The Magic Of Kundalini Yoga

I fell into kundalini yoga quite by accident earlier this year, when I decided to sign up for a class at a local yoga studio which was listed on ClassPass. From the first class, I was deeply moved, intrigued, and interested in continuing the practice. I hadn’t been aware of the fact that kundalini yoga is considered to be the most powerful and spiritual form of yoga, but I am grateful that it is now a part of my life. Kundalini yoga also complements my daily meditation practice.

How is kundalini yoga different from other forms of yoga? While it can be VERY physical, kundalini yoga is incredibly spiritual and meditative. You will spend a decent amount of time in “easy pose”, which is a standard pose for meditation. Kundalini yoga consists of chants, repetitive movements, and coordinated breathing techniques which are all designed to increase consciousness and activate the body’s energy centers. Because this type of yoga targets energy blockages, sessions can be emotional, intense, sacred, and filled with a sense of connectedness to everyone.

An article by James McCrae states that the objective of kundalini yoga is “decentralized and selfless – help people actualize their Higher Self”. The practice of kundalini yoga has been around since approximately 1,000 B.C. – 500 B.C. during the time in which the Upanishads were written. Kundalini, or “coiled snake”, refers to the energy of creation which sits at the base of the spine, and which can be activated and made to move up the spine and throughout the entire body. It was brought to the western world in the late 1960’s by Yogi Bhajan.

Kundalini yoga can be regarded as the fast track to spiritual enlightenment, and can bring about immense positive changes to one’s life. It increases awareness, brings a sense of well-being, and also creates a stillness and calmness which help to deflect the stresses of the modern world.

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The Bikini Box

It may be considered strange by some people, but I perform scheduled purges of my belongings on a regular basis. Why? Because they enable me to stay organized, and they also force me to get rid of items I don’t need. Recently, I decided that as part of a household purge, I would go through every single bikini in my bikini box.

The bikini box I am referring to is an underbed storage box which holds all of my bikinis. I established this system several years ago when I began to accumulate bikinis and would use them in photo shoots. After struggling to sort through my collection when I packed for a slew of photo shoots over the summer, I realized that there were suits I had never worn, suits which had been shot too many times, suits which no longer fit, and suits which had never fit.

I tried on every single suit, assessed fit, and determined whether to keep it or give it away. If I decided to keep a suit, I then made sure the top was tied securely at the neck, and also secured the side ties on bottoms, to make it easier to put it on when at a shoot. I also cut off tags so that they wouldn’t poke at me or stick out and create extra editing work for photographers. I also labeled the bags I stored the bikinis in so that the styles could be easily identified without me having to remove the suit from the bag.

It took me five hours to go through that bikini box, which means I averaged about 20 suits per hour. I gave away close to 20 suits and kept the rest, making sure that each suit was in a slide lock sandwich size storage bag. The suits are organized by color, making it easier for me to select suits for a shoot.

Now I am ready to shoot!

Loaded Emails

When I sat down to write this piece, I was still steaming mad from an incident which occurred earlier that day. Basically, a whole slew of individuals, including me, who were working with a certain company, were summarily and abruptly dismissed via a very general email. In addition, the email dared to accuse us of engaging in practices which would definitely not be considered very decent, practices of which I was never guilty.

In a heartbeat, we were all cut at the knees, without any true explanation. Mind you, I had worked with this company for a number of years, put up with their frequent bait-and-switch tactics, and found myself fighting to stay in the game when the powers that be kept showing how fickle they were. It was one of those situations in which someone would suddenly get cut, then a few months down the road, someone else would suffer the same fate. It was obvious that loyalty didn’t matter to them, because they had no loyalty towards the people who worked for them.

How have I dealt with the sudden kick off the gangplank? I have cleaned house, cut out the fat just like they did. Since all the work I did over the years wasn’t appreciated, I had no problem deleting them from my life. I guess business is business, and no one’s feelings matter. Done deal.

The Challenges Of Modeling

If you’ve never balanced on a craggy boulder, while freezing your ass off and also managing to muster a facial expression which makes everyone believe that you are having the time of your life, then you have no idea what models often have to endure in order to get “the shot”.

Shot by the late Weiferd Watts in 2010

Modeling often is hard work. Those of you who are snickering need to hear me out. Those elegant or sexy poses which you will often see models in are often incredibly uncomfortable, especially when there are boulders, creepy crawly things, nasty wind gusts, and weather extremes to negotiate as well. Outdoor locations can be teeming with insects, or they may have shards of broken glass everywhere which makes it quite treacherous for a model to strike a pose. Models often have to “cheat” a shoulder or limb, meaning that they have to turn a body part in a certain way to create an angle which looks right in the camera lens, but which feels completely unnatural and often sparks muscle cramps which linger for days after the shoot wraps. I still remember holding a pretzel pose for a full ten minutes while the photographer happily shot away (see blog image at top of this post), but because I put myself into a bit of a meditative state, I was able to hold the pose without much discomfort. Alas, as I have gotten older, my joints are far less forgiving, and I must take a brief break after several frames are shot.

Another major challenge which models constantly face is that they have to evoke certain moods and looks at the drop of a hat, even if they feel ill, tired, bloated, or otherwise uninspired to shoot. If a model can’t convince the photographer, and more importantly, the camera lens, that she is indeed the vision which is called for in a campaign, she can forget about lining up much work as time goes on.

Over the decades in which I have been modeling, I have learned so many tricks which increase efficiency and reduce the risk of injury while on the job. I know what essentials to pack in my bag, even if I end up not using them at all. When shooting on location, I always bring a large black robe, which I refer to as my changing robe, and which gets so much flak from the photographers because it makes me look like a transient when I wear it. If I have to put my bikini-clad ass on a felled tree stump which threatens to deposit some splinters into my flesh, I grab a small towel or scarf to protect my skin. I have also adopted the habit of wearing aqua shoes when on location so that my feet don’t get scorched by hot sand or torn up by rough terrain.

Believe me when I say that being a model isn’t just about standing in front of a camera and looking pretty. Good models WORK HARD, and they maintain a positive, cooperative attitude. Even when the ocean water is freezing cold, or the weather is so blazing hot that makeup is literally melting off, models who know how to be professional will honestly grin and bear it unless it is actually causing frank injury.

Switch Up Your Gym Routine!

Are you bored with going to the gym and doing the same old thing? If so, it’s time to switch things up! Simply by changing the repetition range, lifting technique or body part split, you can infuse your workouts with something new and exciting. If you really want to ramp up your routine, add plyometrics or calisthenics, or perform supersets or giant sets.

If you don’t exactly know how to make the changes I am suggesting, I have broken down different exercise elements so that you can easily make changes to your workout routine which will keep you interested.

CHANGE REPETITION RANGE – If you have a habit of doing four sets of 15 repetitions regardless of which exercise you are doing, how about switching it up? Perhaps you can do a warmup set at the same weight which you usually eke out 15 reps, but push yourself to do 20 really good reps. Then increase the weight and do 3 sets of 8-10 reps, and perform them with intensity.

STACK REP RANGES IN PYRAMIDS – Another thing you can try is pyramids, which basically consist of gradually increasing or decreasing the rep range, while decreasing or increasing the weight lifted accordingly. You can perform ascending, descending, or ascending-descending pyramids.

Ascending Pyramids = You will gradually increase the weight used, and decrease the number of repetitions accordingly, with each set. For example, your first set may be 20 repetitions, the second 15 reps, the third 10 reps, and the fourth set 7 reps. Ascending pyramids are effective for increasing strength since you gradually increase the load on the muscle worked.

Descending Pyramids = You perform your first set at a heavy weight, eking out about 6 to 8 solid reps. Subsequent sets will consist of gradually decreasing the weight used, and increasing the number of repetitions accordingly. For example, the second set may consist of 10 reps, the third 15 reps, and the fourth set 20 reps or to complete failure. Descending pyramids are effective for increasing muscle girth since the gradual drop in weight enables you to perform sets to failure.

Ascending-Descending Pyramids = With this pyramid approach, you gradually increase the weight used, and decrease the number of repetitions accordingly, with the first few sets, then DECREASE the weight used and increase the number of reps to finish out the routine. Because of this, I recommend performing odd numbers of sets. For example, your first set may be 20 repetitions, the second 15 reps, the third 8 reps, the fourth set 15 reps, and a fifth and final set can consist of 20-25 reps.

CHANGE THE NUMBER OF SETS PERFORMED – If you are in a rut because you always perform four sets of every exercise, challenge yourself and do 5 or 6 sets. A great way to shake out the cobwebs in your routine is to go for volume, perhaps performing 8 to 10 sets of each exercise to really work your muscles to exhaustion.

CHANGE YOUR LIFTING TECHNIQUE – Many people tend to perform exercises rather rapidly every time they train, so they don’t really focus on what they are doing. There are a couple of ways in which you can challenge yourself and break through plateaus if you have this tendency. One method is to perform negatives, which basically means that after you lift the weight in the concentric phase (in a bicep curl, this would be the phase in which you curl the weight toward your shoulder), you slowly return the dumbbell to the starting position for a count of 5 or 6 seconds. Another great method is rest-pause, in which you perform a repetition at a normal rate, pause briefly, then go to your next repetition forcefully. When using rest-pause technique, slightly increase the weight used to really challenge yourself.

CHANGE YOUR BODY PART SPLIT – If you always train legs on Tuesdays and chest on Fridays, perhaps you might want to switch things up. If you aren’t seeing enough desirable changes in your lower half, add another leg day and focus on the areas which you would like to improve. If you always train your entire body every time you hit the gym, start splitting up body parts so that you devote more time to getting maximum recruitment in the muscles you train.

ADD PLYOMETRICS OR CALISTHENICS – Adding ballistic movements like plyometrics or calisthenics can serve as the catalyst for rapid body transformation. Just be careful if you have hip, knee, or ankle issues. Try adding moves like jumping jacks, jump squats, mountain climbers, burpees, and X-jumps.

PERFORM SUPERSETS OR GIANT SETS – Try stacking two or more exercises together without resting in between exercises to increase muscle fiber recruitment. You can either stack weighted exercises, or perform a combination of weighted moves and plyometrics.
Examples are:
Leg press machine/jump squats
Incline bench chest presses/pushups/dumbbell pullovers

Of Orifices and Zero Freedom

As a physician, I have had the incredible honor and privilege of studying every part of the human body, to the most minute detail. I have hovered over cadavers which were fileted and displayed for they eyes of inquisitive medical students, and scrubbed in on colon resections, open heart surgery, neurosurgery, cataract removal, etc. During my first month of internship as a newly minted physician, I massaged a dying heart with my gloved hands (no, the patient didn’t survive). I have also delivered over 40 infants via vaginal and Cesarean methods, and have pronounced the demise of patients in the wards. In fact, there are many stories I have collected over the years, some incredibly sad, some disgusting, some frightening, and some infuriating, but all true, and all part of my experience as a doctor.

I knew full well that by signing up for an education in medicine, I would be subjected to disgusting, morbid, frightening things, and that I would face mortality on a regular basis. However, after several years of working in family practice, I began to notice that I wasn’t thrilled with the fact that I examined orifices of every kind on a very regular basis. Whether it was a nostril, a mouth, an ear canal, an anus, a urethral meatus (layman’s term pee-hole), or vagina I had to examine, I was never thrilled about it, and the orifices below the belt were certainly much more bothersome to address. My intense dislike of such examinations, combined with the tedium of primary care and the low insurance reimbursement for services and procedures provided, caused me to retreat from primary care and focus more on the areas I had more interest in, namely, physical medicine, cosmetic dermatology, and anti-aging medicine, all of which are much cleaner and which do not require me to conduct examinations on private parts.

Another feature of primary care which made me cringe was the intense demand on a practitioner’s time. The only time it ever seemed reasonable for me to literally lose sleep night after night as a physician was when I was in training. At this point, there is no way you could convince me that such a thing is healthy, and I refuse to sign up for that. I won’t give up weekends to take on three stacked 12-hour work shifts, and I will not give up the few holidays I celebrate (Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day) in order to work. As it is, I give up other major holidays to work, but since the work I perform on those holidays is in bodybuilding and fitness, I don’t mind it at all.

I love being a physician, and I find it incredibly rewarding to make a positive impact on my patients. However, I will not sacrifice balance in my life, or the freedom to pursue my other interests, in order to prove to society what a good physician I am. I don’t believe for a second that running oneself into the ground working as a physician ever sends a positive message to others. I don’t ever want to be the kind of doctor who is saddled with so many chart notes to write that an entire weekend is devoted to completing them. Not for me.

Lasty, I think it’s so strange that society still assumes that doctors are supposed to give their time and knowledge at a moment’s notice, on demand, yet I don’t see those same demands placed on people in other industries. I can’t tell you how many times I have been in a brief conversation with a complete stranger, who dares to ask me a medical question as soon as my profession is revealed. I swear, one of these days I am going to get a t-shirt made that says, “THE DOCTOR IS OFF-DUTY RIGHT NOW…NO MEDICAL QUESTIONS PLEASE”!

How To Be As Prepared As You Can Be for Your Big Run

I am posting this a second time with links embedded in the article. What a great contribution by Jason Lewis!

– Written by Jason Lewis

Mike Tyson once said, “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” For those about to compete in a major race, the logic still applies. Everyone has a plan for their run until they come face to face with some of the harsh realities of the race running. It can be hard, and you may face what feels like insurmountable obstacles. But if you prepare yourself properly, you can make sure you have the best chance possible to beat whatever punch – metaphorically speaking of course – comes your way. Here are some tips.

Know how to properly hydrate

If there’s one thing that any runner must know, it’s proper hydration. Dehydration lowers your blood volume and when you have lower blood volume your heart has to work extra hard to get blood (oxygen) to your muscles. Long story short, you can’t run your best when dehydrated. So, drink as much water as you can before, during, and after your runs?

Not exactly. Overconsumption can be an issue. For the most part, you should drink when you’re thirsty – no more, no less. Don’t overcomplicate things. Here’s a good resource on how to properly hydrate for certain types of runs.  

One big question is whether water is good enough, or should you hydrate with sports drinks. Both are true, actually. Water is fine, but there are some benefits to Gatorade. Sports drinks contain carbs (in the form of sugars) and electrolytes (which you lose when you sweat) – two things your body needs when participating in demanding physical activity.

Find a routine and stick to it

You should develop a routine surrounding your runs and keep it the same through training and through race day. Eat the same thing before, during, and after runs. Wear the same shoes and clothing. Get the same amount of sleep the night before. Listen to the same music. This routine, if you keep to it, will help your body and mind stay strong through the tough stretches.

Know how to treat common running injuries

Running puts a good amount of stress on your body – whether it’s trail running, city running, or even practicing in a gym or on a treadmill. If you run a lot, you’re going to get hurt at some point. There’s no getting around it. It’s vital that you know how to deal with sprains, scrapes, blisters, and more. The shorthand guide is to always ice a sprain, stretch a cramp, pressure a wound, and leave a blister intact. For more on this, check here.

Know why you’re running

Sure, you’re running for the exercise and the feelings of personal accomplishment. The runner’s high isn’t an unwelcome byproduct. But in the end, running is about a mentality – even a spirituality for some. Focus on how running gives you a mental boost and makes you a stronger person: push your self to achieve goals you never thought possible; give yourself a chance to find a stronger you through self-discovery; heal from a broken past; overcome seemingly impossible obstacles. As Jim Friedrich says in the article The Spirituality of Running, “What we do with our bodies manifests and expresses inner states, the sacred ground of our being. But bodily practices can also induce inner states.”

Whether you’re running for fun, a charity 5K or a marathon – the principles of proper running preparation are pretty much the same. If you know how to hydrate, deal with inevitable injuries, and stick to what you know works, you will have a good chance at succeeding in whatever you do. “Success” is whatever you want it to be – only you can decide your own criteria.
Photo Credit: Pixabay.com

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jason Lewis is passionate about helping seniors stay healthy and injury-free. He created StrongWell.org to share his tips on senior fitness.