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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Anti-Inflammatory Meds and Muscle Growth

NOTE: This was originally written for Oxygen Mag digital version.

There has been a heated debate over many years within the bodybuilding community about whether anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen sodium hinder muscle growth. These medications inhibit the synthesis of prostaglandins, which also play a role in muscle synthesis. All it took was one clinical study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism to put bodybuilders into a panic about reduced protein synthesis, and it didn’t matter that such results were found in laboratory rats. While there is some evidence to suggest that the anabolic signal is shut off when anti-inflammatories circulate in the bloodstream, nothing is absolutely conclusive, and what might be seen in the rat model might not necessarily be the case for humans.

While I will never advocate chronic use of painkillers and anti-inflammatory agents, I think they definitely serve a purpose when acute injury is present. When I find myself in the middle of disputes with bodybuilders who INSIST that a few days on such medications will completely destroy all their efforts in the gym, I simply shake my head in frustration. If you are injured and your lifting is adversely affected by the injury, whether it be a muscle strain, a ligament tear, or a minor disc herniation, you need to be aware that training through that injury, especially when it deranges your form and causes other body parts to compensate for the injury, will end up really messing you up over time. I honestly think that a minimal decrease in muscle mass over the course of a few days is preferable to the imbalance and asymmetry which usually occur when a bodybuilder foolishly pushes through heavy workouts despite an injury which has a domino effect on the body.

Common sense, and medical expertise, dictate that the inflammation must be removed from the area, most commonly through short term administration of anti-inflammatory agents, ice, and rest. Trust me, if you follow a regimen like this, you won’t lose all the muscle you have built over the years. Be sure to take these medications with food, and if you have any history of gastric ulcers. bleeding disorders, or kidney dysfunction, avoid taking them.

Remember that I am talking about DAYS, not weeks or months. This is one time when eating constantly has its benefits, since bodybuilders and fitness people can pretty easily fit in their medication administration with one of their meals. I know it’s difficult to back off from training, but if you truly want to HEAL, you must give the injured area time to repair itself. If you insist on continuing to train through the injury, especially, without any medications or other interventions on board, you can count on the injury either lingering or worsening over time.

L-Carnitine Tartrate For Athletic Performance

I am personally a big fan of l-carnitine supplementation. This amino acid compound, consisting of lysine and methionine, can be found in a couple of different forms. This article discusses L-carnitine tartrate, which is the form known to benefit athletic performance and recovery.

There are a couple of important points to consider when supplementing with carnitine. First of all, insulin must be present in the body for carnitine to enter muscle. One way of taking carnitine is to ingest carnitine with carbs so that there is an insulin release, but another effective option is to ingest carnitine with omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids optimize cell membrane health, thus making cells more sensitive to insulin. Carnitine serves as a delivery system for fatty acids, so if carnitine levels are high, more fatty acids will be shuttled into cells to be utilized for energy.

Conversely, when carnitine levels are low, fewer fatty acids are moved into the cells and are instead stored as fat. Supplementation with carnitine before intense exercise, especially cardio, will switch the focus on burning fat rather than utilizing glycogen stores, resulting in longer sessions before glycogen stores are depleted. In addition, the presence of carnitine inhibits production of lactic acid, so recovery from intense exercise is more rapid.

Carnitine is not only an excellent performance supplement, it also serves as an excellent means of addressing metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome, characterized by diabetes, atherosclerosis and high cholesterol, can be countered by carnitine’s ability to induce fat loss, prevent atherosclerosis and minimize the development of diabetes. After several months of carnitine supplementation, carnitine levels reach a level at which energy production and performance are enhanced. For this reason, it is best to consider carnitine an essential supplement in your daily regimen rather than as something taken only periodically.

Take 500 to 2,000 milligrams of l-carnitine tartrate daily, along with omega-3 fatty acids, for best results.

Keep That Body Running Smoothly

I’m willing to bet that most of you who are reading this article keep up to date with scheduled maintenance on your vehicles so that they will run as smoothly as possible. I also know that many of you insist on using a certain brand or grade of gasoline to optimize your car’s performance. Do you take care of your body in the same way, putting healthy, nutritious food into your gullet every day? Do you exercise regularly? If the answer to either or both of those questions is no, then you are neglecting your body’s needs for optimal function, fitness and health. Over time, such bad habits have a cumulative effect and can manifest in countless diseases and dysfunctions, including potential killers like hypertension, heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

Just as additives in gasoline can hinder the performance of a car, processed foods will interfere with optimal body functions, and your body must deal with breaking down, eliminating, or storing the chemicals found in packaged meats and other junk foods. The preservatives and artificial colors and flavors which are added to packaged foods trigger production of free radicals in the body. Free radicals are unstable molecules which damage the cells of the body and contribute to the development of cancer, atherosclerosis, and aging in general. In contrast, foods which are rich in antioxidants offset this harmful cascade. If your meals regularly consist of fresh vegetables, fresh fruit, nuts, beans and lean meats, you will be filling your body with clean fuel, providing nutrients which will optimize your health.

Another important component of optimal daily body maintenance is regular exercise. If you can commit to a consistent exercise schedule (and you CAN), you will reap a myriad of benefits, including improved circulation, better cardiac output, improved muscle tone, better concentration, and more energy. Your body is an amazing machine, and just like any machine, will begin to malfunction if it is mishandled or neglected. Regular exercise can be compared to running the engine in your car regularly to keep the pistons and gears running smoothly.

What Are You Waiting For?

While working at a recent bodybuilding event, I had a very interesting conversation with one of the attendees. He was a 42 year old man who revealed to me that he had a couple of health concerns, and who very clearly stated that he wanted to be healthy for his sons (one son was about 10, and the other was about 13). He had a habit of eating fast food daily, and he never exercised because he figured that he was at a normal weight and didn’t need to work out.

He told me that he was so busy with work and with taking the boys to all their practice sessions that there was no time right now to train or to clean up his eating habits. He went on to say that he figured he would wait until the boys were older before he got into an exercise program and cleaned up his diet.

I very nicely told him to make every effort to fit in 10 or 15 minutes of intense plyometric or calisthenics work each day, between work and carting the boys around for their soccer and baseball practice sessions, but deep inside I was incredibly frustrated. I even told him that if he indeed waited a few years until the boys were older, major disease processes like diabetes or high blood pressure could emerge and put him in a dangerous health situation. However, I could tell that my words fell on deaf ears, and that this man would not take any steps towards a healthier lifestyle.

I honestly and truly believe that when it comes to anything in life, where there’s a will, there’s a way. If someone truly wants to positively impact his or her health, then steps can be taken immediately to develop a consistent regimen. There have been plenty of people who have made excuses and lived in denial, who were suddenly stricken by stroke or heart attack. Once a major event like that occurs, assuming someone survives it, there’s a big wake-up call and the person is forced to make the changes he or she didn’t want to make years ago.

Why wait?

Jerry Frederick Of Ironman Magazine Fame

While at Joe Wheatley’s Muscle Beach event on Labor Day, I had the pleasant surprise of seeing Jerry Frederick, whom I hadn’t seen in several years. He was sitting under the main canopy, with his ever-present breakaway reading glasses around his neck. I was just tickled to see him. For those of you in the bodybuilding world, you know that this man had worked for Ironman Magazine as one of their staff photographers for several decades. He has always had a strong passion for the world of competitive bodybuilding, and has gone out of his way to create content with athletes such as myself to use for features within the publication.

Jerry and I chatted for several minutes, and he was full of smiles and that sweet, gentle demeanor which makes him so loveable. I was saddened to hear that he has a neuromuscular disorder which could be Parkinson’s but which hasn’t been definitively diagnosed yet. Hopefully Jerry will be placed on a treatment plan which halts the progression of the disorder.