Straighten your posture with your mind power

MEDITATION FOR EASY POSTURE

Tight muscles often mean your posture is not centered. When the bones and muscles align directly with the pull of gravity there is natural ease. Too often I see people try to force good posture by pushing and contracting muscles until they look like constipated statues! Posture is not something you force, but something your mind can create if given the right images to think about.

Your mind organizes itself more efficiently with a combination of literal instruction and visual imagery. Here's a visualization you can use to get your mind to create perfect posture. If you think it often enough you will become it!

7 ENERGY CENTERS ALONG THE SPINE

  1. TAILBONE & LEGS: Imagine two spiraling columns of energy starting at the base of your pelvis and rotating inward like two cog wheels. Feel your legs rooting into the ground so there is slight activity in all the leg muscles. Feel the feet spread into the floor like pancake batter. Legs are strong, drilling into the floor while the feet are soft, relaxed and receptive.
  2. LOWER BACK & HIPS: Imagine a figure 8 pattern moving back and forth inside the hips and lower back. The energy helps your back and abs equalize their efforts so the muscles have a balance of strength and flexibility. Feel the tailbone drop down between your heels. Don't squeeze your butt or tuck your tailbone forward. This is not natural or comfortable! Finally, imagine your belly button lifting in and up toward the spine. 
  3. MID BACK & LOWER RIBS: Imagine a sun radiating energy and confidence outward and then contracting inward. Feel the mid back spread wide like wings and the abs feel strong and supple. Be sure to imagine this solar image glowing in a 3-dimensional pattern so you can feel all areas of the torso activating.
  4. UPPER BACK & CHEST: Imagine a flower blooming in time-lapsed photography. There is an feeling of encircling energy like giving someone a hug. The energy from your upper body fuels your arms and hands. Allow this blossoming and enfolding energy to create ease in the shoulders, soften the breath, and allow the heart to beat more serenely.
  5. NECK & JAW: Imagine a slow whirlwind rotating clockwise and then counterclockwise. Allow the soft breath to release tight neck and jaw muscles. The more clearly you visualize the image the more the mind can organize the nerves and muscles to create the reality.
  6. FOREHEAD & FACE: Imagine your thoughts simplifying as paragraphs of worries and fears get edited to sentences. Take the sentences and edit them to one word. If that word is negative, imagine it transforming into a positive word that soothes the negative issue. Learning to empty your mind is like cleaning out your inbox. You can see the truly important issues when the clutter is gone. Focus your mind on only one positive word and take deep breaths to practice letting go of worry and unnecessary mind chatter.
  7. CROWN OF THE HEAD: Imagine a 1,000 petaled lotus flower crafted of prisms resting just above your head. This radiant image represents the power you will feel when you have mastered your alignment and managed your thoughts. Infinite possibilities open to you when your body is aligned, strong, and relaxed. A happy, balanced body allows you to unlock more mind-power. 

Approach this meditation with a neutral mindset. Recognize that it will take practice to feel the benefits. The first time I tried meditation I had so much tension and worry that I was unable to sit still. I thought I was no good at meditating and gave up on it right away. Don't make my mistake!

Meditation is meant to bring problems to the surface where you can deal with them clearly. As you practice, you will find it easier to feel peaceful. The whole point of meditation is to find the unconscious troubles that interfere with your life and bring them to the surface where they can begin to evaporate. You have to feel uncomfortable at first as these hidden troubles come up. It's just part of the process. 

If you are interested in more guidance and feedback, try one of my  meditation mp3 downloads. You can access it by emailing me and I'll send it directly to you

Let Your Cravings Teach You

Spoiler Alert! Unpopular opinion ahead.

If you experience daily cravings it could mean that you are missing something. But it's not what you think.

Your body evolved to ask for foods it needs through hunger signals. If you just lifted heavy weights your body is going to need protein and a bit of carbohydrate to rebuild the muscle breakdown caused by the intense workout. So you feel hungry soon after working out. You might assume you would crave lean protein and steamed veggies.

But come on.

Have you ever craved a can of tuna after a workout? Me neither, though I have forced one down to see how it affected me for the day. And I did feel full, energized, peaceful, happy, and productive. I didn't experience as much soreness or fatigue. I gave my body what it needed. But I had to learn that when a craving hits it is not always accurate.

So why don't we crave what we need?

Craving is a more intense hunger signal that can lead to ravenous feeding frenzies, followed by indigestion and guilt. 

Craving is different from appetite. Craving is an alarm system, letting you know that something is off center in your body. How you answer that alarm is key because it sends signals in the opposite way expected.

Usually cravings happen when you deprive your body of nutrients consistently over time. The body can make ends meet by recycling the protein already in your system. But after awhile it gets nervous as the energy stores go way low. Then it sounds the alarm: "Get a doughnut now! Brain needs glucose immediately, and we've already started breaking down muscle. We need to solve the crisis immediately!" 

Your body's cells don't see that you are surrounded with grocery stores and cupboards full of food. They don't have eyes. They only sense nutrient deficiency and send signals to fix the emergency. Unfortunately, we have 24/7 access to junk foods so it's easy to get roped into this vicious cycle of craving and bingeing. 

Why would we crave junk food when we need nutrient density? This is the most frustrating evolutionary instinct. Carbohydrate and fat together provide immediate emergency energy and the body can work with plain sugar very quickly to put a proverbial band-aid on the problem. It's a temporary fix to keep disaster at bay. But long-term it's the worst solution.

But sugary foods are inflammatory and addictive. They also lack the nutrients for building muscle and repairing cellular damage. In fact, sugar causes cellular damage. It's a devious little molecule! It gets an all access pass into your mouth because the brain knows that it can use its quick carbohydrates to fuel itself immediately. Sugar puts on a sweet face, but once you let it in, sugar is a terrible house guest. 

what sugar does to your body

  • It leads to fatty liver disease and makes your organs fat
  • It sets you up for diabetes and leads to obesity
  • It creates high blood pressure which leads to heart disease
  • It sets you up for addictive behaviors and keeps your mind constantly on food
  • It contributes to depression and emotional eating habits
  • It makes you more hungry and less satisfied
  • It ruins your skin. Sugar breaks down collagen that keeps skin firm, smooth, and elastic
  • There's more. Sugar basically breaks down many of your body's processes which leaves you vulnerable to some of the scarier diseases: diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer, Alzheimer's, insulin resistance, and makes you more susceptible to other illnesses as it weakens immunity

So, when you get an intense craving what should you do? 

Recognize that craving is in the mind. It is a learned behavior and can be retrained. Since cravings show imbalances in the body, giving into them doesn't make them go away. Your body is still trying to get vitamins and minerals and antioxidants. But you keep feeding it lab-created processed foods. It keeps sending the signals for nutrition but you've been conditioned to reach for junk food. 

So basically cravings show that you are missing nutrients or are trying to find a way to deal with emotions.

marketing thrives on unconscious cravings

Cravings are also created by the processed food industries. Using tantalizing images, bright colors, cheerful jingles, and healthy vibrant models they create an illusion of happiness by association.

Not only do they create imagery to convince you to give into cravings regularly for their profit, they spend a lot of money finding ingredient combinations that create maximum satisfaction, minimum satiety, and addictive behaviors.

Light, fluffy, crisp, salty, sweet, fatty, crunchy tastes and textures are the ones that keep you chewing long after your stomach has had enough. If you eat potato chips out of the bag its light crunchy texture tricks you into believing you have eaten enough. If you think about it, you've probably eaten the equivalent of 4 potatoes. 

When working right, your hunger signals will turn off when you get the right amount of nutrients. You will naturally lose interest in eating and turn your attention to other fun things and live your life. When your hunger signals are manipulated by food additives, salt, fat, and cane sugar it's hard to know when you are actually full. 

Now that you know how cravings work, keep checking in to see what I do about managing addictive behaviors. Knowledge is the power of change, but habit will make the changes permanent and effortless.

 

How "Expectation vs Reality" Memes are Ruining Your Goals

I love to laugh -- loud & long & clear. 

Keeping a sense of humor through the difficult process of making goals and resolutions can keep things fun and light-hearted. Laughter is key to making realistic goals and recognizing that you're going to fail sometimes, but it's relatable. Pick yourself back up and keep going.

"Fail" memes and "Expectation vs Reality" memes are some of my favorites. I love keeping things real. It's important to laugh at our human nature to keep some compassion and perspective. 

But as a fitness instructor and personal trainer, I have to admit that sometimes I find myself rolling my eyes and giving more courtesy laughs. I encounter people who want to make changes but they use humor and deflecting to stop themselves from actually improving. 

It's cool to send "expectation vs reality" memes whenever positive change could occur with a little practice. Of course your first attempt is going to be clumsy. Go ahead and laugh about it, but dust yourself off and keep practicing. It gets better.

Instead. . . a lot of people will stop at the temporary roadblock, laugh, and assume that reality means mediocrity and retreat into the old destructive cycle they really wanted to break.

This is where I start to get a little irritated. I'm a recovering control freak so I can't help my annoying habit of analyzing what people need to be happy, healthy, and have it all. In my mind I create an entire life-changing plan for them. It's a beautiful picture. I wish I could share it with you.

But I've learned to keep my mouth shut when people laugh about their diet soda addiction, admitting they need to knock it off, but then in the same breath inviting me to go to the drive-through for both soda AND sugar cookies. Umm....no? Then comes the defense: 

"Ha-ha! I know all the health risks and consequences, but my taste buds are the rulers here. I should change, but I know I'm not going to, so why don't we all go down together?"

How did we get there?

If you got offended, sorry/not sorry. I have nothing against treats in moderation. But people who are on IV drip soda or any other processed, fake foods are in danger. 

The human frailty is funny, but only to a point. 

So this brings me to why resolutions fail. We all know the food groups and the basics of nutrition. But America is still in an epidemic of multiple health crises. Lifestyle diseases shouldn't even exist, but they are among the top killers.

Knowledge isn't going to change you. Habits will. Knowledge and goal setting don't motivate you long-term. Habits are automatic so you don't even have to think about them.

I'm a weirdo. As a kid I didn't really like soda and I could always taste the food coloring in candies and cereals and didn't like it. I ate candy, of course, but I usually only had a piece or two before I was sick of it. My family had a huge garden and I loved fresh vegetables and finished most of them (kale didn't make the cut).

Then in junior high I ate Skittles and soda for lunch almost everyday because a vending machine was installed in the school. I never felt good: jittery, anxious, ravenous, and reactive. But I still ate it because I only needed $1 for my whole lunch. I picked up other American junk-food habits because I live here and the food that's culturally acceptable is what you end up eating.

Result: decades of intestinal trouble, weight fluctuation, yo-yo dieting, disfiguring acne, depression, an eating disorder, etc.

Retraining that habit of unnatural food took way more time -- all the way into my late 20's in fact. When I detoxed from the sugar and chemicals and preservatives it was a painful process.

Expectation:  boundless energy, immediate weight loss, and flawless skin. 

Reality: cycles of breaking out & healing, weight fluctuation, exhaustion, depression, hyperactivity, digestive troubles.

Then the 2nd Reality emerged: boundless energy, gradual sustainable weight loss, and smooth skin.

It took time, consistency, and a sense of humor and compassion, but the Expectation eventually matched the Reality. 

So keep those memes rolling, but remember that they are there to motivate you to keep trying, succeeding a little bit at a time until success is truly automatic and all your goals meet the expectation!

Now it's your turn! I want to hear from you. Comment below and tell me your #1 roadblock to sticking with your New Year's Resolutions! I personally read them all, and I'll talk back to you.

 

Shape Your Mind to Shape Your Legs

Exercise doesn't work. . .

You can lift, run, jump, stretch, and dance all you want and you could still be stuck with extra flab, tight muscles, chronic injury, and frustration. Why is this?

The rumor circulating the internet is that food is the main reason people have trouble with weight loss. They say that exercise doesn't make much difference if the food you're eating is low quality or high quantity.

True. Sort of. 

The thing about rumors and shocking statements is that they get you to read the article. Yup, that's what I did too because I want to make a different point. I believe that mindset is the starting line in the race to fitness. If your mind is sabotaging you, you're already running that race with less enthusiasm and power. 

Exercise doesn't work miracles for a few reasons:

  1. Sabotaging mindset
  2. Lack of body awareness
  3. Improper form/Poor instruction
  4. Long-term sedentary lifestyle
  5. Poor nutrition habits

This post is just focusing on overcoming self-sabotage. Look for the next posts in the series for more insights.

SABOTAGING MINDSET

I started working out young and I was really dedicated. I led my first aerobics class at age 13 for a P.E. final project. I wore a magenta leopard print leotard and sequined headband and did a step & dance routine that would've wowed Jane Fonda! The girls all agreed it was a tail-kicker workout and I was hooked. I set my fitness goals and worked out daily.

But as I worked out I got discouraged with how my body looked and I gave into a downward spiral of negative self-talk. Working out became a chore and punishment where it started out as pure enjoyment and play.

Does any of this sound familiar?

  • You buy a workout DVD and push yourself so hard you can't walk the next day. That must mean you're getting fit faster, right? 
  • You believe in "No pain, no gain" but pain always stops you. Then you droop in despair
  • You dread the front of the class because you're convinced people are judging you
  • You stare at your reflection in the mirror just to criticize your clothes or hair
  • You view exercise as punishment for character flaws
  • You pick role models that are significantly different from you and then beat yourself up when you don't look like them
  • You get picky about types of exercise and refuse to do what's good for you
  • You cry during your workout because you're just not perfect enough
  • You pick exercise you hate and dread every second of it

Maybe I'm the only one who did this. I was 13 when these bad habits started and they stuck around until my mid-30's. It wasn't until I learned to meditate that I started to change the way I think. With a sincerely positive mindset I'm noticing fitness is just starting to "happen." 

It sounds weird, but here's what happens when you meditate:

  • Cravings are gone -- they're just not an issue
  • Exercise feels like play
  • New exercises are a fun challenge, exciting curiosity
  • Mistakes are just information -- not character traits
  • Nobody gets judged: You stop making up stories about yourself or other people in the classroom
  • Gratitude for life, movement, food, friends, family
  • Moderation is more fun than indulgence. Yup, really.
  • The mirror is just a way to check alignment (ok, and to feel happy about the new yoga pants you just got!)

MEDITATION SHAPES YOUR MOVES -- MOVEMENT SHAPES YOUR MUSCLES

There is a lot to be said for the power of your mind in reshaping your body. Negative mindsets can show up in the body in the following ways:

  • High stress hormones pack on belly fat that is extra stubborn and hard to lose
  • Judging yourself or others can lead to tight muscles and chronic pain
  • Low self-esteem leads to poor posture and chronic pain
  • Doubting your abilities leads to ineffective muscle contraction
  • Saying no literally stops your nerve and muscle connections so you get less out of your workout
  • Feeling judged can stop you from trying at all

MEDITATION FOR STRONGER LEGS

I created this meditation when I was on a trail run and felt my energy drop because I was being hard on myself. I was also out of water, food, and stamina on a hot summer day. I was several miles away from my car and I was far from the road. There was no cell phone service, so I knew I was on my own and had to use my willpower to get home safely. Since my body was tired and my mind was discouraging, I had to use inner strength. So I made up this meditation to strengthen my legs while on the run. 

It sounds weird, but the pain in my hips and back went away and I stopped noticing my hunger and thirst. This meditation got my mind on the task at hand instead of all the complaints. Getting my mind to work for me got me home safely and I felt great (as soon as I got water and lunch).

ROOT MEDITATION: Imagine two spiraling columns of energy starting at the base of your pelvis and rotating inward like two cog wheels. Feel your legs rooting into the ground so there is slight activity in all the leg muscles. Feel the feet spread into the ground like pancake batter. Legs are strong, drilling into the floor while the feet are soft, relaxed and receptive. With each step imagine a powerful red light spiraling inward through the entire leg so you feel the support of the earth. Try visualizing this the next time you go on a walk or run.