curtains has helped. And, truth to be told, actually my phone is with me (see #6) because of a sleep app, but more on that later, and also, while with me, it is on airplane mode. The reason for no light in the bedroom is because the skin absorbs light, not just the eyes, so a mask does not cover it.
- When I travel I now cover the majority of my body with long sleeves, socks, hats, and orange sun glasses to avoid the onslaught of horrific lighting that all airports and airplanes use.
- At lunch time, no matter what time of the year, I go out and expose my self to the sun. That bright star that has been for millennia bathing us in its rays. I don’t over do it, but I do feel it for a bit and so that it will activate the vitamin D I take daily.
It might be too early to tell in my private experiment how much of an impact all of these changes have. However the silence does back them up. You can read “Head Strong” to hear all the details behind each one of the claims, a book I recommend.
2.- Fat For Breakfast
As a child of the 70s I bought into grains being good for you and fat being bad. New science, thank goodness! tells me that that was completely wrong.
After my big breakdown a few years ago that came with the culmination of my previous life I felt down and disoriented for years, until in a moment of clarity I tried two different types of nutrition. I figured that maybe if I ate better I could feel better. The two protocols were in totally opposite sides, one was veganism the other the bulletproof.
Veganism did not work for me. Within two weeks I felt weaker, I farted all the time, I slept a lot more and was always tired, hunger never left me and I put on weight. This may not be the case for everyone but for me, a South American woman who grew up eating meat is just not the right thing.
And so I went back to the bulletproof diet.
Now I drink coffee with grass-fed butter and brain octane oil in the morning and practice intermittent fasting. I do know the results of this are fantastic for my body. I feel full, nurtured, happier, centered. The right type of food for us is very important.
I am not advocating you use more fat in your diet nor follow the bulletproof protocol, all I am suggesting is that looking into nutrition can have a profound effect in our transformation. Nobody likes to simply seat and meditate if we are not feeling at least base-line OK.
3. Junk Noise No More
When I returned to NY -and for a while- I rented a room in a nice area of Manhattan, problem was the room faced Broadway, and the window did not close all the way down to accommodate for the a/c (don’t you love New York?). One night I got so sick of the loud radios and motorcycles outside I put on my magic headsets on and started googling like crazy for ways to vanish noise.
I wanted a cone of silence. And I got it. Only it did not look like what I expected.
That night as I looked fervently through the web I found inventors trying to create a bug-like type of machine that when turned on en-capsules the user into a bubble of silence. Of course it is in early stages, I found it in Kickstarter, and a quick look through message boards confirmed my fears, it might not work.
And so I was left with this incredible tool, the Bosse 35 Noise Cancelling Headphones. It turns out I already had what I was looking for, right on my temples.
This beautiful if expensive pair of headsets has changed my life. I am not sure how I lived before them and I doubt that even though they are pricey I will ever live without them.
I find them to be an investment in health, in peace, in a sober way to keep grounded when the world around is crazy as it happens in a city like New York, or Buenos Aires.
When I travel I put them on before leaving home and take them off after landing. When I take the train on a daily commute they are always on me, and as I take breaks in the park I wear them while listening to audio books or just on the “noise cancellation” function, so the world can quiet down.
Being in a city is a great way to share ideas and thrive by learning from others but I find it is important to stream line when it is time to share and when it is time to quiet down. There is only so much energy.
4.- Sugar No More
The intermittent fasting I do (I eat meals only between noon and 6 pm) means no sugar with my coffee in the morning. This was hard at first, but it got easier with time. I did go through periods of being angry, after all you don’t break a 40+ year old habit one day to the next.
Someways I need to negotiate my addiction with some berries, other days I may even have a banana, but not a lot of them, only once in a while, only when it gets to be way too much.
I take xylotol of good quality when I really need to sweeten something and hope to never try the white powder again.
With so much sugar added to everything in our lives, cutting it is perhaps the biggest eye opener at our disposal.
In reading Head Strong I was led to a video of Dave Asprey talking about these legal supplements that improve brain cognition. I was game.
I tried a few of them, and as I write this I am on Phenylpiracetam, which is of the racetam family and that has the potential to enhance cognition. I am not saying you should go taking them, always do your research. In my case however I have found them to be a great aid for more focus faster typing and idea generation.
Again I highly recommend you read “Head Strong” to get the full picture.
6.- Vitamin D, Honey Before Bed, and the Sleep Cycle App
Continuing with trying to get the rhythms of my body to flow, even while living in a city in which circadian rhythms are not the priority, I use vitamin D in the morning together with vitamin K and activate it by getting under the noon sun for a few minutes, I also take Honey (raw honey, not just any, and only 1 table spoon) before bed. The reason for this is that the brain needs glucose to work and as it sleeps it is very active cleansing (through the glymphatic system).
I also started using the app Sleep Cycle because it has a way of measuring (through the phone’s mic) my movements and breathing and determining when I am in deep sleep (the most restorative part of sleep). The alarm setting has a “range” rather than a set time, and within that range, sleep cycle wakes me up only when I am coming out of deep sleep and going towards ‘just sleep’ where dreams happen.
7.- Dinner With Friends Once A Week
Out of all of the tools offered here none is more rewarding that a group of friends that meets weekly for dinner. I managed to enter the group by participating in a church activity. This particular group is not associated with any religion (which was a requisite for me) but rather it gets together because of a common focus of sharing experiences as we go through life.
Every week on a particular day we get together and go to dinner. Sometimes we are 20 sometimes we are 4, it does not matter. Getting to know each one of these people, and new people when they come opens me up to testing my ideas, seeing where I am off, noticing how I interact with others, and create deep connections.
Friendships make me stronger because I don’t feel like I am alone, there is always someone I can call if I am facing a stressful situation. And as a mixing of ideas it is priceless. I hear what others are looking into, what makes people tick, and what makes them upset. And I get to talk yoga to them until their ears cry “no more”.
Friendships also release Oxycontin, which makes us feel connected and contributes to well being.
8.- Mixing Yoga Asana with HIIT Once A Week
In the excellent book Body by Science I came to see clearly that we developed, as a species and over thousands of years, by living in relative peace and rest followed by periods of intense fear, fight and activity. This is how we are put together.
Yoga is, for me, a balm, a routine that quiets me, breathes me, stretches me and renews me but it is by no means an intense practice. Not even if practicing advanced poses.
So I decided to let science guide me here and ONCE A WEEK I mix yoga with intense HIIT (High Intensive Interval Training) training.
What I do is less poses (mostly the very beneficial ones as per the book) and mix them with burpies or jumping hacks and other high intense exercises that significantly raise my heart rate and give me muscle fatigue.
This practice is SHORT and again, happens only once a week.
I find down-dog, child pose or savasana to be great poses to recover after a high intensity interval, and then I am back at it.
All in all I will practice for about 30 minutes with the HIIT part being about 15 minutes of it, and the other 15 constituting recovery.
9.-The Other 5 Weekly Yoga Practices At 4% Increase Intensity
In another fabulous book I just read “Stealing Fire“, the authors say that “flow” or that state in which everything comes together happens when there is a little more effort, as well as risk and full concentration.
The 4% concept stuck with me. After practicing the primary series of Ashtanga Yoga for 12 years -every day- and mostly because I’ve been told to do so I know feel in my bones that far from helping me it is hurting me. The thing is easy, I can do it with my eyes closed, I am mostly daydreaming. It is time to up the stakes.
This led me to create my own routine which includes some standing poses, the core of primary together with the deep twists, and the most of the back bends of the intermediate series, aiming to getting at kapotasana and the drop backs.
This is not something I would suggest anyone do, it is just for me. But the concept, the 4% still applies to anyone reading.
If the exercise you are doing can be challenged to an extra little bit more, 4% more, then the focus returns, the effort causes concentration and the body gets better.
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