The Mind Body Connection

What Eastern medicine has known for 2000 years about the connection between the mind and the body, Western medicine only actively started to research less than 2 centuries ago. The concept of the mind influencing the body was first explored by George Beard, MD in 1881 when he linked the stressful lifestyle of the American elite with conditions such as poor digestion, migraines and depression. Beard called the clinical condition Neurasthenia, now commonly known as nervous exhaustion. Since then many scientific studies have been performed to demonstrate the mechanics of the mind-body link.

Molecules of Emotion

The breakthrough in mind-body research came in the 1970’s with Dr. Candace Pert and Dr. Solomon H. Snyder’s discovery of neuropeptides. Their work was hugely influential in the creation of a brand new branch of science called Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI). Neuropeptides provided PNI with the scientific language – that of neuropeptides and their receptors – that allowed Western medicine to explain in scientific terms how the mind is able to communicate with the body, and the body with mind. Pert called the receptor and neuropeptide molecules, the molecules of emotion.

The information exchange system that Pert and Snyder identified consists of receptors located on the surface of all cells that bind with their matching neuropeptide counterpart (small protein-like molecules produced by the nerve cells in the brain). Neuropeptides deliver its emotion-linked chemical message to the receptor, which then transmits the message to the cell, triggering a chain of biochemical reactions which can create changes within the cell of either a positive or negative nature.

The key discovery by Pert and her team was that receptors for neuropeptides are not only located in the brain, but also in all other cells of the body. This discovery would explain how it is possible for endorphins and opioids such as heroin or morphine, to powerfully alter the body and emotions.
The relationship between cell, receptor and neuropeptide is explained by Pert as follows:

“If the cell is the engine that drives all life, then the receptors are the buttons on the control panel of that engine, and a specific peptide is the finger that pushes that button and gets things started.”

The nervous, endocrine and immune systems are therefore interlocked in a body-wide system where each part can communicate and influence, the other part. According to Pert, our emotions are the key.

“Emotions are the nexus between mind and matter, going back and forth between the two and influencing both.” C. Pert

Many studies have been performed to prove the theory that the mind-body connection is multi directional. Examples are provided below.

Mind influencing the body

A UK study found that men who had depression were three times more likely to develop heart disease than those without depression.

A study of 150 couples showed that marital discord increases the changes of calcification of the arteries. In the study, couples were asked to discuss any topic for 30 minutes whilst being recorded on video. After 20 minutes, researchers were able to distinguish two types couples. One group emerged as having marital discord, displaying signs of anger, frustration and negative feelings towards their partner. The other group was compassionate, kind and physically tactile towards their partner. Levels of CAC (coronary calcification) in the arteries were measured and found to be higher in the marital discord group. In a sense hardening of the heart towards your spouse, can lead to hardening of the arteries.

The effect of the mind on the body is not only limited to our emotion, but images – both imagined and real – can also affect changes in the body.

Research was performed on a group of patients receiving a 4 – 6 week course of rehabilitation physiotherapy. The first group only received physiotherapy. The second group was asked to do one hour of mental imaging (visualisation) of themselves performing strength building tasks per day in addition to physiotherapy. The third group observed able bodied people perform tasks in addition to receiving physiotherapy. The groups who used visualisation and the group who observed able bodied people, both gained movement much faster than the group who only received physiotherapy treatment. It should be noted that the exercises were performed repeatedly over the course of the study. Repetition is key in order to build neural pathways in the brain that connect with the muscles. It is clear however that the brain does not distinguish between doing, imagining or observing.

Body influencing the mind

A recent study conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital found that increased levels of physical activity were able to reduce the risk of depression considerably, even among those who are genetically predisposed to depression. Both high-intensity exercise, such as aerobic exercise and dance and lower-intensity forms such as yoga and stretching, lowered the risk of depression. Overall, individuals could see a 17 % reduction in the likelihood of a new episode of depression for every four hours of activity per week.

Science has proven that the mind and the body impact each other. The question then is how can the individual control what information is being shared between the mind and the body?

Change the environment

The work of Dr. Bruce Lipton shows that the environment in which a cell is placed, determines “the fate” of the cell. Lipton divided genetically identical stem cells into three groups, each group into its own tissue culture dish with its own culture medium (the environment for the stem cell). In one dish the cells formed bone, in the second dish the cells formed muscle and in the third dish the cells formed fat cells. What the cells eventually grew into was controlled by their environment.

Humans are genetically the same, but the mind (consciously or subconsciously) is interpreting the environment as stressful or not, and the cells of the body will respond accordingly. (See the work of Perk on neuropeptides.)

Conclusion

The key to optimum wellness is therefor to control and change if necessary, the beliefs and way of viewing the world in such a way that the environment is perceived as non-threatening, safe and positive. When the individual is able to change their environment and their perception of the environment, they are able to control the genetic responses of their cells. Dr. David Hamilton sums it up best when he says “Belief shifts biology”.

*This blog post is based on the assignment I completed for Module 1 of my Integrated Resilience & Wellness Coaching studies. Citations were included in the submitted assignment.*

Yoga can reverse the molecular reactions in our DNA which cause ill-health and depression

Yoga can reverse the molecular reactions in our DNA which cause ill-health and depression.

A study of 846 participants over 11 years reveal that mind-body interventions (MBIs) such as meditation, yoga and Tai Chi don’t simply relax us; they can ‘reverse’ the molecular reactions in our DNA which cause ill-health and depression.

Lead investigator Ivana Buric from the Brain, Belief and Behaviour Lab in Coventry University’s Centre for Psychology, Behaviour and Achievement said that “these activities [MBIs] are leaving what we call a molecular signature in our cells, which reverses the effect that stress or anxiety would have on the body by changing how our genes are expressed.

Put simply, MBIs cause the brain to steer our DNA processes along a path which improves our wellbeing.”

Source: ScienceDaily, 15 June 2017

So this happened…

February 2020 has been one heck of a month for me. It started on 02.02.2020 when I met up with my friend Zoe. We worked together a few years ago, until she left the company to become a Narcissist Abuse Recovery coach. She has a successful practice giving men and women the tools & support to help them recover from toxic relationships, having been in one herself.

We met up for lunch on the one year anniversary of my very first Pilates class – the one I did a few days after my Rapid Transformation Therapy session in 2019. I wrote about how far I had come since that first Pilates class, in this post. What I didn’t mention in that post was that I had seen Zoe on the same day. At our lunch we talked a lot about her coaching practice, how her life experiences had lead her to become a coach and how she has used those experiences to help others. I was very inspired by her story and remember telling her that I know my life is also going to “take a turn” but I wasn’t sure in what direction. All I knew was that it would be something to do with helping others based on my own life experiences of Law of Attraction, resilience and that I want to do something where I can apply and strengthen my intuitive guidance.

After that meeting, nothing much happened until the weekend of 15 and 16 February. I had been having problems with a colleague at work for about a year and the emotional toll of that difficult relationship came to a head over the weekend. I hadn’t really realised how much working with her had changed me – but my husband certainly noticed. Long story short, after a lot of crying and reflection, I decided I couldn’t pretend there wasn’t a problem at work any more and that I would speak to my manager about her.

On Monday the 17th I walked into the office a different person with a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. Funny thing is, I had not yet spoken to anyone but just knowing that I was going to deal with the problem, made me feel like my old self again.

Thursday the 20th I was talking to very, very, good friend at work. She told me about her friend who retrained to be a physiotherapist after receiving physio herself and realising that that’s actually the job she should be doing. She had been a secretary for more than 20 years when she retrained, and now she’s at the top of her game as a physiotherapist and much, much happier.

The next day, Friday 21.02.2020, was when things really started to fall into place. That morning I told my husband the story about the lady who retrained as a physio. Within 10 minutes, between him combing his hair and me putting on my make-up, he suggested I should retrain as a coach. He pointed out all the signs I had been getting and the fact that I have so much life experience – why not get a qualification, become a wellness coach and make good use of my hard earned life experience?! It totally made sense!

The beauty of it all is that I don’t need to know exactly when, how or where I will be a coach – for now all I have to do is to act on the nudges that the Universe is sending me and get the qualification.  It was decided. I will retrain as a coach! I was buzzing with excitement all the way to work, knowing that I found that “thing” that Zoe and I had talked about on 02.02.2020. I spent the morning researching accredited health and wellbeing courses. Just before lunchtime I found the course I wanted to do and sent my husband an email with the details.

Just as I hit send, I realised I had to go to a yoga class at MoreYoga Cannon Street but I hadn’t changed into my gym gear yet! It was 12:10, class starts at 12:30 and I still had to walk the 15 minutes to get there! Yet, something told me that I should still try to make it to class, even if I may be late. So I did. I was 5 minutes late to the class which I felt really bad about – I’m never ever late for anything, but as I lay there trying to regulate my breath I was happy I persevered. Class was amazing – I love the instructor’s style – but the clincher happened at the end.

During Savasana Chris read a poem from “Soul to Soul” by John Mundahl which had me in tears. The poor guy had never seen me before and I was late to his class, but I just had to go up to him and tell him (between sobs and smeared mascara) that his poem had given me the confirmation I needed that I’m doing the right thing by studying to be a coach. This is the poem:

A Precious Human Life by the Dalai Lama

Every day, think as you wake up,

Today I am fortunate to have woken up,

I am alive.

I have a precious human life.

I am not going to waste it.

I am going to use all my energies to develop myself,

To expand my heart out to others,

To achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all human beings,

I am going to have kind thoughts towards others,

I am not going to get angry,

Or think badly about others,

I am going to benefit other as much as I can.

That evening I talked things through with my husband one last time just to make sure that it’s the right course with the right accreditation. I had total peace of mind that I found the perfect course for me and I paid the £269 initial sum.  I went to bed on Friday evening feeling like a different person! All that was left to do was to fill out the enrolment form, but that could wait until Saturday.

On Saturday I woke excited and feeling light as air.  I had my coffee, showered, downloaded the enrolment form, filled it out and drafted an email to Laurel. It was 11:11 on 22.02.2020 when I sent the email.  I believe that when I see repeating numbers, my life is flowing in the right direction. It’s like I’m riding a wave of goodness & right decisions. The more I notice the repeating numbers when I’m making decisions for my life, the more I know I’m making the right decisions and the flow just gets stronger and faster.  11:11 Is an especially powerful repeating number. Not only was sending my course registration email on 22.02.2020 at 11:11 an huge positive sign from the Universe, but I had officially started the next chapter of my life exactly 20 days after telling Zoe that I knew something else was out there for me.

amazed at what you attract once you start believing in what you deserve

“You’ll be amazed at what you attract once you start believing in what you deserve.”

I shared this image on my Facebook page on 31 January 2020 – before I even had my meeting with Zoe. John had said the same thing to me on Friday morning when he encouraged me to train as a coach. I just had to believe I can do it. Once I did, the wave started building.

I am incredibly excited about 2020 and what it will bring. I’m literally buzzing all the time just thinking about all I will learn in my coaching course, and the new career that will follow.

Watch this space!

Dark chocolate may positively affect mood and relieve depressive symptoms

Dark chocolate may positively affect mood and relieve depressive symptoms.

A UCL-led study looked at whether different types of chocolate are associated with mood disorders.

It was found that individuals who ate dark chocolate in two 24-hour periods had 70 % lower odds of reporting depressive symptoms than those who ate no chocolate at all. Dark chocolate has a higher concentration of flavonoids (antioxidant chemicals which have been shown to improve inflammatory profiles), which have been shown to play a role in the onset of depression.

Source: ScienceDaily, 2 August 2019

Terrific Tuesday #10

On a Monday morning I’m rearing to go and to take on the week, Wednesday is the middle of the work week, on a Thursday I feel good for making it this far and on a Friday I can taste the weekend.

But what about a Tuesday? For me Tuesdays are the hardest day of the week to exercise.  I’m usually tired from the manic Monday and midweek might as well be a year away.

If you feel the same about Tuesdays, my Terrific Tuesday posts will provide motivation, a reminder of why we exercise and words of wisdom to make us feel inspired and turn Tuesday from terrible to terrific.

Exercise because zombies will eat the slow ones first

 

Exercise! Because zombies will eat the slow ones first.

 

 

 

 

A year of reinventing myself

Today is the 1 year anniversary of my first ever pilates class and I’m still going strong – literally: I have muscles now! I’m so proud of myself, and a bit blown away by how much I love doing regular exercise. It’s been a whole year and I’m still doing this exercising thing! And not just doing it, but really seeking it out and loving every minute.

Over 365 days I have gone from absolutely hating exercise and looking for excuses not to do it, to dealing with the issue by means of hypnotherapy,  joining a yoga studio and in-between doing yoga in 14 funky locations just because it’s fun! What a journey! You can read about my “issues” with exercise here. In the blog post I expand on how one session of Rapid Transformation Therapy (“RTT”) and 21 days of listening to the reinforcement affirmation recordings, totally changed me.

But the proof is in the pudding. Check out my “New Me CV”: Since my RTT session on 27 January 2019:

  • I practiced pilates at a studio from Feb to July 2019. I started with one class a week – the first of which was 3 days after my RTT session. It was incredibly tough because my muscles were very weak, but I absolutely loved it. I increased the classes to two a week and wanted to do even more, but it would have been too expensive to do more than two classes a week.
  • I found the solution in Sworkit, an at-home exercise app. With Sworkit I started doing light weight training and really proved to myself that I am self-motived.  No instructors, no fines if I don’t show up to a class – it’s all up to me whether I do the workout, how long I work out for and how much effort I put in. For someone who used to look for any excuse not to exercise, this is  BIG DEAL! I was even asked to be a Sworkit ambassador.
  • In April 2019 I attended a pilates class in The Shard – the first example of how I had changed my opinion of exercise from something I have to do, to something I do for fun.  Wanting to write about the experience lead to the creation of this blog.  One event in a funky location wasn’t enough for me, so I started looking for more pilates events in funky locations around London, but there aren’t many pilates classes in unique locations. A lot of yoga though…. the lack of pilates classes didn’t stop me, in fact it just spurred me on and lead me to do my first yoga class on 17 July 2019 (two days before my 42nd birthday) on the roof of a bar overlooking St. Pauls’s Cathedral.
  • All the sporadic, one-off yoga events really got me into yoga. I always thought that yoga was the milder, stretchier little brother of pilates and that I wouldn’t be able to really feel it working the way pilates does. I was wrong. The more yoga events I attended and exposed myself to different teachers and styles, the more I realised that yoga was in fact able to give me the dynamic strength building workout I wanted.  So much so, that I joined MoreYoga on 24 Jan 2020 with first class on 26 Jan 2020 –  a day shy of the 1 year anniversary of my RTT session. At MoreYoga Cannon Street branch I actually do a pilates class on a Monday morning, so I’ve now come full circle.
  • I have lost 10kg since March 2019. The weight loss only really picked up once I started doing Intermittent Fasting in July 2019. I found that exercise alone wasn’t enough to get rid of those pesky fat rolls, but it definitely makes me stronger (mentally and physically) and has changed my body shape.

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I have done a mix of pilates, working out at home, and yoga consistently 3 – 4 times a week for a year! This is such a BIG DEAL for someone who had a pattern of giving up on exercise after two weeks.

I feel so priviliged to be living in London where I have access to yoga studios like MoreYoga and experiences like doing yoga on a glass walkway over The Thames or  under a blue whale skeleton or  just being able to appreciate a great view on my walk back to the office after a hour of yoga with an excellent teacher.

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If anyone is reading this, hoping to also reinvent themselves, my advice is to:

  1. follow your heart. It will lead you to the perfect therapy/therapist/book/podcast to change your mindset;
  2. be committed to making the change. It’s going to take about a month for the old habits to be replaced by the New You habits so stick with it;
  3. make it fun for yourself (like I did by combining exercise with new and unusual venues);
  4. be kind to yourself and take it easy

UPDATE: Twenty days after writing this blogpost, I enrolled in a Resilience & Wellness Coaching Certificate course! I submitted my application on 22.02.2020 at 11:11.   (I love repeating numbers, and especially 11:11.) The Reinvention that started on 2 February 2019 seems to have been leading me to this moment all along. I am incredibly excited to see what the rest of 2020 has in store for me!

 

 

When temperature goes up, blood pressure goes down in Hot Yoga study

When temperature goes up, blood pressure goes down in Hot Yoga study.

Taking hot yoga classes lowered blood pressure in a small study of 10 men and women, between ages 20 and 65 years with elevated or stage 1 hypertension, according to preliminary research presented at the American Heart Association’s Hypertension 2019 Scientific Sessions.  Five of the ten participants did hot yoga 3 times a week for 12 weeks.  Their systolic blood pressure dropped from an average 126 mmHg to 121 mmHg, and average diastolic pressure also decreased from 82 mmHg to 79 mmHg.

 

Source: ScienceDaily, 5 September 2019

Yoga at Dulwich Picture Gallery

Yoga in an art gallery! Another first for me and definitely yoga in a funky location! I would never have thought of looking on the Dulwich Picture Gallery website for a yoga event. Who would?! To make this even more appealing, I would be viewing the Rembrandt’s Light exhibition. I studied History of Art (and ceramics) in High School so this event combines my newfound love of yoga with my art background.

I got up really early on Sunday so that I could leave the house at 7 am to arrive at the Gallery at the requested time of 8:30. My journey from North West London to South East London consisted of a bus ride, two changes on the tube and another bus ride. When I left the house it was only 0 degrees!  Morning yoga classes in the British Winter requires some real dedication!

Start time mix-up

The ticket and events page expressly asked everyone to arrive at the gallery by 8:30 for registration, and the yoga would be from 8:45 to 9:45. I got there for 8:30 and was welcome by a member of staff and asked to wait near the cafe. By 8:35 everyone – roughly 50 people – had arrived but we had to wait around until 8:45 before the doors of the gallery opened. There, all 50 of us had to queue to sign disclaimer forms. We all pulled out our phones to show that we had tickets for the event, but the staff were only interested in getting us to sign the disclaimers. I thought this was strange, but I signed the form and went to find my place (more about this later). By the time everyone had found their places and we were ready to begin, it was 9 am – 15 minutes later than advertised.  I have to say I was a bit disappointed in this.  I had travelled far and had made the effort to be there at 8:30 as instructed, and then the gallery kept everyone waiting.

The yoga

As you enter the Soane Gallery you are struck by morning sun streaming through the skylights, filling the long gallery space with a beautiful soft light. 

I put down my Lululemon Carry Onward mat under “St Jerome and Giralamo Petrobelli”. St. Jerome is the bearded man in the pink wrap. An interesting fact about this painting, which I only read on my way out and had not realised as I was downward dogging next to it, is that it is a fragment of a much larger altarpiece circa 1563. The hand on the left, the hand of the devil at the bottom left corner and the lion on the right, were painted over and only revealed when the painting was cleaned in the 1940’s.

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The class started at 9 am.  It was a basic Vinyasa Flow class with lots of focus on breath and not many repeats of the flow.  It was definitely suitable for beginners. In fact, intermediate or advanced yogis would get frustrated with the slow pace – unless you were there for relaxation and/or enjoy breath work. I would say I’m at intermediate level and I didn’t feel like I had worked at all. I did however like how the instructor explained that when our feet are facing her, it would be “forward” in stead of “left” or “right” because there were people on both sides of her. 

 

 

When the class came to an end at 09:45 we were told that we had to queue again to claim our tickets for Rembrandt’s Light exhibition – it’s at this point that you show proof of purchase of the yoga event ticket. And here is another annoyance: the event description says “[….] and is followed by early access to Rembrandt’s Light.” and “yoga session followed by private view”. In reality our tickets allowed us to view the exhibit in a 30 minute time slot which started at 10 am – exactly as it does for anyone else who wants to view Rembrand’s Light on a Sunday.  There was no “early access / private view” to Rembrandt’s Light for us. We did have early access to the Gallery’s permanent exhibition because of course we were all milling about waiting for our allocated slot to open up, and that is a privilege that members of the public did not have, but it’s not what was advertised.

Rembrandt’s Light exhibition

 

 

The exhibition celebrates 350 years since Rembrandt’s death with 35 of his iconic paintings, etchings and drawings including three of Rembrandt’s most famous paintings of women: A Woman Bathing in a Stream, A Woman in Bed and the Gallery’s Girl at a Window all hanging together. 

 

 

I found the exhibition very well thought out with many special touches that really brought home the idea of light v. dark. I especially loved the display of “Christ and St Mary Magdalene at the Tomb” where the lighting on the painting shifts from dark to light, emulating the break of dawn.

By 10:30 it was time to head home, but not before I got a coffee from the the Gallery Cafe. I’ve been to yoga events before which included private viewings of exhibits (at the Design Museum London and Natural History Museum), but this is the first time that the ticket price also included a hot drink. It’s a really nice touch. And the coffee was very good.

My verdict

I was disappointed in the event organisation and advertising, and the yoga was too easy without modifications for those at intermediate or advanced levels. Maybe these things wouldn’t have bothered me as much if I didn’t have to get up so early on a Sunday and travel in the freezing cold, but I did. I feel I could have spent my £25 on a Triyoga drop-in class near my home and still had money left over for a latte and croissant.  But, saying all of that, it was still a nice experience to have done yoga in an art gallery surrounded by Rennaissance masterpieces. The experience would just have been more enjoyable, had the admin side of things been better.

Instructor:  A member of the British Wheel of Yoga. I didn’t catch her name.

Location: Dulwich Picture Gallery, Gallery Road, London SE21 7AD

Time: Advertised as 08:45 – 09:45, actual start time 09:00

Price: £25 which includes a hot drink from the Gallery Cafe and entrance to Rembrandt’s Lights Exhibition

Date attended: Sunday, 19 January 2020

Yoga mats provided: Some were provided but we were asked to bring our own

Yoga intensity: According to my Fitbit Inspire HR, I burned 92 calories with average bpm of 84 over 52 minutes.

Good to know: The DPG website states that you can get the P4 bus from Brixton station and alight at “Dulwich Picture Gallery” stop. However the entrance to the Gallery is not in the street where bus stops at the Main Entrance gates, but around the back of the building.

Something I learned: The Lululemon Carry Onward travel yoga mat is brilliant. It was very easy to carry it around with me on public transport, it was grippy, it’s long and the microfibre texture feels lovely under foot. The star of this yoga in a funky location, was my Lululemon Carry Onward Mat.

If you like doing yoga in quirky places, outside, or in iconic London buildings, check out my list of Funky places to do yoga and pilates around London.

 

Terrific Tuesday #9

On a Monday morning I’m rearing to go and to take on the week, Wednesday is the middle of the work week, on a Thursday I feel good for making it this far and on a Friday I can taste the weekend.

But what about a Tuesday? For me Tuesdays are the hardest day of the week to exercise.  I’m usually tired from the manic Monday and midweek might as well be a year away.

If you feel the same about Tuesdays, my Terrific Tuesday posts will provide motivation, a reminder of why we exercise and words of wisdom to make us feel inspired and turn Tuesday from terrible to terrific.

The best abs exercise is 5 sets of stop eating so much crap Lazar Angelov quote

“The best abs exercise is 5 sets of stop eating so much crap” – Lazar Angelov, Online Personal Trainer

Apparently weight loss is generally 75 % diet and 25 % exercise. Ouch! An analysis of more than 700 weight loss studies found that people see the biggest short-term results when they eat smart. On average, people who dieted without exercising for 15 weeks lost 23 pounds; the exercisers lost only 6 pounds over about 21 weeks. (Source)

You’ll be exercising very hard for very long to burn the calories of a Mars bar, so you might as well eat only half it and save yourself the aggravation.

Vegan diet can boost gut microbes and lead to improved body weight and blood sugar control

Vegan diet can boost gut microbes and lead to improved body weight and blood sugar control

New research suggests that a 16-week vegan diet can boost the gut microbes that are related to improvements in body weight, body composition and blood sugar control.

Changes to the gut microbes were associated with a reduction of body weight (an average of 5.8 kg due to the reduction in fat mass and visceral fat) and increases in insulin sensitivity.  The authors say that fibre is the most important component of plant foods that promotes a healthy gut microbiome.

Source: ScienceDaily, 16 September 2019

Terrific Tuesday #8

On a Monday morning I’m rearing to go and to take on the week, Wednesday is the middle of the work week, on a Thursday I feel good for making it this far and on a Friday I can taste the weekend.

But what about a Tuesday? For me Tuesdays are the hardest day of the week to exercise.  I’m usually tired from the manic Monday and midweek might as well be a year away.

If you feel the same about Tuesdays, my Terrific Tuesday posts will provide motivation, a reminder of why we exercise and words of wisdom to make us feel inspired and turn Tuesday from terrible to terrific.

It's not always easy, but it sure is always worth it

 

It’s not always easy, but it sure is always worth it.

This is a very hard truth. Getting up at 05:30 to exercise is not always easy. Some days I jump out of bed ready to go, but not always. Other days I have to remind myself that I will feel better afterwards, that I will be proud of myself for doing it, and that it feels damn good when I can put on my “thin” trousers and they fit.

It really is always worth it, but sometimes we need to remind yourself of that because there will be days when the easier, (but not better!), option is to just stay in bed.

 

 

 

Qigong at Triyoga

I was at a qigong class on Sunday evening – a first for me! I read that qigong is “Chinese yoga” and wanted to give it a try for my reviews of yoga in funky locations. I know qigong is not a funky location like Tower Bridge or the Walkie Talkie building, but it’s a new and different yoga experience for me and that’s enough to warrant a review on the blog. 

What is Qigong?

  • According to the National Qigong Association, qigong (pronounced ‘chee-kung’) can be described as “a mind-body-spirit practice that improves one’s mental and physical health by integrating posture, movement, breathing technique, self-massage, sound, and focused intent.”
  • The word is made up of  Qi (“subtle breath” or “vital energy”) and Gong (“skill cultivated through steady practice”) so loosely translated it means “vital energy cultivation” or “mastery of your energy”.
  • The goal of qigong is to increase and balance your vital energy by opening up the flow of energy in the meridians.
  • Just like yoga, qigong uses slow fluid movements which provide focused stretching, strengthening, and health maintenance.
  • Qigong is the foundation of both Tai Chi and Kung Fu as well as being considered both part of, and precursor to, traditional Chinese Medicine.
  • There are only a few simple rules: always move from the center, don’t lock the knees or bend the legs deeply; and arms remain neither limp nor rigid.
  • All movements are done from a standing position

I discovered qigong when I looked at all the different types of yoga classes on offer at Triyoga. They offered qigong at their Camden, Shoreditch and Ealing branches. I attended the Sunday evening Ealing class.

Triyoga Ealing studio

I’ve never before been to a Triyoga studio, but if all the studios are even half as nice as the Ealing one, I want to go to Triyoga studios more often and stay there much longer. No wonder they have a shop and cafe because who would want to leave immediately after class when the space is so calm and beautiful?  I will be returning to Triyoga Ealing in a few weeks for a Warm Vinyasa Flow class, but maybe I’ll join Triyoga and make it my go-to yoga and pilates spot..? #verytempted

So, is Qigong the same as yoga?

I would say a typical yoga class is 80% focused on the body and 20% on the mind: at the end of a yoga class my body feels strong and my mind centred, but the physical aspect is definitely larger than the mental or spiritual. In fact, if it wasn’t for the last 10 minutes of Savasana and/or the intention setting at the start of the class there wouldn’t be much of an spiritual aspect. (Of course, yoga is a way of life and built on Hindu principles with a spiritual core. What I’m speaking of here is an actual 1 hour class, not yoga as a whole.)

To me qigong felt the other way around with 20% focus on the body and 80% on the mind (energy or spirit). At the end of the class my mind was centred, I was relaxed and I felt totally zen.  It was clear that the purpose of all the movements I was performing in qigong was to re-balance and clear the energy, whereas with yoga the purpose of the asanas is to make the body stronger through controlled movement.

I therefor won’t say qigong is “Chinese Yoga”. It’s similar in the sense that it’s a “softer” exercise than for instance HIIT, weightlifting or a spin class, but it’s not the same. Just as yoga isn’t pilates, qigong isn’t yoga.

The video below gives a very good idea of what the class was like. We performed about half of these movements over 75 minutes. (I don’t think the class needed to be 75 minutes long, it could easily have been done in 45 minutes.)

 

My verdict

I don’t think I will continue with qigong. It was nice to experience it once and it has many benefits – in fact I think it will be especially good at times of stress to calm the mind if practised regularly – but I didn’t get enough out of it to warrant a regular practice.  Yoga provides me with just the right amount of calm, challenge and centering that I need, and when I want to push myself harder I log onto Sworkit for a strength training workout with dumbbells.

 

Instructor: Hanna Luna

Location: Triyoga Ealing, Unit 30, Dickens Yard, Longfield Ave, W5 2UQ

Time: 16:45 – 18:00

Price: I paid £12.50 for my class because I took advantage of the 2 for £25 offer. One day passes at Triyoga are £18.

Date attended: Sunday, 12 January 2020

Yoga mats provided: No need for yoga mats as Qigong is done from standing. 

Yoga intensity: According to my Fitbit Inspire HR, I burned 136 calories, with average bpm of 93 over 78 minutes.

Good to know:  If you sign up for the Triyoga 2 for £25 offer, remember that you have to do your two classes within 30 days, and the 30 days start the day you take up the offer, i.e. pay the £25, not the day you attend your first class.

Something I learned: The qigong dynamic movements are used to balance the qi by redistributing the energy from areas with too much to areas with too little, and the static movements are used to harness qi.

If you like doing yoga in quirky places, outside, or in iconic London buildings, check out my list of Funky places to do yoga and pilates around London.

 

 

Terrific Tuesday #7

On a Monday morning I’m rearing to go and to take on the week, Wednesday is the middle of the work week, on a Thursday I feel good for making it this far and on a Friday I can taste the weekend.

But what about a Tuesday? For me Tuesdays are the hardest day of the week to exercise.  I’m usually tired from the Manic Monday and midweek might as well be a year away.

If you feel the same about Tuesdays, my Terrific Tuesday posts will provide motivation, a reminder of why we exercise and words of wisdom to make us feel inspired and turn Tuesday from terrible to terrific.

If at first you don't succeed fix your ponytail and try again

If at first you don’t succeed, fix your ponytail and try again. It’s the female version of fixing your tie. You know we mean business when the ponytail is tight and every hair in its place!

 

 

 

It’s never too late to start exercising

It’s never too late to start exercising

Older people who have never taken part in sustained exercise programmes have the same ability to build muscle mass as highly trained master athletes of a similar age, according to new research at the University of Birmingham. The research shows that even those who are entirely unaccustomed to exercise can benefit from resistance exercises such as weight training.

“Our study clearly shows that it doesn’t matter if you haven’t been a regular exerciser throughout your life, you can still derive benefit from exercise whenever you start,” says lead researcher, Dr Leigh Breen.

Source: ScienceDaily, 30 August 2019

Terrific Tuesday #6

On a Monday morning I’m rearing to go and to take on the week, Wednesday is the middle of the work week, on a Thursday I feel good for making it this far and on a Friday I can taste the weekend.

But what about a Tuesday? For me Tuesdays are the hardest day of the week to exercise. I’m usually tired from the Manic Monday and midweek might as well be a year away.

If you feel the same about Tuesdays, my Terrific Tuesday posts will provide motivation, a reminder of why we exercise and words of wisdom to make us feel inspired and turn Tuesday from terrible to terrific.

Slow progress is better than no progress

As we enter the last day of the 2010’s this is my wish for you all: be kinder to yourself, be kinder to others.

If you are making any sort of progress, be that in how you manage your money, what you eat, how active you are, or if you are working on spiritual and emotional growth, you should feel good about that! Slow progress is better than no progress.

Why am I so hard on myself?

It’s Saturday morning, the 28th of December. I’m in bed reading a book and enjoying my second cup of coffee. I’m planning on doing a workout this morning before my husband and I go out to lunch. I didn’t do a Sworkit yesterday, in stead we went to the local mall and walked 2.46 km, burning 495 calories, just by popping into the stores to look for work shirts, perfume and sunglasses. Such is the nature of post Christmas sale shopping.

Last night I decided to do a dumbbell workout this morning to work off the take-away dinner we had when we got back from the mall, but now I don’t really feel like doing anything. I’d much rather just stay in bed and read my book. I say this to my husband and he, very reasonably, reminds me that I always feel better when I’ve exercised. He’s right, so I decide to do a yoga workout in stead of the dumbbells. On a whim I go to Youtube to find a yoga workout, and discover the Boho Beautiful channel. Wow! The locations and the quality of the videos, not to mention the really great yoga!

There are so many videos to choose from, but I go for Intermediate Power Yoga to tone, strengthen and challenge yourself.

 

At the end of this 18 minutes yoga I had burned 30 calories. And that’s when the thoughts come: I hadn’t done enough. I wasn’t sweating enough. It was only 18 minutes. I should have tried a harder, more intense workout. Why hadn’t I done the dumbbells?

WTF?! Where do these thoughts even come from?!

My body felt that it had done enough, but my mind didn’t. As I was walking out of the living room, I saw the printout I had made of how to ease into Crow Pose with the help of yoga blocks. (I had received a yoga block and travelling yoga mat from Lululemon as a Christmas gift from one of my bosses. So lovely!)  I got the printout, got the yoga block and tried to do crow pose. It sort of worked, but I wasn’t in the mood to  push myself or, more importantly, to be playful about it and explore what my body can and cannot do.

I packed up and got in the shower, still feeling disappointed in myself. But as the warm water was washing over me and I felt the comforting lather of my shower gel I started to feel better.  I realised that I had a choice and I decided to get up and exercise despite not really being in the mood.  I could have stayed in bed. I could have stopped the video half way through. I could have chosen an easier video. I could have not tried to do crow pose.  But I still did it!

I’m proud of myself for showing up to the mat. I shouldn’t be so hard on myself.

(I wonder whether seeing “only” 30 calories burned on my Fitbit HR was what triggered, or at least exaggerated the self-deprecating thoughts… Maybe I’m too fixated on calories burned and not on enjoying the practice and noticing how good any exercises makes my body feel?)

Writing this blog post has made me feel better. Better about having done yoga this morning, better about being hard on myself, and better about spotting the early signs.

I’m going to be kind to myself today, starting with red lipstick, my favourite perfume, and going to lunch with my husband.

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Photo by Burst on Pexels.com

Terrific Tuesday #5

On a Monday morning I’m rearing to go and to take on the week, Wednesday is the middle of the work week, on a Thursday I feel good for making it this far and on a Friday I can taste the weekend.

But what about a Tuesday? For me Tuesdays are the hardest day of the week to exercise.  I’m usually tired from the Manic Monday and midweek might as well be a year away.

If you feel the same about Tuesdays, my Terrific Tuesday posts will provide motivation, a reminder of why we exercise and words of wisdom to make us feel inspired and turn Tuesday from terrible to terrific.

Christmas lunch having a life

Some days you have salad and work out. Some days you have Christmas lunch with all the trimmings. It’s called having a life.

Tomorrow is the last Christmas of the 2010’s! Enjoy every bite of your Christmas lunch. And the left overs on boxing day. And the Christmas Eve snacks. Christmas comes only once a year so experience it fully and appreciate the time spent with friends and family ♥

 

 

Just strong

I am proud to share the news that I am an ambassador for Juststrong, an active lifestyle clothing brand with a very empowering message to women: you are not strong considering you’re a mother of 3 or strong for a woman. No!  We are strong and we just happen to be female.  And of course strong is not just physically strong, but also mentally strong, resilient and encouraging of others.

Seeing a few muscles and being able to lift the groceries out of the boot of the car with ease, certainly helps you feel extra strong but being strong is so much more. And women are just that: strong.

If you agree with the Juststrong philosophy, feel free to use my code NATAKI10 to get 10% off at the Juststrong online store www.juststrong.com

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Yoga for skiers at Savage Schloss

When I came across a yoga class for skiers and snowboarders held in an ski chalet themed rooftop, there wasn’t a snowballs’ chance in hell that I was going to miss out. I don’t having the inclination, ability or intention to ski or snowboard, but if this doesn’t count as an event worthy of my list of funky locations to do yoga, I don’t know what will. I had to go.

Shred Ready Yoga is a series of Friday morning classes designed by Emily Harding of The Yeh Yoga Co. to help build functional strength (in other words super strong core and legs) and flexibility to get you ready for the slopes. As is fitting a ski themed event, it is held at Savage Schloss, an Austrian Après Ski Bar rooftop bar. In London. I mean really. How cool is that?!

The venue

Savage Schloss is part of the Savage Garden rooftop bar of the Double Tree Hilton – Tower Hill. It looks out onto the Gherkin but once you step through the doors, you are transported to a different world, complete with red gingham table cloths, animal skins, lots of wood and even the odd moose head.

As if being inside a “ski lodge” on a Friday morning in London wasn’t enough, we were blessed with the constant soothing sound of rain on the roof. You don’t need a Spotify playlist when you can listen to the rain.

And to add even further to the sensory overload there were animal skins…. The events team of the hotel had mislaid Emily’s yoga mats so we improvised and did yoga the way our Austrian forefathers would have done it – on a yogamat-animalskin. We had the smell of the wild in our noses every time we went into Downward Dog, and the feel of fur under our feet. I really loved our yogamat-animalskins – they made the whole ski chalet experience more real and I love how we all turned a problem into a I-will-remember-this-for-ever positive.

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The yoga

I only signed up for one class and did wonder whether I’d be able to keep up, considering this was a series of classes to gradually build up strength. I imagined a lot of Chair Poses would be involved (I was not wrong) – would I be able to keep up with the regulars who really do have a ski trip planned and have been coming to Emily’s classes from the start? In Emily’s very sweet email setting out the logistics for the day, she actually said “And one last thing…. We want to foster an inclusive and loving community spirit so all we ask is bring your biggest and best smile and get ready to start your day off in the very best way as we delve into our most intense week yet of building strength for skiing and boarding”. Yikes! But also, aaawh how lovely! 🙂

I needn’t have worried. Emily’s teaching philosophy is simple – keep it fun, welcoming and inclusive (as quoted form her About Me page) and I really experienced this. It was a fun and challenging vinyasa flow class and Emily made everyone feel at ease. If you couldn’t bend that way, or lift that high it wasn’t a problem at all – Emily was there to give a hand and to suggest modifications.

I can really see that if you do have ski or snowboarding trip coming up, prepping your body with this weekly class will really benefit you on the slopes. With a strong core to keep you balanced and keep you safe from injuries, and legs & glutes in top shape (chair pose!!!) you’ll definitely be Shred Ready.

My verdict

I truly felt transported to an Alpine ski chalet and actually felt a bit disorientated when it ended and I had to get back to real life. Ski lodge + animal skins + staring at The Gherkin + challenging vinyasa flow = magical mindf*c$. I can’t wait to go back for more.

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Work by Neon Artist Matthew Bracey

Instructor: Emily Harding of The Yeh Yoga Co.
Location: Savage Garden Rooftop, Floor 12, Hilton DoubleTree, 7 Pepys St, London, EC3N 4AF
Time: 07:20 to 08:20
Price: £11.37 (£10 plus the eventbrite fees)
Date attended: Friday 20 December 2019
Yoga mats provided: Yes if you email to reserve a mat when making the booking
Yoga intensity: According to my Fitbit Inspire HR I burned 304 calories in 53 minutes with an average bpm of 125. That’s one heck of a yoga workout!
Good to know : When you enter the hotel walk straight ahead past the reception desk and turn right. The lifts to Savage Schloss is on your left at the end of the passage. Floor 12.

Something I learned: Animal skins look great on a floor, but they are not grippy enough for a successful Downward Dog

If you like doing yoga in quirky places, outside, or in iconic London buildings, check out my list of Funky places to do yoga and pilates around London.

Limiting mealtimes may increase your motivation for exercise

Limiting mealtimes may increase your motivation for exercise

A study published in the Journal of Endocrinology suggests that a surge in levels of appetite-promoting hormone, ghrelin, after a period of fasting prompted mice to initiate voluntary exercise.

Dr Tajiri comments, “Our findings suggest that hunger, which promotes ghrelin production, may also be involved in increasing motivation for voluntary exercise, when feeding is limited. Therefore, maintaining a healthy eating routine, with regular mealtimes or fasting, could also encourage motivation for exercise in overweight people.”

(Note that these findings are based on animal studies and more work is needed to confirm that this ghrelin response is also present in people.)

Source: ScienceDaily, 19 October 2019