health

HELLO! I’M BACK! Part 5 

I’m sharing my story because I am not alone in this. Almost every human being I talk with has a similar, if not milder, a worse experience. This is not a gender issue. Most people are unaware of existing mineral deficiencies and should be informed about the compounding effects of pharmaceutical drug-induced mineral depletions.

This is an extra long post (5,700 words). It’s doubtful that you will read it all in one sitting. But I hope you will read it and make use of the links provided so as to do your own research long before you need it.

Disclaimer: I am in no way suggesting that you self-diagnose like I have. I take full responsibility for my choices. This information is for sharing only. Do your own research, speak to your health care providers if you need to. The following is my story and I am not recommending what I’ve done to help myself as procedure or protocol. 

In the years after 2005 and BEFORE 2014, once I figured out that all my bizarre symptoms were early onset peri-menopausal symptoms (or so I thought) (9a), I explored natural remedies, such as raspberry leaf and red clover etc. I would search for the top herbs used in female/ peri-menopausal health. I made my own ‘female tonic’ using plant recipes from ancient Mayan traditions as well as Hortence’s Formula (10). Hortence’s Formula was amazing and is what drew me to Belize in 2016 to study with Rosita Arvigo (11). You can read Rosita Arvigo’s remarkable story in Sastun: My Apprenticeship with a Maya Healer. She is also a novelist who translates turbulent ancient Maya times through historical fiction. Originally, I was introduced to Arvigo Abdominal Massage via Barbara Loomis (12) with whom I had a Skype session in March 2015, which led me to finding local practitioner, Renée Warner RN (13) in Vancouver. Renée introduced me to Hortence’s Formula and within a week of using it, I noticed that the Hydrocystomas (small bumps below the surface of my skin) on my forearms were shrinking, which was an interesting side effect since I was using it to deal with my irregular, tender uterus and too frequent menses. It was recommended to only use the heroic Hortence’s Formula once or twice, so after that I switched to the curative Female Tonic. 

I’m not exactly sure why I didn’t stick with Female Tonic. I still have jars of my homemade tincture. I can only speculate that my symptoms became more intense with time and I felt that I had to keep searching. Maybe it’s time to dust them off?

All the while, I’d played around with elimination diets such as the Blood Type Diet as well as did the more personalized ALCAT blood test (which in the end broadened the selection of foods I ate) and followed the plan according to my results. Remaining true to nature working with nutrition (homemade bone broths, reading Weston Price (14,15)/ Sally Fallon (16), and listening to Denise Minger’s cautionary tale (17), I tried to integrate more of that whole foods philosophy into my life. Even though I already was very whole foods minded, organic and local-source focused and avoided plastic — known for being a hormone disruptor. I learned about phytates, oxalic acid and the reason why sprouting nuts, seeds and grains was essential. I learned so much during those years but at the same time it was very exhausting because my kids were having their own worrisome health challenges and besides, as if all the details that go along with raising little humans isn’t enough, my declining health made it all the more difficult.

Brain Fog…

Looking back I can see how much I struggled with mentally processing the food preparation information into practice —my brain just couldn’t focus and it was becoming more and more difficult to finish tasks. I felt like an idiot — why couldn’t I do such basic things anymore? Nouns were escaping me. Starting projects or chores was always easy but the finishing was near impossible. I wasn’t a lazy person, I liked to get involved and help out and do things but my behaviour suggested otherwise. I was avoiding social events, one-on-one was manageable, and I’d figured out how to smile and fake it…sometimes. From this side of health, I can say that my lack of focus felt a lot like ADD. I can see the contrast now since I’ve been restoring my minerals, I’ve been back in the kitchen, some days easily whipping up recipes (even though I’m not one hundred percent back –there are still good days and OK days). It’s likely that it was these Whole Foods that kept me just getting-by until I became so much further depleted from sweating out minerals in Hot Yoga followed by the drug-induced mineral depleting effects of bio-identical and mainstream Hormone Replacement Therapy.

But I’m jumping ahead again. Hopefully, this isn’t too confusing to follow 🙂

LATE 2016, I experimented with over the counter tincture, Fémance (18) by St. Francis, but it didn’t seem ‘powerful’ enough for my symptoms. Then while waiting for delivery of Pueraria Mirifica, from the US, I tried over the counter Harmony Menopause Max (19) which, within a few days of starting, was super effective. But within a week the Pueraria Mirifica arrived and I was anxious and curious to try it so I stopped Harmony.

I learned about Amata Plus (Pueraria Mirifica), from Dr. Christiane Northrup (whose name is synonymous with Women’s Health “Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom” fame and everything Menopause). In her book, The Wisdom of Menopause, the author gives many options for herbal/alternatives as well as suggestions for Hormone Replacement. I did not read the entire tome so don’t know if she talks about Zinc specifically, but she does talk about the importance of minerals and supplementing. I have since looked in the index and cannot find any references.

Why didn’t I read the book in its entirety? Brain fog, fatigue, inability to focus to name a few reasons. It’s probably a really good idea to stay a few decades ahead in terms of personal health reading. Although, I must say that I’d always been an avid reader about everything health and wellness but it really is different when it’s happening to yourself. And when you’re in a state of chronic brain fog without realizing it, processing information is not straight forward.

It’s like: 

Looking without seeing

Listening without hearing

Participating without engaging

Excessive Sweating Depletes Minerals

Pueraria Mirifica (20) is a root grown in Thailand that Dr. Northrup has processed in an FDA lab in the U.S.. PM is available from other sources but I felt more comfortable getting mine through her. It worked brilliantly well for 6 months, within a few days (no hot flushes, but still had chronic pain) then gradually it stopped working in early August, around the same time I was four months deep into sweating out the remainder of what minerals I had left in Hot Yoga, which by the way, historically, I never liked the idea of —stuck in a sauna climate room, packed to capacity with next to no ventilation, breathing recycled air, just didn’t seem like an excellent idea. However, this facility had no carpeted floors and they took care with hygiene. The Ashtanga Yoga studios where I had studied and practiced years before were always amply heated, I was always soaked from sweat and I always replenished with coconut water after practices. When I practiced at home I always felt warm enough, but as years passed, and because my body was experiencing so much chronic pain I felt that I needed this added heat source, besides it being encouraged by my Naturopath.

Please note that I don’t wish to bad mouth any health care providers. Not everyone can know everything; all of us work diligently based on beliefs, especially experts in their field. And clearly, this was a journey I had to take and write about. All the information is out there, and why I/we miss seeing the writing on the wall is another story.

I had been going to Hot Yoga 3-4 times per week from April – July 2017. My over the top hot flushes gradually came back in July and intensified so much that by August 2017, I had to put my membership on hold —I haven’t been back since. And besides my shoulder pain (that frozen shoulder pain so common among peri-menopausal/menopausal women), was getting worse and wrist pain had returned, despite everything. I also had a right hip issue that stemmed from my TFL (tensor fasciae latae) which seemed like a type of cross syndrome, left shoulder + right hip.

Sept 28. 2017 – Started Bio-identical Hormone replacement therapy with a Naturopath. (This means two different topical creams: bio-Estrogen in the morning and Progesterone before bed. I was also taking Pregnenolone (a pill) first thing in the morning. (I’ve since learned that there’s something called Pregnenolone Steal). (21)

The following 3 months (Oct., Nov., Dec., 2017) I was experiencing severe sleeplessness due to extreme hot flushes around the clock. 

-Each hot flush, some more intense than others, would last approximately 4 minutes, every twenty to sixty minutes/24 hours a day). Face, neck, complete upper body dripping wet, then clammy followed by chills. Most of the time I’d wear my full length down jacket, not in summer, but I was more bundled up (layered) in the warmer months than what is considered reasonable.  Sleeping at night was not really sleeping, I forfeited R.E.M and no longer was dreaming. I felt like a non-violent zombie during the day, just aimlessly going through the motions.

Why did it take me so long to do something about it? I was in a fog. I was just trying to get through the day. This kind of back and forth, hot/ cold extremes leaves a person rattled. Trying to make appointments or even getting to appointments only added to the stress.

It’s very distracting, to say the least, to experience this kind of interruption a few times per day (which I had no problem dealing with for years, which is why working with herbs was fine), but to have it go on all day long and throughout the night was beyond bearable — which made me a perfect candidate for HRT –I’d tried everything else! During the day the episodes stunned me and amazed me. Besides it being exhausting, it was fascinating to witness this physiological phenomena happening in my own body —at times it was mesmerizing. Now I recognize why t-shirt clad people have their car windows rolled down in sub-zero temperatures! :/ Because I was one of them.

In contrast, the sleep-interrupting hot flushes were not at all entertaining to observe; sheets soaked from extreme sweating multiple times per night, type of intensity. And my husband being, at the best of times a light sleeper, was now getting less sleep than me. Our household was hanging by its fingertips on the edge of a crumbling precipice.

January 2018, some tweaking was made to my bio-identical hormone treatments.

March 2018, I was ready to throw in the towel. I was becoming more fatigued, depressed, unable to make food for my family, attention deficit was increasing, chronic pain intensifying, hot/cold flushes persisted etc., I listed all the symptoms in earlier posts. At my husband’s urging, he suggested, maybe it was time to talk to my Ob/gyn, who dismissed bio-identical HRT as not effective and further research revealed to me that bio-identical is erroneously considered safer, (22) (which is why I finally agreed to go on bio-identical in the first place —it seems to be a huge misconception).

Depends who you talk to!

There is so much conflicting research. Each doctor seems to have a different philosophy with mounds of studies to support them.

One reported problem with bio-identical is that it is compounded (a blending or combining) of different hormones into a topical cream. According to some doctors, this makes it very difficult to measure each application as well as knowing exactly which hormones/medicines have been mixed together. However, CEMCOR states here that Prometrium (an oral pill) along with others are bio-identical. I had been led to believe that bio-identical was only available in compounded creams.

At this point, “throwing in the towel point”, I came to the conclusion that if mainstream HRT is what it would take to bring me back to life, even at the risk of developing something worse down the road like Cancer or shortening my lifespan, that I would rather have one, five or ten really great years than continue on this declining-zombie-aimless existence for ten or more years…I was no longer having any fun. I felt a burden to my family. It felt like I was just going along for the ride, watching them live their lives, I was no longer actively engaged but a non-participating observer. In my formerly depressed condition, I was of the opinion that longevity in this condition was no way to live.

Just a side note: A couple years ago, I spent so much money on physical therapy, supplements and alternative medical practitioners that the CRA (Canadian Revenue Agency) requested receipts to prove this over-the-top spending. “No one spends that much money on their health!” [my words]. Health Care in Canada is free but not for those looking for answers —non-pharmaceutical answers, like I was.

Having had a baseline mammogram done to ensure I was a good candidate for HRT we then filled a prescription for the lowest amount of hormones. If it didn’t help me we could increase dosage or if I had any sign of pre-cancerous cells, I was offered Effexor as the alternative therapy. Effexor is an anti-depressant whose side effects stop hot/cold flushes; that option remained on the table.

Backing up again to late 2016, I had gone to my GP for Prometrium, but was still on the fence. I couldn’t really remember all the previous attempts I’d made with bio-identical, specifically Prometrium (in 2011, see post titled Mother Nature) after reading Jerilynn Prior’s book Estrogen’s Storm Season. Brain fog was at it’s peak. I was given a prescription for Prometrium only (2016), but never filled it opting at the time, to explore over the counter herbal options. Talk about a scattered mind!! Not only was I juggling what was going on with my body and trying to keep it together, but also putting my all into doing the best job possible raising kids along with their mounting personal expanding lives.

Again, more time passed and before starting AMATA in 2017, I took my daughter to the doctor for something, so had an opportunity to discuss my current state, still trying to figure out what to do about HRT and feeling ready to dive in; strangely, I’d forgotten that I’d already taken bio-identical hormones for fourteen months in 2014-2015 or Progesterone topical cream in 2011 – 2013!!! As it turned out my GP was out of town and so saw a Locum. Within a few minutes of describing my situation, the Locum offered Effexor (this was the first offering of Effexor, second offering -2018 – was from the Ob/gyn as back up) touting its benefits for depression, anxiety and hot flushes. She warned me that everything I would read about it on the internet could be off putting, but that it was very effective.

I handed the prescription in to a pharmacist to put on my file, while I went home to do research. The Locum was absolutely right, everything I read convinced me that I’d never want to take Effexor.

I didn’t.

But came very close. 

At my darkest hour (while taking regular HRT), I was reduced to contemplating Effexor as my last resort. At a loss of what to do for me, my husband was weighing the alternatives, to call 911 or go pick up my Effexor prescription.

Reminder: April to June 2018 (for three months), I was taking regular HRT. Hot flushes were under control, I was sleeping soundly through the night but increasing depression, fatigue, listlessness, chronic pain, etc. 

Diana saved my life!

One day I walked into Pure Pharmacy (one of the places where I would replenish my supply of Multi-vitamins, Vitamin C, Magnesium, Iron etc.), and chatted with Diana, who recognized me as a regular.

Diana was very approachable and sincerely interested, as I noticed her taking extra time to chat and give undivided attention to all her customers. Every time I walked in, she’d ask for an update, and it seemed like I was getting worse with each visit. Finally, she stepped away and returned with a piece of paper which listed Drug-Induced Nutrient Depletions (23). At the very top of the page was the listing for Nutrients Depleted from Hormones (Conjugated Estrogens and Bio-Identical Hormones): 

  • B2
  • B6
  • B12
  • Folate
  • Magnesium
  • Selenium
  • Zinc
  • Vitamin C
  • Beneficial Flora

I found this very interesting since none of my health care providers had mentioned any of this to me prior to starting bio-identical or regular HRT over all these years. I can’t remember ever thinking about drug-induced mineral depletion. I’ve thought about how different drugs or supplements and even food can cause interactions; but effects on depleting minerals? No.

When I got home I placed the paper next to my computer. Either I was too fatigued to look into the information or got distracted.

I carried on, in a low/ depressed state of functioning. A few days later, on what my husband and I have coined my last and turning point of darkest days, he was ready to call for help (as mentioned earlier), he’d never seen me so low, somehow he managed to get me out for a walk and motivational talk. I can’t remember much from that day, but he explains that once we got home I went straight to my computer and spent the remainder of the day researching. Somehow, I intuitively latched on to Zinc from the list of depleted nutrients. 

He says that I came to bed angry: “It’s F@*#! zinc! I’m bloody zinc deficient!!”

Despite supplementing with iron, I learned that my chronic low iron levels would not improve due to my zinc deficiency. (24, 25, 26)

Zinc, Not Iron, … But zinc AND iron are both required to build red blood cells (RBC), and deficiencies often occur concurrently. (27)

So the next thing I researched was which Zinc supplement to take. Cross referencing gave me two to choose from and then narrowed it down further. I then had to figure out how to optimize supplement taking. As it turned out, it seemed like I had been doing everything humanly possible to further deplete my already low minerals. I’d been interfering with the absorption of my iron and some of my other supplements because I was taking them at either the wrong time of day or too close to taking my HRT or with other supplements that would cancel each other out and even the caffeine from espresso or the green tea I thought was beneficial. Also from eating beans, grains, nuts and seeds that weren’t sprouted. PHYTATES!

I found a useful info timing chart, A Guide to Timing Supplement Intake (28) to use as a model for my list of supplements.

And so here’s the what happened.

The next morning upon waking (from a hot flush) around 6am, I took 30mg of Zinc with water. Then I went back to sleep. I probably got up at 9am, which had become my wake up time.

The following two mornings I did basically the same thing except I woke up an hour earlier each day. Took Zinc at 5am then went back to bed, but got up easily at 7am. The following day woke up at 4am, took Zinc, then went back to sleep but shot out of bed by 6am.

Something was happening. My body started vibrating. I was feeling alert. Any of the old feelings of depression and sadness that shrouded me as a constant companion were nowhere to be found. Evaporated. It was difficult to even conjure memories of feeling that way. There was no therapy required.

My physical strength just reappeared. I had not been doing any physical training to acquire strength. My muscles had atrophied so much that in order to move a 12 inch pot of Rosemary on my deck I’d have to tip it over and roll it. This day, I reached down, using two fingers on each hand, effortlessly lifted this formerly lead-weighted pot. I will never forget that moment. I stood up feeling like Super Woman…super human strength had returned. This was freaking incredible!

Then my husband invited me to go for a bike ride. Normally, I’d take a pass. To his surprise and mine, I agreed. We rode on mostly level terrain but at the point for turning back home he suggested (always the motivator) either we head home or we could ride down the hill towards a relatives house. But that would mean having to ride back up the hill. Naturally, I could opt to walk the bike back up the hill, but I could tell that my former all-or-nothing attitude was hovering, waiting to get back in the game. Yikes!

I was feeling good so agreed to the down+uphill challenge. All the time weary of this being “too good to be true”. Up hill was challenging but not as impossible as I’d expected. My throat and upper chest felt that winded burning sensation that you get when you overexert yourself at a cardio vascular activity that you haven’t done in a long time. I rode up the hill switch back style, and started to imagine how I’d feel once delayed muscle soreness kicked in the next day. I knew I wouldn’t regret it, but wasn’t particularly looking forward to the aching muscles. To my surprise, I had no muscle soreness, and was suddenly going for long fast paced walks, making meals, washing up all the dishes, able to do the laundry — fold AND put away. My ADD and fatigue was gone. I could now finish a task. 

What has zinc got to do with fascia?

And my most favourite observation to share with you is about fascia. Gradually, over the years, my entire body had seized up like an aged person. My fascia felt brittle; to the point that I’d injure myself when stretching. Some of my joints cracked, popped and made grinding sounds. My hip flexors were tightening up more and more and I felt myself curving forward, bucket seat style. With each passing day, after starting zinc, without coaxing it along, my body became more limber and flexible. My hip flexors started to open up and naturally my body asked for lunge-style stretches, and back bending.

Two things to keep in mind, and they are not lost on me: 

1) the placebo effect accounts for 30% of all improvements. 

2) I was still taking HRT (the benefits could be attributed to a cooperative interaction between HRT and zinc.)

Everything works synergistically. Or does it?

“We think of ourselves as ‘in’ landscape, but sometimes we forget that landscape is also in us. We are formed by the ground we walk on: that which lies beneath our feet. That which holds us, supports us, feeds us. Ground is where we stand, the foundation for our lives.” —Sharon Blackie, The Enchanted Life

Both points separately and combined could easily explain my sudden burst of energy. But I don’t know how placebo effect alone could cause my lips to become fuller, and have noticeably more colour to them and my gums as though the iron was finally getting to where it needed to go. As well as past injuries or cuts started to heal? But the biology of belief is profound.

Zinc is to Progesterone and Testosterone as Copper is to Estrogen

By July 11/ 2018 (one month after starting zinc and three months after starting HRT) I reported back to my Ob/gyn how the zinc had made a huge difference. He was not familiar with drug-induced nutrient deficiencies so was unable to have a conversation about it. I was thinking about stopping all hormones but we had decided that carrying on for the next three months would be wise at which point I could just stop (not taper off) and should my symptoms return I could easily call his office for a new prescription. 

Eight days later I stopped all hormones.

For a couple reasons. 

1) I had been feeling a bit too wired. It felt as though my own hormones were starting up. So it made sense to me that I could stop all the supplementary hormones and work with minerals and vitamins to bring myself back to homeostasis. And if it didn’t work then I would go back on the HRT, but this time at least my mineral stores would be on the road to becoming replenished and I wouldn’t risk falling into depression.

2) I wanted to know if it was the zinc that was helping or if it really was a placebo effect. I already knew that HRT alone stopped my hot flushes and that it did nothing for my chronic pain and put me into a deep depression. Piecing the puzzle together, I now know that it was the Estrogen + copper (yes, copper), which were likely the culprits for keeping my in chronic pain and depression. More on that down the page.

I also had been researching everything I could find on Zinc. I was really concerned about taking too much zinc and causing zinc/copper imbalance. I spoke to a white coat at one of the pharmacies (not Diana) who gave me some advice about stopping the 30mg of zinc I was taking and start taking 15mg zinc to 2mg copper balance. So I started following that plan around July 23, 2018. 

After stopping HRT, my hot flushes started to slowly return! Remarkable isn’t it?!

But now I question if it was the introduction of copper supplement to my already excess levels that nursed the hot flushes. 

By July 24, 2018 my hot flushes were back. It dawned on me to try Pueraria Mirifica since it had been so effective before, and I was hopeful with my new mineral support I could manage mild hot flushes. But it didn’t work. Very quickly the hot flushes returned to full power. I stopped Pueraria Mirifica on August 2 and the next day started Harmony Menopause Max, which had been super effective so long ago. Within three days I knew it wasn’t going to cut it. My hot flushes were now disrupting my sleep in a big way and I was having hot flushes all day long as before.

From the position I stand now, with all the information I’ve gathered leads me to believe that these very good quality herbs couldn’t stand up to the zinc deficiency and copper overload. Had I been in a more mineral balanced state they might have been sufficient.

ON AUGUST 6, 2018, I restarted HRT. Within a few days the hot flushes seemed to settle down a bit, but it might have been wishful thinking. My joints started to act up in mild and subtle ways and the hot flushes had returned now building with intensity even though I tried to deny them. Lots of denial: This can’t be, I just need to give it more time, It worked before…With each hot flush I told myself that the next one wouldn’t be so bad and so on. Now I was beginning to think I’d gone and totally messed everything up and that I’d probably have to tweak my prescription to calm the symptoms down. My brain fog was starting up again too as well as I was starting to be a lot less patient, more irritable.

At the time of discovering Zinc (June 11, 2018), I became worried about who I could go to to help me get my mineral levels where they needed to be. I didn’t feel very confident with going back to the practitioners that I’d been seeing all these years. I wanted to find a Woman Doctor who’d experienced exactly what I had, or find a regular person, someone who shared my story but figured it out for themselves. But really, I was still so overwhelmed and there is only so much time a person can spend on this type of research each day. So, in the meantime I took back complete responsibility for my health. If I messed it up, I had only myself to blame.

Q: What effects does Copper have on Estrogen?

By August 11 (looks like 11 is my number?!), I went back to google and asked the right question which helped me find Patricia Reed (whose symptoms very closely resembled mine). The Universe answers…

I’ve linked to her blog post–> (Part 4 here, which is longer than the post you are currently reading, so plan to read it over few days) because she explains everything!! No sense in me trying to re-write her findings, since I’m still decoding for myself.

“Copper and estrogen are directly linked – they feed each other.  The more estrogen you have in your body, the higher your copper levels go, and vice versa – the more copper in your body, the higher your estrogen levels.  There are also cases where low estrogen is observed, but with high biounavailable copper.  What is observed as low estrogen can actually be severely high estrogen trapped in tissues with unbound biounavailable copper, rather than showing up in the blood, making it very hard to detect through blood tests, making it appear as though you have low estrogen, when in reality, you may be very severely estrogen dominant.  In either scenario, the excess biounavailable copper wreaks havoc on your liver, not to mention your brain, your appetite, and your metabolism in general.  When you have too much copper in your body, it prevents your liver from being able to detoxify anything properly – including estrogen.  So you end up with more estrogen dominance, which feeds your copper imbalance, raising your copper levels even more.  It’s a vicious cycle.  And as excess estrogen blocks your body’s ability to convert T4 thyroid hormone to active T3 thyroid hormone, now you start experiencing symptoms of hypothyroidism, even if your thyroid tests tell your doctor that your thyroid function is just fine.  It’s not!                                                     – Patricia Reed

So after reading this above and researching more and cross referencing it occurred to me that it was likely that I was giving myself more copper in an effort to balance my zinc/copper intake was further contributing to my problem. In addition to wearing the Estrogen patch! OMG!! My copper levels must be just over the roof!

My zinc level as of July 24, 2018 was 11.9 μmol/L (optimal range of plasma zinc is 13.8 – 22.9μmol/L and my ferritin was 67 μg/L (Iron 51-100: Possible Iron Deficiency).

Note: I’d been taking zinc supplements for six weeks prior to testing. I didn’t know to stop taking zinc 24 hours before my blood test (see below). And I’d been taking iron on and off for years.

Serum and Plasma zinc tests are not always accurate. (31)

Plasma Zinc

This is the main lab test done to establish zinc deficiency. Although it is very good at picking up major deficiencies it is quite insensitive to marginal deficiency because a change in plasma zinc does not occur until zinc intake is extremely low. So a patient with `normal’ results may still be deficient.

Plasma levels of zinc can be influenced by hypo or hyperproteinemia, acute infections, stress, time of sampling (how long after a meal), pregnancy, liver disease, malignancies and pernicious anaemia.

Zinc supplements will affect the results of plasma tests so one needs to avoid taking these for at least 24 hours prior to the test.

***The optimal range of plasma zinc is 13.8 – 22.9μmol/L ( 90-150μg/dl).***

Clinical signs of zinc deficiency may occur when plasma zinc concentrations drop below 9.9μmol/L (65 μg/dl).

Values less than 5μmol/L (33 μg/dl) are particularly associated with loss of the senses of taste and smell, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, skin rash, and loss of appetite. (32)

I have repeated a zinc tally test and tasted nothing — my kids too 😦 

pylouria_zincleveltasteresponse

………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

To really get to the bottom of things I have to do a HTMA test (Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis Test). (29, 30)

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

***

“Mineral ratios are as important, if not more important than mineral levels.

***

Copper for example, may be seen at a normal level, however, if the zinc/copper ratio is low, one may experience symptoms of elevated copper.

This principle also applies to toxic metals. For example, if the cadmium level is only slightly elevated but the zinc level is low the cadmium toxicity is more serious.”

                                                                                                               – CanAlt Health Laboratories

Zn Cu Zn Cu Zn Cu Zn Cu Zn Cu Zn Cu Zn Cu Zn Cu Zn Cu Zn Cu Zn Cu Zn Cu Zn Cu Zn

In addition:

Look Up Pyroluria: Also known as Mauve Factor (due to the mauve color visible on testing paper during urinalysis) or pyrrole disorder, pyroluria occurs when the pyrroles bind to pyroxidine (vitamin B6) and zinc, causing these vital nutrients to be excreted from the body in large amounts.

“The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, in diet and in the cause and prevention of disease.”

– Thomas Edison

In following posts I will share a list of some authors that you can look into. My To Be Read (TBR) book stack has suddenly got a lot taller and less heavy on the fiction side of things.

In case you are wondering what I’m doing/taking now? I’ll share that too in the next post.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

(9a) 15 Zinc Deficiency Symptoms and Best Food Sources https://drjockers.com/15-zinc-deficiency-symptoms/

(10) Hortence’s Formula https://arvigotherapy.com/rainforest/node/96 

(11) Rosita Arvigo https://rositaarvigo.com/about-dr-arvigo/

(12) Barbara Loomis https://nurturance.net/meet-me/

(13) Renée Warner http://touchrootbodywork.com/about-renee

(14) Weston Price https://www.westonaprice.org

(15) Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston Price https://www.amazon.ca/Nutrition-Physical-Degeneration-Weston-Price/dp/0916764206

(16) Sally Fallon, Nourishing Traditions https://www.amazon.ca/Nourishing-Traditions-Challenges-Politically-Dictocrats/dp/0967089735/ref=pd_lpo_sbs_14_t_0?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=1WCQNZWASV6TM8Y7PFA4

(17) Denise Minger https://deniseminger.com/about/

(18) Fémance https://www.stfrancisherbfarm.com/products/vitex-combo

(19) Harmony Menopause Max http://takeharmony.com.au/product/harmony-menopause-max/

(20) Pueraria Mirifica https://amatalife.com/index.php/menopause-relief?SID=58a9cbbd46a1eb0aaf65b78059b6132d

(21) Pregnenolone Steal http://www.naturalendocrinesolutions.com/archives/the-negative-impact-of-the-pregnenolone-steal/

(22) [Is Bio-Identical Safer?] Women’s Health Forum with Dr. Jennifer Blake Ob/Gyn https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QBqqo8cvbRQ

(23) Drug Induced Nutrient Depletion https://nutritionreview.org/2016/12/practical-guide-avoiding-drug-induced-nutrient-depletion/

(24) Iron deficiency or anemia of inflammation? Differential diagnosis and mechanisms of anemia of inflammation https:/www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5065583/

(25) Acute inhibition of iron absorption by zinc https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0271531707000954

(26) Zinc and IGF-I concentrations in pregnant women with anemia before and after supplementation with iron and/or zinc. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10376783?dopt=Abstract

(27) Zinc, Not Iron, May be the Answer to Anemia http://www.chiro.org/nutrition/FULL/Zinc_Not_Iron.shtml

(28) A Guide to Timing Supplement Intake https://labdoor.com/article/a-guide-to-timing-supplement-intake

(29) HTMA Test https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/hair-analysis-test#1

(30) Hair Mineral Analysis https://www.canaltlabs.com/hairmineralanalysis

(31) Serum zinc levels in patients with iron deficiency anemia and its association with symptoms of iron deficiency anemia. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26931116

(32) Zinc Diagnostic Tests http://accurateclinic.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Zinc-Diagnostic-Tests…..-A-guide-to-zinc-deficiency-tests..pdf

 

HELLO! I’M BACK! Part 3

Let’s go back to 2004. 

At age 34, while nursing my second child (3 month old infant), I started experiencing my first hot/cold flushes. (Also known as “flash” —however, flush is a more realistic definition).

Hot flushes can be defined as a feeling of intense heat in the upper body, usually accompanied by an increased heart rate and flushing of the face, neck, and chest. As the body begins to cool down, women often experience chills, have cold feet, and begin shivering. Nearly 75% of women experience hot flushes and cold chills as they transition through peri-menopause and may continue long after menopause.

 Asking my doctor: “Do you think I could be peri-menopausal?” Reply: “No, you’re too young.”

Much to my dismay, I dismissed it to the fact that I was just working harder, managing an infant, toddler and two large Rhodesian Ridgeback dogs. It was mid-September, the weather was changing to autumn with mixed cool/warm climate fluctuations. My very supportive, physically fit husband managed himself (of course) and we’d divide and conquer chores and duties, so I was not doing it all!

But that which I WAS doing felt so taxing. 

My mother had died from cancer six months earlier, when I was pregnant with baby number two. Her voice echoed in my mind from her peri-menopausal years, when pushing herself through her usual non-stop chores, she’d breathlessly whisper, “I’m just so tired.” It was more of a question than a statement…she was normally capable of so much. It wouldn’t be long before I’d parallel my mother’s gasping sentiment.

Within a few years, I’d often say that I was barely surviving. But was reminded to buck up — living in a first world country hardly qualified as ‘barely surviving’.

True.

But feeling this way woke me up to consider what was causing so many people to suffer along with me, with their declining physical and mental health, though financially secure and able to access all the best doctors and or remedies beyond Health Care? Is this really what ageing was all about? Did a person’s health really, in the end, come down to LUCK?

9 months later (or so), my right knee became inflamed. I expected that it had to do with running along the forest trails pushing a double stroller. I’d read about forefoot running and thought to give it a try, even though for years I’d been adamant about heel strike first, unless one was sprinting. So maybe I torqued my knee, the trail was uneven after all, not to mention that my hands were fixed onto the stroller. Also, I wasn’t running in reality, more like jogging, so maybe the theory of forefoot running was best left for high-speeds after all? I never ran like that thereafter. 

Within a few months my knee felt OK. Out of nowhere, the metatarsals of my right foot became excruciatingly painful. For a month or two, I suffered with the pain, my foot felt fractured. Since it was mostly debilitating in the morning upon my first steps out of bed and would subsequently subside, I started to wonder if I had Gout? But how could I have Gout? My diet, as it was, gave no indication that that could be a reasonable diagnosis. Maybe Morton’s Neuroma? And quite possibly I’d done something to my foot while favouring my knee? Once I couldn’t endure the morning pain anymore or the inconvenience of random bouts of pain causing me to hobble around, periodically crippling me, I went to the doctor.

Over the years, at my husbands urging, I’d visit the doctor for minor but chronic bizarre symptoms, to which the ‘idiopathic’ cause was offered. As a result, I was beginning to feel like a hypochondriac and shied away from further complaining.

My GP, prescribed an over the counter orthotic/metatarsal support. I knew that that wasn’t what was going on but I had nothing up my sleeve to table. So, grudgingly I obliged and wore it for a while. And of course, in due time the pain subsided…

…to show up at my elbow! Like a slow moving hacked game of Tetris. The pain, being the ball, stuck in the same spot, banging in its corner until a player materialized to knock it to another corner and then forget about the game once again.

This went on long enough that finally, with enough examples, (knee, foot, elbow, other foot, shoulder, hands) to present to my doctor, I pleaded for help. 

LONG story short, I visited the Arthritis Society (I wrote about that visit here) and was diagnosed with Palindromic Rheumatism.

Palindromic Rheumatism = (PR) is a rare episodic form of inflammatory arthritis – meaning the joint pain and swelling come and go. Between attacks, the symptoms disappear and the affected joints go back to normal, with no lasting damage.

I never believed that that is what was going on with me. They prescribed (NSAIDS) pharmaceuticals, which I never took. I’ve always been more curious about what causes disease. However, there is a twisted comfort in giving a name or diagnosis to a mystery illness.

It’s safe to conclude, by that point I was pretty frazzled. Sometimes my hands would become incredibly sore that they felt broken at the metacarpals (much like the foot pain I previously experienced), but additionally, my knuckles swelled reminiscent of the evil Queen’s transformation in Snow White (not visibly as bad but they FELT like hers looked). There were times when I couldn’t tie my toddlers shoe laces, or twisting the handle for the faucet (a seemingly innocuous task) and worst of all was changing bedding: pulling the fitted sheet over mattress corners was just unbearable. 

Below is a list of symptoms over the course of these thirteen years. Here you can better understand why the analogy (mentioned in Part 1) of the frog in pot of boiling water is relevant. These symptoms would often present themselves in a mild and stealth fashion and then overlap one another and then some or all would disappear until the next month when my hormones would fluctuate again, triggering game on. My chronic pain would crescendo and then decrescendo to the point I would forget I ever had the pain only to have the pain return ever so slowly, not unlike the tepid water in the pot gradually increasing to boiling point.

-chronic slow wound healing

-one episode of Bell’s Palsy

-vision worsening

-chronic Raynauds (fingers and toes)

-palindromic rheumatism

-thinning of eyelashes

-Hydrocystoma, I pushed to have it biopsied to find out what the heck these bumps under my skin were! (I had multiple on underside of forearms, one at throat area, some have shrunk away, there are some tiny ones left).

-peri-menopausal symptoms 

-one episode of Menstrual Flooding age 36

-chronic hot/cold flushes

-Umbilical Hernia

-skin crawling (freaky! Sensations of invisible insects crawling on the body, so much so,  that you are compelled to brush it away — and I LIKE insects and don’t normally mind them crawling on me, but this is so freaky!).

-brain fog

-leg cramping in bed

Update: I forgot to mention Urine Leakage, called “stress urinary incontinence”. Often associated with a weak or damaged pelvic floor. There has been a lot written about the subject over the years. My friend reminded me about the time I visited and was jumping on their trampoline and how I commented that I’d have to be careful because I tend to leak. I must have been 40-41 at the time. She recalls being surprised, because of all people, I was very in tune with my body and particularly the pelvic floor.

Speaking-up about pelvic floor health was always something that I included in my personal training sessions — specifically to ensure that people weren’t overtraining (trying too hard to contract) the pelvic floor muscles and working towards better understanding o  body alignment . There is a “just right” amount of muscular tension that is helpful, beyond which are negative returns. Of course when this leakage started happening to me I wondered if I’d been “doing it wrong” myself all these years? Long story short, I noticed that my urine leakage was directly related to the fluctuations in my hormones. Almost like one week or two out of every month I’d have occasional leakage from sudden sneezing, laughing, coughing or jumping and other times no problem at all.

-Urine leakage, laughing, coughing, jumping, sneezing.

-irregular menses age 36 – 41 (10 days of bleeding every 15 -18 days), eventually able to get cycles to 22 – 25 days (ages 41 – 44). Then menses became irregular again until present, 60 – 105 day cycles, with only light spotting for 2 – 5 days.

-recurring benign cervical polyps. (Ob/Gyn suggested D&C; I declined, due to my tendency to heal slowly, I was concerned I’d open myself up to more problems.

-fibromyalgia type fatigue and chronic pain

-unable to get out of bed without stretching in bed 

-2011, mildly fatigued, my solution was to stretch in bed in the mornings. Started sharing this on my blog. But with each passing year the benefits from stretching didn’t seem to hold in my tissues. It seemed like the more I stretched the more I needed to stretch AND on many occasions, in the last couple years, I would injure myself from stretching! My fascia was feeling so tight and brittle like the posture we see in a 70+ person suffering from osteoporosis.

-chronic excruciating shoulder pain, nearly impossible to take shirt off over head type of movement. When hand pain was at its peak, even pulling up my underwear and stretchy Lululemon-type leggings was laborious due to searing pain — not a swift movement like it should be!

-chronic elbow pain, felt swollen but appeared normal. Any pressure from a jacket or propping myself up on a forearm would cause me to wince, and when propped, I’d have to collapse to escape the sharp pain.

Note: Just about daily, the need to bend the elbow would present itself or to prop myself up on my forearm, you’d think a soft mattress would be a safe place. Most of the time, there’d be no issue and so when the searing pain hit, it would always catch me by surprise.

-after completing Orthodontics (2014 – 2016), one tooth became grey. Dentist & Endodontist (second opinion) both suggested root canal. I said that I would look up alternative because of my slow to heal problem, concerned that I’d cause more problems for myself.

-snoring: turbinate enlargement

-tongue and gums developed lichen planus

-teeth: dentin (below the enamel) looks cut through (top front four teeth – can only notice it in certain light), a dark shadow approximately at the same level where Ortho wires went across the teeth. (It’s NOT from staining).

Within the last year:

-tongue swelling but Lichen Planus went away

-vision continuing to deteriorate

-Facial ageing: lips wrinkling, shrinking and loss of colour. Bronze discolouration and swelling at medial point of eyelids (upper lid sulcus –not sure if this is the correct anatomical term for the area I’m describing, but I noticed this same problem on a relative who had Emphysema and Addison’s Disease.

-while driving, hunched forward like a little old lady, nervous/overly cautious to change lanes. Normally, I’m like Leilani Münter 🙂

-zero libido 😦

-depression, weepiness, quick to cry or feel put down, anxiety, avoiding social situations, eventually a loss of zest for living.

NEXT week on HELLO! I’M BACK! Part 4…Learn about the prescribed treatments I used, and WHY and HOW they spiralled me further down into a rapid declining health AND finally, I’ll share what brought me back. #KatCameBack

Hello! I’M BACK! Part 2

My experience as case study: 

My kids, now teens, were born at home in 2002 and 2004; I had (still have?) a high pain threshold. Gradually, I became more fatigued after the second child. I was 34, with two young kids, naturally, I presumed a reasonable amount of exhaustion was to be expected. 

When feeling well, I’ve got a lot of physical energy, and some. Even during these fatigue years I was still able to get a lot done, despite chronic pain. This year I’ve read 48 books since January —primarily because I was listless. I like to do things and so if the least I could do was check off ‘book read’ from my TBR stack, then I was accomplishing something.

Example: in the past, on this blog I’ve shared a breakdown of A Day in the Life of movement/activity and meals from my early 40’s (under Food Log), so you can see I was getting it done.

Example: In my early 20’s, 1990’s Toronto, a buddy introduced me to the new In-Line-Skating craze. On a scorching summer day, swimming in oversized borrowed skates and two pair of wool winter socks (to make the skates fit), he and I would barrel down University Avenue (having started out at Lawrence and Bayview), weaving through and around moving objects, jumping this and that all the way down to the Lakeshore, eventually coming across places to practice our jumps. I’d follow behind with no particular grace or skill but sheer excitement for the thrill (completely risky in hindsight). One particular spot, had piles of rotting timber and the occasional rusted nail jutted out; we’d build up speed and fly overtop. Then we’d skate all the way back home—up hill all the way.

In those days, I was into Body Building and Fitness Competitions. I’d spend two to three hours a day at the gym. Take a 20 minute recovery nap mid-day, work with my Personal Training clients and teach Cycle Reebok “Spinning” classes and sometimes take clients for a run. Often commuting across the city on my mountain bike, eventually, securing slick tires to make the ride more functional, meanwhile studying and eventually becoming certified in Pilates and Yoga.

Having learned that I’d won a Ms. Fitness Canada pageant in ’94, a new friend at the time named me: “Super-Power-Babe-of-the-Universe”. HAHAHAHA! 

Essentially, the picture I’m painting is to illustrate that by my nature, I move. And when I wasn’t on the go, I was eating food or reading anatomy books. Side note: I believe in moving the body for health…the body as a machine which requires maintenance and proper fuel vs. to actually be a machine. Difference.

I’m sharing all this to emphasize that I consider myself in a unique position to talk about what being healthy and active is, and likewise, to detail the shocking, contrasting decline to the rock bottom of torpidity…and back again. 

How #KatCameBack And what all my health providers missed.

Reminiscing on what I used to do back then surprises me now, I almost can’t wrap my head around it. And yet it was so natural. Even to conceive the amount of activity I was capable of only four years ago is startling to my present self, since mustering up the energy or inspiration to go for a simple stroll a few times per week was a huge accomplishment these last few months. I’d pretty much stopped preparing any food for my family. If I did supply anything it would be mostly store bought (Ma & Pop shops in my community were my lifeline where I’d bring in my reusable containers for soups, salads etc.). Creativity gone. Motivation gone. Zest for living…gone 😦

I stopped preparing food for my family. If I had enough energy to do a grocery shop, I then would be completely zapped of energy or desire to prepare any meals upon returning home.

If I could muster up the energy to make something, I’d plead for my husband to tell me what I should make. Most days I ate very minimally. I was no longer exercising (the most I could do was stretch in bed in the morning, a requirement to get out of bed, usually way after 9am) and on a good day I’d go for a twenty minute walk in the woods, often overtaken with emotion and weepy throughout the day.

Basically, I stopped being able to make decisions for myself. Rote memory was what got me through daily activities. I had become mechanical 😦

I needed to bring my husband with me to my doctor appointments to speak on my behalf and to make sense of the conversation FOR me.

WTF!?! What happened to me?

Takeaway: This is NOT about being nostalgic about my ‘glory days’, but rather, to clarify that there was a time when I had the drive to commit to showing up. Remember, I coined the term: Self-Discipline Is Born From Being Consistent. As a result of this downward spiral and rebirth, I now understand that no matter how much a person wants to be healthy there is much more going on here than positive self-talk and ‘showing up’ to achieve self-discipline. There’s a whole group of people who are unable to show up, and I don’t believe that it’s necessarily ‘mental illness’ or laziness/ lack of self-discipline. Within three days of figuring out what was causing my decline my energy stores started to fill up. Like a plant, restricted from water, after receiving a deep watering we actually see the plant, before our eyes, straighten up expressing its life-force. That’s exactly how I felt. My body was vibrating. I even went for a bike ride for the first time in years, down a steep hill and rode back up, with no delayed muscle soreness the next day! Prior to this, vertigo-like feelings, declining vision and spacial awareness type of sensations kept me from playing…I just didn’t feel right or safe to make judgements. But now my mood has lifted and the brain fog is not as bad (it’s still taken me four days to write this tho).

Even last year from April to August 2017, I was a regular at a hot Yoga studio. My shoulder pain was at an all time high. I was hopeful that the heat of the yoga studio would allow me to move without pain or at least be able to move enough to correct whatever was going on, besides my Naturopath wanted me to sweat…but I’ll get to that later and explain why the heat may have been a contributing factor to my rapid decline.

Next up, I’ll share a list of all the symptoms and treatments I went through during these last thirteen years.

To be continued…

Comments are turned off until the end of this grouping of posts. 

HELLO! I’m BACK!

Not sure if you noticed my absence? I haven’t posted anything here since 2015.         Today is June 25, 2018. 

I’ve been unwell.

Despite doing all the “right” things, my decline has been gradual, not unlike the fable of the boiling frog. The only difference, is that I was able to hop out prior to boiling point.

The boiling frog is a fable which describes a frog being slowly boiled alive. If a frog is put suddenly into boiling water, the frog will jump out. But if the frog is put into tepid water, which is gradually brought to a boil, it will not perceive any danger.

The result: being cooked to death.

Up until two weeks ago, I believed that the last thirteen years of early peri-menopausal onset was exclusively due to my gene expression. Having done the 23andme genetic test in 2016, it was confirmed that I have the gene which puts me through menopause ten years earlier than the average woman. Some will argue, that just because I have the gene doesn’t mean that it will be expressed. (I don’t know enough about genetics to debate this). Unfortunately, we will never know. Should we be open to speculation that something ELSE was going on which triggered these symptoms which over time gradually brought me to boiling point?

The first thing that came to mind when I read the report, was that it made sense: Mum had a very difficult and drawn out peri-menopause too, even though comparatively, my sisters seemed to have minimal and manageable symptoms at typical ages. And I was grateful for the ‘official’ explanation for my untimely symptoms, which began at age 34.

What has this got to do about you? Essentially, that’s why you’re reading this. We’re all looking for answers for our own well-being. You may find some details going forward that either resonate with your health or someone you know.

My vision has always been to die healthy, at a ripe OLD age! But I was barely holding on to life at 47 years of age. I know that sounds dramatic, I was not hospitalized, but I felt that my expiry date was rapidly approaching. This slow, gradual decline that I’d been trekking had suddenly accelerated in the last six months and avalanched as of April 2018. My life started crumbling under my feet, like loose gravel overtop a seemingly solid trail. Depression’s fists were strengthening their grasp on my shirt collar and pulling me down, and I went willingly — I was giving up.

I never knew what Darkness meant up until this year. Really, I didn’t truly understand what depression was — because I’d never experienced it. Like so many others who don’t understand, I couldn’t comprehend how a positive attitude or encouragement from well meaning supportive friends and family could not pull you up out from your depths. “Cheer up! Smile!”

So what happened that brought me back to life? How’d I escape boiling point?

What happened that made Darkness leave? I never said good-bye to Darkness, by the way– I didn’t work at convincing it to leave me alone. Darkness just vanished, POOF! and what I was left with is empirical understanding. 

I’m heartbroken that so many people are walking around with despair as an unwelcome shadow and living with chronic pain.

I’ll share my story with you. It’s long, but I’ll keep it short-ish. There’s thirteen years of decline to cover — although there’s no doubt the early years prior set the stage.

I’d rather be doing other things than write this out, so I’ll be brief, for your sake and mine…after all, I’ve got some lost years to restore 🙂 AND, I’m still not at one-hundred percent. However, I’m feeling pretty amazing in contrast to how I was feeling just two weeks ago. There are so many FIRSTS that I’d like to shout about. Like the fact that I am here typing away, so naturally, words are flowing. I went for a LONG walk yesterday, I wake up refreshed, my strength has returned without having done any type of workout to have ‘created’ strength, to name but a few of my firsts.

I’ll post a little something every day, or so, to describe what happened.

At the root of this story is the failure of the experts. Oops! I did it again! I listened to the experts instead of my own instincts. Surly they know better –> tongue firmly planted in cheek. Years ago, I wrote a cautionary post about not relinquishing too much to the experts.

Did I forget? NO. But this is what happens when brain fog kicks in. What you know and interpretation of information becomes clouded…hence the term.

I’m pissed about this. Thirteen years of physical pain and aging like I were 70+. So, yes, I’m pissed. But I was eloquently reminded, that it’s better to be pissed than pissed on…unless you’re into that.

Silver lining: There is no success without failure. 

BOTH, the natural and allopathic medical systems failed in preparing my various doctors, who in turn failed me. But this story wouldn’t reach you, had they not. I wouldn’t have learned some pretty significant information about depression and health, had they not.

And so maybe, this will reach you or someone you love, in time to help. Despite doing all the seemingly right things for a healthy life, there are too many people slipping into darkness, suffering pain, premature ageing and dying.  

To be continued…

Comments are turned off until the end of this grouping of posts. 

Everyday Resolutions

The end of each December is a popular time

to turn over a new leaf.

Rather than making New Year’s Resolutions, I resolve to improve my weak links on a daily basis, as the need arises, and believe me the need arises. But New Year’s Day is as good a day as any to get started, however, it is getting started and never stopping that is what’s worth keeping in mind.

Over the years, I have adopted the motto: “If what you are doing isn’t working, doing more of it won’t work any better.” And I practice implementing these words into my everyday actions.

Be it how I communicate with my kids, how I make lifestyle changes to eliminating plastic from my life or how I am constantly making adjustments with my body alignment, which causes me to re-evaluate and reconfigure my daily body maintenance routine. (My week 3 Day 7 progression has evolved greatly in the last three years.)

We must practice accepting that what we are doing may not be right and that through exploration we can continue to make improvements. Unless of course, you desire to live your life like a store display mannequin, frozen in time, not having to think or to adapt or to change; believing that what you are doing is right and that the problems you face must be faults outside your control. Most of us don’t know how to eat properly for optimal health, most of us don’t know how our body works, most of us don’t really know that much about the world we live in and how to take care of it.

When we take pause and consider that in order to survive, all of us must thrive on being right, on having the correct beliefs. In other words, if we don’t believe that what we do is correct would we not be crazy for repeating them over and over again? For even the addict, though often knows what he does isn’t right can find an excuse to justify and comfort his addiction. And so he believes that he is right, even if only for a moment in time. (There are many levels of addiction, from coffee, chocolate, exercise, drugs, pharmaceuticals, supplements, social media etc.)

What makes us do what we do?

Try as you might, to control your life, change is inevitable. As our lives change it is wise to become familiar with change in order to adapt without resistance, which enables a symbiotic synergy with family, community and the environment on a larger scale.

I like change. Similar to a cat, I like to see how I will land, and I have learned that there is no one way to land, (although the ideal is to land on ones feet!) which makes it all that more intriguing. As a result, I find myself constantly fine tuning my behaviours and habits, which puts me in a prime position to say a thing or two about how to initiate change.

Here are some basic suggestions:

Q: I want to change ______, but how do I even get started?

A: Getting started can be as simple as having an idea and making the decision to follow through on that idea. However, within this simple step there are a few sub-steps to climb:

You need discipline to develop skill. But, you need to spend some time developing skill to become disciplined.  You must have the willingness and desire, also known as passion or wanting it badly enough to spend the time developing the skill to become disciplined in the first place. Achieving goals and changing habits is not linear but rather cyclical and overlapping.

How To Cultivate Self-Discipline

So even when a person is committed to making change and making personal improvement, you can see it is not seamless. It is not easy or foolproof. It still requires a lot of work.  To outsiders having self-discipline looks effortless, but for those who practice being consistent there is no compliment in off-hand remarks such as: “oh, well you have self-discipline”, as if it were built-in. As if those who achieve anything remarkable is born with a natural talent.

Anyone can develop self-discipline, but it doesn’t just manifest, it must be cultivated. Anyone can be fit and healthy, but it takes effort, discipline and education. It takes practice to become consistent with self-discipline. Period.

Q: I’ve made many resolutions in the past but have always fallen short. How do I change this behavior?

A: By being consistent. Self-discipline is borne from being consistent. Don’t give up on yourself. There is a lot of self-coaching that goes along with keeping your word to yourself. It’s also helpful to understand that goals change along the way. Just because you initiate change with a certain idea doesn’t mean you will stick to that forever. As you learn more about yourself you will be required to re-evaluate your strategy and fine-tune your approach as you go along. You are a work in progress. The goal itself isn’t the point. The point is to realize your human potential and perpetually raise your own bar.

The goal isn't the goal

Q: I tend to stick to a program when I have someone to answer to, like a personal trainer or when I go to a group class.

A: Learn to become accountable to yourself. Try not even telling anyone what changes you have planned. Learn the necessary skills from someone more skilled than yourself and employ self-discipline to become your own expert.

When I had a studio, many of my clients had more money than discipline. Instead of practicing what I taught them so that we could develop their skills to the next level they would use me as a crutch to put them through their paces. Be a willing student because money cannot buy improved health, fitness or skill.

Q: How do I create lasting change?

A: Setting a new habit requires repetition. Let’s say for example that you want to lose weight and get in better physical condition. I believe it is best achieved by making very small changes so as to not overwhelm oneself, which is the idea behind my 4-minute morning series.

Hopefully, as you go through the progressions, you will learn more about yourself (how your mind works) and your body and discover areas that need further exploration. Note: ALL areas need further exploration 🙂 My 4 minute morning series of progressions is the foundation for developing a consistent practice of self-discipline. It is simple but can you do it? Oftentimes it is the simple things that are the most challenging.

I believe that exercise is meant to establish a balanced musculoskeletal system. When we are in balance, our body works at an optimal level (which is different for everyone).

Important: If you exercise with poor body alignment you will only reinforce an unbalanced musculoskeletal system. Keep in mind that when you practice Yoga, run, walk, swim, cycle or lift heavy weights among many other activities, the point of what you are doing is to build an ideal structure that is trained to move in an optimal way when you engage in life: sitting at your desk, driving a car, sitting on a bus, walking, grocery shopping etc. It is the mundane repetitive activities associated with living that require this steady stream of awareness. 

“We don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.”

―Archilochus 

~Happy New Year 2014 ~Happy New Year 2014 ~Happy New Year 2014 ~

 

Genuine Transformation

Genuine Transformation
My cousin Justin Kalef is currently teaching Logic at Rutgers University. I had a chance to chat with him briefly at a family dinner over the 2012 winter holidays. It was around the same time that I was mulling over the contents for the article I was composing on belief. Justin was the perfect person to ask some of the questions that I was working on. He told me what he tells his students on their first day of class, because from his experience teaching, it is inevitable that at some point during the course, one or some students will come to him completely overwhelmed.

We were talking about belief and how our beliefs can affect our ability to make long lasting change in our lives. When he said the following phrase:

“…but it’s only difficult for who you are now.

For the person you will become, 

it won’t be difficult at all.”

How great is this sentence? I think we could all do well to repeat this to ourselves daily. I asked him if I could use it for my belief article, and then I thought better of it…let’s tell the entire speech. So here you are, sit back and soak up these wise words.

“One of the things I do at the start of all my courses

is tell my students to think of the course like thinking of a physical training program (weight lifting or running). Suppose, I say, your goal is to run a 10k run in four months, but you can’t even run down the block now. Or suppose that you want to be able to do a shoulder press with fifty-pound weights in four months, but right now you can only do it with five-pound weights and you can barely lift ten-pound weights.

50 pound weights

These things are possible to achieve in four months’ time. If you go through a training program and are able to reach your goals by the end, you’ll be able to look back down the mountain when it’s all over and say:

‘Wow, I started out that far down and look where I am now!’

Looking down the mountain.

Look How Far You’ve Come!

Ideally, you’ll be able to do that at several points: each month, you should be able to look back to where you were the previous month and be impressed with how far you’ve come. If you can’t do that — if at the end you’re exactly where you were at the start — then that’s a sign that it didn’t work.  If you haven’t progressed in a month, then something went wrong. You didn’t commit enough or your guide didn’t find a way to climb the mountain — maybe both.

So my promise (I tell them) is this: I have worked out a path that you will be able to follow with me to the top of the mountain. There are some things you’ll be able to do at the end that you just can’t do now: here they are (and I set them out plainly). The mountain is high, but my path will allow you to get there a little at a time. If you need to go slower at some points, there are other paths for those times. And if you’re committed to it, you’ll see each month that you’re far in advance of what you could do the month before. That’ll be proof of your progress, and I make the promise to you now that you can make it if you follow my plan.

However, there’s a flipside to that. Logically speaking, if there’s something you’ll be able to do a month from now that you can’t do today, that same something must be out of your range today. And the things you’ll be able to do at the very end are way out of your range today. That comes with the course being a worthwhile one for you, but some people can find it scary.

They say, ‘I can’t do that!’

And they’re completely right:

They can’t.

If they could already do it, there would be no point in their taking the course!

Think of it this way (I tell them): if you can only shoulder-press with five-pound dumbbells and can barely lift the ten-pound ones out of the rack, then of course you can’t shoulder-press the fifty-pound ones. You might resolve to do it anyway, but you’d fail. You just can’t do it. That’s why you’re training toward that goal.

Going in circles

So: if there’s something you want to be able to do and already can do, then any training program designed to get you there is a waste of time and will only take you in a circle. So any reasonable goal must be something you can’t do yet.

And that means that any reasonable goal you have must be something that’s impossible for you to do!

Still, the situation isn’t hopeless. There’s one — and only one — reasonable way to see your training: your training takes something that’s currently impossible for you to do and makes it possible by changing you from someone who can’t into someone who can. So today, you can say ‘I can’t do this — but I can transform myself into someone who can.’ And that’s the key to training: transforming yourself into someone with more powers than you have today.

This is literal transformation: mentally or physically, you’ll be a different person with different abilities. You’ll even have different desires and values: things you find frustrating now won’t be to your future self, and things you find tempting now will be less so.

Genuine self-transformation can be very difficult in the short term,

but it’s only difficult for who you are now.

For the person you will become,

it won’t be difficult at all.

Today, you say to yourself “Living by this routine is so difficult — when will I be able to do the things that I want?” But perhaps you’re only thinking of what the present version of you wants: not the future you. If your self-transformation is to be successful, the routine will not remain difficult. You’ll miss it if you don’t  follow it.

So instead of saying: “This is difficult for me,”

say: “This is difficult for me now,

but I’m transforming myself into a person for whom it isn’t difficult.”

Otherwise, you run the risk of leaving it up to your present desires to choose the values and habits of your future.”

-Justin Kalef

 

 

Belief and Butterflies

 I think a lot about belief,

how we shape our beliefs and

where those beliefs come from.

Believe Nothing.

You Are Your Own Religion.

Following the advice from the above quote is a lot more complicated than it first appears, because who we are, what we think and how we act (or react) is heavily grounded in our history, customs, traditions, who we look up to, what we read, see and have been taught.

What is your own reason?

What is your own common sense?

It takes practice to sit quietly ruminating on questions that reveal our true individual beliefs. It is difficult to set aside the beliefs that we have been taught as being correct (that gave us top marks), to settle on our true nature.

Can anyone really say that their beliefs are not affected by the world around them? We hold on so tightly to our beliefs. And it makes perfect sense to do so, because having strong beliefs is our natural link to survival. But there can be a point when belief becomes rigid and prevents us from growing and exploring possibilities. Beliefs come in all shapes and sizes. Not all beliefs come in the form of a radical-life-changing shift. Sometimes when we make a small (as in microscopic – barely noticeable) shift to a long held belief, it at first may seem insignificant, but it is often these little ripples that offer the most catalytic potential. Think of the butterfly effect.

“It has been said that something as small as the flutter of a butterfly’s wing can ultimately cause a typhoon halfway around the world.”- Chaos Theory

Since before starting my blog/website in April 2011, I have been experimenting with consciously shifting my comfort zones, which I have come to realize is actually making micro changes to my beliefs – to my world, as I know it.

It takes practice to change,

and practice requires being consistent.

Here are two examples of what seems like very insignificant beliefs (beliefs shape our patterns and behaviour) that I resisted changing and how much I have learned and grown from adapting to these changes. A few months before I embarked on this hobby of writing a blog, I decided that I would, without fail, each and every night for the rest of my life…floss my teeth. Sounds life changing doesn’t it? It was my butterfly effect.

Butterfly

I have always been consistent with cleaning my mouth and teeth, to a fault I recently learned. I wrote about it here. And I have always flossed my teeth, just not daily :). I would go through phases of being consistent with flossing (like for a week), and then neglect the practice to a now and then or when I would remember kind of practice. Don’t we all do that for a lot of different things in our lives? When things seem to be going OK, we put off doing the jobs that take the least amount of time because we don’t value their significance or impact in the big picture.

“There is no ONE GIANT step that does it,

it’s a lot of LITTLE STEPS.”

It has now been over two years without missing a single day of flossing! My oral health has improved dramatically. Ironically, I have cut back on the frequency of brushing my teeth (the article I refer to above explains this in detail). And as a result of these shifts my self-discipline has improved dramatically too. I am becoming more accomplished at doing ten, twenty and sixty-second jobs that would otherwise be put off to another time. This butterfly effect has changed my patterns. It was a test you see. I tested myself with something that would have zero impact on anyone else. With something that literally takes sixty to ninety seconds. It was something that would make a big difference to my life and health, something that I could do or not do and no one would know whether I failed or kept my word, except for my dentist and hygienist ;). Don’t fool yourself if you really think that your oral health care practitioner believes you when you tell them that you floss regularly. If you have bleeding gums and oral health problems somebody’s not doing a very effective job and the end result is the obvious proof of the neglect. And we all know who that someone is. Hmmm?

“If what you are doing isn’t working, doing more of it won’t work any better.”

People come up with the most elaborate excuses for not flossing daily (or at all!) and are genuinely amazed as to why they have oral health problems. It is a lot like when I ask my kids if they have brushed their teeth in the morning (knowing they haven’t because I can smell their ‘morning breath’). Instead of arguing that I know that they have not done it, rather I tell them that they should do it again, because the job they did wasn’t very effective. And if they need help doing it properly, I would be happy to help.

“If you’re going to do something, do it right the first time.”

It is much like being overweight or having general health problems. The remedy is so obvious to everyone looking in but not at all to the person affected. And yet even to those looking in, though they can see what the affected person is doing wrong, they have the same difficulty seeing what isn’t working for themselves. Everyone is looking for a medical test to diagnose what it is that is causing his or her illness. Looking outside of themselves for answers, for someone else to do the LITTLE STEPS for them. May I suggest? Do the daily little steps; test your-self for a couple of years and see what happens. If you do it right, it will work.

“If it is important to you,

You will find a way.

If not?

You will find an excuse.”

~Frank Banks

But don’t be misguided; I don’t believe that there is such a thing as perfect health. There is not a place to get to where we just float along without minor pain or discomfort from time to time. The human body is volatile. There is no pain-free life, just as there is no stain-free steel. (Stainless steel isn’t stain-free, it just stains less.) We may become pain-less, but to expect to have a pain-free life is quite the tall order to have for our existence. Perhaps we need to reexamine our expectations and the beliefs attached to those expectations. Apparently the snake-oil salesmen from years gone by are still doing excellent business selling false hope and promises. We need to walk away from those snake-oil salesmen and practice our own little steps.

Snake-Oil Salesman

So, around the same time that I started my flossing experiment, I started doing my 4-minute mornings, which was an interesting shift in beliefs, to say the least. Because what is most interesting to me is that I used to tell clients, twenty years ago about a study that showed that even ten minutes of exercise, repeated three times a day was shown to be as effective as doing thirty-minutes of exercise at one time. I used to dish out that study but I never experimented with it for myself and I doubt that anyone really gave it much credence. My world back then was all about teaching hour-long aerobic, step or cycle Reebok classes. Everything was based on time: hour-long one-on-one private training sessions, hour-long stretch classes, hour-long toning classes and hour-long Pilates classes. For those of us interested in supporting our health, we were willing to put in that hour a day and for those of us in the business, well, we spent all day being physically active. So, for me to downshift these theories (beliefs) in health and fitness to a radical drop in duration was a tough pill to swallow. Could 4 minutes of something really have any significant effect on the body? I decided to experiment for myself. I speculated that 4 minutes once in a while might not be very effective, but 4 minutes daily might…I was willing to see what might happen.

The results have been quite fascinating. I have learned about being disciplined with a daily short duration routine that would otherwise be very easy to dismiss or put off. Every morning for the past two years I have done the same routine, which has evolved from starting out as a few minutes of bed stretches into twenty minutes of a variety of stretches and calisthenics. The significant piece to take away from this is that it is not about the duration (the time spent doing these exercises) but rather in doing specific exercises to correct and maintain MY functional alignment. And the fascinating piece is that I don’t spend more than a minute or two on most of the stretches or exercises. Duration is not as relevant as is the focus and precision attached to each stretch or movement. In other words, what is more important is WHAT you do and HOW you do it.

Exercise is more than moving and perspiring for an extended period of time. Perhaps this is a long held belief that needs to be revisited and questioned? What do you think exercise is? Do you believe that by getting your ‘heart rate up’ for an extended period of time your body will automatically realign itself and by default magically transform into an Adonis?

Sorry, it begs repeating: “If what you are doing isn’t working, doing more of it won’t work any better.”

If we repeat a physical action misaligned, then our end result will be reinforced misalignment.

Losing body fat and having a functionally sound mechanically efficient body are two very separate actions. Losing body fat through exercise doesn’t automatically generate a functionally sound mechanically efficient body, however the opposite is more likely probable of igniting change.

“When you have eliminated the impossible,

whatever remains,

however improbable, must be the truth.”

–Sherlock Holmes

I have discovered that I really like to start my day like this (bed stretches etc.) and will make every effort to get to bed on time so that I can clock eight hours of sleep and still be able to wake up with enough time to do my morning routine before I start my mom-duty. “If it is important to you, You will find a way. If not? You will find an excuse.”

“If you believe you can or you believe you can’t – you’re right.”

~Henry Ford

What Is Normal?

We Are All Weird, by Seth Godin

Seth Godin published a little book in 2011 called We Are All Weird. Click on the title to read an excerpt.

You’ve really got to think hard about this:

Being normal is based on what the average person does, through conformity.

Following this logic, I am, therefore, far from normal. Not in every way but in many ways. But I’ve known this since I was a kid. Most of us so called “weird” ones have been OK with our standing. We know we’re different. But there are many who are still learning to accept their differences and with every ounce of their being resist their nature and struggle to fit in or to be “normal-like-everyone-else”.  I would like to encourage everyone to be true to who you are, not who you think you should be; there is a difference.

Let’s talk about food for an example.

On occasion people say this phrase to me: “Well, you’ve got to live!” Often in reference to doing things that they know that they shouldn’t be doing; for instance consuming certain foods or drinks.

Eating Contest

Eating Contest

Since when, why and how did engaging in risky behavior equate living? And why is it so often about consuming substances? Is it that charge of adrenaline that is so titillating – oh, how it wakes us up like we have never been awake before and bang! we feel alive. Again, let’s do it again, but let’s push the envelope a little further this time. It is a heavy question with reasoning that could fill the infinite scroll down potential of any blog. I think the adrenaline rush associated with extreme sport is a little different from the rush derived from consuming substances, but they straddle the same hemisphere. So if you will, allow me to ramble for a minute.

At a restaurant, about sixteen years ago, when I was just dating my husband, he said to me, “If I’m going to risk my life why would I choose to do so by doing something as unadventurous as eating mussels?” I fear, most people are ignorant of the toxins present in the foods or drinks they choose to consume. Some restaurants actually have a disclaimer on the menu where items such as mussels, clams and raw oysters are served.

Cooked Mussels

Cooked Mussels

I am very aware that how I conduct myself is not the norm. The fact that I feel like I am “living” everyday without sacrificing anything, would categorize me once again as weird.

Definition of Sacrifice:

“an act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy. We must all be prepared to make sacrifices.”

Must we?

Ah…sacrifice. It is such an interesting word, such an interesting feeling. It has been a long road of learning, but I can honestly say that I am at such a place where sacrifice does not exist. There is nothing that I would have to give up to be where I am. I make time to focus and take care of myself everyday because that is where I want to be. I eat well all the time because I want to – because it makes me feel great; and because really, for me there is no alternative.

It seems to be more difficult for others to accept that I have accepted that celebration and reward does NOT come in the form of food or alcohol or excess. I am right where I should be and continue to learn more about my body, mind and health each day. I have chosen to represent this sentiment with a photograph of a bee in flight, just approaching a flowering chive. Why? Because bees have focus and it seems to me like they enjoy what they do. It comes down to perspective.

I choose not to eat or drink anything that disagrees with my system. I choose not to eat or drink anything just to please a host or because it was a gift. The story of The Hungry Coat: A Tale from Turkey comes to mind when I think about this, because one thought always leads to another.

I won’t finish off something just to prevent it from going to waste. Forcing food to go through my body before it becomes garbage is no different than just throwing it away in the first place. Both are equally wasteful, but the former causes bodily harm. Better to learn not to prepare so much or order so much food. It is OK to have leftovers…I rely on them.

We can choose to make a thoughtful, informed choice or we can choose to sacrifice. In the end we have still made a choice. If we are going to bother to choose, shouldn’t we choose wisely?

“You can choose a ready guide in some celestial voice.
If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.
You can choose from phantom fears and kindness that can kill;
I will choose a path that’s clear-
I will choose Free Will.”

~Rush the Band, Freewill

But clearly, weird is subjective. I think it is pretty weird to consume things that are known toxins, which contribute to lowering life expectancy, have potential side effects, which may contribute to birth defects, known diseases and cancer. And yet in the normal universe, which is parallel to my weird universe, this is considered living, by letting loose and not being so serious.

“I want to be normal!” – not me, thanks.

Just about everyone wants to be normal. Kids want to be normal; they want to fit in. They learn it at a young age. If they don’t conform they will be excluded.

“Nowhere is the dreamer or the misfit so alone…

In the high school halls

In the shopping malls

Conform or be cast out…

In the basement bars

In the backs of cars

Be cool or be cast out…”– Rush the Band, Subdivisions

They want to be able to eat or drink what everyone else does without thinking about the after effects or repercussions; they want to live in the moment. They want to live.

A few years ago when my husband and I were hosting our annual Canadian Thanksgiving feast, one of my guests, knowing that I was deep into the experimental phase of eliminating certain foods from my diet (to heal myself), said that she just couldn’t do what I was doing. So I asked, “I didn’t realize there were any foods that disagreed with your system.” Her: “Oh, yeah there are, but I eat them anyway and pay the price the next day.”

What?!

To me that’s CRAZY, insane even. I told her that I thought so. 🙂 

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. ~Albert Einstein

Except in this case I don’t think people are expecting different results. And we call THAT normal?! Only because the masses are doing it. If everyone is doing it, then it must be OK.

After that conversation, I started asking other people if there were foods or drinks that they knowingly consumed which caused a delayed negative reaction. One person told me that they would eat certain foods knowing that they would have to be practically connected to the toilet for the following three days. “OH! But it’s so worth it going down.”

Really?

This is the original more familiar version of the famous song Crazy – by Gnarles Barkley. I’ve transcribed the lyrics below so you can read or sing along. While looking for the song I came across this slower version, which is outstanding. I have posted the link here in case you want to have a listen.

“I remember when, I remember, I remember when I lost my mind

There was something so pleasant about that place.

Even your emotions had an echo 
In so much space

And when you’re out there Without care,

Yeah, I was out of touch, But it wasn’t because I didn’t know enough

I just knew too much

Does that make me crazy? Does that make me crazy? Does that make me crazy?

Possibly [radio version] Probably [album version]

And I hope that you are having the time of your life


But think twice, that’s my only advice



Come on now,

Who do you, who do you, who do you, who do you think you are,

Ha ha ha bless your soul


You really think you’re in control

Well, I think you’re crazy, I think you’re crazy, I think you’re crazy

Just like me

My heroes had the heart to lose their lives out on a limb

And all I remember is thinking, I want to be like them

Ever since I was little, ever since I was little it looked like fun

And it’s no coincidence I’ve come, And I can die when I’m done

Maybe I’m crazy, Maybe you’re crazy, Maybe we’re crazy

Probably

Uh, uh”

We need to practice thinking about what we practice.

We can choose.

Modified Sun Salutation

Upward Salute – Urdhva Hastasana - Person perf...

“If this is how my body feels at twenty-one,

it worries me to think about

how it will feel in ten to twenty years.”

– Travis Nelson

Travis is a swimming coach and lifeguard at the pool where I swim. One day last year (September 2011) he asked me if I could recommend some exercises for his back. He told me that his lower back was sore and he thought that he should do some exercises to strengthen it.

I offered that it might be more complex than that and that focusing on strengthening the back could very possibly make things worse. There could be a whole host of possibilities as to why he feels pain and discomfort in his lower back. Oftentimes, this type of pain stems from imbalance. Meaning that some muscles may be over developed while others are underdeveloped and therefore being overworked. When our muscles are balanced, “not too tight and not too loose” then our joints are better supported and will work better on demand. Anyone can use brute force to blast through a set of an exercise or sprint to the finish line while in pain or not. But as far as exercise and physical movement is concerned, in my mind, exercise is about establishing a bio-mechanical functioning body. Sport on the other hand is about times and points. But as you will see, most professional athletes spend an inordinate amount of time perfecting the accuracy with each micro-phase of each movement.  It is this concept of precision, which is what I hope to relay in this site.

My conversation with Travis lasted no more than 4 minutes. I suggested he start with the 3-Hip Stretches and I showed him very quickly (pool side) how to stretch his psoas. He is the ideal student. He actually followed-up and did these exercises.

For quite some time afterward, in my mind I could not stop hearing him say: “If this is how my body feels at twenty-one…” and I wanted to share these words with you. So, I caught up with Travis and asked him if I could film him saying what he said to me in that first conversation. It was funny, because I wanted to assure him that I could edit the filming in the case he was uncomfortable, to which he assured me that it wasn’t a problem because he is an actor. Fantastic! He surprised me by walking me through what I had taught him in those few minutes from a few months earlier. You will see, I think he did very well.

Below is the long overdue video that I promised Travis that I would put together so that he would be able to see what the sequence looks like in its entirety. This is the modified Sun Salutation that I do each morning.

My Morning Routine (20 minutes):

  1. Bed Stretches (2 – 5 minutes)
  2. Wall and floor stretches with Travel Roller ball & roller (3 – 5 minutes)
  3. Modified Sun Salutation (3 – 4 minutes)
  4. 4 Minute Morning (week 3 – DAY 7) (4 – 5 minutes)
  5. Walk in a figure-8 (30 seconds)

Down the road I will put together a video to break down the finer points of the modified Sun Salutation. The first step for anyone is to learn the sequence by memory; once that is achieved then we can begin to fine tune and deepen our understanding.

Note: These stretches/ exercises are appropriate for my body but may not be for yours. Use caution when trying anything new. I find it works best to err on the side of caution. Begin with one exercise and repeat that one exercise for a week or so, until it is committed to memory, only then consider adding on.

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Meditation – It May Not Be What You Think

Buddha Seated in Meditation (Dhyanamudra), Ind...

I meditate every day.

But not in the way you might typically associate with meditation. When I meditate, I am moving. Sounds kind of wrong, doesn’t it?

Most of us have pre-conceived ideas with what meditation is. We tend to conjure images of a person sitting quietly, legs crossed in lotus, arms extended with the back of the wrists resting gently on the knees. Chanting OM. We imagine a blank mind, so still, devoid of any thing at all. Possibly, why so many people dismiss it as something that they could never do. How does one do, well…nothing?

Meditating Outside

About fourteen years ago, I went to a two-day meditation workshop. We were a small group of about 8 women. Some had a lot of experience meditating, (they taught others how to meditate) and me, with no formal training. We spent the first day reviewing a lot of material and practicing finding the meditative state. The second day, each of us got a chance to be connected to brainwave biofeedback technology.

I was surprised to learn that I was able to easily recreate a “meditative state” while the seasoned meditators were shocked to learn that they had gone too far, into Delta – that means asleep!

Let me give you some backstory. Growing up, I was always an active kid. I was good at imitation and did well in gymnastics and dance. I often got to play the lead in our year-end dance recitals. I remember well, discovering the meditative state then, though I had no idea that that was what it was. I just thought of it as “going on automatic pilot”. The recital began, and before I knew it, it was over and we were taking our bow. How did I get there, having performed every step? It was like a dream. I understand now and from the biofeedback, that I must have been performing in a ‘meditative state’ of sorts.

It still happens today, but now because I understand better what it means and the usefulness of it I enter my active meditation with purpose, it doesn’t so much just happen anymore. This is why I have always preferred to exercise alone. I don’t and won’t listen to music and definitely don’t and won’t have a conversation when I’m doing my body maintenance. When I practice any kind of movement I allow myself to fall into a meditative state. For me, that means focusing on what I am doing – deeply – not falling asleep! 🙂

This is what I focus on when I practice active meditation:

  • The repetition, precision and accuracy of each phase of each movement pattern
  • The myriad details that occupy the alignment of my skeletal structure
  • My breathing (pattern, tempo, capacity)
  • Still the fluctuations of the ‘mind-stuff’ (thoughts come and go, this is natural, meditation for me doesn’t mean that I have to have a blank mind – meditation is a dynamic practice).

When I am not meditating, but in full-on-go-mode, as in ok, kids are in school, I’ve got six hours to get as much done as possible mode, my brain is moving very quicklyI often think about a lot of different things at one time. Of late, this phenomenon has been occurring at what seems like an exponential rate. I attribute it, primarily, to having cut gluten out of my diet. I feel more awake; synapses seem to be firing more effectively. I still fall back on my old ways of course, which feels like a paralyzed state of confusion, how do I mentally organize, catalogue and categorize ALL the things that I have to get done along with the things that I want to get done. This is our daily practice and it is always changing. At this point I play a game with myself, as soon as I think it, I do it (within reason of course). So far it is working wonderfully, which segues to the following.

Recently, I came across this sentence:

The human brain processes 40 thoughts every second.

Photographer Isabel M. Martinez captures the beauty of the hyperactive mind in her collection Quantum Blink, which reconsiders the moment as we know it. Her muse? Electroencephalography, a measure of electrical activity in the brain.”

– Fast Company, October 2012

So, I looked her up and this is a portion from her “artist statement”:

“According to quantum mechanics we have forty conscious moments per second, and our brains 
connect this sequence of nows to create the illusion of the flow of time. So, what would things look like if that intermittence were made visible? This body of work explores that hiccup, that blink, that ubiquitous fissure in the falling-into-place of things.”

Perhaps all of us don’t really realize the potential of our awake state. How much we could potentially accomplish by tapping into our seconds of consciousness. Now THAT would be living in the now. If you stop for a moment and really conceptualize the meaning behind the above sentence: 40 thoughts every second. In my mind this encapsulates every possible stimuli, from temperature, sound, light/darkness, smell, touch, texture, images, language, meaning, movement (intentional or automatic), and so on. This is huge. It’s no wonder advertising and media have got us wrapped around their subliminal fingers. This is why we find ourselves buying things we don’t need but think that we do.

By practicing a moving meditation we learn how to distinguish between the fluctuations of the ‘mind-stuff’. We learn how to distinguish between time sensitive thoughts (actions that need to addressed in the moment) and learn how to dismiss those that are not. It is not easy and that is why it is recommended to be practiced daily. It is important in supporting a calm and patient mind.

In Sanskrit: Yogas Citta Vritti Nirodhah

Yogas = Yoga;  chitta = of the mind-stuff;                                   vritti = modifications:  nirodhah = restraint.

The restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff is Yoga.

“If the restraint of the mental modifications is achieved one has reached the goal of Yoga. The entire science of Yoga is based on this. If you can control the rising of the mind into ripples, you will experience Yoga.”

The Yoga Sutras Patanjali, Translation and Commentary by Sri Swami Satchidananda

 

And it is for this reason that I feel that exercise and meditation are such good teammates. The point of exercise in my opinion, aside from enjoyment, because really that goes without saying, is to maintain a functioning dynamic human structure. To do that, we must tap into how we move with intention and precision and be present (in every second) as we effect movement.

So, you see, for me meditation isn’t about doing nothing, but rather the training of a state of complete focus and calm where clarity is nurtured because the fluctuations are restricted. It is a practice that translates into everything we do.

Next time I will discuss the phases of creating movement within the meditative state. I will explain HOW to get to this stage, keeping in mind that everyone’s stages and phases will look completely different. I realize that this idea can seem WAY OUT THERE for the beginner, and with this in mind I will endeavour to break it down!

We have to crawl before we can walk.

Meditation

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